28. January 2004 · Comments Off on Jobs are not Us · Categories: Economics, Social/Culture · Tags: ,

One of my freinds just e-mailed me to say that she’d been laid off. Another one of my freinds called me on the phone asking for some contact numbers… He’s been out of work for about eight months.

Needless to say, these freinds are in the same industry that I am and it’s getting pretty ugly. While Bush yacks about the “Wall Street” recovery, thousands of people in my industry are loosing their jobs.

There’s a real good article in this month’s issue of Wired magazine that presents the job migration to India from the perspectives of the Indian programmers and the “pissed-off” programmers in America.

27. January 2004 · Comments Off on CBS refuses to air advertisment · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: ,

“Child’s Play” is the name of the latest ad that CBS is refusing to air. The ad suggests that today’s children will be the ones paying for Bush’s trillion dollar deficit. I think the ad is brief, straight to the point without being abrasive. It doesn’t seem to be as much a “bash Bush” ad as much as a simple “we need to ask questions” ad. I don’t understand why CBS refuses to air it – CBS doesn’t seem to have problems with beer and tobacco and ads from the white house…

Anyway check out the ad…

http://www.moveon.org/cbs/ad/

04. January 2004 · Comments Off on Do the rich really need the breaks? · Categories: Economics, Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , ,

Here’s something I’ve heared a hundred times… “…Yeah, but the rich pay way more taxes than anyone else…” Words dispensed as indisputable evidence that the rich deserve the tax breaks being delivered by the Bush administration. Of course they’re talking about income tax and it’s true, the rich have been paying more income tax, but is that unfair? Maybe we need to look at the bigger picture.

Here’s another quote…

“Ultimately, we are interested in the question of relative standards of living and economic well-being. We need to examine trends in the distribution of wealth, which, more fundamentally than earnings or income, represents a measure of the ability of households to consume.”– Alan Greenspan.

Ah, so now we start to see two different measurements, income and wealth. A little more research and I discovered that compared to income, wealth is hardly taxed at all. This reveals a huge blindspot in the “rich need breaks” perception. But it’s not until you start looking at the difference between the distribution of income and the distribution of wealth that you really start to see the magnitude of the injustice.

These statistics were taken from the Survey of Consumer Finances sponsered by the Federal Reserve Board and ranks Americans by total wealth showing their share of national income and non-income wealth (investments etc…)

Income Wealth
Highest 20% 47.2% 84.3%
4th 20% 23.0% 10.8%
3rd 20% 15.7% 4.4%
2nd 20% 9.9% 1.0%
Lowest 20% 4.2% -.5%

Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see that even if the rich do pay more taxes on income, which they do simply by virtue of having more income to tax, it still doesn’t have nearly the same impact on their relative standard of living and economic well-being as it does for the bottom 50% who can’t offset the discount on their income with accumulated wealth. In fact the bottom 20% are actually in debt, so not only do they have no money to offset the deductions on their income, but the taxes impede their ability to pay off their debt.

If Alan Greenspan is right and the more representative measure of our ability to consume is wealth not income, then it seems to me that wealth should be taxed more and income taxed less, that is, as long as we are insisting that we live in a society where everyone pulls their own weight.

23. December 2003 · Comments Off on The Good Life · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , ,

The “good life” was a definition that recently surfaced to the center of attention at a political online discussion in which conservatives used the term to describe what conservative politics offers… A chance at the “good life”.

As one of the conservative participants put it so eloquently… I prefer to live in a country, and have a form of government where I do have a chance at the good life however slim it might be. What the libs want for this country would mean ZERO chance of my ever becoming rich.

That’s a new one one me, I guess I need to brush up on the “liberal agenda” 😉

For the sake of argument, I mentioned that perhaps there is more to the good life than getting rich. I suggested that my own life is pretty good, I have a good job, great family, nice house in a nice neighborhood… Of course, there’s always more that I would like, but when I look at other people across the world, it’s not too hard for me to see that the American middle-class is a pretty damn good place to find the “good life”.

Then I made the big mistake. (Folks never do this when talking to conservatives about economics or politics…) I pointed out how I thought the liberals created the American middle-class. Well as far as I can tell, the middle-class emerged out of the FDR era as a result of political compromises with workers’ movements. As someone else on the discussion board pointed out…

“[FDRs] new deal enshrined them [protections] after ordinary Americans organized, struck, negotiated, stood their ground and refused to acquiesce to industrial feudalism. Without the New Deal, we might have had a real revolution…”

I can see that compromises like that tend to avoid the bloody alternatives. The Magna Carta for instance is probably a contibuting reason why the English never had a violent king-killing revolution like the French and Russians did.
In any case, the FDR compromises and resulting “social” programs initiated a promotion in living standards for the working class family, much like what the poor Russian people thought communism was going to do for them, but didn’t.

Although it’s flamboyant capitalism that gets the limelight, I think that behind the scenes, it’s our modest version of socialism that makes America so attractive to immigrants. They see every American with a personal car and TV – as materialistic and attached to vibrant capitalism as that seems, it’s the government enforced wages and compensation that increased the savings and purchasing power of the working class, which led directly to the opportunity to tap their savings and hence one of the multiple orgasms of capitalism, consumerism. Dwellers of the third world already see the success stories of capitalism in their own countries, the treads of the boots that crush them.

I wouldn’t even call myself a socialist, at least not an anti-capitalist, there’s a lot to be said for the incentives and dreams of capitalism. I value the mix of both that we have here in this country, which was the point of my argument. We incredibly lucky Americans benefit from the best of both worlds. These whiny conservatives should look around and see how lucky they are, most of them *are* living the good life. It would be nice also if they understood that socialism is just as important to their current good life as capitalism is before they go pissing on it. (Talk about biting the hand that feeds…) After all, it’s nice to dream about making it big, and it’s nice to work toward it too, but for the enormous majority of Americans that try but don’t make it, they can still count on minimum wage, health benefits, human resource departments, overtime pay, 40/hr work weeks, weekends, vacations, maternity leave… All those things brought to them by the very liberal notion of social obligation.

I went on to explain how capitalism, with it’s dedication to a disinclined market, is a functional, bi-polar model that really only works for those who have actually achieved a position of control. Everyone else gets the Newtonian equal and opposite force. In other words, to make money, you have to take it from someone. So to put this in simple terms, anyone dreaming about making it big in capitalism is currently under attack by those who are already there and if they aren’t pinned down to the dirt, chances are they have some liberals to thank.

And after my explanations, what kind of response do you think I got? Well, here’s another quote…


“The “good life” consists of the total absence of people with a mediocre education attempting to use government to give everyone else their own particular definition of the “good life”. Simply put this means…the absence of liberals…even the worst evangelist cannot use government to enforce their vision without becoming a liberal in the process.”


charming.

05. December 2003 · Comments Off on The Corporate war on Democracy (another post on the Hannity site) · Categories: Politics · Tags: , , ,

Bravo – My last post was *way* too long for people to read. I was trying to respond to all of your points. It was also way too late at night. Allow me to consolidate our argument and reinforce my position.

Essentially, there are two related arguements.

#1 – you are challenging my suspicion that our presence in Iraq is primarily corporate motivated.

#2 – you are challenging (or perhaps just questioning) my assertion that corporations are at war with democracy, which is a rhetorical way of saying that the objectives of corporations and democracies are frequently at odds. This covers my observation that Bush is on the side of the corporation and is effectivly shifting power to them.

I won’t belabor #1 anymore, I’ve already laid out the arguments in my previous posts along with government sponsered statistics that support my argument. I *will* stress that I never said anything about a conspiracy. I think the American public is ill-informed but that doesn’t make any of this a conspiracy. The information isn’t hidden from us, it just isn’t blasted out in the top 40, so Americans have to look for it, something they aren’t always willing to do.

I’ll follow up on #2, because this is where your strongest arguments are. My primary challenge is that corporations don’t give you a voice and you responded with the popular right-wing response, that we do have a voice through consumerism. I’ll admit that this makes sense on the surface, but this is assuming the best of conditions.

Here are some reasons why conditions may be different:

1. Monopoly: Our power as consumers, weakens in the presence of a monopoly. There are many people that were concerned about Bill Gates for example, cornering the market and forcing the competition out, leaving us with no choices and as far as consumerism goes, no choice, no voice. The Anti-trust laws are government devices that interfere with corporate success and I think there were a lot of conservatives that are thankful for that.

2. Diversity: I presented this argument in my last post, but essentially a consumer has the right to boycott, but in the end, a large diverse corporation has a lot more staying power than a consumer.

3. Not always about shopping: Corporations make decisions that affect people regardless of whether or not they depend on them for revenue. For instance, there is a Canadian company that produces MBTE and sells it to the American oil companies who then add the stuff to gasoline. In CA people complained to their state government because MBTE is a serious health hazard and it doesn’t matter what kind of gas you pump, it’s always in there, all the gas stations have it, so there goes your “choice” argument. The government, the democracy that represents the people, motioned to stop the practice to protect the health of the people per their request. The Canadian company, brought up a free-trade agreement signed earlier by corporate influenced government officials without public consent, (remember what I said about free-trade and the Fast Track law?)and said look, according to this agreement you can’t tell us not to sell the stuff. It’s obstructive. So the federal government held up their hands and shrugged. Sorry, people.

This is a clear case of the democratic power of our voices being over-ruled by the power of the corporate profit margin (the war on democracy) and the invalidates the “voice through market” argument.

4. Sometimes we are forced to consume: Many conservatives have a problem with excessive taxes, but funny enough, most of our taxes support government programs that they support such as national defense. Now let me be the first to admit, we need a national defense and I’m willing to pay for it, but if you look at the Pentagon which runs a huge clearing house for government contracts, you’ll notice that they are using tax money that people are forced to pay and most of the contracts are going to private industry. Again, the fairness of contract bidding is irrelevant to my argument. I’ll let the dems squabble that one with you. My point is that people are not given a say in what products to buy or what price they are willing to pay. Now, I tend to think the people in the Pentagon know a bit more about buying fighter jets that the average voter at home so it makes sense that we have this system, but I mention it because it’s another case of people, not having a choice, which means that when a company with a government contract processes rocket fuel in CA and leaks toxic poison into the water table and decides not to clean it up, and the government says don’t worry about it despite the fact that local hospitals are reporting an impact, the people being poisoned can’t just say let’s put them out of business and not buy their product, they are being forced by the government to buy the stuff by collecting tax money and giving it to offenders. I remember the story, I just wish I remember the name of the company – I’ll try to find that.

In conclussion, I’m not just throwing slogans around and trying to rally up a protest. I’m not saying “all corporations are evil” I’m simply stating that corporations are much to powerful to be so casual about them. They are driven by profit, not ethics and when/if a person’s symbiotic relationship with a corporation goes bad, odds are very slanted that it will be the person that suffers not the corporation. Finally, the idea that we have a voice in corporate America is a little bit like beleiving in Santa Clause. It’s a nice idea for those who don’t know any better.
_________________
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither”
– Ben Franklin, 1759

02. December 2003 · Comments Off on Bush’s Clean Air Act = 30,000 death per year · Categories: Environment, Politics · Tags: ,

Hannity was interviewing (or should I say cross examining) Robert Kennedy Jr on the show the other day and Kennedy mentioned that according to estimates by the National Academy of Science, over 30,000 people will die each year from increases in pollution as a result of Bush’s so-called Clean Air Act.

