Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Amusing Ourselves to Death

How to define our current condition... over the past two years in this blog, I've suggested the puppet master is pulling the strings and creating a population that spends it's time more concerned with American Idol than that which really matters.

Neil Postman's book - Amusing Ourselves to Death - does an amazing job of expanding and clarifying this issue. And this video does a nice job of summarizing his argument.

A number of books I've been thinking about lately are relevant to this topic:






It's interesting when you start thinking about an issue that you often find others thinking along the same lines... click here for a very good (not only because it brings my hero Joe Bageant into the conversation)piece on the subject.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More stuff that we don't care about...

The talking heads will spend this evening talking about Haley Barbour, or Sarah Palin, or the latest poll numbers, but they're not talking about this-

"The Nigerian government has dropped bribery charges against former Vice President Dick Cheney after Halliburton agreed to pay Nigeria $250 million dollars in fines"

and they sure as hell aren't going to talk about Camden, NJ. Which is sadly a model many of our communities may soon be following. As detailed in this great and disturbing piece.

And even when they do, they don't go anywhere deep enough, they never help people put stories like this last one in any context:

"This year, Wall Street’s five biggest firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for bonuses."

And because they don't when these young, bright Wall Street guys are returning home for Christmas visit their family and old friends in Toledo, Richmond, Jackson, and Dallas, the parents will gush with pride. The Wall Street boys will call a few old friends and talk about their new summer house in the Hampton’s, skiing in Jackson Hole, their own kids who are doing well at Philips Exeter and Andover Academy. The old High School friends will listen attentively and secretly long to be like their more successful friends, and they'll work to conceal their jealousy.

But because the media never connects the dots not one of these old friends will say, “Your ass needs to be locked up! Remember that old guy we went to school with? Well, he’s serving 5-10 for robbing a convenience store of $500. You’ve robbed the taxpayers of billions, and for that you got a 7 figure Christmas bonus! How do you feel that your kids got a trust fund, while his kids got a pack of underwear from a local charity for Christmas this year?”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What do they really want to get done?

Do we need a better example than the last 8-10 years that the power elite play the people as complete fools?

The Republicans had the House, Senate, and Shrub for 6 years. How did they do on: abortion? balancing the budget? Hell, name any major Republican issue that they roll out every election and ask not only did they get it done, did they even bring it up for debate or a vote?

Then the Democrats had the House, Senate, and Obama for 2 years... Did we get Universal Health Care? A progressive tax rate? Increased wages for working people or more union membership? An end to these damn wars?

Neither got the job done... were they incompetent? Perhaps. Did they actually get done everything they wanted done? More likely. The rich get richer and the people still fuss and fight over trivial bullshit, spend their time watching Dancing with the Stars/American Idol, and buying cheap junk at WalMart...

Edward Bernays designed it and Noam Chomsky analyzed it... and we don't have the energy to break out of the haze.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What if the Tea Party was Black?

It's the Debt, errr Taxes, Stupid!

Ya gotta love this tax deal... the Republicans won the House by slamming the President on the debt, "lord were leaving this debt to our grandchildren" they cried. So their first big act since the election is to add BILLIONS upon BILLIONS upon BILLIONS to the debt. And the Republican base believes it's a great thing. The party has literally figured out how to to pull the strings over night. The conversation went something like this, "tell them it's about the principle of lower taxes, they'll buy it" and they did. Like the PGA Tour motto, "These guys are good"...

And the Democrats, who have shown no evidence of a backbone in years, decide after they get their arse kicked to take a stand. And it's pretty obvious they're not going to win... which probably works out well for many of them, because they can say they tried their best and still get the contributions from those that get to keep their gold via the tax cuts.

If you have tried to watch any of the major media try to talk about this issue you have probably wanted to stab you eyes out with a butter knife, it's just not watchable. But, considering that the networks are catering to the advertisers and the advertisers know the customers who buy their product, well we know that the coverage we're provided is about what we deserve. In his new blog post Joe Bageant pegs these "everyman" customers really well:

"Tom and Ben could never have guessed we would chase prepackaged spectacle, junk science, and titillating rumor such as death panels, Obama as a socialist Muslim and Biblical proof that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs around Eden. In a nation that equates democracy with everyman's right to an opinion, no matter how ridiculous, this was probably inevitable. After all, dumb people choose dumb stuff. That's why they are called dumb.

But throw in sixty years of television's mind puddling effects, and you end up with 24 million Americans watching Bristol Palin thrashing around on Dancing with the Stars, then watch her being interviewed with all seriousness on the networks as major news. The inescapable conclusion of half of heartland America is that her mama must certainly be presidential material, even if Bristol cannot dance. It ain't a pretty picture out there in Chattanooga and Keokuk."

No, it's ain't pretty.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

View from Europe

A fascinating piece here that highlights how poorly the US media does at informing, and how well the US does at propaganda...

A few excerpts:
"In the midterm elections politicians have promised to "do something" for the middle class. The kindest thing they could do is tell the truth: Americans have been living a middle-class lifestyle on working-class wages – and bridging the gap with credit."
_____________________________________
"Some 17.4million U.S. households - 50 million people - were classified as ‘food insecure’ which meant they regularly skipped meals even if they wanted to eat. Others went for entire days without eating and handed round smaller portion sizes to make their meagre offerings suffice.

The news comes as it is revealed that top U.S. executives saw their pay and bonuses shoot up last year in the face of the worst recession for 80 years."
______________________________________

"Did you know that the British Telegraph newspaper says America has the least generous unemployment system? Let's consider that in Britain, their unemployment benefits never run out. Another example is in Germany, when your unemployment benefits ran out, you get unemployment assistance called HartzIV and it also never runs out. Under HartzIV, while unemployment, their people still get medical coverage. Why do the unemployed all over the European Union get medical coverage and the unemployed in America don't? Why is that? More over, why isn't the mainstream American media telling you this? Because most people in America don't know this."

______________________

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with Matt Taibbi

An interview with Matt Taibbi is here

An excerpt:

"MA: So we have systemic problems and the public is not getting the information to understand them. Politicians are not really educating the public about these things, and they are bailing out the companies that have acted badly. The media, too, are not really informing people, so it seems that many in the public are left with a simplistic understanding, rather than seeing the systemic issues and solutions. What do you see as the big solutions?"

Matt Taibbi:"...Because the financial services industry is the number one source of money for politicians, I think [campaign finance reform] would be a great place to start, if you were going to talk about what we can do. I mean there isn’t a whole lot we can do, but that’s one thing that would actually have at least a little bit of a concrete effect. It wouldn’t solve everything because even if you fixed the campaign contribution rules, a lot of these guys are going to go and work as consultants to Citi Group or Goldman Sachs after they leave office and that’s always going to be a temptation, but at least it’s someplace to start."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ready to Learn?

A really interesting piece from Alfie Kohn -

'Ready to Learn' Equals Easier to Educate

Excerpts:
"Thus, "readiness to learn" may have more to do with a schedule that's convenient for others -- or, worse, with preparation for standardized testing -- than with what is necessary or even desirable for a given child."

""Why, he asked, do we spend time trying to figure out which criteria best predict success in higher education? Why are colleges looking for the most qualified students? "One would think that the purpose of education is precisely to improve the performance of those who are not doing very well," he mused."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The "Obama Phone" and blatant lies...

Have you got the "Obama Phone" email yet? A friend sent it to me, his uncle sent it to him, the uncle's boss sent it to him, and a friend at church sent it to the boss... that's as far as I could get. Each time it was forwarded, the person sending it wrote a note that said something like "WE'VE GOT TO STOP THIS SOCIALIST!"

Nobody took the time to look here, here, here, here, or even the company's own fact sheet here to find out that it was completely false. No free phones paid for by tax payers dollars and it has nothing to do with Obama. In fact, the funny part of this one is that the origins go back to a deal between Wilson and AT&T in 1913, and that basic agreement between communications companies and the Feds has been enhanced since, including the Lifeline program that was set up by the FCC under Reagan, the Universal Service Fund created by the Republican Congress in the '96 Telecommunications Act, and the Safelink Wireless program under Bush in '08.

I've written about this basic idea before regarding the fake Acorn and Sherrod video's, the fake study about Federal VS Private Sector wages, and once you begin to recognize the pattern it was easy to recognize that the fake Obama's $20M a day trip to India was in the same vain. But, most of those found daylight in the national media, and although those responsible for spreading the falsehoods never came out and said, "oops, I missed that one", responsible outlets pointed out the facts.

Forwarded emails strike me as a little different, nobody just missed this one, this was originally written by someone for the purpose of propaganda, to pull the strings of people who don't have the time or know how to learn different. On second thought there's not that much difference, if Fox doesn't clarify the facts, Republicans won't hear the truth, and this is exactly what those who spread this crap know. As the quote and video link at the top of this blog point out, that's the purpose of marketing and propaganda, and that's why for years they made this false claim about the "liberal" media. They convinced them to only trust their resources for information, no need to research, read, or think... just absorb.

A quick, non political example. That Jeep being blown out of a volcano commercial is silly, but don't be shocked if you hear somebody say "that Jeeps pretty tough I hear"... they don't know where they picked up that knowledge, but they're pretty sure it's true. The puppeteers in politics play the same game, thus we hear, "Obama's a socialist"... when in point of fact, he's nothing more than a middle of the road, corporate politician, who, as this piece points out, real socialist wouldn't claim as one of their own for anything.

To quote Hitchen's (again), "It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?"

According to everyone we've got to get this deficit under control and curb government spending. Leaving aside how this apparently wasn't an issue when Shrub was the President, it's interesting to see that there is almost universal agreement where these cuts need to happen - Social Security, Medicaid, and perhaps with grudging admission among conservatives, the military.

So people who actually work for a living will need to work until their 70 to get social security... all the while, as Frank Rich pointed out today, "“How can hedge-fund managers who are pulling down billions sometimes pay a lower tax rate than do their secretaries?” ask the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker (of Yale) and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley) in their deservedly lauded new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics.”


Great column by Frank Rich, and some really smart comments associated with the piece...

Ultimately, there are really smart economist who think this focus on the deficit is absolutely silly, but assume that we have to tackle it, there are ways to balance this budget and erase this deficit with out pissing on working people... like growing an economy that pays living wages and making life better for working folks. The alternative is nothing more than economics laced with social darwinism epitomized by trickle down economics, the very idea of which is absurd on every level.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Measuring Success

"Societies such as Italy, Greece and many others are viewed by global capitalism as inferior economies. Especially agrarian societies: different rates of exchange and economies of scale, are set for them because capitalism benefits from the bonuses of synergies in scale and the virtual economy. Never do global capitalists want to see regional food security, energy security, or any other kind of security for that matter." - Joe Bageant in Flatworm Economics

How we measure our country's success is based on economics - unemployment rates and GDP, the stock market, etc. Our communities the same but you can include another dimension I think, which is sadly what you can buy there - a local community celebrates with the announcement that Olive Garden is coming to town, a franchise that serves warmed up TV dinners in big bowls. With our public institutions we've incorporated business language - All of the talk around school reform is about how well it trains people to work. What's the return on investment? Nothing about teaching people to love learning, helping them come happy, well-informed , well rounded, no the question is only - will they be productive? And in our personal lives more of the same. What do you do? Is the first question we ask when meeting someone new.

Corporations are soulless devices created for no other purpose than to maximize profit. Why is this the model that we've chosen to follow? Why have we adopted their language and their measures for success?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con that is breaking America

Rolling Stone has an article adapted from Matt Taibbi’s new bookhere

An excerpt:
“As it turns out, the Pennsylvania Turnpike deal almost went through, only to be killed by the state legislature, but there were others just like it that did go through, most notably the sale of all the parking meters in Chicago to a consortium that included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, from the United Arab Emirates.

There were others: A toll highway in Indiana. The Chicago Skyway. A stretch of highway in Florida. Parking meters in Nashville, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and other cities. A port in Virginia. And a whole bevy of Californian public infrastructure projects, all either already leased or set to be leased for fifty or seventy-five years or more in exchange for one-off lump sum payments of a few billion bucks at best, usually just to help patch a hole or two in a single budget year.

America is quite literally for sale, at rock-bottom prices, and the buyers increasingly are the very people who scored big in the oil bubble. Thanks to Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other investment banks that artificially jacked up the price of gasoline over the course of the last decade, Americans delivered a lot of their excess cash into the coffers of sovereign wealth funds like the Qatar Investment Authority, the Libyan Investment Authority, Saudi Arabia's SAMA Foreign Holdings, and the UAE's Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.”

Plutocracy

Bill Moyers gave an amazing speech as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series -

You can read it here,or watch it here

An excerpt:
"Everyone knows millions of Americans are in trouble. As Robert Reich recently summed it the state of working people: They’ve lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings. Their grown children have moved back in with them. Their state and local taxes are rising. Teachers and firefighters are being laid off. The roads and bridges they count on are crumbling, pipelines are leaking, schools are dilapidated, and public libraries are being shut.

Why isn’t government working for them? Because it’s been bought off. It’s as simple as that. And until we get clean money we’re not going to get clean elections, and until we get clean elections, you can kiss goodbye government of, by, and for the people. Welcome to the plutocracy."

After the election -

A number of good post about the election:

1. Paul Krugman on his blog at the NYTimes

2. Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks in this 4 minute video -


3. Not a direct comment on this election, but this great movie - showed the way to all the politicians who got beat this time. Doing this would have kept them in office for another term, seriously. But then they wouldn't be able to become lobbyist, which the vast majority of them will do now, and they'll make millions doing so, thus I don't really expect them to take the advice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Angela Davis interview at Democracy Now!

A wonderful interview with Angela Davis on Democracy Now! this afternoon...

Click here to listen to the interview or read the transcript -

A startling statistic from that interview:

"...there are more African Americans under correctional control today, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began..."

Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now! is the person interviewing Ms. Davis. Amy is a great journalist and another person that I really admire... I would encourage you to click below and purchase Amy's latest book -

Hypocrisy - not that anyone will notice

How many of the campaigns are being run based on less gov't spending! No earmarks! A bunch... and at the same time the politicians want to stand in front of that Government funded project in their town and cut the ribbon. Even that one issue "statesman" John McCain -

Stimulating Hypocrisy: Scores of Recovery Act Opponents Sought Money Out of Public View
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/10/18-2

But, not that anyone will notice... as the NYTimes points out today, only 10% of the population even knows they got a tax cut, in fact as I've pointed out before THE LARGEST TAX CUT IN THE FREAKING HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES... yet, this is the Tea Parties election, based on the primary issue that taxes are too high and the "socialist" President needs to cut them... Oh, help me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Clint Eastwood - Hereafter

Interesting piece from this Clint Eastwood interview about his new movie "Hereafter" and his thoughts on religion and the afterlife-

"Eastwood was attracted to "Hereafter" because it deals with the afterlife in a spiritual manner without turning religious.

He attended a variety of churches, mostly Protestant, as a boy but gave up on it early on, disliking the wrathful tone that was preached.

"I couldn't believe that God would be a great sadist in the sky, getting pleasure out of, 'If you screw up, I'm going to bust you, boy,'" Eastwood said. "That's a way of keeping people in line, I guess."

He does find Buddhism attractive, "because they don't seem to be as mean-spirited, and their idea of God is sort of a heavyset guy who's got a smile on his face, and I thought, hey, that's nice," Eastwood said.

"Hereafter" has no easy answers about whether there's an afterlife, and Eastwood himself won't speculate.

"I haven't the foggiest idea," Eastwood said. "I suppose the whole basis of religion all throughout history has always been based upon somebody believing or wanting to believe, and maybe it's mankind imposing their will — 'I want to believe there's something after. I want to believe there's no mortality, that you don't just fade away.'

"I don't know what I think about it. I probably tend to think, you're here for the time you're here, and you should do the best you can for the time you're here, and appreciate it and move on. That's rather simplistic, but that's where I come out.""

Friday, October 15, 2010

War and Wall Street

Dave Pollard has a great blog - How to Save the World - Dave writes this on his "Links and Tweets for the Month: October 15, 2010"

"“This is Very, Very Bad”: Paul Krugman in the NYT sums up the foreclosure mess as the simple continuation of a massive and ongoing government-backed fraud perpetrated by US and global financial institutions against homeowners and taxpayers. Why is it allowed to continue? Because as the chart above shows (from oftwominds.com), financial services make up 1/3 of US profits (and GDP). Only the war industry is comparable in size. Without banks and wars, there simply is no US GDP. Without these two industries, and rising housing values and consumer spending, there is no US economy."

Is there any wonder why we went to Iraq or Afghanistan? or why we've been neutered and trained not to pay attention when Wall Street finance and banker barons are making billions off of our poverty? It's obviously because without wars and finance we are Tanzania...

John Cleese on Creativity

A very insightful clip from John Cleese...



Which I found at Dave Pollards - How to Save the World blog

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Pro-Business"

Politicians talk about being 'pro-business'... they fight for the Chamber's endorsement and meet with various business groups when they come to town. The republicans talking point is "who creates jobs?" then state that "my opponent believes that government creates jobs, I believe it's private business"... cue the cheers from the crowd. Goes way back to "What's good for GM is good for America"... Why the hell democrats don't challenge this nonsense is beyond me. What's good for Wall Street is good for Wall Street, what's good for Big Business is good for big business. And frankly neither of those two give one damn for middle-class folks, much less poor folks, and neither takes any responsibility for any of the problems we've faced for the last 3 years.

Seth Godin defines "pro-business" in this great post on his blog. He writes - "What makes a policy or a politician pro business? Some would tell you it includes:

* Lower or eliminate the minimum wage
* Eviscerate OSHA and other safety and pollution inspections
* Make it difficult for workers to easily switch jobs from one company or another
* Educate the public just enough for them to be compliant cogs in the factory system
* Fight transparency to employees, the public and investors
* Cut corporate taxes"

I'm a rural guy, I've lived and worked in rural America all of my life, the business model that Seth describes as 'pro-business' was, and is, the model for every major employer every where I've lived. And to this day they are still the businesses the pickle vendors and politicians recruit and cater too throughout rural America.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Joe Bageant Interview

An awesome hour long interview with Joe Bageant -

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Big money takeover

Good piece from Professor Robert Reich...

The Secret Big-Money Takeover of America -
"Right now we're headed for a perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top, a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy, and a public in the aftershock of the Great Recession becoming increasingly angry and cynical about government. The three are obviously related."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Charlie, Saul, and Tom

Three others I admire - all different personalities, lines of work, and methods - the one characteristic I think I can tie to all of them is passion for what they believe.

The late Texas Congressman - Charlie Wilson



This link takes you to the great Tom Peter's where he talks about what we can all learn from Charlie and his compatriots.

In the audio Tom, a wonderful radical in his own right, highlights the work of the great Saul Alinsky and his book 'Rules for Radicals'.

Mr. Alinsky is another person I admire, perhaps even more so now that his name and reputation has been tarnished by demagogues...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things I like

Most of my blog post are about things that piss me off, or insights that I think will piss off others. I'm going to try to post more about things I like, not because I'm a sunny kinda guy, but seriously life's too short not to acknowledge what what we think is good... So, let's start with Fergus Henderson, someone I admire.. check out this video:


And his book, which is a foodie classic

Off to the Side - Jim Harrison again

Another of the great insights from Harrison's memoir -

"Among a certain group religion is used to effectively cleanse money and the Gospels' admonition to take care of the poor is misinterpreted as "a few of the poor." How many times have we heard that five million children go to bed hungry every night? Not certainly as many times as we've read and seen pieces on the laudatory aspects of great wealth. The top two or three percent of our population has had a decade-long field day that never trickled down to the bottom fifty percent. In my own lifetime I've seen the apotheosis of greed as a virtue, and brutal insensitivity become enlightened self-interest. We may do as well as all but a few countries but that scarcely makes us a Christian nation except to those who bath in patriotic gore out of habit and stupidity."
Jim Harrison - Off to the Side

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Replaceable" People

"...our pop culture priests have succeeded in filling the population with shame and nervous self-loathing to the point where they think of anyone who isn't an employer as a parasite, and anyone who isn't rich and famous, or trying to be, as a loser. People even think of themselves this way, which is why there are so many down-and-out people voting to give tax breaks to the same bankers who've been robbing them for years..."
Matt Taibbi at his Rolling Stone Blog - "On ESPN and "Replaceable" People"

Absolutely brilliant cultural insight from Taibbi. I've said before that if you ask any kid you happen to know to name his/her hero's, I bet you won't hear them mention many poor folks, but the sad fact is, if you ask adults to name life's winners the list is going to look very similar.

A month or so back, Rachel Maddow and O'Reilly were having a back and forth and O'Reilly offered only his higher ratings as a defense of his argument... Maddow offered this wonderful reply:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Genius

"Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights."
Albert Einstein - 1949

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rewards

A crazy fundamentalist with a congregation of 50 can get on every major network and have every politician and talking head talking about him... he got what he wants, what the hell does everyone else get out of the deal?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Off to the Side - Jim Harrison



I'm just into this, but Jim Harrison is one of my favorite authors and in his memoir I think I see someone who has struggled to find his own peace and to learn, often in reflection, what really matters and is important to him. His section on drinking should be required reading to those of us who indulge (sometimes in excess) - an excerpt: "The reason to moderate is to avoid having to quit, thus losing a pleasure that's been with us forever.
We don't have much freedom in this life and it is self-cruelty to lose a piece of what we have because we are unable to control our craving."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The blame game...

If it wasn't for the government taking all of our tax dollars we would be fine. If it wasn't for those folks on welfare, if it wasn't for the liberals and the socialist, if it wasn't for the unions, if it wasn't for the President or Congress, if it wasn't for illegal immigrants, if it wasn't for the deficit, if it wasn't for the atheist and Muslims, if it wasn't for this nation turning it's back on Jesus and Christianity...

Regarding the economic side of these I wonder how do the Tea Baggers, and the Beck/Palin/Limbaugh crowd, explain the existence of wealthy, happy people?

And to the moral side of these, Christopher Hitchens, in this brilliant piece, asks it better than I can, "What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned?"

And then ask the tough question - "It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be."

I think some of it is racism, some of it is economic insecurity and fear, but a large damn piece of this is the strings that people like the Koch brothers (profiled here by Frank Rich) want pulled and Rupert Murdoch is more than happy to let the former Morning Zoo radio DJ Glen Beck get the crowds stirred up.

As Mr. Rich concludes, "When wolves of Murdoch’s ingenuity and the Kochs’ stealth have been at the door of our democracy in the past, Democrats have fought back fiercely. Franklin Roosevelt’s triumphant 1936 re-election campaign pummeled the Liberty League as a Republican ally eager to “squeeze the worker dry in his old age and cast him like an orange rind into the refuse pail.” When John Kennedy’s patriotism was assailed by Birchers calling for impeachment, he gave a major speech denouncing their “crusades of suspicion.”

And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself."

I would say it's not just Obama and the Democrats who aren't confronting this lunacy, a large part of the blame falls to those of us, as Joe Bageant in this video says, that didn't give a damn that working folks got a crappy education, we were perfectly content to let them shovel shit and fund their schools at a half of what we fund rich school districts because "those" people could always learn a trade and get a job at the local plant... We are our brother's keeper and we didn't give a damn as long as our 401K was chugging away. Now that our 401K's are tanking, do we have the guts to stand up to the fundamentalist and their robber baron puppeteers? Or do we cower in our McHouse in the burbs and come up with our own list? If it wasn't for the mortgage, if it wasn't for the car payment, if it wasn't for the kids private school, then I'd be willing to take a stand and push for what's right...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When was the last time you beat your spouse?

It is easy to pull the strings. 46% of republicans believe that President Obama is a Muslim. Forgetting for a second the big SO WHAT IF HE IS that the question deserves, look at how the story has (re)developed and spread. First some politico makes a half-ass statement like, "I guess we'll have to take him at his word that he's a Christian"... and the demagogues on radio then say, "I don't have to take him at his word, he's no christian"... and the ole' boys who are busting their ass cutting the grass, and pumping shit catch 20 minutes of Rush or Hannity on the radio between jobs and hear something about Obama being a Muslim and then on Saturday night at the VFW somebody says, "I hear Obama's a Muslim, sounds right he's got a name that fits"... and the politicians mission is accomplished.

