Posts Tagged ‘homicides’

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For years now, I’ve been writing about the various ways capitalism inflicts its punishments—including killing people (see, e.g., here, here, and here).

It’s as if capitalism is Dostoyevsky’s Rodion Raskolnikov, who formulates and executes a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her cash—and, in an attempt to defend his actions, argues that with the pawnbroker’s money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime.

The question is, what are the good deeds capitalism performs to counterbalance its crimes? Because we now have more evidence that, like Raskolnikov, capitalism kills.

According to Maia Szalavitz, capitalist “inequality raises the stakes of fights for status among men.”

Obviously, potential murderers don’t check the local Gini Index – the most commonly used measure of inequality that looks at how wealth is distributed – before deciding whether to get a gun. But they are keenly attuned to their own level of status in society and whether it allows them to get what they need to live a decent life. If they can’t, while others visibly bask in luxury that seems both impossible to attain and unfairly won, those far from the top often become desperate.

And so, as capitalist inequality rises, men at the bottom are more inclined to kill other men—all in the name of honor and respect.

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That conclusion is supported by a 2002 comparative cross-country study, published in the Journal of Law and Economics (pdf), whose main conclusion is that an increase in income inequality has a “significant and robust effect” of raising violent crime rates.

Perhaps those who defend capitalism think it possesses enough fortitude to deal with the ramifications of its crimes against humanity—that it even might have the right to perform those crimes. And the ability to get away with them.

Dostoyevsky, of course, suggested it’s better to confess and accept the appropriate punishment—which is exactly what Raskolnikov, at Sonya’s urging, finally does. But, alas, we don’t live in a nineteenth-century Russian novel.

In fact, in the United States, we are witnessing rising inequality and, for the first time in decades, rising homicide rates.

no one knows what time lag to expect between a rise in inequality and a rise in murder – but if it does take a few decades, this could be the start of a troubling trend, not a blip.

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The 2017 Social Progress Index is out and according to Michael Green [ht: ja], the CEO of SPI, the United States is “flatlining,”

primarily due to its falling scores on measures of tolerance and inclusion. . .

Green said that in order for under-performing countries like the US to improve their scores in 2018 and 2019, they’ll need to embrace long-term investments in protecting people’s rights.

“The US is not under-performing because of the Trump administration or the Obama administration,” he said. “It’s about the story of long-term under-investment in the justice system, in the education system, in healthcare. Those are the real challenges.”

Overall, the United States ranks 18th out of 128 nations.

The only area in which the United States outperforms other nations of similar wealth is higher education, with a large number of colleges and universities. But that doesn’t include cost and thus accessibility, which is reflected in a low score on inequality in the attainment of higher education.

And then there are all the other categories in which the United States comes up short in comparison to the rest of the world: nutrition and basic medical care (36th), water and sanitation (27th), homicides (70th), access to information and communications (27th), environmental quality (33rd), political rights (32nd), freedom over life choices (65th), and discrimination and violence against minorities (39th).

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That’s why the overall U.S. score is only 86.43, which puts it behind many other high-income nations: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, and Japan.

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The authors of the report note that, while social progress generally improves as national income rises, there’s no one-to-one correspondence between them. Thus, the United States underperforms on the Social Progress Index compared to its per capita national income.

What is clear, from the sample of countries in the chart above, is the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income compared to countries that rank higher in the SPI.

That’s one of the real reasons why, independent of Trump and Obama, the United States is flatlining when it comes to social progress.

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Like economic inequality, murder inequality in America is stark and obscene.

According to a new study by the Guardian,

In 2015, Chicago had the highest total number of gun homicides of any city in America. . .

Just 13% of census tracts in Chicago saw multiple gun murders in 2015, and these tracts were responsible for 65% of the city’s gun homicides.

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In that same year, there were more than 13,000 gun homicides throughout the United States. But half of those deaths were in just 127 cities, which contain almost a quarter of the population.

And it gets worse:

Even within those cities, violence is further concentrated in the tiny neighborhood areas that saw two or more gun homicide incidents in a single year.

Four and a half million Americans live in areas of these cities with the highest numbers of gun homicide, which are marked by intense poverty, low levels of education, and racial segregation. Geographically, these neighborhood areas are small: a total of about 1,200 neighborhood census tracts, which, laid side by side, would fit into an area just 42 miles wide by 42 miles long.

The problem they face is devastating. Though these neighborhood areas contain just 1.5% of the country’s population, they saw 26% of America’s total gun homicides.

Economic inequality means a small minority at the top captures the lion’s share of income and wealth. Murder inequality is equally grotesque—for a small minority at the bottom.

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Last week’s unrest in Milwaukee wasn’t caused by the police killing of Sylville K. Smith, a 23-year-old black man. It’s been brewing for decades.

As Roger Bybee explains,

The recent outbreak of violent rioting in Milwaukee came as no surprise to anyone paying even the slightest attention to the deterioration of conditions for the city’s African Americans, especially the young.

Even CNN [ht: ja], which botched (and then, later, apologized for) its reporting of Sherelle Smith’s remarks about moving violence away from the local community, understood “The ongoing protests and violence that have occurred over the past several days in Milwaukee are about more than the police killing of Sylville Smith.”

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In a recent report, the National Urban League (pdf) examined economic data for African Americans (and Hispanics) in 70 metro areas and found that Milwaukee has the largest gap in unemployment between blacks and whites in the country and the second biggest income gap.

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The unemployment rate for blacks in Milwaukee is 4 times that for whites, while the median income for black households is only 40.8 percent of white household income. (Nationally, the corresponding numbers are 2 and 60 percent.)

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Those racial inequalities in Milwaukee are both a condition and consequence of the economic and racial segregation of the city. Thus, while the majority-white downtown area is booming (with trendy new restaurants and craft breweries), outlying majority-black neighborhoods in and around Sherman Park (where the shooting took place) are falling farther and farther behind.

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And, in the final contribution to the foul Milwaukee brew, the homicide rate (at 23 per 100,000, higher even than Chicago’s) is also unequally distributed across the city. Thus, for example, in the police district that includes the downtown, the homicide rate was just two, while in the bordering district to the northwest of downtown (which includes Sherman Park), the murder rate was 36, or 18 times as high.

As Daniel Kay Hertz explains,

High levels of gun crime profoundly affect neighborhood residents whether or not they are a direct victim. Witnessing a shooting, or having a friend or loved one become a victim, can be deeply traumatic, leading to depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating at school or work, and other issues. High crime rates can affect whether businesses are willing to locate near your home, reducing your access to important services like banking, and contributing to depopulation and abandonment. . .

Nor are neighborhoods facing these issues randomly distributed: They are much more likely to be home to disproportionate numbers of people with low incomes and people who are black or brown. That racial and economic segregation play an important role in perpetuating deep social inequalities has been well-established. Directly and indirectly, violent crime is itself a crucial part of the basket of disadvantages that make living in a segregated neighborhood so costly.

It should come as no surprise then that the Brew City, with its strict segregation and profound racial inequalities, should have erupted after the latest police shooting.

And, as Bybee warns, unless the racial political economy of Milwaukee is criticized and transformed, “the recent explosions may signal more episodes of rage to come in the months ahead.”

It should come as no surprise, as the New York Times reports, that

The people of Chicago are deeply riven by race, class and neighborhood, distrustful of the police, fearful of the growing rate of violent crime and united chiefly in their disapproval of the mayor’s performance and their conviction that the city is headed down the wrong track.

It certainly wouldn’t have surprised Nelson Algren who, in 1951 described the contest between the Do-Gooders and the hustlers and declared that, while “The ball game isn’t over yet. . .it’s a rigged ball game.”

The only difference today is, Chicago’s hustlers are no longer on the streets but in the office buildings and luxury apartments that are concentrated in the Loop and on the north side. And the politicians and police whose job it is to protect their rigging of the ball game and to discipline everyone else, on the south and west sides, have lost all legitimacy.

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Think about it: Chicago is now the most racially and ethnically segregated city in the country, and one of the most unequal (and, on top of that, spatially segregated by class). It’s clearly on the wrong track.