Let’s see, 3,000 people died in the biggest terrorist attack in US history and Bush takes the country to war “to make the world safe”, yet he has no problem signing a bill with the potential to kill 30,000 people each year…? I’m not trying to downplay the 9/11 attacks, that was a horrible thing, but I just can’t get past the numbers. I mean if the objective is to make the world safe for American citizens then wouldn’t a threat to 30,000 American lives be a concern? Would those 30,000 deaths be more significant if they exploded in balls of fire instead of dying quietly in a hospital bed?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that our president is on our side.

01. December 2003 · Comments Off on [Another post on the Hannity site] · Categories: Uncategorized

I dunno Darkwind…

Quote:
Basically, President Bush showing up in Baghdad sends a clear message to the Butcher that while he can’t make public appearances anymore, the President of the United States could.
:End Quote

Plan-X Respone:
Bush had to sneak in, only stayed for 2 hours, and then tip-toed out again. I applaud him for taking the risk to boost morale amongst our troops, but I don’t call that a message to the Iraqis. I don’t know why people regard Iraqi’s as less intelligent than ourselves. They are no doubt, flooded with media coverage of the visit (after the event), but it seems likely that they have a culture of their own where value is found in people being real. Sooner or later, they are going to completely disregard any Bush PR as being distrustful, if Bush doesn’t come out and show himself in the flesh, if nothing else to show his bravado. (To the Iraqis, not just his own troops)

Look at the few clips that we ever see of SH… He’s always surrounded by crowds and holding some kind of a weapon. We see Bush all the time, surrounded by screened out reporters – not the same thing. All I’m pointing out here is that SH *is* Iraqi… His approach to PR is probably more on target with Iraqis.

I think the message was that Bush had to sneak in and out. For crying out loud, he had to sneak out of his ranch, at 05:00 am, without even telling his family. “President’s security can’t even trust their own.” There’s a nice message.

You seem real hung up on stacking up munitions to measure stregnth, but these Iraqis, arabs in general, obviously know how to network, they know how to infilterate and terrorism is their weapon of choice. Their religion tells them that victory is not a function of firepower.

So, maybe the whole thing was another PR stunt and the US is actually in total control and Bush could have just as easily flew in on a balloon, it still wouldn’t matter… The fact remains that the media coverage tells the story of a sneak out the back window. The Iraqi’s are bound to feel more confidence in their ability to have an impact on the President of the USA.

But wait, there’s more…

The fact that the media coverage made no comment on who may be causing the “landing with no lights” caution, any of the agitators may be getting the same high from it, including OBL.

and finally, the thing that makes sense of all of this…

The war in Iraq is a cash cow. The School of International Affairs at the George Washington University estimates $202 billion by 2010, based on existing contracts. The seed money is all collected through federal tax, making it a socialist engine. The only engine that doesn’t take supply-side fuel, but that’s okay if you can segregate the tax brackets. In anycase, that last $87 billion of socialist money, will return high yeilds for the investors.

The risks are accepted and sometimes even beneficial as in the case of emotional risks to US troops that spawn political support, which is crucial for any socialist engine.

Darkwind, It seems we have radically different perspectives on all of this.
_________________
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither”
– Ben Franklin, 1759

01. December 2003 · Comments Off on How to Vote Like a Fool · Categories: Politics · Tags:

I have one answer that I think explains it pretty well…

Today’s world is just too complex for anyone person to be an expert in everything. Therefore, we are all specialists; construction workers, aircraft mechanics, financial advisers, firefighters, doctors, engineers and soldiers. We all try hard to meet or exceed the requirements of our own areas of expertise and trust others to do the same for areas we don’t have the time for.

Politicians are specialists too, the only ones that can dedicate the time to really understand the full ramifications of political issues, so us non-politicians depend on them to represent us, just like a doctor would depend on a mechanic to fix his Mercedes. We have to trust those that we depend on. Unfortunately, just like a car mechanic has the ability to abuse the trust and charge for unnecessary parts, a politician also has the ability to abuse the trust.

So it doesn’t really take a fool to vote like one. All it takes is a non-political specialist with insufficient knowledge of the issue and too much trust in the wrong politician.