It's an old political trick... I don't believe my opponent is a _________ or that they ______________... and that's all it takes. It's been this way forever, but with the internet and 24 hours "news" channels, it's a different game with different outcomes. It obviously helps that conservatives have convinced their base that FOX and talk radio are the only news you can trust, then they can blatantly lie and get away with it. Just like I talked about in the previous post - federal salaries, ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, and then like magic the cultural center being built at a Burlington Coat Factory, FUNDED BY THE 2nd largest stock holder of FOX NEWS, becomes a Mosque at Ground Zero supported by our Muslim President...

Timothy Egan at the NYTimes has a brilliant take on the issue, in the aptly titled "Building a Nation of Know Nothings" here.

Rachel Maddow with a recent example of how this works in this video. In this case you have a candidate saying something like I don't endorse spreading rumors that my opponent is gay... hard to believe that this Senate candidate was endorsed by Palin isn't it?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, August 16, 2010

Adding to the list

Add to the list of right wing propaganda the latest on federal salaries... perhaps even more insidious than how they destroyed ACORN with lies and cost Shirley Sherrod her job, now they broaden their attack started in the 1980's which is essentially - government is not only bad, it's the enemy. In this case if it wasn't for those greedy Federal employee's that make twice what those in the private sector make, we'd all be much better. Of course it turns out their "study" was comparing the salaries and benefits of the average WalMart employee with a NASA scientist... no matter, the damage has been done. Seemingly reasonable people have posted the link to all of their facebook "friends" and Hannity, Rush, and the rest have a couple of weeks of talking points. Facts don't matter, the truth doesn't matter, just get 51% to believe a lie and their mission is complete.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pigs

So, when those one-issue hawks, McCain and Coburn, list the biggest 'pork' in the ARRA but don't take the time to explain the projects, or even provide links to where the average person can learn more... they're saying, "if it wasn't for all this pork we wouldn't have the problems we've got today"... pig shit. Let's assume for a minute that every dime these guys bitch about is honest to goodness pork that creates too few opportunities in the long run... Well, fella's that's about the price of one day in the wars you support. Now, when they raise issues about what are legitimately decent projects, that have been reviewed by layers of people that know the issue before they're funded... when you slam those projects, you're showing either your ignorance or your penchant for propaganda.

Number 76 on the Senator's list of egregious ARRA projects was a plan to provide Ipod's to students at two schools in Utah. They wanted to paint the picture of lot's of students looking like Gene Wilder in Silver Streak - radio next to his ear, jivin' through the airport... my guess is they had a staffer tell them that an Ipod played music, so they think ARRA funds were used to buy transistor radios. Not realizing all the other applications of said device, especially those that EXPEDITE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES IN SCHOOLS! Just a little research Senators and you could have figured it all out, but you didn't want to... you're one trick ponies, convincing the Tea Baggers that your serious about spending.

More on Utah's program:
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/02/10/21mtr_stim-tech.h29.html?r=117049298

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50045606-76/stimulus-students-utah-kearns.html.csp

Kingdom of Survival...

Great clip of Joe talking about "Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War", I'd like to have a drink with him sometime and talk a bit more about the point he makes about racism in the clip, nevertheless, I can't wait to see the film when it comes out.

Glory Days...

If you ask when were the "glory days" of the good ole’ USA, lots of people would argue the period after WWII through the 1950's...

A couple of interesting stats about that era:

- The top marginal tax rate was 91% on income over $300K, today the top marginal tax rate is 35% - but now they’re convinced if we repeal Shrub’s tax cuts for these rich guys it’s somehow going to hurt them?

- In the 1940s, 33.9% of private, non-agricultural workers were members of unions, private sector union membership was at 7.6% in 2008 - but now unions are blamed for destroying our manufacturing base?

Consider - "Economist Timothy Smeeding summed up the current trend of rising inequality on the pages of the Social Science Quarterly:[22]
“Americans have the highest income inequality in the rich world and over the past 20–30 years Americans have also experienced the greatest increase in income inequality among rich nations. The more detailed the data we can use to observe this change, the more skewed the change appears to be... the majority of large gains are indeed at the top of the distribution.”


Yet, we continue to believe that giving more to those who have the most will "trickle down" to the rest of us... perhaps, this was the greatest bit of propaganda ever sold to the people.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The ethics of our "capitalism"...

Below are links and excerpts from two relatively mainstream thinkers - former Senator Gary Hart and John Bogle, Founder of Vanguard, - who come at this from different directions, but end at similar conclusions to Joe Bageant and Michael Moore who's perspective I referenced here. Any chance that someone can build momentum on this issue and make the changes that we must or do we continue as a country to worship at the alter of the illusion of a "free-market" and yearning for a return to the past that never really existed?

Gary Hart - When Do I Prosper? - "In the past three decades or more we have all become consumers. Bigger houses, bigger cars, more things. At the same time we were producing less, importing more, and basing our economy on manipulating money to make money. The results were predictable. Huge trade deficits. Selling US bonds to finance the deficits and to buy more things.

It's pretty obvious we can't keep doing this forever. This pattern has brought us to the mess we are in today. The question is whether we'll find a way to pick up where consumption, money manipulation, and unproductivity left off, or whether we will restore a national economy that produces, saves, invests, makes things, and pays its way."

John C. Bogle - Financial Reform: Will it Forestall a Future Crisis of Ethic Proportions? - "Commerce, business, and finance have hardly been exempt from this trend. Relying on Adam Smith's "invisible hand," we have depended on the marketplace and competition to create prosperity and well-being. But self-interest got out of hand. It created a "bottom-line" society in which success is measured in monetary terms. Dollars became the coin of the new realm. Unchecked market forces overwhelmed traditional standards of professional conduct, developed over centuries.

The result has been a shift from moral absolutism to moral relativism. We've moved from a society in which "there are some things that one simply does not do" to one in which "if everyone else is doing it, I can too."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The highest form of flattery...

I was on the same wavelength as Ms. Maddow when I wrote this post and she then recorded this very good spot... although, she said it much more effectively than I...

Those Red State Values...

A great blog post from Daniel Krotz...