The police, meanwhile, have engaged in a campaign of killing and torturing the civilian population, virtually with impunity, and acted like an occupying force, especially in poor, minority-concentrated neighborhoods—and they’ve done nothing to halt the spiraling homicide rate. The mayor, for his part, has covered up the killings and torture, while attempting to break the Teachers Union and obsessively pursuing the imposition of the Lucas Museum on Chicago’s mostly public lakefront.

And, as everyone knows, the game continues to be rigged in favor of the hustlers, who appropriate the surplus and distribute it to their friends who do with it what they want—not financing better schools or creating better jobs for the majority of Chicago’s population, but instead improving the quality of their own lives in the form of private  housing and entertainment.

The twenty-first-century hustlers are also the Do-Gooders, who—with the assistance of the mayor and police—are mostly doing good for themselves.

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That’s why—across the board—Chicagoans believe the police and mayor are doing a poor job and their city is pretty seriously on the wrong track.

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And that’s why Chicago’s “bard of the down-and-outer,” if he could emerge from his memorial fountain, would be anything but surprised:

all the stately halls of science, the newest Broadway hit, the endowed museums, the endowed opera, the endowed art galleries, are not for their cold pavement-colored eyes. For the masses who do the city’s labor also keep the city’s heart. And they think there’s something fishy about someone giving them a museum for nothing and free admission on Saturday afternoons.

They sense somebody got a bargain, and they are so right. The city’s arts are built upon the uneasy consciences that milked the city of millions on the grain exchange, in traction and utilities and sausage-stuffing and then bought conscience-ease with a minute fraction of the profits. A museum for a traction system, an opera building for a utilities empire. Therefore the arts themselves here, like the acres of Lorado Taft’s deadly handiwork, are largely statuary. Mere monuments to the luckier brokers of the past. So the people why away from their gifts, they’re never sure quite why.

Chicago’s hustlers are no longer rigging the game in the form of grain, tractors, utilities, and sausage. Now, it’s finance, insurance, real estate, and healthcare that form the basis of their income and wealth—with a “minute fraction of the profits” spent, in support fo the mayor and with their names prominently attached, on museums, parks, and monuments.

And the “masses who do the city’s labor,” and are forced to have the freedom to work in low-wage jobs and to live in deteriorating neighborhoods, know there’s something fishy about the hustle, along with the mayor and police whose only job seems to be to protect the rigged game.

Violence in Chicago

Posted: 26 February 2016 in Uncategorized
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Chicago is on track to have 700 murders in 2016. That would be the highest number of homicides in Chicago in nearly 20 years.

Homicides have already nearly doubled this year, with more than 93 murders since the start of January. There were only 52 murders in all of January and February last year.

If the city does have 700 or more homicides this year, it will be the highest number of murders since 1998, when 704 people were killed. . .

The year has already seen several high-profile murders: Two friends, 17-year-old Sakinah Reed and 16-year-old Donta Parker, were shot and killed while standing at a corner in South Shore.

On Feb. 5, 25-year-old Aaren O’Connor was apparently hit by a stray bullet while sitting in her car outside of her Pilsen apartment.

A family of six, including two young boys, was found dead in their home in early February. They had been stabbed, beaten and one of them was shot.

Just days later, activist Matthew Williams, who had called for peace in the city for months, was shot while playing videogames in a friend’s house.

Most recently, a cab driver was found dead, shot in his head, in Lincoln Square.

The vast majority of the murders (83 of 98) have been gun shootings. Most of the victims (77.6 percent) have been between the ages of 13 and 34.

Chiraq

Posted: 31 May 2015 in Uncategorized
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Apparently, some folks in Chicago are upset by the working title of Spike Lee’s new film: “Chiraq.”

Local politicians have lined up against the title. Mr. Lee has been confronted by Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who told him in a meeting last month that he was “not happy” about the name.

An alderman from the South Side, William Burns, was so perturbed by the title that he angrily suggested that Mr. Lee, the renowned director of films like “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” should not get the $3 million tax credit that he is seeking for filming here.

And even on the city’s crime-plagued South and West Sides, where most of Chicago’s gang warfare occurs, some residents who are accustomed to seeing, hearing and reading about violence said they had mixed feelings about a movie starring their city called “Chiraq.”

What else would you call a film about a city that has averaged 441 murders and 2577 shooting victims for the past four years?