20. February 2015 · Comments Off on Government Spending · Categories: Economics, Politics · Tags: ,

This chart shows government spending from 2000 – 2015.  As far as I can tell, there are no tricks, no hidden or partial contexts, no percentage of GDP… Just straight up spending measured here in billions of U.S. dollars.

source: tradingeconomics.com

As you can see, there is a huge peak in 2010. This peak was in the headlines almost constantly and when it wasn’t you could still hear the hum of angry citizens fuming about government spending. Well, I just wanted to share this… Government spending appears to have been decreasing since then.

02. February 2015 · Comments Off on Why the National Debt was excluded from the 2015 State of the Union Address · Categories: Economics, Politics · Tags:

In January 2015, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address and during that speech he said that all economic indicators show that this country is better off now than it was when he took office. In the subsequent press conference a reporter asked Press Secretary Paul Earnest if Obama was including the national debt in the set of economic indicators, a question enforced by citing the 70% increase in the national debt since Obama took office.

Obama did say that all economic indicators suggest we are better off now than when he took office. Perhaps it was unfortunate that he didn’t actually explain his exclusion of the national debt as an economic indicator, but then again, he only had so much time to address the entire nation. He can’t spend all that time catering to the less-versed minds of people who don’t understand the exclusion and it makes sense to me that he would leave that task to the press conference.

I’m not that impressed by the way Paul Earnest responded to the question though. I think I would have been more prepared to answer that specific question. First, I would have started by giving the reporter a straight yes or no answer to his very simple question and THEN I would have explained the reason for it. Here’s what my response would have been along with a chart that I would have brought to the conference to make the response as clear as possible.

“No John, he did not include the national debt. He was referring to the economic indicators that reflect the performance of his administration which is after all the topic of his discussion at that point in his speech. The reason why the national debt is excluded from this set of indicators is that it does not necessarily reflect the performance of the current administration… it is instead, a running total of all obligations initiated by all administrations, past and present minus all payments made on those obligations. Now, I understand your point about the 70% increase on the President Obama’s “watch”, indeed when he took office, total debt stood at $10.6 trillion. Since then it has increased by almost $8 trillion, which is roughly 70%. At first glance, you might think the only way $8 trillion can be added to the debt is through additional spending, but it’s not. Roughly half of that $8 trillion comes from a deficit pattern that was set before 2008. In other words, when President Obama took office, he was handed a deficit created by government obligations that far exceeded government revenue. So even if we cut new spending to $0.00, that preexisting gap would continue to pile on debt and the only way to close that gap is to increase revenue by raising taxes or decrease the obligations initiated by the previous administration through a breech of contract. The other half of that $8 trillion does actually come from new spending, but that spending has dropped by two-thirds since 2008, as indicated in the current deficit.”

Now that took 211 words for me to explain… I can see why Obama decided to leave such explanations to the press secretary when so many Americans already do understand this.

06. September 2014 · Comments Off on The War of Zion · Categories: Politics, Religion, Social/Culture · Tags: , ,

Only a few days after the end of hostilities in Gaza, the Zionist-controlled Israeli government  boldly claims another 1000 acres of land in the West Bank.  In other words, they are taking land that belonged to Palestinian families for generations and telling them to get out so they can build “Jewish” settlements for any Jew in the world that wants to live there.

Would that not be a fundamental equivalent to what perhaps Texas would experience if a large group of foreign people united by a religious claim that God gave them the right to take over Texas came in and told the Texans to leave so they can build settlements for anyone else in the world that wants to live there, as long as they belong to their religion? Would we expect the Texans to bow down without a fight? What if those foreigners were so well connected to the hegemonic superpower that they are always guaranteed to overpower whatever the Texans can throw back?  I’m not making this up folks. I’m just changing names.

So in other words, the Zionists, who insist God gave them the title deed to the Levant, are continuing to feed the blow back, which is what the attacks on Israel is… blow black. Inspired by hatred yes, but hatred that itself is encouraged by aggressive Zionist behavior. By this, I am not suggesting that we validate terrorism, I am suggesting that the Zionists stop encouraging it. Land grabs and class structures that take from the Arabs and give to the Jews continue to give Palestinians very compelling reasons to hate them. And if the pattern continues, the more extreme reactions among Palestinians will come to violence and the State of Israel will put on the same act they always do… that THEY are the one’s being attacked first.

The more perspectives I add to the meta, the more I am convinced that the history of modern Israel is not so much a history of frequent multiweek wars… but one long continuous war that started with the Zionist migration of Jews to Palestine around the turn of the 20th century, up to this very moment. What historians try to describe as wars between Israel and it’s enemies are actually battles. Israel is still occupying territories gained in battle in 1967. They also gained territory through a highly unusual example of international diplomacy in 1949 and of course even before that when the Jewish National Fund was gaining territory through hostile economics. Each of these gains were acts of aggression upon the families and communities being conquered. The belligerents are the same, the reasons are the same and the struggle never actually stops, it just deescalates to police actions.

This recent claim to nearly 1000 acres is just a continuation of the aggression, hidden behind the stage curtains of “official peace”. When the more defiant Palestinians manage to scrape up enough battery to throw a punch, Israel will respond with routine air-strikes and THEN the media will call it a war.

So next time Hamas “comes out of the blue” with another offense like launching rockets or kidnapping soldiers, try thinking how it might also be described as yet another counter-attack in an ongoing war that hasn’t stopped in the last 100 years. Something else this perspective reveals is that the aggressions started before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947, so I think it would be more accurate to describe the driving force of belligerence as the Zionist movement. This extends the possibility that the State of Israel CAN exist without trespass, if the Zionist influences are disengaged.

I think it’s also important to point out that although the Zionist movement claims connections with Judaism it is not a complete representation of the the Jewish people, in fact there is a solid group of Jews that oppose Zionism as an aberration of the faith. Orthodox Jews have organized a political group called the True Torah Jews that denounces the Zionist movement and it’s agressions. In fact these Jews insist that the State of Israel is “diametrically opposed” to the teachings of Judaism. Other Israeli Jews have organized a political group called Peace Now. This group favors compromise and a two-state solution. My hope is that these Jewish activists, the liberals seeking peace and harmony and the conservatives pointing to the discrepancies between the Torah and what the Zionists are doing, will some day, some how get through to a LOT of very thick headed people that Zionism and it’s 100-year war against the Palestinians really isn’t cool.

 

12. February 2014 · Comments Off on Raising The Debt Limit · Categories: Economics, Politics · Tags:

To raise or not to raise. How is this even a question? For those of you who know how politics works, the answer is simple… anything that is put to a vote becomes a card in the game we call politics. “I’m not going to give you my vote unless you give *ME* something.” The reason why the question even becomes a card in the first place requires an understanding of a very simple concept. In a nutshell, it doesn’t matter how much debt you carry as long as you make your payments on time. If you don’t make your payments on time, you loose credibility.

Unfortunately, our government doesn’t have the cash to pay off what is due, so the idea is to borrow more money so they can – and since the government has already reached it’s self-appointed debt limit, they need to raise that limit first. This may sound insane, but  it’s really no different than what millions of Americans are doing when they use credit cards to pay their overdue bills. They are borrowing more money to avoid the immediate consequences of not paying what is due. And yes, it *is* insane, but I think most reasonable people will find that in general, it’s better to carry more debt than to default on payments. As long as you make your payments on time, you can carry an increased debt at least until you come up with a long term solution, which shouldn’t be hard to recognize… it’s called living within your means.

Of course for a non-profit government like ours, the only means available is tax revenue. So then, to live within it’s means, the government should spend no more than what it gets in taxes, right? So why can’t our government do that? Is it just spending too much money? Is it wasting money? Is there some corruption going on? These are the same questions a CFO in the private sector will ask of a company’s operations, which can be roughly equated to the obligations of a government. It’s not unusual to find waste, corruption or both in corporations as well as government, but since corporations are private affairs we tend to hear less about it. Another thing a CFO will look at is operating costs.

The operating cost of the government’s obligations are without a doubt escalating. And why wouldn’t it? The government still has to buy supplies and equipment from the market just like any corporation does – it still has to pay it’s workers, just like any corporation does. In fact government is just as affected by prices up the supply-chain as any corporation is. Then you factor in the the increasing number of customers, or in the case of the government, the increasing number of citizens. So naturally, the cost of a government’s obligations are going to escalate the same way the operating costs for a corporation does. So how does a corporation solve this problem? It seems the most common approach is to pass the cost to the customer through price hikes. Customers might be annoyed but at least the company stays balanced. The equivalent solution for a government of course is to raise taxes, but this isn’t what’s happening. In fact, while our population was getting more expensive to serve, the government has actually been cutting taxes and therefore reducing it’s means. So the only other sensible option then is to cut the operating budget to stay within the shrinking means of a tax cutting government, spending has to be cut accordingly and as we just saw, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want to cut their spending programs. So now what?

Borrow, that’s what. If you’re operating costs exceed your revenue and you can’t change either, you borrow until you can find a way to either expand your revenue or reduce your costs.

 

23. January 2014 · Comments Off on Ten Core Beliefs of the Tea Party… And My Response to All of Them · Categories: Economics, Politics, Social/Culture · Tags:

There are some obvious things about the Tea Party such as their opposition to taxes and to Obama and their paranoia about socialism of all things. The discussions that I’ve had so far with actual Tea Party supporters however never get past the slogans. When I push for more depth they tend to get defensive. So, I turned to their web sites where I found the “Ten Core Beliefs of the Modern-Day Tea Party”. So now I am at least able to understand the official core beliefs of this movement. Here are my responses to each of them, starting with the preamble…



Preamble: The Tea Party Movement is an all-inclusive American grassroots movement with the belief that everyone is created equal and deserves an equal opportunity to thrive in these United States where they may “pursue life, liberty and happiness” as stated in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

When you have millions of dollars funneling into the movement from the top 1% it’s hard to call it a grassroots movement, but otherwise it does seem to be organized on some level in a grassroots sort of way. The of the statement is nice… pretty much the same thing all the rest of the parties are saying.

OK, here’s the ten core beliefs…

1. Eliminate Excessive Taxes – Excessively high taxes are a burden for those exercising their personal liberty to work hard and prosper as afforded by the Constitution. A fiscally responsible government protects the freedom of its citizens to enjoy the fruits of their own labor without interference from a government that has exceeded its necessary size, scope and reach into the lives of its citizens.

So my first question is… How do we determine what excessive is? This isn’t a stupid question. If anyone in the Tea Party actually took the time to figure this out, they would probably realize quickly that it’s not such an easy question to answer, especially since every penny taken by the IRS is funding something that is viewed as critical to someone. As far as I can tell, determining what is “excessive” is basically the same thing as determining which Americans to cut off. I’ve heard a lot of opinions from various Americans about this and it’s usually a matter of targeting “someone else”. This works fine for the self-obsessed that think the common good means them. So much for “all-inclusive”.

2. Eliminate the National Debt – By implementing fiscally conservative policies at all levels of government, progress can be made toward eliminating the U.S. National Debt. Massive increases in the National Debt have created and continue to create a huge burden for the next generation of Americans, thus imperiling the country’s short-term and long-term economic health and prosperity.

I basically agree with this stance on the national debt. So do most Americans it seems. I’m not sure what they mean by fiscally conservative policies though. If they are referring to the fiscal policies of the GOP then they’re on the WRONG track. So far there have been two main types of spending polices… “Pay as you go”, which is typically what the Democrats adhere to. They spend a lot, so they tax a lot, which infuriates people. The other category is “Pay later”, which is typically what the Republicans go with, where they DON’T tax people… (yet). Instead, they borrow from the Fed and use the money to pay for their spending, which is just as much if not more than what the Democrats spend but this way, they don’t have to tax the people, so the spending isn’t noticed and the Republicans can win elections on their low-tax policy. The only drawback to this is a deficit which accumulates into a national debt.

So… on very basic level… How do the geniuses in the Tea Party expect to “eliminate” the national debt AND “excessive taxes? I can only think of one way… Cut spending down to where both is possible, but that introduces a whole new problem, the fact that government spending has become such an integral part of our economic system, both on the supply side (i.e., defense industry) and on the consumer side. To bring spending down to the level where we can pay off our national debt AND cut taxes would be slitting the throat of our economy. We can always look and see how well the austerity programs in Europe are going… Greece, Ireland… Yeah – cutting their government spending is working out REAL well for them 😉


3. Eliminate Deficit Spending – All deficit spending must be eliminated immediately. We insist that government representatives at all levels maintain a fiscally responsible budget and balance the books as would be expected of any American business.

Good idea. Thing is… we already DO expect government representatives at all levels to maintain a fiscally responsible budget and to balance the books. The Republicans expect this, the Democrats expect this, we ALL expect this. The problem is that the representatives don’t always do what their constituents expect. That certainly doesn’t make their fiscal irresponsibility a tenet of their party but it DOES prove that you have to do more than “expect” you’re representatives to behave.

What I find interesting is the reference to American business – as if we hold business to a higher standard. As if the private sector wasn’t already many times worse than the government when it comes to deficit spending and accumulated debt. Our national debt (created by government deficit spending) is currently at around $16 trillion. The way the Tea Party reacts you would think it’s the end of the world. But they seem oblivious to the fact that our private sector debt is at about $38 trillion. They also seem to have no idea that our national debt isn’t as bad now (100% of GDP) as it was at the end of WW2 (120% of GDP) and the fact that instead of freaking out about the debt, Democrats AND Republicans at that time calmly SPENT their way out of the debt by investing in our industries, which boosted productivity and created the boom that was the 1950’s.