An excerpt:
"...parents who teach Christian-based morals to their children and vote Republican get exactly the opposite of what they hope for: they lead the league in rates of divorce, age of first childbirth, and out of wedlock pregnancies."... "San Francisco, home of the Evil Liberal Witch Nancy Pelosi, and Ultra-Liberal Massachusetts, have far lower divorce rates than Evangelical Arkansas and Mississippi. Six of the seven states with the lowest divorce rates in 2007, and all seven with the lowest teen birthrates in 2006, voted blue in both elections. Six of the seven states with the highest divorce rates in 2007, and five of the seven with the highest teen birthrates, voted red. It looks like Kerry and Obama voters are able to keep their pants on and remain faithful to their marriage vows quite a bit better on average than Bush and McCain voters."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Manufacturing Consent...

We have an economy and culture that is totally dependent on people buying things, and the marketers are masters at pulling our strings. The business party, which encompasses 99% of the democratic and republican parties, learned these lessons well and too are masters of public relations, marketing, and propaganda, and they pull the strings politically.

Usually, when the main stream media do politics they have a person representing the "right" and a person representing the "left" and lets them yell at each other, then those watching say this is what democracy is all about, hearing both sides and then "we decide". The problem is the power elite decide how wide that spectrum is... thus they control the parameters of the debate. On a bit larger scale we see this within networks, FOX is the 'right', MSNBC is the 'left'... those are your choices. We're a competitive culture so you've got to choose sides. Are you a Hokie or a Cavalier? A Rebel or a Bulldog? A democrat or a republican? Once you've chosen your side then that determines where you get your information. And what you hear makes you feel better. The people all look like you (or what you want to look like), they sound like you, and their opinions are the same opinions that you hear at church and family reunions.

And all of the opinions you hear are what the power elite allow you to hear. They don't invite Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky on... those are opinions you just don't need to hear.

All of this leads me to ACORN and Shirley Sherrod. So FoxNews which functions as the side republicans choose to watch is seen by all as just a little conservative, but as legitimate as any of the other choices on your television dial. The same is true, by the way, in radio. And Rush Limbaugh and Hannity are seen as just as reasonable a place to get your news as AP or UPI. So when Fox News has a video that shows ACORN trying to find a way to get housing for a pimp and his prostitutes, the assumption is they just beat ABC and NBC to the scoop. Or some said they were just willing to report it when the rest were not. And when they showed a 1 minute video of Ms. Sherrod and told us she was a racist, the same reaction. MSNBC wouldn't show the clip because they're liberal, you're told. It's us versus them.

But Fox News lied. They didn't miss the story and they didn't make a mistake. They lied to make a political argument. They're not a news organization. They are strictly propaganda. All of the main stream media is propaganda, but Fox is willing to show their cards, knowing that their watchers don't care or won't connect the dots. All their commentators like O'Reilly and Hannity have to do is call the other guys names and their fans will be back cheering on the sidelines. The fact that they destroyed and eliminated an organization like ACORN who's sole purpose was to help poor people, and got a woman who spent her life helping poor farmers fired... they don't care. They've got ads to sell.

And what's the conversation on the issue today? What did the Obama Administration do wrong? What did the NAACP do wrong? Exactly what Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the rest of the minions of the conservative power elite wanted.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Careful what you wish for...

It's a common aspiration for young people to want to be professional athletes... Sports Illustrated reports that 70% of professional athletes are broke within 5 years of the end of their career. For NFL players that number goes up to 80%. Well, at least they have their health, "Football players were struck in the head 30 to 50 times per game and regularly endured blows similar to those experienced in car crashes, according to a Virginia Tech study that fitted players' helmets with the same kinds of sensors that trigger auto air bags."

Interesting that as we get a bit older our aspirations change to winning the lottery and apparently the exact same percent is often quoted for lottery winners ... “The reality is that 70 percent of all lottery winners will squander away their winnings in a few years,” the Connecticut financial advisers said in a news release. “In the process, they will see family and friendships destroyed and the financial security they hoped for disappear.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stifling Creativity

The Creativity Crisis @ Newsweek

"Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”"

Yet we still drill and test... everyone has seen this by now, but Sir Ken Robinson talks about this in such elegant and plain terms at TED.

But, the power elite, and their minions the pickle vendors, tell us it's not creativity they need it's "basic skills"... just get our workforce able to read, write, do math, work in teams, and have concepts of quality, they argue, and they'll compete against the rest of the world... delusional thinking that is repeated across the country every day. They're not interest in competing they're interested in profits. Another great piece in Michael Moore's Capitalism-A love story points out that when the top tax rate was 90 percent we had a growing middle class that made living wages and corporations were making record profits. But, they wanted more. And like a tsunami destroyed everyone and everything in their wake.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Almost like Weekend at Bernie's

Joe Bageant has written another great piece, "Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball:
Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse", here. An excerpt:

"When the U.S., and then the world's money economy started to crumble, the first thing capitalist economists could think of to do was to monkey with the paper. That's all they knew how to do. It was unthinkable that the tertiary virtual economy, that great backroom fraud of debt manipulation and fiat money, might have finally reached the limits of the material earth to support. That the money economy's gaming of workers and Mother Nature might itself might be the problem never occurred to the world's economic movers and shakers. It still hasn't. (Except for Chavez, Morales, Castro and Lula). Jobs disappeared, homes went to foreclosure, and personal debt was at staggering all time highs. America's working folks were taking it square in the face. Not that economists or financial kingpins cared much one way or the other. In the capitalist financial world, everything is an opportunity. Cancer? Build cancer hospital chains. Pollution? Sell pollution credits. The country gone bankrupt?

"Nothing to do," cried the mad hatters of finance, "but print more money, and give gobs of cash to the banks! Yes, yes, yes! Borrow astronomical amounts of the stuff and bribe every fat cat financial corporation up and down The Street!" All of which came down to creating more debt for the common people to work off. They seem willing enough to do it too -- if only they had jobs."

And we can see how that worked out for the folks at Goldman Sachs... take a look at John Paulson's new pad...

I've only watched the first hour thus far, but another great place to learn how this happened is Michael Moore's film, Capitalism- A Love Story

Friday, July 9, 2010

More on competition

Who benefits from a society focused on competition? When did the push for Youth Sports emerge? or competitive classrooms? We have these myths about the benefits of competition, some of it seems based on social darwinism, others perhaps on religious traditions. We can all repeat the arguments - it's good for kids to compete, makes them tough, teaches them sportsmanship, teaches them teamwork, etc. I haven't seen any research that shows that youth sports is of more benefit than the science club or the choral group. While it appears that it is important for kids to be involved with their peers, the competition in and of itself doesn't appear to have any value.

Dan Pink in his new book Drive makes a really interesting point about what drives people. What the research shows, is that rewards for finishing first increase performance only when the task is easy and when it requires little thinking. Ala the production line at factories in the 1950's. But, when a task requires thought, then performance incentives actually hinder production. He explains it nicely in this TED talk.

I went to the beach recently with my son who is seven and his friend who is nine. For these two kids it was as if nothing was fun unless someone was keeping score. Dolphins and kayakers were toiling around in the ocean, two beautiful old planes circle overhead, lots of shells to find, creepy creatures washed up from the ocean. Yet, they pouted. They wanted to have other kids show up and have a big football game. Because then they would have the opportunity to keep score, perhaps even the opportunity to beat others. When I played football with them, it wasn't near enough to play catch. That had to be considered the 'warm-up'. The game, and the score, was the thing.

Sports, I've argued, are a way to 'tranquilize ourselves with the trivial' to quote Becker. But, perhaps that's not all. Perhaps, our schools and activities were designed to create competitive individuals, because that's what the factories needed in a workforce, but those factories are all but gone.

We have a media culture that glorifies competition above all else -reality shows, 24 hour sports entertainment. Schools where nothing else matters but test scores. A culture that's raising another generation of kids intent on competition, in a world where collaboration is essential.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Problems you'll never have to face...

Reading Phillip Roth's, The Human Stain.

A quote -
"You're a vocal master of extraordinary loquaciousness, Nelson. So perspicacious. So fluent. A vocal master of the endless, ostentatiously overelaborate sentence. And so rich with contempt for every last human problem you've never had to face."... "I never again want to hear that self-admiring voice of yours or see your smug fucking lily-white face."

I wish someone would say that to the talking head demagogues that pass for political philosophers today. Like this from Limbaugh.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Competition

It's easy to see how we American's get so stirred up on the 4th of July (to a lesser extent Veterans and Memorial Day's as well). We've been raised to believe in the virtue of beating others.

Alfie Kohn has written extensively about our ill conceived notions of competition.

"Competition is a recipe for hostility. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot. This means that each child comes to regard others as obstacles to his or her own success. Forget fractions or home runs; this is the real lesson our children learn in a competitive environment.

Competition leads children to envy winners, to dismiss losers (there's no nastier epithet in our language than "Loser!"), and to be suspicious of just about everyone. Competition makes it difficult to regard others as potential friends or collaborators; even if you're not my rival today, you could be tomorrow."

Other people, other religions, other cities, other communities, other countries... they all become our rivals. And our rivals are to be mistrusted and ultimately beaten.

Kohn's book on the subject some 20 years ago holds true today.

Put Away the Flags

Put Away the Flags
Remembering Howard Zinn on July 4th

by Howard Zinn

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on -- have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours -- huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction -- what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early.

When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession."

When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: "It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day."

On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our "Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence." After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: "We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country."

It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.

We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, "to civilize and Christianize" the Filipino people.

As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: "The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness."

We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

Yet they are victims, too, of our government's lies.

How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for "liberty," for "democracy"?

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

This piece was distributed by the Progressive Media Project in 2006.

Howard Zinn died on January 7. Please read Matthew Rothschild's "Thank you, Howard Zinn," for more about his legacy.
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/02-11

More from Howard Zinn:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hitch-22

Good vibes out to Christopher Hitchen's... I read "Letters to a Young Contrarian" and thought it was brilliant. I also thought he needed to reread his own words when he decided he was a neocon. But, I still admire him and hope he's back raising hell soon.

Letters to a Young Contrarian (Art of Mentoring)

Seth Godin - How was your day

Love this story in Seth Godin's new book, "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us" -

"It's four a.m. and I can't sleep. So I'm sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Jamaica, checking my email. A couple walks by, obviously on their way to bed, having pushed the idea of vacation a little too hard. the woman looks over to me and, in a harsh whisper a little quieter than a yell, says to her friend, "Isn't that sad? That guy comes here on vacation and he's stuck checking his email. He can't even enjoy his two weeks off." I think the real question-the one they probably wouldn't want to answer-was, "Isn't it sad that we have a job where we spend two weeks avoiding the stuff we have to do fifty weeks a year?"... "Life's too short" is repeated often enough to be a cliche', but this time it's true. You don't have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It's not just pointless, it's painful. Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don't need to escape from."

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Friday, May 21, 2010

The purpose of education

When the economy goes down, when people are scared, when the elite don't want to look in the mirror to find the problem what do they do? They blame the workforce. People just don't work hard enough, they're lazy, they want things handed to them, they're soft, too many are going to college, not enough are going to college, college's aren't teaching the right things, and on and on. The solutions then are to run it more like a business. As the previous post suggest, we just need serious people to get under the hood and fix this education thing. Stop teaching silly stuff and make sure everybody learns a trade. May I simply suggest... bullshit.

Do the elite prep schools that our leaders attended like Phillips Exeter Academy and Andover teach trades? How about the curriculum at elite schools like Brown, Bennington, or Wesleyan? Compare the curriculum's of these "nontraditional" collegeshere with the focus of the nearest university to you...

And apparently we've got too many unqualified students going to college, why aren't they just content to work at WalMart?
Plan B: Skip College
“College degrees are simply not necessary for many jobs. Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among the top 10 growing job categories, two require college degrees: accounting (a bachelor’s) and postsecondary teachers (a doctorate). But this growth is expected to be dwarfed by the need for registered nurses, home health aides, customer service representatives and store clerks. None of those jobs require a bachelor’s degree.”

Is the purpose of an education to meet the current demands for workers? Over the last 5 years how many of these new jobs on the demand occupation list paid a living wage?

