thinking about the world differently . . .
November 28th, 2015

As a society, can we afford this welfare?

We hear much whining about people getting money from the government and doing nothing, just sit around and watch TV, and have more kids. You know the talk about “welfare queens”…

Here are some statistics and hard pieces of information to tuck into your belt, so next time you hear the “welfare queen” talk, you can yank out this material and whine right back…

question-who is the welfare queen

The sources for this infographic are The Tax Foundation and Citizens for Tax Justice.

December 12th, 2013

The Gap

I have written a lot about economic inequality. (Some say the adequate word is “ranted”.)

Another visualization of the widening gap and the enormity of the problem was published in Quartz today in an article titled “How many months it takes an average worker to earn what the CEO makes in an hour” by Ritchie King and Roberto A. Ferdman.

You should really go and read the article, but here are some teasers: McDonald’s 6 months and 4 weeks, Target 4 months and 4 weeks, Walmart 4 months and 3 weeks.

From the article:

The disparity is alarming. CEOs of American companies now earn some 270 times what the average worker makes.

(Emphasis is mine!)

Why is this a problem? in part, the answer is that the rise in CEOs pay has outpaced the rise in the workers pay by huge margins. This means that eventually – sooner than later – workers will not be willoing to work for the pay offered because it is too low – and it makes no sense to starve while working your arse off. The disparity is the gun powder accumulating to explode in social disorder and the collapse of the society we are used to living in.

From an economics perspective, this is utterly unsustainable in any case.

What can be done? LOTS! First of all inform yourself, then vote with your dollars – do not buy in places which are abusers of workers – the likelihood is that you too are in the class of “workers” and perhaps now you do not feel this gap, but just hang in – corporate greed and the greed of the 1%ters knows no bound apparently. So hit back with what you can – do not give them your dollars to the best of your ability.

I know, you say your “contributions” are meaningless. Not so! EVERY dollar counts, that is true for the 1%ters and that is even more true for you. If you and millions of others make a tiny “contribution” to the impoverishing of the 1%ters and the huge corporations, they WILL feel the pinch.

November 8th, 2013

Amazing – THIS is the USA

It is not that image you may have in your mind. The REAL USA is this: According to numbers that were just released this week, 49.7 million Americans are living in poverty. That is an all-time record high.

On Nov 08, 2013 16:34 UTC the population of the US was 317,029,737, according to US Census Bureau. Employing the services of a calculator, it seems that 15.6% of the population of this wealthy nation (?) is poor!
And there is much much more. This article enumerates 21 hard-to-believe facts about America, the poor and the wealthy. [Update: This article was just given to me…]

The opening item was fact #5 from that article. Here is another:

#8 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. So 400 people have more wealth in the USA than almost half the ENTIRE POPULATION of the same USA.

If you find this staggering and mind-boggling, you should. It means that the wealth transfer (a previously-visited motif in my blog!) continues apace, emptying your pockets and transferring its content to the pockets of the wealthy few. This is supported by fact #7 asserting that household incomes in the USA have declined over the past 5 years!!!

Here is another tidbit to drive home the point of wealth transfer: Fact #11 asserts that 18% of all food stamps in the USA are spent at Wal-Mart. You are aware of course (or are you?) that the Walton Family is the richest family in the USA and probably the world. In Forbes’ March 2013 Billionaires list, the name Walton appears in spots #11, 14, 16, and 17 with wealth totaling more than $107 billion. There are a few more Waltons on that list, but due to marriages they carry other names (suck as Kroenke, Laurie etc.)

Food stamps are financed by the taxpayers, you pay those taxes. Large sums enter the Wal-Mart coffers, and move to the pockets of the Waltons. the wealth transfer path is fairly straight forward – your pockets to the Waltons’ pockets.

Read the the article with the facts on wealthy and poor America – it’ll shock you!

So what can you do? A LOT! Vote with your dollar – DO NOT buy anything at Walmart. Vote with your dollar – DO NOT buy products from companies that participate in the wealth transfer. Vote with your dollar – change your lifestyle to rely on LESS items that are highly processed. You get the drift…

August 10th, 2013

Who are the TRUE Job Creators?