4. Protect Free Markets – America’s free enterprise system allows businesses to thrive as they compete in the open marketplace and strive toward ever better services and products. Allowing free markets to prosper unfettered by government interference is what propelled this country to greatness with an enduring belief in the industriousness and innovations of the populace.

Protect free markets? Isn’t this an oxymoron? Isn’t protectionism the antithesis of a free market? Seriously, the elephant in the room is the fact that there is no such thing as a free market …and there never has been. What we have are markets that are all guided by rules and all these rules translate to market advantages for some and disadvantages for others. The common approach for the disadvantaged is to try and change or eliminate the rules and a common battle cry for their efforts is the free market. It’s an appeal to a broader ideal in an effort to pass off their personal ambitions, which they advertise as a valiant crusade toward freedom for all. One of the oldest tricks in the book.

This core belief is the single most critical issue I have with the Tea Party AND the Libertarians and here’s why…

1. I’ve been following the expansion of international trade agreements for the past 20 years and the resulting battlefront between international investors and sovereign governments. The international investors have taken the banner of “free markets” as their own in this battle, giving their victories names like the North American FREE Trade Agreement and the Greater Arab FREE Trade Agreement.

2. Every so-called “free trade” agreement is actually a set of rules and limitations that regulate the market in a way that favors the international investors and limits the ability of local governments to protect their local business communities.

3. I don’t actually have a problem with the benefits these agreements provide, my problem is with the consequential disadvantages to the people of compliant nations and the fact that they can no longer appeal to their own governments for protection.

This second issue is the reason why I don’t think supporters of the Tea Party really put much thought into this, because the free market movement as it currently exists is nothing less than a full frontal assault on their own 10th core belief.

5. Abide by the Constitution of the United States – The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and must be adhered to without exception at all levels of government. This includes the Bill of Rights and other Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and their provisions designed to protect states’ rights and individual liberties.

Again, how is this unique to the Tea Party? The Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians… they ALL support the U.S.Constitution. It’s the one thing this country has that unifies us all. Almost every government oath taken requires one to uphold and protect the Constitution. The disputes among citizens are never about whether or not we should abide by the Constitution… the disputes always arise from differing interpretations of the Constitution when applied to laws and actions. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this belief and I’m glad to see it included but it certainly doesn’t set the Tea Party aside. All I can say here is welcome Tea Party to the same thing everyone else is saying.

6. Promote Civic Responsibility – Citizen involvement at the grassroots level allows the voice of the American people to be heard and directs the political behaviors of our representatives at both the local and national level so they, in turn, may be most effective in working to preserve the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of this country’s citizens.

I agree with this one, I mean it *IS* basic democracy 101 folks. When I hear people say the U.S. is NOT a democracy, the only truth I see in their statement is that people aren’t involving themselves in the process and that’s a personal choice not the core belief of ANY political party in our system.

7. Reduce the Overall Size of Government – A bloated bureaucracy creates wasteful spending that plagues our government. Reducing the overall size, scope and reach of government at both local and national levels will help to eliminate inefficiencies that result in deficit spending which adds to our country’s debt.

OK, this is another one that I’m just going to call too simple minded to be any good to anyone. I have one word for you…  Ratios! Why on earth people can’t figure this one out is beyond me, but it’s not that complicated. To be represented you need a healthy ratio of representatives to citizens. How many parents do you hear screaming that there are too many teachers? How many times do you hear people saying there are too many police officers? In both cases people seem to be acutely aware that there needs to be a healthy ratio of teachers to students, police officers to residents. So why is this logic completely eliminated from our view on the size of government?

I suggest having a look at the web site for an organization called Thirty-Thousand.org I am not associated in anyway with this organization, but I do appreciate their insight on the matter and I think anyone who thinks reducing the size of government is an actual answer should consider their view. The objective of this organization is described on their web site as…

The primary purpose of Thirty-Thousand.org is to conduct research on, and increase awareness of, the degradation of representative democracy in the United States resulting from Congress’ longstanding practice of limiting the number of congressional districts despite the continuing growth in the nation’s population.

Here’s an interesting passage from their website, that may appeal to the conservatives out there who think we should return to a society as envisioned by our founding fathers…

The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights intended that the total population of Congressional districts never exceed 50 to 60 thousand. Currently, the average population size of the districts is nearly 700,000 and, consequently, the principle of proportionally equitable representation has been abandoned.

They are referring to the original draft of the Bill of Rights which contained not 10 but 12 amendments. Only the last 10 amendments were ratified. The original first amendment is where this idea that the total population of Congressional districts should never exceed 50 to 60 thousand. That amendment was short one state on being ratified. For the skeptics here’s a way to see for yourself – (excepted from usgovinfo.about.com)

If you are fortunate enough to visit the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives in Washington, DC, you can view the original government copy of the Bill of Rights as sent to the then 11 states for ratification in 1789. What might surprise you is that the original Bill of Rights contains 12 – not 10 — amendments.

I’m not necessarily saying that we should increase the size of government to match the population… in fact I am more inclined to suggest we break the union up into smaller governments. Bottom line here… we have a huge government because we have a huge population. Want a smaller government? Then here are your choices… accept less representation or consider the ratio.


8. Believe in the People – The American people, given their guaranteed freedoms, will thrive in a democratic, capitalist environment which allows individuals to strive toward ever greater achievements, innovations and the efficient production of needed and valued goods and services.

The Constitution stuck with basic universal principles; it did not specify religion, nor economic model. This eighth core belief however is very obviously promoting one economic model. Capitalism. I think capitalism is a viable economic option it excels in fast moving industries like consumer electronics and commodities but our system is a hybrid system with a fair amount of socialism baked in and there’s a reason for that. Over the years the American people have found areas where strict capitalism doesn’t necessarily offer people the best option, usually areas where compassion and human judgement serves better. Capitalism has no such compassion, no sense of judgement and and for most things like consumer products that’s fine but sometimes the best option for a human being is not a profitable one. The danger that I sense here is that there are business people out there that are pushing for a strictly capitalist system so that profits can be made even at the expense of human interest and the Tea Party has all the earmarks of a vehicle to make that happen.


9. Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics – American politics is burdened by big money from lobbyists and special interests with an undue influence on the peoples’ representatives. The Tea Party movement is seen as a threat to the entrenched political parties and thus is the continual target of smear campaigns and misrepresentation of its ideals. We choose not to respond to these attacks except to strongly and explicitly disavow any and all hate speech, any and all violence as well as insinuations of violence, and any and all extreme and fringe elements that bring discredit to the Tea Party Movement. We are a peaceful movement and respect other’s opinions and views even though they do not agree with our own. We stand by the Tea Party beliefs and goals and choose to focus our energies on ensuring that our government representatives do the same.

1. Ironic how a movement funded by big money from lobbyists is such a critic of big money from lobbyists.
2. I was going to say a lot more about this somewhat whiny tenet, but I think the underlying message is a good one – at least in principal, so I’ll leave it at that.

10. Maintain Local Independence – The strength and resilience of a grassroots movement is the ability of citizens at the local level to determine their own platforms, agendas and priorities free of an overriding central leadership. Exercising the clearly stated message of the Tea Party movement by its nature involves discourse about which policies and candidates best hold to our stated principles, and these various opinions should flourish and evolve at the local level.

The Anti-Federalist in me wants to high five the Tea Party for this tenet, but the realist in me can’t ignore the contradictions. I’ve already stated the conflict of interest between this core belief and the fourth core belief but I can’t stress it enough because while you’re protesting the overriding central leadership in the Federal government, you are bowing down to the overriding central leadership of the free-trade movement, which overrides the Federal government and is arguably the primary road to a one-world government.

So… in summary… I understand the frustrations of the Tea Party supporters. I also agree with what I think are the ultimate hopes and dreams of the Tea Party such as self-determination but I am not impressed with what I can only describe as a half-baked set of principals that only makes sense when you put the big money sponsors into the picture at which point it becomes clear (at least in my mind) that the Tea Party is a rhetorical and manipulative trick played on the frustrations and political ignorance of good people.

 

26. July 2012 · Comments Off on The Government vs Corporate Blame Game · Categories: Politics · Tags:

There are times where someone will assume I am oblivious to the political dangers that threaten our liberties. This usually happens on the heels of those disputes where I disagree with another person’s assessment of such a threat. Too often the people involved in the argument are so narrowly focused on their assessment that all feedback is accepted as a literal affirmation or refused as a literal negation.

Most recently, opinions about Barack Obama seem to promote enough rift to create this underestimation of my political awareness. Especially, when confronted with a strong assertion that the Obama Administration is leading us through the gates of socialist tyranny. I am at that point compelled to explain, to at least put the theory out there, that in the big picture, neither socialism, nor the Obama Administration are the most urgent threats to our liberty.

The literal negation flings my theory aside and I find myself stereo-cast as an “Obama fan” who is typically oblivious to the threats of tyranny that Obama he is supposedly ushering in. Next, I am pelted with a set of arguments recycled from the incoming hits of the Bush era and even though I’ve heard them before and used them in my own arguments, they are launched at me as if I’ve never encountered them before. As if Obama changed everything.

Sometimes I can develop a sidebar conversation that references this bigger picture which usually goes like this… I suggest the most urgent threats come from the private sector. This is one of those little ideas with giant responses. Usually, if the sentiment is negative on socialism, or on the type of “big” government that could house a socialized economy, the response is that government is the supreme authority and therefore the biggest threat to our liberties. “The government can take away your rights, the banks can only try to influence the government.” This idea suggests that banks are not as “clear and present” as the government. But this is entirely based what I think is a false sense of security – that we are confident in knowing the government alone has direct authority over a person, where a “bank” doesn’t. Do banks put people in prison? No, not like the government does, not based on legal authority. But the reason why this sense of security is false is that banks can create circumstance and circumstance trumps authority. The authority of Iraq for instance, was terminated by the circumstance created by a U.S. led-invasion and in a less-obvious example, the authority of the U.S. government to bail-out the banks was influenced by the “too-big-to-fail” circumstance created by the banks.

In this wider scope of possibility, government authority can easily be seen as a mere instrument which is legally just as available to the people for protecting themselves from the conflicting interests of corporations. So as long as our constitution enforces some measure of democracy the government remains a neutral concept and how much of it is used to protect us versus how much is used to control us is really left to the outside influences with corporate funding having the obvious advantage.

This is where I suggest that the oblivion is not mine. That the literal negation of my overture is in itself the oblivion of deepest concern. Certainly, if the highest bidders found reason to take away your liberty, they would find much utility in the government to create the laws and enforcement to make it happen, but they would also find defensive value in the government, as an easy scapegoat to hide behind. In a sense, the government provides a shield from liability in much the same way a corporate charter does so it’s certainly not uncharacteristic.

I suspect the most valuable aspect of the government to any corporate interest that conflicts with the liberties of the citizenship is the fact that the citizenship itself can be blamed for electing the government. Even though the citizens are only allowed to choose between a limited set of candidates most likely sponsored by corporate interests. Many of the corporations that are funding Obama’s campaign are also funding Romney’s campaign. What sense does that make unless they don’t really care which candidate wins and the point behind the funding is to orchestrate an illusion of choice that puts the liability on the people?

Of course true champions of the people CAN run for office, at least from a legal perspective. But again, this constitutional law is almost always outweighed by the social circumstance created by big money campaigns that literally smother the “little guys” while creating such outrage among the populace that in the end, the average citizen winds up voting against the candidate they fear most.

And why would this be surprising in a culture that has always been so highly susceptible to evangelism? Technology and evangelism rose together from the churches and town halls to the radio and television while corporate influence fell right into the fold. One glance at the pop-culture being exported around the world, especially during the 50’s when American popularity was at it’s peak, will illustrate the influence of corporate logos and slogans. Even the jolly image of Santa Clause that we all associate with our most popular religious holiday was a market product of Coca-cola. Indeed, Christmas itself has been transformed from a 12-day celebration starting on December 25th to a three month shopping season that ends on the 25th by no other influence but that of the sales-minded corporation.

So, if corporate evangelism can so easily influence and shape the traditions of our culture and even our sense of identity then how can we deny the possibility that corporate evangelism has also encouraged our distrust in the government? It’s the perfect thing to distrust because our only other choice is anarchy which no one really wants. So government authority becomes a necessary evil which we try to minimize to bare essentials which the corporate evangelists will of course point out for us.

* image source

05. July 2012 · Comments Off on Newsmax Tries to Smear the ACA with Subjective Polls · Categories: Economics, Politics, Social/Culture · Tags:

Newsmax.com, a very busy propaganda machine, recently issued another “urgent” survey… Should Obamacare Be Repealed?. The poll consists of several “yes or no” questions one of which is this… “Should Congress restore $500 billion in Medicare benefits for seniors that the Obama plan cut?” The problem with this question is that the Obama plan doesn’t cut $500 billion in Medicare benefits. So, neither answer is appropriate; “Yes, Congress should restore the $500 billion that was never taken in the first place”, or “No, Congress should not restore the $500 billion that was never taken in the first place.”

There can only be two possible explanations for this giant lie, which I have yet to discern, either Newsmax is staffed with complete morons, or they are intentionally trying to mislead their readers. The question itself is based on a lie propagated by several conservative leaders including Mitt Romney, in which $500 billion in estimated cost savings achieved by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), (or “Obamacare” for those conservatives who refuse to utter the official name of the law) is intentionally misrepresented as a $500 cut in benefits. Perhaps the so-called fiscal conservatives who typically cut budgets to save money don’t actually understand the concept of saving money through cost-effective improvements?

Anyone can check any of the fact-checking sites available and they will see a full explanation for themselves. PolitiFact.com and the Washington Post just to list two.

ABC News explains that the lie stems from a memo written by Richard Foster, chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) that claims the ACA will “cut Medicare by more than $500 billion” but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also make it clear that spending on these programs will continue to increase. What the ignored context of Richard Fosters memo was making clear was that the provisions of the ACA will slow that growth down by an estimated $500 billion.

According to the CMS and the Kaiser Family Foundation that estimated $500 billion in savings will come from crackdowns on the insurance industry, specifically, over-payments and fraud, over the next ten years. So it’s misleading when Newsmax polls it’s readers, asking if they think $500 billion in Medicare cuts should be restored. In light of the truth, what that question is really asking is if we should overrule the ACA and let the insurance companies rip us off for another $500 billion.

19. May 2012 · Comments Off on DOMA : Legalizing Bigotry · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: ,

Recently, there has been some outrage over the House Republican’s allocation of tax money to hire private law firms to uphold the Defense Of Marriage Act in court after the Department of Justice announced it will no longer do so. The DOJ has indicated that it will continue to enforce the rule but that it will no longer defend it in court per the administration’s recent recognition of it’s unconstitutional nature.

I suspect that Obama’s bold statement about gay marriage is nevertheless a safe bet going into the election season because the polls are indicating a substantial rise in public support for gay marriage, probably resulting from a greater level of awareness on the issue. The ignorance that discrimination so often depends on is clearly loosing ground despite the recent victories for bigotry in states like NC where education levels across the population are still relatively low. Nation-wide, for the first time since Clinton signed DOMA, the majority of American voters are supporting marriage rights for same-sex couples.

This rise in awareness is also leading to unbalanced arguments in the court room where it’s becoming far too easy to slam discriminatory laws for being unconstitutional and now with the DOJ pulling away, House Republicans are seeking legal services from outside the government… using tax money, to help win discriminatory arguments in court. The amount being allocated seems to be unclear. The sites of outrage are saying $1.5 million but in following the links to a copy of the actual contract, it appears that’s a cap not a bill. Pelosi has asked Boehner repeatedly how much but so far he has remained evasive (of course).

Personally, I don’t have any feelings either way about homosexuality. It doesn’t affect me personally so I’m not going to get all hung up on it, but I do have strong feelings about equality. And I do have strong feelings about Republicans that can bitch about liberals spending money on “stupid” stuff but have no problem spending money on bigotry, which is about the stupidest thing you can ever spend money on.

17. December 2011 · Comments Off on Election Campaigns and the Freedom of Speech · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , , , ,

Today I found a link from facebook to a petition issued by Common Cause to “fight corporate ownership of elections”. I read the petition, read a little about Common Cause and and it’s president and CEO, Bob Edgars and signed the petition. What little I read was enough to determine the basic position the organization takes as a whole but the reason for my signature stems from a deep concern that I’ve been developing since the Supreme Court ruled against a provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that effectively gives corporations the right to spend unlimited money on election campaigns. The argument, as insane as this sounds, was that the right for a corporation to spend unlimited money on an election campaign is protected under the 1st Amendment as a freedom of expression.

Actually, I can stretch a little bit and see how the funding of a campaign might be construed as a freedom of expression, although I think it would be better to qualify such expressions as a direct effort to communicate an idea and to qualify the funding of such communication as indirect. In other words, if you pay me $5 to assemble a sign and post it in a public space, then my efforts to use a sign to communicate directly should be protected but your efforts to fund my action with $5 should not. You can test the qualification by isolating the actions and determining the nature of those actions on their own merits. Passing a $5 bill by itself does not constitute an expression. If that were the case, then buying pornography, street drugs or weapons for terrorists would fall under the protection of the 1st Amendment too. Our entire legal system determines the status of a monetary transaction, not on the transaction itself but on what service or product is being purchased.