Perhaps as historian, Lawrence Cremin says, “…the aim of education is not merely to make citizens, or workers, or fathers, or mothers, but ultimately to make human beings who will live life to the fullest.”

Advertising as reality...

We need "REAL MEN" in Washington... like this guy

As my friend John points out, this is the type of political ad we have to look forward to over the next few years, hearkens back to Perot days, just get under the hood and fix it... disturbing stuff, people apparently have forgotten that professional wrestling is fake, any chance then that Linda McMahon doesn't take Chris Dodd's seat?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's the Chemical's Stupid

Great piece by Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes this week.

"Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.

In particular, the report warns about exposures to chemicals during pregnancy, when risk of damage seems to be greatest. Noting that 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, the study warns that: “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’ ”"

While I'm on the subject, I've lived 12 years now in places where I can't subscribe to the New York Times, in that time people stopped reading newspapers. And all I wanted to do was subscribe... once again I'm well behind the curve of most Americans. But, let me make a plea, if they deliver the Sunday NY Times where you are, subscribe. Spend some time reading the paper, cup of coffee in hand, and think about those of us who wish we could.

I understand how bookies work... not legalized gambling

So… during Thursday's nose dive of the stock market one companies stock, apparently because of computer error, fell dramatically.

“For individual stocks, the drops were mindboggling. Procter & Gamble tumbled from $61 to $48. It closed at $60.75. At least for a short time, Accenture plummeted from $41.50 to 1 cent — meaning someone was forced to sell for $0.01. The buyer was more fortunate, because Accenture closed at $41.09.


Note the Accenture piece of this… Accenture went to as low as $.01 penny a share. So if you had bought $500 dollars worth at a penny a share, you would have had 500 x 100 shares or 50,000 shares. Friday morning that stock was worth $41.09, so for your $500 investment you would have had $2,054,500. Just imagine for a moment if you had done $5K instead of $500, or were feeling really wacky and rolled over the entire $100K in the 401K plan… ah to dream… BUT

Is this a tale of opportunity lost? Or is this a tale about how most Americans are banking their entire future by investing in mutual funds and stocks… oblivious to the fact that crazy ass stuff like this can happen at any moment and the experts have absolutely no idea what happened?

Ultimately, I think there is a lot of bullshit in these two books, but at their core, I think, is brilliance. Poor Dad did what he was supposed to and stayed vested and had mutual funds and Ferris is absolutely right, most of us do the same and live a deferred life...



The pursuit of happiness...

Yesterday as my son and I were driving through the neighborhood, my son pointed to the 2 biggest houses on the block and said, "Those people are rich", today I came in this afternoon and he was watching "Cribs" on T.V. He's 7 years old and already understanding what it means to be successful. The great Joe Bageant, author of "Deer Hunting with Jesus", in his most recent blog post writes:

"The brutal way Americans were forced to internalize the values of a gangster capitalist class continues to elude nearly all Americans. Most foreigners too. This is to say nothing of how our system replaced our humanity with ideology, our liberty with money, and fostered fascist nationalism through profound degeneration of the people's mind and spirit. It's not as if one can ever escape that sort of thing, either by going to a place like Mexico, getting drunk or whatever. We are made in Americas' image, whether we admit it or not, and America's image is the face on a ten dollar bill

Liberal or conservative, money is what we care about -- period. From birth, the empire has made one thing very clear to us: If you do not produce or acquire enough of the green stuff, meet the quota, you will be ground beneath the heel of the machine we call a society. No universal health insurance or higher education, no guaranteed minimum income, no worker rights, nothing for you suckers but the tab. So keep humping."

When I look and listen to my son and his friends and think back to when I was his age... it's easy to see how we are made in Americas' image...

Monday, April 12, 2010

What I'm reading:

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.

Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World


The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating

Idle hands are the tools of the devil!!

"The only people who extol the virtues of work are those who benefit from other people's work and those condemned to a lifetime of it." Mark Twain

"An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor's orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
"How long did it take you to catch them?" the American asked.
"Only a little while," the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.
"Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" the American then asked.
"I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends," the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.
"But... What do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Mexican looked up and smiled. "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor."
The American laughed and stool tall. "Sir, I'm a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats."
He continued, "Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will all this take?"
To which the American replied, "15-20 years. 25 tops."
"But what then, senor?"
The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions."
"Millions, senor? Then what?"
"Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos..." - The 4-hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Taxed Enough Already?

If your entire platform is that you are "taxed enough already" shouldn't you have some basic information on the issue of taxation?

The Misinformed Tea Party Movement
Bruce Bartlett, 03.19.10, 12:01 AM EDT
For an antitax group, they don't know much about taxes.


"Tea Partyers were asked how much they think a typical family making $50,000 per year pays in federal income taxes. The average response was $12,710, the median $10,000. In percentage terms this means a tax burden of between 20% and 25% of income." ...

"According to calculations by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional committee, tax filers with adjusted gross incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average federal income tax burden of just 1.7%. Those with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 have an average burden of 4.2%."

Friday, March 26, 2010

To Taibbi's point below...

Ben Stein, is a funny guy. I disagree with him politically most of the time, but in this piece he points to just how far off the deep-end the "Obama is a Socialist" folks have gone.

"The flat truth is that in February 1974, with the hounds of hell baying at him about Watergate, with a national trial by shortage under way after the Arab Oil Embargo, with the economy in extremely rocky shape, and with large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, Republican Richard M. Nixon submitted to Congress a national health care bill in many ways more comprehensive than what Mr. Obama achieved."

It also illustrates how accurate Taibbi was when he said, "The new Democratic Party is an excellent substitute for the old Nixon/Ford Republican Party. They even passed Nixon’s vision of a health care plan."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Off The Deep End...

I spent the evening after the Health Care Bill was signed hiding "friends" on facebook, seriously people have gone off the deep end. Matt Taibbi's post below illustrates this point really well. And then these two stories from Southside VA. It's not just the articles but read the comments section under them, we're apparently developing thousands of Timothy McVeigh want to be's out there.

So the Tea Party posted what they thought was the personal address of a Congressman on the Tea Party blog… turned out though it was the address of the Congressman's brother’s family… the Tea Party spokesman said, “Well, that’s collateral damage”…

Then, a gas line is cut at the Congressman’s brother’s house…