On May 17, 2012, Nick Hanauer recorded this TedTalk in Long Beach CA.

 
Mr. Hanauer is one of the 1%ers. He is the CEO and co-Chair of Pacific Coast Feather Company, was one of the original investors in Amazon.com and created a company which he eventuallyy sold to Microsoft for $6.4 billion. He also founded Second Avenue Partners in 2000, a Seattle-based Venture Capital company.

And yet he understands economics! Perhaps his background in creating and running all these companies plays a part in all this.

The main point he makes is this: The REAL Job Creators are not folks like him, the 1%ers! It is the Middle Class. Their ability and wish to buy goods and services allows businesses to hire more people (“give a job to someone”) to produce the demand for the good and services.

Therefore, concludes Mr. Hanauer, raising taxes on the Middle Class and reducing their spendable income is a folly!

He demonstrates the inanity of the assertion “the rich are the job creators” by pointing out simply that the rich are few. They cannot possibly buy so much more and consume so much more as to create the demand that would propel businesses to hire more people in significant ways. In other words, the rich have no way to “create jobs”. The mass of the Middle Class does however!

He asserts that RAISING taxes on the 1%ers is a GREAT POLICY to increase the wealth in the economy, it is good for the poor, good for the middle class, and ultimately good for the owners of the businesses (the 1%ers!) who end up profiting.

Thus he manages is a 5 minutes and 50 second talk to debunk thoroughly the blather of the Republican Fog Machine in defense of lowering the taxes on the rich.

If I were among the 1%er, I’d work diligently to take out and shut up any and all Republicans who tout this policy. It is idiotic first of all, but so-so damaging to the fortunes of 1%ers!

May 24th, 2013

Cut it, cut that branch you are sitting on!

In my own backyard in MN, in Minnesota’s Congressional District 2, we have a Congressman, John Kline, in Washington who has a problem: He is married to ideology – one of kowtowing to the rich, to the mighty, and to those who presumably benefit his political campaign to run again.

He is uniquely uninterested in his constituency. In previous runs for Congress, his opponent documented extensively how Kline had the most abysmal record of benefiting his Congressional District. He managed to secure $0.35 in Federal funds coming back to the district for every $1.00 the District sent to the Federal Government. He has held the US record in this incompetence.

Yes, he was elected again. He is the darling of ultra-right wingnut Conservatives in Minnesota. (I know, we welcome everyone to come live here, even this transplant Kline, and myself!)

He is quite a surviver! He voted against many veterans’ benefits because of some strange an unexplainable strategy of his own. Yet, Vets showed up for him and voted for him enthusiastically because he is Colonel in the military. His claim to fame: Carried the briefcase with the nuclear codes for President Reagan – in field conditions, under heavy fire, in the trenches, under harsh sun and in pouring rain… Wait… wait… I am confusing this clerk with some real serving military people.

In any case, Vets voted for him. We see this in the USA a lot. People vote vehemently and enthusiastically against their own interest and not even for someone of any moral stature and qualities that are overwhelming. Why? I dunno! I wish I knew.

Kline is chair of the Congressional Committee on Education and the Workforce. He renamed it from Education and Labor to Education and Workforce. This is a nod to his masters like the Brothers Koch et al. Labor has a positive meaning, a human component. But “workforce” is just a physics terms, like a bunch of robots, humans, and some animals, all working together for the Masters.

Anyway, Kline’s grand achievements in the last two years can be written inside the space of this letter -> 0 < - see? But now he is making up for the paucity of action with the latest attack on the middle class: The "Smarter Solutions for Students Act", John Kline-sponsored H.R. 1911. This bill, just passed by the House. will make students pay more in student loans. Here is how: The bill scraps the 3.4% fixed rate on student loans. It is not much, and it is a fixed rate. It allows students to plan their way through school and after they come out of school and join the labor force (Ooops!!! "workforce"!!!) So this rate goes away and it is replaced with a 2.9% rate PLUS market rate on such loans. Banks are salivating! The market rate is determined largely by what they charge, so they can easily influence the rates to climb. The banks gain – The Rich Masters can get RICHER! 

Students: Yeah, well, screw them. They are just “work force”, who cares?

That they have to contend with fluctuating (probably more often than not, rising!) rates and planning and budgeting is out the window, who cares? certainly not Kline!

He has his little pension from the House assured, and his little pension from the Military assured. WE ARE paying for it.

Obama, in a flash of benevolence towards the non-rich, threaten to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. I hope he remembers that promise.

Back to the title: Young voters are growing in numbers among voting masses. Young voters are often saddled with student loans – some in the hundreds of thousands! Young voters are increasingly getting upset about the lack of representation they have in Washington – and are more readily inclined to send the old goats (Kline among them!) packing to graze on some mountainside.

I hope that the young voters also realize that it is THEIR PREROGATIVE to vote changes in the terms of pension of the goats like Kline – he felt comfortable breaking promises to them.

We have in the District an option now, Mike Obermueller. He is a man with integrity and compassion. I urge you all to support Mike Obermueller and send Kline into retirement in 2014.

It is a dangerous and divisive politics Kline is playing on the backs of his constituency and in favor of his rich Masters. Don’t feel so confident cutting that branch, Rep. Kline!

May 13th, 2013

This Is What Poverty Really Means…

Most of us have a vague and fuzzy sense of what it means to be poor. It is a fuzzy notion because few of us have really experienced true poverty as millions of people experience day after day after grinding day.

Here is a poem that will give you a bit of a taste of how debilitating poverty really is:

I AM

My clothes will have to do cause I am poor
My hair will have to grow cause I am poor
My hand will keep filling out public assistance cause I am poor
My mind will pray for one less period cause I am poor
My mouth will be polite to my indignant boss cause I am poor
My heart will allow violent relationships cause I am poor
My teeth will slowly ache away cause I am poor
My paycheck will fade away more cause I am poor
My voice will fade away more cause I am poor
My feet will stand in line for food cause I am poor
My eyes will fade from no glasses cause I am poor
My body will deteriorate further cause I am poor
My ears will hear you walk by cause I am poor
My life will be less than yours cause I am poor
Cause I am poor
I am poor
I am

Lauren White, Member of the Community of the BeLoved

This poem was published in Mary’s Pence Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter. The Community of the BeLoved is a grantee of Mary’s Pence, and you can read about them here.

You can learn more about Mary’s Pence here. In fact, please do – you will find ways to fight poverty in a sustainable and lasting way with no loss of dignity.

[Poem reprinted by permission of Mary’s Pence and the Community of the BeLoved.]
March 31st, 2013

The New Landscapes

The Online magazine Slate published an interesting article about a Chinese-born and Beijing and Australia-educated artist, Yao Lu, and his art.

Here is an example of what he does:

Yao Lu 2007 Autumn Mist in the Mountain with Winding Streams

While this picture looks … well, picturesque, and a cultural sequel of the Chinese fine landscape art of the past, careful examination reveals that the scene is an orchestration garbage mountains.

So much for modern day technology improving our lives.

The article has many more images and some interesting narrative by the artist. Worth clicking through.

February 5th, 2013

God Loves the 1%ers

No Really! He does…

This fun article purports to explain, tongue very-very firmly stuck in cheek, how God views the 1%ers and the rest of us. Jesus, in this little tale, confirms the message.

It is fine reading but takes a wee bit more than watching Beyonce shaking her hair sexily (along with the rest of bootalicious herself! 😀 but I am sure you can do it…

January 2nd, 2013

Representing the People? Pshaw… [updated]

After the vote on the “fiscal cliff” (another con job on the People, we’ll deal with it later…) The House went home! There are thousands and thousands of people barely getting by on a daily basis in areas affected and devastated by Hurricane Sandy. They need federal assistance. That assistance is a decision that the House of Representatives need to take. But nope! These alleged “representatives” took themselves home. When the banks were in jeopardy and needed money to continue fleecing everyone, these same people stayed over time, stayed in the capital city stayed “on duty”! No one’s life was in jeopardy, just the wealth of the 1% – remember this…

Now we are told the financial assistance legislation will have to wait until these royalty deem the suffering of these people necessary to deal with. How disgusting. (I include in my disgust Democrats as well as Republicans! Selfish creatures all!)

I say, KICK THOSE BASTARDS OUT OF OFFICE NOW! They should be ashamed of themselves! 

The people of this country should have ZERO tolerance of these bastards. The gall…

[Update: It seems that I actually have a heavy-weight GOP agreeing with me – Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor. (Apologies for the light-weight pun…) Gov. Christie announced: 

“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Wednesday. “The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”  (Washington Post Report)

What a rare occasion!]

December 28th, 2012

One that flew under the radar

2012 was a year filled with news items and events that made the news. I doubt it was a more momentous year that other years are, but in retrospect there were events in it that might prove to be somewhat pivotal in a historical sense. For example, the US Election results may turn out to be the wake up call for political activists – the playing field has changed radically, and the changes are beginning to manifest in the voting patterns, and reflecting the changing political musculature of the new demographics in the USA.

In my favorite technology field, very significant computer power seems to have been imbued in tablets. This may turn into real revolution in our relationships with computing-on-the-go, or simply fade like many other fads and be relegated to the status of landfill fillers. We’ll see how this develops in the next 2-3 years, but just remember – you lived through 2012, the year that started the Tablet Revolution or Devolution, whichever.

Earlier today, DW gave me this cryptic missive: “There is a study that shows that consuming red meat will shorten your life.” I love bacon, but have not had any in oooh, 4-5 weeks? My red meat consumption is maybe 1/2 oz. PER WEEK… So I did not rush out to review the latest revision of my will and last testament. Intrigued, I followed up and found the source of DW’s missive: a Yahoo Health review of the health stories of 2012.

As a piece of new, this one falls so flat on its face that it elicits nothing but pity. “There is a study” was as close as they came to identify the study! No date, not source, no organization, nothing. This was a piece not worthy of slaying of ANY electrons!

Mercifully,, they did have some information (amazingly…) and with the help of our ever-present and quintessential Google search (no, I won’t go to Microsoft Bing, I still have too many bad memories of that nasty, evil company Microsoft!) I entered the few salient facts in the Yahoo articleas this search: 100,000 people in the study, over 28 years, red meat consumption.

And voilà! The first item was this: Harvard School of Public Health press release from March 12, 2012 [here]: Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality.

The study was published online in Archives of Internal Medicine on March 12, 2012.

Indeed, more red meat and processed red meat shortens your life. Mortality rises in total numbers, due to cardiovascular diseases, and due to cancer occurrence.

You can read the Press Reease and the study yourself. It is very fascinating. I recommend it.

But I write this because it is an example of how things fly under the radar! This should have been HUGE NEWS, but it was not. The changes that the conservative political machine is perpetrating on US citizens should be HUGE NEWS, but they mostly are not.

Why?

November 4th, 2012

US Elections

Only two more days. It’s been a tough season filled with a lot of dark predictions and thoughts about the receding values of our society as manifested in the USA.

A lot of corroboration for these dark, pessimistic thoughts come from various other millieus and societies: Greece’s rising neo-Nazi-style fascism there is Israel’s rising racism and right-wing insularity. In the USA, American neocon right wing and extremist pseudo-religious “values” proliferate. The Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood becoming the dominant, stifling, if not entirely choking, political power. And other power grabs all over the world just add to the darkness of my thoughts.

Even as I planned to vote for the Democratic ticket in the USA, I cannot shake away the trepidations that go along with observing that the power exercised by the current administration has been abusive of people’s rights, it has circumvented legal stances. And in fact made some things worse for people. Expulsions of immigrant violations have sky-rocketed, using the pretext of removing the criminal element, for example. Americans are spied on and observed by their government more than ever before – even drones are used over non-military areas, while you barbecue your picnic!

I know – and worry like everyone – about security. But measures that seem to have brought no additional security while infringing on civil rights, are not discarded and the rights impinged upon are not restored. Only NEW measures, with attendant new infringements of civil rights are proposed. The spectre of the Orwellian Nineteen Eighty-Four is slowly descending, ever so slowly, ever so steadily.

I am also struck by the degree of influence that corporations are gaining in all our lives. They are in the USA at least “people” insofar as certain rights, but not as much as civic obligations.

And the cleptocratic oligarchy of the waning days of the Soviet Union has written the playbook for so many of the modern robber barons on Wall Street, in the Halls of Power and Government, that one wonders how close their end game is and when the final chapter will begin to play.

Or perhaps it already has begun.

Sorry about this dark post, it is true and it is how I feel now.

August 17th, 2012

Priceless, … well, in a manner of speaking

Jeff Danziger, another gifted political cartoonist in the USA put this one up:

Romney Hood and Friar Ryan Stealing from the Poor

And I find it rather sad and hilarious, that large swaths of the American public hasn’t the interest in educating themselves about what is really important in their lives and what’s important to their lives. It is a neglect and boredom that is totally puzzling. Americans would rather sit in front of their TVs, watch brain-dead “political commentary” flash for 5 minutes in increments of 20 seconds, then pat themselves on the back and swell with pride “we are now informed!” There is ZERO, maybe less than zero, inquiry, no participation of their own logic circuits, no questioning of the most inane assumptions – nothing! “We are informed, we are ready to vote!”

Imagine your cardiologist on the night before a critical, life-threatening heart surgery on YOU. Youtube provides 4 videos on heart surgery in the area of your case. Hulu has maybe 3, and there are a few more spread around other video sites on the Web. Your surgeon watches three of them. He/she does not worry about the details, questioning nothing presented. He/she decides that’s enough to get ready for YOUR surgery.

Are YOU willing to walk into the pre-op the next day? Did you change mind for some reason?

Hmmm… Millions of Americans walk into their lives the next morning after an evening of “being informed”, making some of the most critical, life-threatening decisions about their own lives (and about YOURS, too!) and they have no qualms, no hesitations, to just tackle the decisions without much concern for facts, for knowledge, for information. Are we a bunch of zombies?

Oddly enough, Mr. Danziger is not a paragon of progressive liberalism. Quite the contrary, he is rather conservative in his political views. Still, he skewers many Republican ideas and ideals and some of the icons in the Republican Political Shrine have been shortshrifted by his drawings!

 

 

July 31st, 2012

Privileged and Clueless

For the second day in a row, we hear about power grid failures in India. First it was Northern India plunging into darkness, affecting 300,000,000 people.

First Day of Failure: Over 300,000,000 people affected

(Compare that to the population of the USA at 300,000,000 people!) Trains stopped. Delhi underground trains without electric power limped to the nearest station on battery power, opened their doors, let all the people out to the street and shut down the stations. On the street, no street lights, which meant traffic snarled in huge gridlocks for hours at a time. Trust that it is not a simple task to find a taxi, richsa, whatever to take you where you want to go, and when chunks of 20-30 square blocks are gridlocked all at once, the task becomes significantly more difficult. We saw pictures of hundreds of cars, in 5-6 lanes standing still, and hundreds and hundreds of people streaming on foot between them. Even more of the mayhem that is Indian street traffic. Bicycles and motorcycles must be a blessing now, especially the little motor bikes!

Photo: BBC - Commuters in a busy road outside a Metro station after Delhi Metro rail services were disrupted following Tuesday

Hospitals switched to their auxiliary power systems. Many corporations and private homes in India, keenly aware of the recurring power outages, have backup generators. These were all switched on.

Northern India’s power failures happened at around 1pm, and by the evening, nearly half the system was restored. But not all.

Government offices closed early and all the businesses that had no backup systems sent their workers home.

The next day, the entire Eastern power grid went down. That added another 350,000,000-400,000,000 people to the Pain Grid! All in all, about half the population of India (now around 1,200,000,000 people – that is 1.2 Billion) has no power.

Government officials scramble of course, they always scurry around when such crisis take place. The one in the line of fire is (more correctly, was!) Sushilkumar Shinde. He is was Power Minister. WAS? yes, WAS. He was promoted to Interior Minister on right smack in the middle of the crisis! Some cruel jokers said it was his reward, but that seems off base. In his place, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh advised the Indian president to direct that M. Veerappa Moily, (current Minister of Corporate Affairs), to carry the added responsibility of the ministry of power.

I am speculating that M. Veerappa Moily has just started scrambling like mad!!! And I am also betting he is not the most pleased minister in India today, having inherited that hot little 10 ton meteorite in his lap in mid-crisis.

Of course, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the over-burdened grid (see here). Many experts, in India and beyond, state categorically that the systems are built in a way that prevents drawing more than “their share” in a quite automatic fashion, so the assertion is nonsensical.

Moreover, the same source (Reuters) has this precious paragraph:

“This is the second day that something like this has happened. I’ve given instructions that whoever overdraws power will be punished,” said Shinde, hours before he was promoted to interior minister in a cabinet reshuffle.

The emphasis above is mine. I found it precious that he left instructions as he was heading out the door! Nonsensical instructions at that, but nevertheless, he was in charge!

So the Indian Saga with UNaccountability continues. India is a great country, with great people, with amazing intellectual prowess, work force, people, talent, and people energy. It suffers hugely from the fact that no one is held accountable for foulups, for incompetence, for failures to do what could and should have been done, no matter how egregious the screw-up is.

Most “in charge” persons are provileged persons, in a class of their own, and protect each other and the system that benefits them. Until this is broken, India will have that aura of incompetent giant, with monumental failures, grinding poverty that is absolutely astonishing in any country, let alone in a country with such huge resources and potential.

A legacy of the British Empire? Probably.

June 9th, 2012

Hello, and Thanks for All the Fish

Douglas Adams’ fourth book in the trilogy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is called So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. (I am aware of the numerical transgression, as was Douglas Adams.) I was inspired by the title, as well as the video below.

The video is by a chef who had a revalation and awakening when he discovered Veta La Palma and their fish. Veta La Palma (see here) is a fish farm in Southern Spain. It is a successful experiment in working with Nature to produce the bounty provided by natural processes. It is an agricultural farm which produces no waste – on the contrary, it cleanses the water of the river that creates its estuary; it uses no feed to fatten up the fish – and they taste great; it measures its success by the good health of its predatory birds (flamingos) and in fact has become the largest private bird sanctuary in Europe. 20% of its fish are eaten by the (healthy) predatory birds. Still – it produces 1200 tons of fish every year.

The take-away lesson: Intensive agriculture which measures production per acre only is not necessarily the right answer. Such agriculture has many hidden costs: depletion of water tables, waste and in some cases toxic waste, methodical destruction of related natural resources, and much more.

Of course, corporate agribusiness will not discuss any of these costs – they do not pay for them, so the incentive is diminished if not evaporates.

Mr. Barber also touches upon interesting points that have been repeated many times before in many other places by other people: Hunger in the world today is not a matter of lack of production. There is plenty of food produced. World hunger is by far an issue of unfair and ultimately unsustainable distribution.

Sending more food containers to communities that experience hunger will help stave off the immediate problem, but it will not solve the underlying systemic problems. In many cases, as in Central America, food shipments causes even more damage by lowering the price of available food to such a degree that local farmers are priced out of the market and cannot remain farmers, and in many cases join the ranks of hungry, sometime even migrate north to the USA looking for work and food! This is not to say that we should ignore the immediate problems. That does mean to say that just throwing food shipments on this is actually more damaging, and much more care and attention must be paid to solve the underlying, system-wide problems. Of course, this is not so glorious, and hard to brag about in the church on Sunday: “I helped solve a systemic problem in Africa today!” sounds so bla by comparison to “I helped ship 5 tons of food to Africa today!”

January 7th, 2012

The REAL Reality

“10 years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now we have no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash.”

This is REALITY, not a joke.

The Banksters took the money from us and gave it to their owners. Hope diminished greatly that any of the people who stole money from homeowners, then from the government, would ever be brought to trial. Because the economy is so depressed, the number of jobs plummeted.

So there you have it.

Bob Hope

Bob Hope

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

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