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Who the hell is Gini and why do we care? - Tactical Ninja

Oct. 7th, 2011

09:18 am - Who the hell is Gini and why do we care?

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The death of Steve Jobs is affecting me very strangely. I'm not into Apple products, in fact I haven't used them much since the early 80s when the first computers my school had were Apple ones. This is partly chance but lately also due to my aversion to planned obsolescence - I see people rushing to buy the latest iGadget even though the last version is only a year old, and go "Holy messedup waste of resources, batman" as I continue making sure my tech gear lasts at least three years.

So yeah, not a fangirl. But he was a very famous man who had a lasting impact on the world, and so he was never going to die quietly and yesterday I witnessed an outpouring of loss for one person that I haven't seen since Diana died.


He had the same kind of cancer as my Mum. He even did the same thing she did by outlasting the usual 6-month prognosis by years. He lasted four years longer than she did, but he had access to things like liver transplants and whatever high-tech medical treatment he chose to pursue, and the other trappings of the lives of the wealthy to help him. I believe he chose not to use many of the therapies available.

Anyway, when I think about Steve Jobs and the last few years, what I think about isn't iPhones and iPads and pretty user interfaces and the great Mac vs PC debate that wouldn't have happened without him. I think about hospital visits and vomiting and the inexorable wasting away and the impact that has on the person and their family. Mr Jobs was remarkably resilient to continue working up until 6 weeks or so before he died - by then he must have been pretty damn sick and I have a fair idea what that entails. Reaching the point where someone lets go of the reins of their life because they just can't any more is like an admission of defeat - that this disease has taken the last thing they have and now it's time to go. For him it was quitting Apple, for Mum it was leaving her house. Small decisions, big ones - it's all the same ending.

So I take my hat off to him, and I am feeling deeply for his family. Meanwhile I'll be over here having a quiet sniff over my Mum.

Meanwhile, it appears that the City of LA has officially endorsed the Occupy movement. Now, this could be a fake and if it is I'd be interested to know - however I haven't seen anything that says it is yet and it's been around at least 24 hours. One of the statements in there talks about the US Gini coefficient.

I'm no economist so I went off to find out what that is. According to Wikipedia, it's a measure of inequality. The closer the number approaches to 1, the closer the measured population is to maximum inequality, 0 being minimal, 1 being maximal. OK, I kind of get that.

Then I went and looked up a list of Gini coefficients for various countries. These ones relate purely to income inequality, by the way. I was interested in seeing where the US sits in the scale (this one is done as a percentage, I'm presuming of 1).

Disclaimer here: I'm told the stats used to get the Gini coefficient are inaccurate, and I can believe it. I imagine a lot is to do with how good countries are at cooking their books, and some countries wouldn't have the same records as others, and other esoteric economic reasons that I don't understand. I'd be interested to see the same work done with more accurate stats, but meanwhile, this is what I have to work with. Here is what I gleaned.

The US is bang on 45.

Countries within 2 percentage points of the US: Uruguay (45.2), Uganda (45.7), Thailand (43), Rwanda (46.8), Philippines (45.8), Nigeria (43.7), Nicaragua (43.1), Malaysia (46.1), Jamaica (45.5), Iran (44.5), Guyana (43.2), Cote d'Ivoire (44.6).

Some countries that are doing better than the US: Egypt (34.4), Tunisia (40), India (36.8), Ethiopia (30), Ghana (39.4), Greece (33), Spain (32), Turkey (41), New Zealand (36.2).

As is to be expected, Scandinavian countries leave everyone else in the dust. Sweden is the lowest on 23, the highest is South Africa on 65.

So, um, I'm not quite sure if that proves anything, but I found it interesting to see that there are a lot of countries that are assumed to have it much worse than the US, that it seems actually have it better in terms of income inequality. This doesn't mean that the people are richer, it means that the gap between rich and poor is smaller.

Make of that what you will. Personally, I think it's likely that people in the US have more money and access to more resources compared with people in Uganda (I have not researched this). However, I suspect that poor people in the US have less money and access to resources than they previously did, there are now more poor people in the US, and the US being a 'rich' country means that the poverty line is a lot higher there - there is no way you can support someone in the US on a dollar a day just saying. And that's why I think the #Occupy movement has a point.

In other #Occupy news, yesterday was the day the unions joined the movement and there was some marching. I've seen videos of the police whacking people with batons, I read that a 9 year old was maced, I've heard all sorts of things I haven't been able to follow up because hey I'm moving house and am running out of time. But I do have this:

Live updates from Village Voice reporters who were there. Seems relatively comprehensive, has videos. Go look and see what you think.


I will be at Fidels tonight but will be leaving early because I have to take my bed apart and load up the car again, this time with stereo and TV stuff.

I will be glad when this bit is over. You should come and visit me because I will have furniture and everything!

Oh and as expected, parliament passed the Spybill yesterday. I think Idiot Savant says it best. I left a comment on the Labour blog last week after Charles Chauvel's post about how disgusted they were with the Bill, asking if we'd see a firm stance from Labour on this issue. I received no reply, in fact I think my comment may have been deleted. Now I understand why - and it makes it clear why Labour is doing crap in the polls as well. Despite having some good policy (capital gains tax for example), they have no fucking backbone and seem to have no grasp of what OPPOSITION actually means. I don't want to vote for National Lite.

Also, no reply yet from the Labour candidate for Wellington Central on his stance on issues I care about.

Comments:

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From:t_c_da
Date:October 6th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
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The comment (reported on RNZ National's Morning Report this morning) by the Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, that this parliament has sat 25% of it's hours under urgency, says it all...
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From:richdrich
Date:October 7th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
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I'd suspect that in many places in the developing world, the wealthy (who certainly exist) simply don't declare their wealth and pay taxes. So any figures based on official statistics would be suspect.

(In most developed states, OTOH, the wealthy bribe legislators so they don't *have* to pay tax. All legal and above board, nothing to see here, move along).

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From:tatjna
Date:October 7th, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
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And in either circumstance, the result would lean towards an underestimation of inequality. Hmm..
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 7th, 2011 12:54 am (UTC)
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The city of LA thing is legit. The protesters had been sleeping on the sidewalks, they now have permission to camp on city owned property. I know a few folks who are going to go camp starting this weekend, they'd been only going out to the daylight protests because the sidewalks are pretty rough.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 7th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
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*nod* Thanks for the confirmation. ;-)
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 7th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
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Mayor Villaraigosa knows what side his bread is buttered on... we'll put it that way. The protests downtown have little chance to seriously disrupt business (downtown is mostly law firms & public works companies), and siding with the protesters can swing a LOT of votes in LA.
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 7th, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
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BTW: It's hard to even express the massive level of stigma Angelinos feel about the idea of sleeping on a downtown sidewalk.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 7th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
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These are pretty interesting cultural measure too. It looks at how accepting cultures are of inequality: http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/
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From:tatjna
Date:October 7th, 2011 02:58 am (UTC)
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That's really interesting. My brief glance leaves me not quite understanding the relationships, but I plan to go back and have a look when I have more time.
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