Friday, April 29, 2011

Trump and our worship of the (perhaps) rich...

I suggested below that as a culture we worship the rich. Look at the ratings for the Royal Wedding from this morning, but perhaps there isn't a better example than "the Donald"... Here's a guy who's daddy owned a bunch of real estate in NY, Trump inherits it and all of a sudden the Donald is someone that we should admire, look up to, learn from, and perhaps even vote for as President of the United States.

David Remnick in the New Yorker this week -

" Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the President himself is reluctant to say): these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. Obama, as a politician, is clearly not a radical; he is a center-left pragmatist. If anything, he believes deeply in his capacity to lead with subtle diplomacy and political maneuvering, with a highly realistic sense of the possible; in fact, to many he is maddeningly pragmatic.

The one radical thing about Barack Obama is his race, his name. Of course, there is nothing innately radical about being black or having Hussein as middle name; what is radical is that he has those attributes and is sitting in the Oval Office. And even now, more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him. Let’s be even plainer: to do what Trump has done (and he is only the latest and loudest and most spectacularly hirsute) is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering. And if that makes Donald Trump proud, then what does that say for him?"

I don't know whether to suggest Trump could read Remnick's piece and have absolutely no idea what it means, or if he may actually understand it, but perhaps he realizes nobody who would watch his reality show (which I suspect this presidential run is all about) would understand it or give a damn, thus he should ignore it and act like it doesn't exist.

Trump is the ultimate carnival barker who was blessed to grow up in a time when his schtick is an easy sell...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hazel Dickens

Hazel Jane Dickens - June 1, 1935 – April 22, 2011 -

Coupled with the recent passing of Joe Bageant, the death of the great Hazel Dickens is a tough one to take.

Just as you never had to wonder where Joe stood when you read one of his fantastic essay's, you could listen closely to the words of Hazel's songs and know she didn't just sing them, she lived, and believed them, with all of her heart. Here are two of my favorites from Hazel.

Black Lung -

"He went to the bossman but he closed the door. Oh, it seems you’re not wanted when you’re sick and you’re poor. You’re not even covered in their medical plan. And your life depends on the favors of man."

They'll Never Keep Us Down -

"...so working people get your help from your own kind. Your welfare ain't on the rich man's mind."

Hazel knew this as fact, she didn't have to be told different, she saw it and knew it. But, today we worship the rich. Many assume they got what they have because they were graced by God. Others assume they are rich because they deserve it. Joe and Hazel knew that they got rich off the backs of our brothers and sisters. And those of us who stand idly by and count the dollars we're able to skim away in our retirement plans, or as pickle vendors for the rich, because we're too damn scared of losing what we have, should be ashamed, simply ashamed. To paraphrase Joe, ARE WE OUR BROTHER'S KEEPER? THEN SEE TO IT THAT THEY GET A DAMN EDUCATION, SEE TO IT THEY GET A DAMN DECENT PAYING JOB! Don't sit behind your computer and type away on your blog about injustice, get off your ass and make it a personal mission to hold the rich accountable. They, and those that preceded them, have pulled the strings of power and created a country for their own benefit, one that continues to concentrate all of it's wealth in the hands of a few.

Bless you Hazel Dickens and Joe Bageant... you deserve better than the likes of me.

One of the documentaries on Hazel was appropriately titled, "It's Hard to tell the Singer from the Song"... you can view a clip of that one by clicking here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Seth Godin - The realization is now

I thought this was very good from Seth Godin today...

"The realization is now
by Seth Godin

New polling out this week shows that Americans are frustrated with the world and pessimistic about the future. They're losing patience with the economy, with their prospects, with their leaders (of both parties).

What's actually happening is this: we're realizing that the industrial revolution is fading. The 80 year long run that brought ever-increasing productivity (and along with it, well-paying jobs for an ever-expanding middle class) is ending.

It's one thing to read about the changes the internet brought, it's another to experience them. People who thought they had a valuable skill or degree have discovered that being an anonymous middleman doesn't guarantee job security. Individuals who were trained to comply and follow instructions have discovered that the deal is over... and it isn't their fault, because they've always done what they were told.

This isn't fair of course. It's not fair to train for years, to pay your dues, to invest in a house or a career and then suddenly see it fade.

For a while, politicians and organizations promised that things would get back to normal. Those promises aren't enough, though, and it's clear to many that this might be the new normal. In fact, it is the new normal.

I regularly hear from people who say, "enough with this conceptual stuff, tell me how to get my factory moving, my day job replaced, my consistent paycheck restored..." There's an idea that somehow, if we just do things with more effort or skill, we can go back to the Brady Bunch and mass markets and mediocre products that pay off for years. It's not an idea, though, it's a myth.

Some people insist that if we focus on "business fundamentals" and get "back to basics," all will return. Not so. The promise that you can get paid really well to do precisely what your boss instructs you to do is now a dream, no longer a reality.

It takes a long time for a generation to come around to significant revolutionary change. The newspaper business, the steel business, law firms, the car business, the record business, even computers... one by one, our industries are being turned upside down, and so quickly that it requires us to change faster than we'd like.

It's unpleasant, it's not fair, but it's all we've got. The sooner we realize that the world has changed, the sooner we can accept it and make something of what we've got. Whining isn't a scalable solution."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chomsky

I've made this point before, but we simply do not get the insight from people like Noam Chomsky on the MSM - and without him, most people will never hear this side of the story -

"The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons -- in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance."
Read the rest by clicking here

Friday, April 15, 2011

Where your money goes...

Good work from Democracy: The Journal of Ideas... The taxpayer calculator is an important tool...

"In the current issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Ethan Porter, former managing editor of Democracy, and David Kendall, senior fellow for health and fiscal policy at Third Way, introduced the idea of a taxpayer receipt: a personalized receipt that would show taxpayers where exactly their tax dollars went. Coinciding with the release of their article was the launch of Third Way's taxpayer receipt calculator, which allows taxpayers to enter their taxes to see where their money went.

Today, the White House embraced Porter and Kendall's idea, unveiling on its website its very own version of a taxpayer receipt. The receipt asks users to input their federal, Medicare, and Social Security taxes paid and automatically breaks down how those tax dollars were spent. The result: more informed taxpayers with a greater appreciation for where their money goes."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Terrible local reporting...

The local paper reporting on the Ikea/Swedwood situation in Danville Virginia is embarrassing. The conversation in the local paper isn't about globalization, isn't about the disparity in incomes Sweden VS US, the fact the US South is to Sweden as China is to the US, or even how the Swedish parent company is embarrassed by the publicity. No, they make it out as a worker issue. And thus frame the debate and reality for local folks, just as local papers across the country everyday, and with their national counterparts this is how the tea party and republicans have gained a foot hold across America.

Click below for two stories in the local press:
Worker problems surface at Swedwood

Swedwood manager addresses concerns

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How we got here...

Two pieces that explain how we got this "debt crisis", which really isn't a crisis, but nevertheless... the question I have is... did poor people cause any of this? No, they didn't, then why the hell are they paying to get us out of it?

First, the great Dennis Kucinch


Then Matt Taibbi, who has done more to explain how the power elite screwed us on the bail out then anybody...click here. Thanks Matt

“But the federal aid they received actually falls under a broader category of bailout initiatives, designed and perfected by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, called "giving already stinking rich people gobs of money for no fucking reason at all." If you want to learn how the shadow budget works, follow along. This is what welfare for the rich looks like.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why the United States is Destroying its Education System

Chris Hedges has written a great piece here about the 'reform' efforts of Rhee, Duncan, Bloomberg, Gates, et. al.

Two excerpts I would highlight:

"A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs."

"Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out."

Race to the Bottom starts in the Rural South -

In a truly remarkable story, this piece in the LATimes details the troubles at Ikea's only North American manufacturing facility.

One thing I note is the reaction to this story, many of the comments absolutely support Ikea, apparently even after our financial institutions collapsed our economy many American's still believe that our corporate benefactors have the best interest of workers, and this country, at heart.

$19 an hour to start with benefits and 5 weeks vacation in Sweden, $8 an hour, 4 days of vacation outside of holidays in the United States.

Andrew Leonard at Salon has a good piece about the story, Leonard says, "To keep up with the challenge of foreign competition, our plan is to crack down on our own working class until our sweatshops are just as oppressive as any other developing nation's." Excellent point and sadly, very true.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Liberty University - Welfare Queen

The gall, the hypocrisy, the lack of shame... I read this today and frankly wasn't shocked one bit. Jerry Jr. and his minions at Liberty will bitch, moan, and complain about every single thing our government does... then they'll milk the system for $500M, as this Salon piece points out.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% - Vanity Fair

An excellent piece by Joseph Stiglitz at Vanity Fair

"Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care."

Read the rest here

Buy Stiglitz's new book below: