Why do white supremacists hate Jews? Because we Jews can fight them.

From The Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/16/white-supremacists-hate-jews-but-weve-got-more-power-than-most-to-fight-back/

August 16, 2017

Anti-Semitism is again back in the news.

Some of the posters at the Charlottesville white supremacist demonstrations this weekend featured a man taking a hammer to a Star of David — the biggest threat, the thing that needs to be destroyed. Marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil!”, a direct translation of the Nazi slogan “blut und boden,” which plays on the notion of Jews as powerful, dangerous interlopers.

This comes toward the end of a summer that included the Chicago Dyke March ejecting participants with a Star of David on a gay pride flag on the misguided-at-best grounds that it went “against the march’s anti-racist core values” and heated debates about whether Gal Gadot, an Ashkenazi Israeli, is a person of color. Particularly in recent years, there has rightfully been increased talk about the ways in which many Ashkenazi Jews in America do have white privilege.

So are we oppressed? Or what? The reasons that question may feel complicated go back around a thousand years. Since the dawn of modern anti-Semitism, hatred toward Jews has been deeply intertwined with the idea of Jews having unique sorts of advantages.

In the Middle Ages, Jews were barred from many trades and professions, and it was sometimes illegal for Jews to own land. It was convenient for local authorities to permit Jews to work in trades that were repugnant to Christians — most notably moneylending, which was associated in the Christian world with depravity and sin.

From a Jewish perspective, moneylending was a useful line of work for two reasons. First, it was somewhat portable, and when times were lucky it enabled our ancestors to have liquid assets — both of which were practical during an era when expulsions of Jews from villages and even whole countries were not uncommon. It was also profitable. Most late medieval and early modern European polities taxed Jews at jaw-droppingly high rates, so loaning out money was essential for communities’ survival. A very small subset of Jews began handling money because it was a viable option and a practical necessity. And then they were resented for it — and identified with the work in a way that Christian bankers never were. Even as early as 1233, anti-Semitic drawings depicted the usurious Jew, using many of the same themes one might find in a quick Google search.

Most Jews throughout history lived a fairly precarious existence, economically and otherwise. Many times in history we have been tolerated, and even embraced, by the rulers and locals of our host country. But we have also been subject to expulsions, pogroms, Inquisitions and genocide many times over — often, indeed, fueled by the trope of the greedy, crooked Jew serving as the scapegoat for other stresses and complexities in society. Often, the shift from living in peace to the bottom dropping out happened very quickly.

So here’s the paradox: Anti-Semitism and Jewish privilege are, and have long been, two sides of the same coin. Even now, I feel it keenly.

Continue reading at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/16/white-supremacists-hate-jews-but-weve-got-more-power-than-most-to-fight-back/

Single Payer Is Actually a Huge Bargain

From The Nation:  https://www.thenation.com/article/single-payer-actually-huge-bargain/

It would save both dollars and lives compared to our current system.

By Steffie WoolhandlerDavid U. Himmelstein and Adam Gaffney<
August 10, 2018

Last week, Charles Blahous at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University published a study suggesting that Bernie Sanders’s single-payer health-care plan would break the bank. But almost immediately, various observers—including Sanders himself—noted that according to Blahous’s own estimates, single payer would actually save Americans more than $2 trillion over a decade. Blahous doubled down on his argument in The Wall Street Journal, and on Tuesday, The Washington Post’s fact-checker accused Democrats of seizing “on one cherry-picked fact” in Blahous’s report to make it seem like a bargain.

The Post is wrong to call this a “cherry-picked fact”—it’s a central finding of the analysis—but it is probably right that single-payer supporters shouldn’t make too much of Blahous’s findings. After all, his analysis is riddled with errors that actually inflate the cost of single payer for taxpayers.

First, Blahous grossly underestimates the main source of savings from single payer: administrative efficiency. Health economist Austin Frakt aptly demonstrated the “bewildering complexity of health care financing in the United States” in The New York Times last month, citing evidence that billing costs primary-care doctors $100,000 apiece and consumes 25 percent of emergency-room revenues; that billing and administration accounts for one-quarter of US hospital expenditures, twice the level in single-payer nations; and that nearly one-third of all US health spending is eaten up by bureaucracy.

