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The Grand Con

Posted by MacZad
Jul 30 2012

This may be the biggest con ever, and it is worked over and over because it is so slick that many of the conned millions are happy about it, not realizing the economic losses that they and millions of others suffer because of it. Also important is the danger that the con poses to our religious freedom. Here’s how it works followed by comments on the economic damage that it is doing:

  • Some of the wealthy and powerful (Koch brothers, Coors heirs, James Leininger et al) generously fund ultra-conservative groups.

  • Many of these groups encourage the Christian fundamentalist churches to inflame their members on “hot-button” social issues (gay marriage is a current favorites) to get votes for conservative GOP candidates.

  • The elected conservative legislators strongly support the interests of the big corporations and the rich and powerful by introducing and enacting legislation that is economically favorable to them but frequently unfavorable to the very folks who voted for them.

  • To appease the religious fundamentalists on their social issues, some legislation favorable to their views is proposed and often enacted.

  • Elated because of the legislators’ support for the very-visible social issues, most of the Christian faithful don’t notice the less-visible economic losses that they and others are suffering.

It’s wonderful for those who benefit. The big corporations and the wealthy get favorable government policy and tax treatment so the money keeps flowing to them with some of it continuing on to the ultra-conservative groups. The GOP legislators get the fundamentalists’ votes and reelection support from the rich and their ultra-conservative groups. The wealthy conservatives also know that those with the lowest incomes are more likely to belong to the fundamentalist churches that support GOP candidates, and their economic losses from the con helps to keep the big fundamentalist Christian voter base somewhat impoverished.

And even most of the conned faithful are happy; so what’s wrong here?

The con is a Robin Hood in reverse scheme fostering government policies (Rent-Seeking) that are biased in favor of big corporations and the wealthy. These government policies which shift costs from them to the public (the mass of taxpayers) and which unfairly divert even a few dollars per year from each of several hundred million Americans into the holdings of a wealthy few are morally wrong.

It really is a world-class con. For years it has siphoned dollars from working Americans, easily aggregating into the billions, and vastly enriched the wealthy. Additionally, as covered in an earlier posting, it is a strong contributor to the rise of Christian fundamentalism.

Categories: Illuminating Dark Places, Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

The Second Amendment Craziness Of Our Leadership

Posted by MacZad
Jul 24 2012

With reference to the Colorado massacre several of the TV/Internet news outlets have been asking: Why?

The answer is easy. This was a massacre rather than a much smaller scale random killing because our leaders and courts haven't the collective intelligence to understand that permitting the populace to own assault weapons also empowers the inevitable crazies to do exactly what this one did.

These weapons aren't for hunting; their only purpose is to kill other people. Some of the gun-rights folks claim that they need them to protect against coming governmental tyranny. Well, if that's the reason that they are needed the right-wing politicians had better get busy trying to also grant rights to own bazookas and surface-to-air missiles because if a tyrannical government comes it will deploy tanks, helicopter gun-ships, drones, etc. and mere AK-47s will be relatively impotent.

Here's a good article on the subject: Look, Can We Please At Least Agree On One Thing About The 'Right To Bear Arms'?

And a "tongue-in-cheek" one by News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders who proposes that everyone be armed - with muskets: Time for leaders to shoot from the lip

Given today's weapons, does anyone really believe that founding fathers would write the Second Amendment to permit AK-47 ownership by the populace? Oh, but the founding fathers didn't have to worry about the NRA, reelection or a Supreme Court did they? It's clear that our leaders do - to the extreme.

It's just further evidence that there must be something unknown in the Washington, DC water supply that suppresses common sense.

Categories: Seeking Better Governance

Do You Get Your "News" From Fox News?

