Monday, September 13, 2004

I'm a bit rushed today, so here are a few links to interesting writing by others that may have escaped your attention. Here are a few that are variations on a theme:
  • The Slacktivist writes, anent a Texas utility plan to surcharge customers with weak credit scores:

    I'm not sure whether this is more evil or stupid, but it's a whole lot of both.

    Your "credit score" can be lowered for many reasons -- some legitimate, some arbitrary, many which you are helpless to change regardless of how responsible you may be. One variable which inevitably results in a lower credit score is a lower income.

    That's hardship enough for lower-income families when a credit score is only being used for its intended purpose -- deciding whether or not to extend credit. But as credit scores begin to be used for purposes like this it is simple cruelty. This is simply a way to take advantage of the poor and powerless because they are poor and powerless and you can take from them whatever you like.

    Credit scores are already being used now to deny people health and auto insurance, or to charge them a higher rate. They are being used by employers, to make sure they don't hire anybody who's unemployed. And now the poor will face regressive pay scales even for their heat and electricity.

    And what happens when this portion of these low-income families' monthly budget increases? That's right -- their credit scores will go down. This is obscene. A clumsy measure of wealth is being used as though it were a precise measure of virtue and responsibility.

  • U.Penn professor Anne Norton, in an aside in her new book on Straussians:

    When I began to teach we had many middle-class students. Most of my students now are wealthy. They went to private schools and took special classes for the SATs. They can afford to take unpaid internships in the summer. Often they have family friends in the House or the Senate or at the World Bank who can find a place for them. They have nearly always been to Europe. There are still a few students whose families are poor: sent to school on full scholarship. Those I see have gone to private schools on scholarship. They have lived for a long time in a world divided between privilege and deprivation. If the students are middle class -- I see fewer and fewer of them -- they and their parents are burdened by debt. More often, they have gone elsewhere. The wealthy -- those who went to private schools, who can afford to take unpaid internships, who vacation in Europe -- often think of themselves as middle class. Their easy assumption that any middle-class person can afford what they can afford makes life hard for those who have to work to pay for college, who have to ask how much the books cost for each course they take, who have to wonder how they will repay their loans.

  • Max Sawicky channels an argument from Doug Henwood:

    [T]he persistence of poverty over the past three decades, notwithstanding the increase in real GDP, is a remarkable commentary on U.S. capitalism. The poverty standard is a real absolute one, so if the rising tide of GDP growth lifted all or most boats, we would see a secular decline in poverty rates. It didn't happen.
And a few that aren't:
  • With bioterrorism in the news, we have a need for experts who understand the danger and deal with it responsibly. Which is why, when one such person noted a procedural slipup in his own lab, and properly reported it, he wound up in prison.
  • If you didn't already know about Rumsfeld repeatedly confusing Saddam Hussein (largely secular, dictator, captured) and Osama bin Laden (religious fanatic, no political post, still at large), well, now you know.
  • Atrios has some interesting posts on who decided what about the attack in Fallujah this spring, based on an interview with the commanding officer on the scene. A few of you may recall that I was awfully confused about what we thought we were doing there; I still am, but so far, it still looks awful.
  • And one last one -- a New York Times article that I never found something clever to say about, so I'll just describe it briefly: a judge in Connecticut has ruled that according to rules that protect the privacy of falsely convicted people, the records of one such case can't be released to anybody -- including the man himself.

At times, I find myself thinking it might be nice to live on a more sensible planet. Regrettably, that wouldn't necessarily make it any more pleasant...


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home