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26 heroin overdoses in 4 hours in city of 50,000

Needle and damage done WV

Heroin cut with an even stronger substance like fentanyl was responsible for an appalling 26 overdoses in Huntington WV in just four hours. At one point, emergency calls came in and there were no available ambulances.

Addicts are responsible for their behavior. However, once addiction takes hold, in terms of recovery, it matters not why the addict started using drugs. It takes on a life of its own and blots out the sun and everything else.

However, when a city of 50,000 has so many addicts and so many overdoses, then this is more than personal error. What are the societal factors there that make blotting out reality with pain killers so attractive? Unemployment there is not particularly high. Yet West Virginia has the highest rate of youth drug overdoses in the country.

Part of the problem is the federal government which, after years of inaction, finally cracked down on Oxy being so easily available. Drug cartels moved in with cheap heroin and addicts simply switched drugs.

The epidemic is a reflection of the long-term stagnation of the economy, the lack of job and education prospects for the most vulnerable sections of the poor, the lack of health care and especially drug rehabilitation programs, and the impact of criminalization of addiction to painkillers such as OxyContin, which ravaged swaths of Appalachia a decade ago.

“As a public health problem, this is an epidemic of monumental proportions,” Dr. Michael Kilkenny, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, said. “We really must stop the demand side of the equation. We must attack the issue of addiction.”

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Suburban poverty and the Day of Reckoning

urban-suburban poverty

Poverty isn’t just in inner cities, and is not just black or brown. There’s increasing poverty in decaying suburban areas too, which are often predominantly white. Suburban poor live there because they can’t afford to live where they work. (Yes, many people living in poverty do indeed have jobs.)

The problem is affordable housing. Municipalities and the local gentry generally don’t want it, especially not if the area is upscale or has pretensions of being so. No icky poor people for us, they say. They drive down property values and probably have fleas. Except for when they drive in from someplace else to do menial labor, of course.

Granola Shotgun explains how this continuing process, combined with automation, outsourcing, and AI will inevitably lead to social disorder.

Decades of exclusionary zoning, minimum lot sizes, minimum home sizes, prohibitively complex building codes, and the proliferation of HOAs and NIMBYs have made small affordable entry level homes and modest rentals illegal almost everywhere. Our de facto national housing policy of drive-till-you-qualify suburban development works well enough for people with an education and a professional salary. It fails the working class entirely and that’s by design. The poor are intentionally filtered out. If you can’t afford a nice house and at least one car you’re just not wanted unless you commute in for the day to cut the grass and mop the floors.

Unfortunately, there is more than a little truth in saying mandated higher hourly wages may mean fewer jobs.

Having a job or two does no good if the money you’re paid is insufficient to cover basic expenses. Raising the minimum wage to $15 or $20 an hour only encourages employers to automate and outsource even more aggressively.

A large number of not-so-great poorly aging suburbs are already in the process of becoming slums. The definition of a slum is a collection of properties that has less value than the cost of minimum maintenance. I see this all over the country from coast to coast.

Unfortunately, municipalities and the monied class either doesn’t see what is coming or doesn’t care.

We’re not going to resolve these complex structural problems voluntarily. Our current trajectory will bring an ever greater bifurcation of society into haves and have-nots, particularly as Artificial Intelligence rapidly innovates its way into white collar occupations. The middle class will be squeezed even harder and we need to be prepared for the social disorder that will result. The existing political establishment isn’t capable of addressing these issues.

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All hail the meme, king of political communication?

Memes everywhere

John Robb says political memes increasingly rule and are deciding the future. I disagree. Memes and the internet in general are indeed superb ways to get a message out. However, as I learned when helping organize Iraq anti-war protests, the net can only do so much. Most  of our anti-war organizing was done face to face, meeting with coalition partners, tabling, negotiating with the city for permits, etc. The net was great for email blasts. But the real work happened elsewhere.

The Trump campaign appears to think they can run their presidential campaign almost entirely in the media, on the net, with on-the-ground organization an afterthought, if it occurs at all. That is primary reason Trump will lose. By contrast, the Clinton campaign has staff in every state and big city. Their GOTV effort will be a juggernaut and will bring millions of voters to the polls. Hillary is big on the net, absolutely. She is also big on the ground.

So, while Robb is right about the powers of memes, not all memes are powerful, some backfire or are ineffective, and sooner rather than later, we’ll probably all tire of and become inoculated against them.  I mean, we’re all bored with online petitions now, right?

Elections aren’t won on the internet. They are won in voting booths.

Successful memes abound on every social network, often going viral to reach tens of millions of viewers in days as they are rapidly shared with an ever expanding network of friends.

Collectively, memes generate tens of millions of impressions an hour. Several orders of magnitude (100x) more than any other form of political communication.

Memes are one of ways online conflict, in this case political conflict, is being fought. These online wars are occurring everywhere, all the time, at every level. They are deciding the future.

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Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad

Sometimes a movie captures the zeitgeist of the times. Our times are increasingly edgy, disjointed, cynical, with no one sure what is going to be happening next, except that normal rules no longer apply. So what better metaphor for that than a darkly humorous, psychotically paced movie about violent criminals released from prison to combat an even worse menace, all the while controlled by a sociopath government agent. The deeply satisfying mayhem in the movie makes Jason Bourne looks like a boy scout.

Sure, the movie is flawed. So are our times. Zeitgeist.

Harley Quinn: What was that? I should kill everyone and escape? Sorry, it’s the voices. Ahaha, I’m kidding! That’s not what they really said.

Griggs: If he kills me, shoot him and then clear my browser cache.

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US news slant on Venezuela. Bash Chavezistas. Ignore suffering

Venezuela looting
Yes, Hugo Chavez, and now Maduro, made huge blunders in “managing” the economy of Venezuela, if what they did could even be called managing. It’s more like a slow-motion sequence of disasters that is now escalating. Yes, they screwed up, yes corruption is rampant. But perhaps our media could be a teensy less gleeful about the collapse of socialism there and a bit more concerned about millions of Venezuelans facing seriously bad times. Stores are mostly empty. The economy has crumbled.

This WaPo article expertly dissects the errors of the Chavezistas, concluding that all is lost and things will probably get much worse. Their dissection is accurate enough yet the plight of workers there seems almost an afterthought, behind bashing socialism.

Non-socialist countries have collapsed too, and we didn’t do the happy dance. The real problem though probably is it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know what’s going to happen and no one has a clue how to stop it.

Now, there are two things you need to remember about Venezuela. The first is that if it can get worse, it will get worse. And the second is that it can always get worse. In this case, that means that it might not be long until we look back at all of this as the good old days. How in the name of five-hour long grocery lines is that possible? Well, Venezuela’s government might be reaching the point where it can’t coerce people economically, but only physically. After all, it barely has enough money to even be able to print money anymore. So it can’t buy people off anymore. It has to bully them instead. Indeed, the army has started forcing butchers to sell food at a 90 percent loss, and the government has said it can force anyone to, um, take a break from their job and work for at least two months growing food instead. Amnesty International has said this is tantamount to “forced labor,” which is just a polite way of describing what’s very close to modern-day slavery.

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