Posted by MacZad
Jul 21 2012

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch is splitting his News Corp., the parent of Fox News channel, into two companies. The publishing company will include the newspapers: the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, the New York Post and the Australian. Curiously the Fox News channel will not be pared with the print newspapers but instead will be part of the entertainment company. While one may be entertained by the Fox News channel, using it as a source of political and social news results in one getting some very slanted views. Here's the Fox News reporting on two things relating to the federal budget:

On the April 8 edition of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor O'Reilly portrays federal funds for NPR and Planned Parenthood as un-affordable given the nation's debt. Some perspective: According to the Associated Press, NPR received about $5 million in federal funds in fiscal year 2010 and the Planned Parenthood annual report states that it received $487 Million In Government Funding in 2010. ----- Watch the short O'Reilly Factor clip

Now in contrast: When Fox News channel Happening Now anchor Jon Scott interviewed Wall Street Journal columnist Simon Constable on July 9, Scott dismissed the president's tax proposal because the money it raises would run the government for a mere "eight and a half days" just "a drop in the bucket." Some perspective: According to The New York Times, economists estimate that letting the Bush tax cuts expire for people above $250,000 as Obama proposes would generate $85 billion yearly. ----- Watch the short Happening Now clip

So, according to Fox News $492 million for two social/health programs is unfordable, but a $85 billion per year tax break for the wealthy is only "a drop in the bucket" in the federal budget picture. I'm concerned about reducing the nation's debt, but it needs to be done intelligently not just on the backs of working Americans. The Fox News "protect the wealthy" bias shown by these clips is blatant. They constitute only one example of many that could be cited to showcase the skill of Fox News in presenting the "news" to favor the Plutocrats. It's not the "big lie" but it leans toward it by skilfully using distortion, exaggeration, diversion and repetition. Repeated diversion of the viewer from issues which would negatively impact the wealthy to issues like "welfare abuse" seem to be particularly effective. However, there's hope; more of the public is catching on to these tactics, and Fox News viewership is falling.

BTW: At the end of the second clip Constable mentions getting back to the higher growth rates of the 1990s. Those were the Clinton years which didn't need those vaunted Bush era tax cuts to achieve better growth and which ended with a budget surplus.

Thanks to Media Matters for the clips from their excellent article - the inspiration for this post.

Here's more thanks to AlterNet: Greetings from Crazyland! 10 Instances of Fox Nation's Departure from Reality (Updated 11/28/2012)

The image below was just too good to pass up. (Updated 11/20/2012)

Image Credit: http://www.realamericanliberal.blogspot.com/

Categories: Illuminating Dark Places, Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

The Two Faces of Regulation

Posted by MacZad
Jul 18 2012

Government regulation actually has two faces though only one of them gets hyped.

Big corporations cry that there's too much regulation, "Just free us from regulation and we'll create jobs," they say, which is bunk as job creation is not their forte. The regulations that they're referring to are those government rules that protect the health, environment, workers and public. What they are seeking is the shifting of costs from them to the public and taxpayers. However, it turns out that some of the regulations that they object to can actually save them money .

How about the other face of regulation, those rules that business doesn't talk about? Business really like the rules that the government promulgates at the behest of industry associations. While there are legitimate reasons for many of these, others simply limit competition by restricting entry into certain businesses or require citizens to purchase products or services that are of little or no benefit to them or society - only businesses benefit. Here are two fresh examples:

  1. To comply with federal and state regulations residents with irrigation water meters in my town of 140,000 are required to have backflow devices (estimated installed cost - $200) and now to have them inspected annually at a cost of about $50. However, According to Causes of Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water in the United States from 1971 to 2006 only one hundred and six people in the US died from all drinking water illnesses during that 35 year period or about 3 deaths per year. When the data in the report is further analyzed for deaths possibly related to backflow devices it turns out that these devices and inspections thereof will, at best, save one life in the town about every 8800 years. Don't you suspect that the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association and the American Backflow Prevention Association were instrumental in getting these regulations codified?

  2. In North Carolina there was recently a legislative proposal to eliminate the requirement for motor vehicles less than 3 years old to undergo an annual safety inspection at a cost of $13.60 (or $30 if the emissions test is required). While it was clear to almost everyone that the inspection of new vehicles was unnecessary the owners of the safety inspection businesses objected to the change stating that it would hurt their businesses, and it was defeated. Update 8/3/12: I guess that I will have to find another example for despite the indication that it was defeated in committee this legislation was resurrected and passed.

  3. Here's a quote from Bloombegr View's excellent article on restrictive state licensing laws: "The average cosmetologist in the U.S. trains for 372 days before earning a license. The average emergency medical technician spends 33 days in training. --- The disparity merely confirms what a muddle the process of occupational licensing is." Yup, it's the old story of using the states' power to limit competition; businesses love it. Update 9/30/12.

So the next time you hear the corporate world whining about too many regulations remember that their complaints are self-serving for they don't want to eliminate the many Rent-Seeking regulations that they helped create to benefit them.

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

Slouching Toward Theocracy By Our Votes

Posted by MacZad
Jul 15 2012

Sinclair Lewis was prescient back in 1935 when he wrote, "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag & carrying a cross." After 75+ years the growing power of fundamentalist Christians in politics is moving us ever closer to his vision.

Here in the US we deplore the intolerances of many Islamic countries. Well, be alerted, we are well on our way to our own version of an intolerant and theocratic nation with a state supported religion. Ours will be fundamentalist Christian rather than fundamentalist Islamic, but there’s really not much difference between them for: both hate certain (though different) groups, both subjugate women and both have repressive belief systems.

It’s obvious that the leaders of many fundamentalist Christian sects don’t like the religious and other freedoms that we, and they, enjoy in this country. They have clearly stated their goal of remaking America into a "Christian Nation" (or the more extreme Dominionism based one) which would, of necessity, embrace intolerances and repressions as noted above. Over the past several decades their successes within the Republican Party, including many legislative, policy and judicial victories, both small and big (Sympathizers on the Supreme Court - Gay discriminations), have brought them much too close to that goal. They are united now in trying to achieve it, but if they triumph we can expect big battles over which sect’s version of god and religion shall the government impose on us. (Joke)

You may not like the liberals, but you will probably like rule by the scriptures even less. Unless they meet strong resistance the fundamentalist Christians, who seem to dominant (40+%) the current Republican Party, will eventually transform the 235+ year old “Grand Experiment” that is our Untied States of America into a theocratic-fascist country. Our enlightenment, envied by billions the world over, will die, and we will experience serious losses of personal freedom, even more discrimination against minorities and totalitarian persecutions of those who don’t kowtow to the fundamentalists’ beliefs and morality.

So, resist we must. At a minimum we, and the media (like Chris Mathews on this 6 minute YouTube video), need to be asking candidates at all levels of government questions that expose the ignorance of fundamentalist beliefs or even toleration of them. Questions like: “How old do you believe the world to be?” Any answer other than an unqualified, “billions of years,” indicates a candidate with such a warped sense of reality that he/she is unfit to govern and one undeserving of our vote. To preserve our “Grand Experiment” such candidates and the other politicians who support them must be defeated.

Categories: Defending Religious Freedom, Embracing Diversity and Tolerance, Illuminating Dark Places

Motivation Revisited - With a Focus on Wall Street

Posted by MacZad
Jul 11 2012

A recent post illuminated the workings of money as a motivator and how it fails when brainpower is essential to job performance.

Now the June 2012 issue of The Atlantic has an article, The Real Cause of the Crash, that focuses on Wall Street's financial incentives and how they endanger us.

It starts with this great cartoon:

And concludes with these two paragraphs which sum up the article very succinctly:

The problem on Wall Street has never been about the absolute amount of leverage, but rather about whether financiers have the right incentives to properly manage the risks they are taking. During Wall Street’s heyday, when these firms were private partnerships and each partner’s entire net worth was on the line every day, shared risk ensured a modicum of prudence even though leverage was often higher than 30-to-1. Not surprisingly, that prudence gave way to pure greed when, starting in 1970 and continuing through 2006, one Wall Street partnership after another became a public corporation—and the partnership culture gave way to a bonus culture, in which employees felt free to take huge risks with other people’s money in order to generate revenue and big bonuses.
People are pretty simple: they do what they are rewarded for doing. If they get multimillion-dollar bonuses by taking huge risks with other people’s money—as they still do—then they will continue to take those huge risks, and not give it another thought. To prevent another crisis, Wall Street’s top executives, bankers, and traders should once again have something close to their full net worth on the line every day—not just the portion represented by company stock or options—so that they will collectively take risk management more seriously. That’s a solution that has nothing to do with the amount of leverage on Wall Street’s balance sheets.

While there were undoubtedly other factors involved in causing the recent crash (i. e. faulty Federal Reserve policies - the subject of a future post), the article certainly makes it clear that the public ownership of the Wall Street firms resulted in large-scale gambling with other people’s money thus endangering the country's financial stability. It's a situation that cries for reform. Sadly, contribution money flows freely from Wall Street to the Washington leaders, and they don't seem to have the fortitude to reject it and undertake the necessary reforms.

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance