14 November 2010

Not Quite Random Stuff

Stereolab: "Jenny Ondioline" from
Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements

To stroke my vanity, today I've been trawling around the interwebs to find some links to confirm points I've been making of late.

The Democrats didn't lose because the Republicans and their programs are suddenly popular again. They lost to the extent they did because the Rs outbid them. Full Stop. To read more into the election than that is to miss the point. As Frank Rich points out:
"America’s ever-widening income inequality was not an inevitable by-product of the modern megacorporation, or of globalization, or of the advent of the new tech-driven economy, or of a growing education gap. (Yes, the very rich often have fancy degrees, but so do those in many income levels below them.) Inequality is instead the result of specific policies, including tax policies, championed by Washington Democrats and Republicans alike as they conducted a bidding war for high-rolling donors in election after election."
In ways big and small: Here we learn that money can indeed buy freedom. A Morgan Stanley employee, who manages over $1 billion in assets, managed to get out of a felony hit-and-run charge in Colorado after allegedly driving his Mercedes into a bicyclist and leaving the scene.

Think you've got an answer for dealing with the budget shortfall? The New York Times lets you play around with the moving parts and solve it here.

My own idea would be to set a firm corporate rate, cut out all deductions and shelters, and enforce it across the board without exception. Two out of every three U.S. corporations pay no taxes whatsoever, even after registering massive profits. What happens is our tax code allows them to keep two (and more) sets of books: one for investors and one for the tax man. Now, they're all complaining about tax and regulatory certainty as the reason for not reinvesting in labor—i.e., jobs. The tax code could be enormously streamlined and simplified by forcing large corporations to keep only one set of books, so that the profits they tout for purposes of drumming up investors are the same profits upon which they pay taxes. Bonuses and salaries and dividends and options and deferred income, etc., do not net out against profits. If a company can pay a bonus, etc., to its executive and key employees, it should be pay taxes on the amount of profit upon which it makes it distributions decision.

Remember we discussed microloans? The topic came up twice in today's The New York Times.

Here's a look at the new Bush propaganda vehicle that considers it as an unintended peek into the authoritarian mind, long a theme of this blog. Here's a key quote:
"Decision Points is a classic recipe for a benign dictatorship, a uniquely American form of dictatorship, to be sure -- from its rigid understanding of morality (good versus evil) to its distorted valuation of life (only American lives matter; Bush is not concerned about the loss of civilian life in the countries he attacked) -- that gives comfort to many in a time of economic and cultural stress.

The beauty of the Bush philosophy of governance is that it creates and accelerates those very conditions of stress (radical economic inequality promoted by tax cuts for the wealthy and concomitant cuts in public services for the less well-off) that then provide fertile ground for popular acceptance of measures intended to further worsen conditions for the subject class. An example would be to purposely inflate the housing bubble and then use the succeeding bailout to further enrich the wealthy elites at the cost of the average worker. Or to execute a reckless Medicare drug expansion plan, catering to pharmaceutical companies and knowing it would lead to insolvency, to set the stage for drastic future cuts in Medicare -- and other entitlements, while they're at it. The same principle applies in foreign policy, such as in retreating from Bill Clinton's tentative rapprochement with Iran and North Korea as Bush's first order of business, demonizing these countries as evil, and then setting in motion offensive strategies once those countries predictably react. The principle is evident in attacking and occupying Middle Eastern countries, then justifying the war on terror by pointing to the increased radicalization ensuing from the invasion."
I've been going on at length (see below) about the abject wrongness of the libertarian 'philosophy'. Here's the CATO Institute putting lipstick on that particular pig:
"The famous Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote a bestselling book in 1958 called The Affluent Society, in which he discussed the phenomenon of “private opulence and public squalor”—that is, a society in which privately owned resources were generally clean, efficient, well-maintained, and improving in quality while public spaces were dirty, overcrowded, and unsafe—and concluded, oddly enough, that we ought to move more resources into the public sector. Thousands of college students were assigned to read The Affluent Society, and Galbraith’s ideas played a major role in the vast expansion of government during the 1960s and 1970s.

But Galbraith and American politicians missed the real point of his observation. The more logical answer is that if privately owned resources are better maintained, then we should seek to expand private ownership."
What Galbraith saw as a problem, CATO wants to see scaled up. The world is simply too large and diverse for such a simplistic solution. This is a primary example of over-simplification, or pseudo-philosophy. There is no room for complexity. CATO and its libertarian brethren tend to believe that there is only one choice, and it is a stark one: either all property should be private property, or it should be all public. Naturally, CATO believes EVERYTHING should be privatized. The "ownership society" refuses to acknowledge the necessary value of public space, roads, utilities, services, education, weal, etc. A privatized society, as I've argued, tends to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who already have it: the plutocracy. Laws are created and enforced in favor of those who can afford to game the system. (See above)

Google lets you peek into The Affluent Society here.

Do you have any idea 'What the fuck has Obama done so far?' Check here. (BDR had this, too.)
By the same token, do you ever wonder 'What the fuck Sarah Palin has done so far?' Check here.

Scientific studies show that, based on stock market capitalization and dividends, at the current pace of research and development, global oil will run out 90 years before replacement technologies are ready.

On that score, here's a group you need to know about: the Earth Policy Institute. Wisdaughter has been reading Lester R. Brown's recent book this semester in college. It may have changed her life. The title: Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. It doesn't just whine about the problems or argue about whether global warming is real, it proffers serious, practical solutions. You can read some of what Brown has written here and here. Wisdaughter's promised not to sell it for beer money and let me read it when she's finished.

And here're some folks who've come with a key solution: cheap desalination of sea water, the most prolific resource on the planet.
"the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Field and Space Robotics Laboratory, which has developed and successfully tested a portable, solar-powered water desalination system that has the potential to save millions of lives the world over.

Under the guidance of Profs. Steven Dubowsky and Richard Wiesman, the group created a small, reverse-osmosis system that's capable of producing up to 80 gallons of clean water per day. A scaled-up version of the system could produce up to 1,000 gallons per day"
What happens when the galaxy farts.

Historians claim to have located the site of King Arthur's Round Table. Ahh, nostalgia for a Golden Age of noble men and great ladies. Romance. Stratification.

Here's some stuff that Christian culture likes.

Are you a hipster? Think you're cooler than everyone else because your tastes and intellect are superior? Pierre Bourdieu took a look at you and people like you in his book Distinction, a book under discussion in today's The New York Times Book Review section.

Here's the money quote:
"The attempt to analyze the hipster provokes such universal anxiety because it calls everyone’s bluff. And hipsters aren’t the only ones unnerved. Many of us try to justify our privileges by pretending that our superb tastes and intellect prove we deserve them, reflecting our inner superiority. Those below us economically, the reasoning goes, don’t appreciate what we do; similarly, they couldn’t fill our jobs, handle our wealth or survive our difficulties. Of course this is a terrible lie. And Bourdieu devoted his life to exposing it. Those who read him in effect become responsible to him — forced to admit a failure to examine our own lives, down to the seeming trivialities of clothes and distinction that, as Bourdieu revealed, also structure our world."


Frances Madeson said...

Your daughter might enjoy knowing about Transition US http://www.transitionus.org/ I learned about it at a dinner party in Western Mass last month (during scream-out-loud peak foliage season). It's a place where they make their own hard cider--no beer money needed. Hear tell Emily Dickinson was freakin' lit on the stuff when she wrote this:

The Hills erect their purple heads,
The Rivers lean to see--
Yet Man has not, of all the throng,
A curiosity.

Randal Graves said...

Re: that last quote. Any half-assed drunken monkey could do my job with a hour or so of training.

I scoured that NY Times Budget-O-Matic and didn't see a tab for "Eliminate 99% of military spending, both on and off book." Strange.