Aside from what should be an obvious difference between paying money to have something done and actually doing something, there is also my concern about the amount of power that money controls and the residual nature of that money. Since the rise of banking from the Renaissance to the industrial revolution, money has gradually replaced heritage as the conduit of the ruling classes, while various forms of socialism and democracy have provided a counter-balance that gives the working classes some degree of self-determination. In recent generations advocates of plutocracy have leveraged the horror stories of socialism gone bad in the 20th century to cultivate a negative perspective on any counter-balance to financial power while presenting finance itself as a new form of democracy, inviting everyone in the working classes into the world of money markets. But the gravitational nature of money, where big sums attract more money, makes that a deceiving invitation. The fact remains that it doesn’t matter if you have $500,000 you will still loose the argument against someone with $500,000,000 and we are fast approaching a point where all other considerations are dismissed and every decision regarding the complexities of humanity will be based on the simple arithmetic of accounting.

Protecting the unlimited funding of a political campaign under the 1st Amendment is a significant battle in this war between humanity and Mammon and in no other culture is this as dangerous as it is right here in America, where we find a culture of obsessive consumerism under the relentless influence of marketing campaigns. From the time we’re children influenced by TV commercials to ask Mom, Dad and even Santa to buy specific products we are developed into compulsive followers of marketing campaigns and it matters little whether such campaigns are commercial or electoral, the brainwashing process is the same. Simply put, anyone with enough money can command a marketing campaign capable of brainwashing people even into acting against their own benefit, whether it’s smoking cigarettes or voting for Republicans. This was the reason why limits were set on the amount of money a corporation could spend on an election campaign and this safeguard is precisely what the Supreme Court struck from the law books. Perhaps it’s already too late to prevent the tyranny of money.

Certainly, there is also no time as dangerous for this to happen as now, given the recent advances in the globalization of commerce. The fact that money now flows across a global economy as easily as it does across a national economy means that the natural path of the “trickle-down” an economic construct still championed by conservatives as the best answer to economic distribution, would be to fill all the depressions of emerging markets all around the world before the water level reaches the American workers and if influence becomes a commodity then you can rest assured that through our own concessions, we will become the last in line for whatever drops of hope are left from an exhausted trickle.

So I can’t see how this bench decision to protect the right of a corporation to spend unlimited money on election campaigns has any merit other than to secure the power that the ruling classes already have over the cultivated submission of the American people.

So… taking a closer look at this law, the first thing an apologist might point out is that the law itself is an effort to reform bipartisan campaigns…

I think it’s almost pointless to call it bipartisan.

23. September 2010 · Comments Off on The Tyranny of Trademarking Acronyms · Categories: Social/Culture · Tags: ,

There is a personal organization program that used to be called “MonkeyGTD”. I always thought that was a good name because “GTD” has become recognized as an acronym for “Getting Things Done” and “MonkeyGTD” is a program for helping you do that. Now I’m going to be fair and point out that in 2001 a certain “David Allen” wrote a book called “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and as far as I know, he is the first one to use the term “Getting Things Done” as a specific reference to a methodology in a publication. So I have no problem giving credit to Allen for coining the term. But last night I noticed that Simon Baird, the author of “MonkeyGTD” was at some point informed by David Allen’s company that he couldn’t use the three-letter combination “GTD” in the name for his product because Allen’s company registered ownership of the acronym. So Baird had to come up with a new name, eventually deciding on the much less interesting name, mGSD. Now even though Baird complied with out complaint, after all the law is the law, from a social perspective, I still have a bone to pick with the way Allen is claiming ownership of a three-letter acronym and with the laws that allow it.

I can understand the registered trademark on a name for an entity like IBM™ but “GTD” isn’t the name of Allen’s company, it’s an acronym for a particular methodology he came up with for organizing your stuff (which isn’t exactly rocket science folks). More to the point, Baird wasn’t calling his product “GTD”… the acronym was only part of a larger word and I think this is the critical thing to point out. There are only 17,576 possible three-letter combinations using our alphabet – what happens if we let people like Allen gradually buy up the ownership of each of these combinations? How would anyone come up ANY name for a ANYTHING if they can’t even be allowed as a part of a name? I understand that sometimes we want to label our ideas especially if they form the basis of something you take to the market, but I think we also need to safeguard our language and the freedom for people to use it.

I’ll give credit to Allen for developing and publishing the GTD® methodology, even though he didn’t invent the idea of using productivity tools, or paper, or any component of his methodology and I’m certain he wasn’t the first one to actually use them the way he prescribes, but I’ll give him due credit for the efforts it took to actually present them in a book. But I think his ownership of a three-letter acronym that he uses to describe what I consider to be a common sense methodology and telling people like Baird that he can’t even use it as a part of a name is just plain ridiculous and it’s a clear example of how the tyranny of ownership subtracts from the freedom of our language.