Overall, as two of us documented recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a single-payer system could cut administration by $500 billion annually, and redirect that money to care. Blahous, in contrasts, credits single payer with a measly fraction of that—or $70 billion—in administrative savings.

Our profit-driven multi-payer system is the source for this outlandish administrative sprawl. Doctors and hospitals have to negotiate contracts and fight over bills with hundreds of insurance plans with differing payments rates, rules, and requirements. Simplifying the payment system would free up far more money than Blahous estimates to expand and improve coverage.

Next, Blahous lowballs the potential for savings on prescription drugs. He assumes that a single-payer system couldn’t use its negotiating clout to push down drug prices, ignoring the fact that European nations and the US Veterans Affairs system achieve roughly 50 percent discounts relative to the US private sector. (Single payer’s only drug savings, he argues, will come from shifting 15 percent of brand-name prescriptions to generics.) Hence Blahous foresees only $61 billion in drug savings in 2022, even though tough price negotiations would likely achieve threefold higher savings.

Third, Blahous underestimates how much the government is already spending on health care. For instance, he omits the $724 billion that federal agencies are expected to pay for employees’ health benefits over the 10 years covered by his analysis, which would simply be redirected to Medicare for All. He also leaves out the massive savings to state and local governments, which would save nearly $3.6 trillion on employee benefits and another $5.3 trillion on Medicaid and other health programs. Hence, much of the “new money” needed to fund Sanders’s reform is already being collected as taxes.

Continue reading at: https://www.thenation.com/article/single-payer-actually-huge-bargain/

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Socialism is no longer a dirty word in the US – and that’s scary for some

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/29/socialism-no-longer-dirty-word-us-scary-for-some

Since Trump took power, membership of the Democratic Socialists of America has leapt from 6,000 to 47,000 – and even conservatives are struggling to articulate what is so bad about free education and healthcare

Sun 29 Jul 2018

Here’s a fun game to play with a right-leaning American: say the word “socialism” and count the number of seconds it takes for them to scream “VENEZUELA” in response. It is unclear how many conservative Americans could identify Venezuela on a map but, boy, they all seem keen to inform you that the beleaguered country is a shining example of why socialism will never work, certainly not in the US.

For a recent example of how Republicans go completely Caracas at the mere mention of the S-word, please see Meghan McCain, the daughter of the 2008 presidential candidate John McCain. Last week, Meghan McCain had a meltdown on the daytime television chatshow The View when the subject of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic Socialist who recently unseated a 10-term New York congressman, came up.

Joy Behar, a co-host on The View, mentioned that Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, which includes outlandish proposals such as paid sick leave and healthcare for everyone, sounded like a pretty good idea. At that point McCain, another co-host (a position she clearly got for her oratorical abilities and not her famous last name) yelled over everyone that this sort of attitude makes her “head explode”. It took McCain, whose parents are worth more than $200m, a fortune that is largely inherited, 20 seconds to bring up Venezuela as an example of why socialism is bad and capitalism is good. To bolster her argument, she quoted Margaret Thatcher, saying: “At a certain point, you run out of spending other people’s money.” McCain, who has benefited from unearned wealth all her life, concluded her rant by stating: “It’s petrifying to me that [socialism] is being normalised! Some of us do not want socialism normalised in this country.”

McCain is right. A lot of people, people so rich they forget how many houses they own (as John McCain once did), don’t want the idea that wealth should be distributed to the many, not the few, to become normalised in the hyper-individualistic, increasingly unequal US. Unfortunately for them, however, there has been a seismic shift in attitudes towards socialism in America; a country that, for a long time, has stood apart from other industrialised democracies in not developing a notable socialist movement. Socialism is no longer a dirty word in the US, certainly not among millennials, anyway, who face a far grimmer economic future than previous generations. It isn’t surprising that a number of recent polls show millennials are increasingly drawn to socialism and wary of capitalism.

The popularisation of what has been termed by some as ‘millennial socialism’ in the US arguably began with the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign gave it further momentum, and Ocasio-Cortez’s recent win added more fuel to the fire. You can see this trajectory reflected in the membership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Founded in 1982, it had about 6,000 members for most of its history. Shortly after the 2016 election, the organisation saw a boom in membership, reaching 11,000 paying members in December 2016. Since Trump took power, interest in the DSA has grown exponentially. A spokesman said it hit 47,000 members last week, and has “seen the fastest growth in our history following the win of Ocasio-Cortez”.

Perhaps the most significant thing about the rise of millennial socialism in the US is that it is forcing conservatives to articulate what exactly is so bad about a more equal system – often with results that are beyond parody. A writer for the ultra-conservative website the Daily Caller, for example, recently attended an Ocasio-Cortez rally and reported, completely straight-faced: “I saw something truly terrifying. I saw just how easy it would be … as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education.” Kids deserving healthcare, imagine that! It’s a slippery slope, it really is. You start with accessible healthcare and pretty soon you end up just like Venezuela.

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The cashless society is a con – and big finance is behind it

Every time you use a card insted of cash you are paying a 2-3 percent tax that goes straight to the rich oligarchs who are destroying society.  At the same time every purchase you make is tracked.

Fuck the oligarchs, use cash when possible.

From The Guardian UK: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/19/cashless-society-con-big-finance-banks-closing-atms

Banks are closing ATMs and branches in an attempt to ‘nudge’ users towards digital services – and it’s all for their own benefit

Thu 19 Jul 2018

All over the western world banks are shutting down cash machines and branches. They are trying to push you into using their digital payments and digital banking infrastructure. Just like Google wants everyone to access and navigate the broader internet via its privately controlled search portal, so financial institutions want everyone to access and navigate the broader economy through their systems.

Banks, of course, tell us a different story about why they do this. I recently got a letter from my bank telling me that they are shutting down local branches because “customers are turning to digital”, and they are thus “responding to changing customer preferences”. I am one of the customers they are referring to, but I never asked them to shut down the branches.

There is a feedback loop going on here. In closing down their branches, or withdrawing their cash machines, they make it harder for me to use those services. I am much more likely to “choose” a digital option if the banks deliberately make it harder for me to choose a non-digital option.

In behavioural economics this is referred to as “nudging”. If a powerful institution wants to make people choose a certain thing, the best strategy is to make it difficult to choose the alternative.

We can illustrate this with the example of self-checkout tills at supermarkets. The underlying agenda is to replace checkout staff with self-service machines to cut costs. But supermarkets have to convince their customers. They thus initially present self-checkout as a convenient alternative. When some people then use that alternative, the supermarket can cite that as evidence of a change in customer behaviour, which they then use to justify a reduction in checkout employees. This in turn makes it more inconvenient to use the checkout staff, which in turn makes customers more likely to use the machines. They slowly wean you off staff, and “nudge” you towards self-service.

Financial institutions, likewise, are trying to nudge us towards a cashless society and digital banking. The true motive is corporate profit. Payments companies such as Visa and Mastercard want to increase the volume of digital payments services they sell, while banks want to cut costs. The nudge requires two parts. First, they must increase the inconvenience of cash, ATMs and branches. Second, they must vigorously promote the alternative. They seek to make people “learn” that they want digital, and then “choose” it.

We can learn from the Marxist (Actually many would argue that he was more an anarchist than a Marxist) philosopher Antonio Gramsci in this regard. His concept of hegemony referred to the way in which powerful parties condition the cultural and economic environment in such a way that their interests begin to be perceived as natural and inevitable by the general public. Nobody was on the streets shouting for digital payment 20 years ago, but increasingly it seems obvious and “natural” that it should take over. That belief does not come from nowhere. It is the direct result of a hegemonic project on the part of financial institutions.

We can also learn from Louis Althusser’s concept of interpellation. The basic idea is that you can get people to internalise beliefs by addressing them as if they already had those beliefs. Twenty years ago nobody believed that cash was “inconvenient”, but every time I walk into London Underground I see adverts that address me as if I was a person who finds cash inconvenient. The objective is to reverse-engineer a belief within me that it is inconvenient, and that cashlessness is in my interests. But a cashless society is not in your interest. It is in the interest of banks and payments companies. Their job is to make you believe that it is in your interest too, and they are succeeding in doing that.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/19/cashless-society-con-big-finance-banks-closing-atms