Saturday, May 19, 2012

For whom the economy works...

Just did a google news search... record price paid for and most ever paid for
$52M for a NYC Co-op
$86.9M for a Rothko
$850K for Batman Comic Book
$90M for NYC Penthouse
$120M for a Munch (the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction)
$388.5M for highest contemporary art auction ever, (including record prices for Richter, Pollock, Newman, Klein, and the aforementioned Rothko)
$155K for comic panel pages
$2.1M for post-war Canadian Artwork

And the Republican mantra for the last 12 years is give these new owners of apartments, art, and comics a tax break and it will benefit everyone else...

A Venture Capitalist begs to differ:
Transcript HERE
Charts HERE

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"In Nothing We Trust"

In someways I am as guilty of this as the people I'm about to chastise and blame for this... which must beg the question, where did my own mistrust come from?... Nevertheless, I'll deal with my own issues later.

This is an important piece from the National Journal - In Nothing We Trust - and for most of this I blame the demagogues in conservative media. 

"Muncie is a microcosm of a nation whose motto could be, “In Nothing We Trust.” Seven in 10 Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track; eight in 10 are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed. Only 23 percent have confidence in banks, and just 19 percent have confidence in big business. Less than half the population expresses “a great deal” of confidence in the public-school system or organized religion. “We have lost our gods,” says Laura Hansen, an assistant professor of sociology at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. “We lost [faith] in the media: Remember Walter Cronkite? We lost it in our culture: You can’t point to a movie star who might inspire us, because we know too much about them. We lost it in politics, because we know too much about politicians’ lives. We’ve lost it—that basic sense of trust and confidence—in everything.”"
When you are drilled by the conservative pundits on a daily basis that our President is an evil socialist/ communist, Muslim intent on destroying everything you were raised to believe was good... how the hell can we possibly be shocked when the people don't trust the President?  And, as Reagan famously preached, you've been drilled since childhood that "Government is the problem, not the solution!"  how can you possibly believe in it?  But, on a more substantive level, I would suggest the following is  the real key to our malaise, and may address my own schizophrenia on the issue:

 Whitmire is a story of Muncie, and Muncie is the story of America. In this place—dubbed “Middletown” by early 20th-century sociologists—people have lost faith in their institutions. Government, politics, corporations, the media, organized religion, organized labor, banks, businesses, and other mainstays of a healthy society are failing. It’s not just that the institutions are corrupt or broken; those clich├ęs oversimplify an existential problem: With few notable exceptions, the nation’s onetime social pillars are ill-equipped for the 21st century. Most critically, they are failing to adapt quickly enough for a population buffeted by wrenching economic, technological, and demographic change.
 As I've argued before we're in the middle of a fundamental change in our economy - globalization, demographics, and technology are completely changing the way we live, work, and learn.  And, as the piece suggest, neither we nor our institutions are keeping up with the pace of change.  The fundamental contract that suggested if you worked hard, kept your nose clean, went to school and studied hard then you could be assured of at least some minimum standard of living is broken.  Companies no longer have to hire people to make record profits, this last recession has proven that... Rapidly accelerating technology and lean manufacturing mean they can produce stuff without having to deal with employee's issues.  The great question going forward is how the hell will those displaced prove in the future they are worthy of at least a minimum standard of living?

This election will be won or lost by candidates and parties that will suggest they can fix this moving forward... but, I hope they both realize they can't.  It's going to take bolder initiatives than they're throwing out on the table, or could possibly get momentum at this point (just look at the pitiful education "reform" agenda's as an example)... and sadly, it appears the situation is going to have to get much worse before it get's better... the question we'll end up betting on is whether it will be too late.

Liberal Founding Fathers

I've always thought of quotes from the founding fathers, when used in political arguments, just as quotes from a particular religious text used in religious arguments, simply a game of one up man-ship that accomplishes very little in the way of argument or study of an issue.

Having said that, I ran across this list recently and thought I would post them.  Perhaps if you happen to be in some a meaningless on-line pissing contest, or at the in-laws for the holidays, you can throw these out... then feel bad about it later, but at least for the moment you'll confuse the fool on the receiving end of your tirade...
(Some book recommendations for liberals - HERE)

  •   "There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by … corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses." -- James Madison
  • "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." -- Thomas Jefferson
  • "With respect to the new Government, nine or ten States will probably have accepted by the end of this month. The others may oppose it. Virginia, I think, will be of this number. Besides other objections of less moment, she [Virginia] will insist on annexing a bill of rights to the new Constitution, i.e. a bill wherein the Government shall declare that, 1. Religion shall be free; 2. Printing presses free; 3. Trials by jury preserved in all cases; 4. No monopolies in commerce; 5. No standing army. Upon receiving this bill of rights, she will probably depart from her other objections; and this bill is so much to the interest of all the States, that I presume they will offer it, and thus our Constitution be amended, and our Union closed by the end of the present year."-- Thomas Jefferson
  • "In this point of the case the question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions."-- Andrew Jackson
  • "I am more than ever convinced of the dangers to which the free and unbiased exercise of political opinion - the only sure foundation and safeguard of republican government - would be exposed by any further increase of the already overgrown influence of corporate authorities."-- Martin Van Buren
  • "We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our country's altar that the nation might live. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. "As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."-- Abraham Lincoln
  • "As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters."-- Grover Cleveland
  • "The first thing to understand is the difference between the natural person and the fictitious person called a corporation. They differ in the purpose for which they are created, in the strength which they possess, and in the restraints under which they act. "Man is the handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to carry out a Divine purpose; the corporation is the handiwork of man and created to carry out a money-making policy. "There is comparatively little difference in the strength of men; a corporation may be one hundred, one thousand, or even one million times stronger than the average man. Man acts under the restraints of conscience, and is influenced also by a belief in a future life. A corporation has no soul and cares nothing about the hereafter. …"A corporation has no rights except those given it by law. It can exercise no power except that conferred upon it by the people through legislation, and the people should be as free to withhold as to give, public interest and not private advantage being the end in view."-- Secretary of State and 3-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan
  • "I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party.… Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly."-- Theodore Roosevelt
  • "The fortunes amassed through corporate organization are now so large, and vest such power in those that wield them, as to make it a matter of necessity to give to the sovereign - that is, to the Government, which represents the people as a whole - some effective power of supervision over their corporate use. In order to insure a healthy social and industrial life, every big corporation should be held responsible by, and be accountable to, some sovereign strong enough to control its conduct."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt 
(A Few New Additions from HERE)
  • “The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning.  And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate a free inquiry?  …brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded.  But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest of hornets…”~John Adams
  • “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” (From the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797. Signed by President Adams and ratified unanimously by the United States Senate. That’s right, unanimously!)~John Adams
  • “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man (Deism) into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.”~Thomas Jefferson
  • “The priests of the different religious sects… dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight.”~Thomas Jefferson
  • “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”~James Madison
  • “What influence have ecclesiastical establishments had on society?  In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people.”~James Madison
For more thoughtful analysis, I recommend: