Sunday, September 12, 2010

Economic Crisis Passes Over the Rich

I just read this - a new record has been set for the selling price of a private home.
So, I thought I'd write just a quick post on this. "The World's Most Expensive Home," should serve as an indicator at how ridiculous our economic system is now. I concede that the sale was made in Monaco, but it is still right to say "our" economic system, because capitalism is a global phenomenon that if not supported by, is at least driven, ideologically, by the US. So we now live in a world where Americans, citizens of the most powerful nation on Earth, can't afford to hang on to their homes, nor find jobs to remedy that situation, but there remain people who can throw away $305 million on a place to live. I'm not suggesting the rich should give away their money to the poor. I'm suggesting that our economic system is so broken that gobs of money land in the hands of a few, while the rest of the world struggles everyday - and America has it pretty easy despite our unemployment rate and various other problems; there are plenty of locales with MUCH greater poverty.

Capitalism is FUNDAMENTALLY about competition and the amassing of wealth and power - it is a game and winning is obviously the prime objective. Some would argue you shouldn't begrudge the wealthy the spoils of their success. I agree. I also believe you shouldn't make sport of human existence. Capitalism means there WILL be losers. If one man has $305 million, that means $305 million less to go around. Free-market fundamentalists are deluded with the idea that there is always room for growth and expansion. How can this possibly be true so long as we are bound on this solitary planet? If you live under the condition that success means the accumulation of wealth and power, that means without debate: LESS wealth and power for those who are NOT successful at the crap-shoot called capitalism. If you let one man control a picnic table and he doesn't feel like sharing, everyone else who showed up to the party goes hungry. This metaphor is incredibly simplistic and doesn't nearly touch on all the facets of capitalism, but it holds truth that still applies.

If there is a global economic crisis afoot, then no one should be setting spending records. And yet it's happening. Sadly, many would say more spending is good for the economy, but the divide between incomes of the rich and poor means that money spent mostly finds its way back into the pockets of those holding the reigns. Since the economic crisis isn't really affecting the rich, its just affecting the rest of us, those with the wealth and the power have little incentive to care.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pastor Passes on Petraeus's Plee

UPDATE: This post still has relevant opinions, but I feel obligated to acknowledge that Terry Jones did not follow through on his plan to burn the Qu'ran and promised never to do so in the future either. However, some I read some where that another idiot did in fact burn some pages from said holy book. I apologize for not having a link to that story, but I'm sure you can find it on Google. The original post follows:

A growing theme for this blog is identifying the frightful way our nation fosters a gather fascist storm. I this light, it is difficult deciding what to make of news that a Florida church led by pastor Terry Jones has plans to burn Qu'rans "in memory" of September 11, and that General Petreaus has condemned this event. You see, it is great to have a figure of authority, a military man no less, speak out against such an act of ignorance and hate, but this particular church will still proceed, and it shows such an utter lack of tolerance, and such a perversion of Christianity that one begins to lose all hope in anything.

I tend to be mistrustful of organized religion for precisely the reason that it is so easily co-opted and misused, but I recognized at the heart of Christian doctrine teachings that have intrinsic value. But this only makes it that much more frustrating to see the evil perpetrated in this country by so-called Christian leaders.

To put it unoriginally, we are living in a difficult time and difficult situation (as if that status was any different from all of human history). Decent people derive something of value from Islam and if it provides what they need to cope with the world, feeds a spiritual inclination, then it is worth protecting. Yet the struggle remains because most of the other dominant religions are able to co-exist with secular governments, while Islam is more geared towards theocracy.

This is not a religious blog, and I am a strong proponent for keeping religion out of politics at all turns, but we find ourselves in an era when our leaders have sought to instigate a Christian vs. Muslim struggle, and in so doing, send our civilization back to the Dark Ages. And so I am inclined to comment on religious matters in a political context. I may have certain sympathies with one religion or another, but I promote none and discourage none. Instead, what I have to say is that Christianity is supposed to be based on the teachings of Christ, and having encountered those teachings in my formal education, I can say that one of his primary concerns was tolerance and love for all. Love thy neighbor, love thy enemy. Ergo, you cannot be a proselytizer of Christainity and preach hatred of other religions and people. I also believe in free speech, and would not ask to prevent Terry Jones from speaking his mind or even from burning whatever books he chooses. But he cannot do so in the name of Jesus. To do so makes him a hypocrite, a deceiver, a manipulative war-monger, and a messenger of hate.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Only a Mosque

Obama has given his support to building a Mosque and Muslim community center near the WTC, and I'm happy whenever he gives us a glimmer of progressivism. Those who are so vocally opposed to the Muslim center are flat wrong. They are un-American. They are racist. There is no way around that truth. Muslims are not terrorists, yet that is the implication Palin and Guiliani are making. Again, as I wrote in my previous post on immigration, this is the kind of behavior that wreaks of fascism. At the very least, people like Sarah Palin are trying to send us back to the pre-Civil Rights days, the days before we were a true democracy. This sort of reactionary attitude does not provide counterbalance to the mindset of terrorists, it is in fact the same mindset because it is a narrow, exclusionary, prejudicial and antagonistic attitude.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What is Florida so Scared of?

Perhaps you have heard what Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum wants to get started in Florida, if not you can read here:

This is of course part of a trend started by Arizona with their passing of immigration enforcement laws that allow cops to stop innocent people on the street to ask for proof of citizenship. The fact that this is a growing trend (20 states are trying to follow Arizona's lead) is itself surprising given all the negative feedback they received, including hometown basketball franchise, the Pheonix Suns, having made and worn special jerseys that read "Los Suns" to draw attention to the issue. And of course it further draws attention to the fact that a large part of the "illegal" immigrant community is Latino, and if you're talking about Arizona, you're talking about Mexicans. But if you're talking about Mexicans, then you should also be talking about the fact that Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California were all at one time part of Mexico! So there is a sort of psychology to Mexicans crossing the border that says "this isn't really wrong." And it isn't wrong.

A family friend pointed out to me in conversation that in Europe they have no immigration problem because all European Union members have open borders to other nations of the European Union. If you were born in Poland but suddenly get word that there are jobs aplenty in Madrid, Spain, you can hop on a train and pursue your chances of a better livelihood. Now, we're not talking about complete open borders. I, as an American citizen, can't move to Italy and get a job. And its not without disturbance, such as the 2005 riots in France involving Algerian immigrants. But on the continent of Europe, there is freedom of movement that allows, theoretically, for populations to shift towards regions with the most availability of work. Here we have an example of how to deal with the Mexican border - if you make crossing easier and legal, you eliminate the seedy side of sneaking into the States. Mexico is deeply embroiled in a drug war that could pose a threat to the US should we have a more permeable boundary, or it could provide an opportunity for the US to help get a hand on the problem by giving our law enforcement agencies better access to trouble spots in Mexico. It would also dry up the labor pool for drug cartels since law-abiding folks desperate to get to the US would no longer have to resort to being mules for cartels or paying "coyotes" (smugglers of immigrants) which also further supports criminal power.

Now Florida doesn't have to deal with being adjacent to Mexico, and Mexicans are not the only people immigrating to the US, but it bore thinking out since Arizona has been so pivotal in the debate as of late. The new twist Florida would provide is a 20 day stay in jail for immigrants who were unable to supply official documentation of their status. Our nation already has the highest rate of imprisonment of the industrialized world, our prisons are overcrowded, ineffective and have absurd recidivism. Stuffing more crap down a clogged drain never provides a solution.

I fail to see what is to fear from undocumented immigrants. If I try and look at it from the other perspective, the risks might be considered as follows: immigrants taking jobs from citizens during a recession; immigrants straining social services for which they don't contribute taxes towards; terrorism and increased crime.

I'll take these one at a time. It is true we have high unemployment, but we also have a population that is resistant towards taking certain jobs and we also have an economic system that has created the recession in the first place. Some other time I may provide a more detailed critique of capitalism, but for now, let's just say that if CEOs and upper management weren't so overpaid, we could probably have more jobs available, or even too many jobs available since the US has a very low birth rate.

Undocumented immigrants may put a slight strain on social services, or they may not. It would be hard to tell, since in reality, undocumented immigrants often do pay taxes when employed by companies that overlook citizenship. Not every "illegal" alien is a day laborer. Furthermore, we send financial aid to other countries anyway, what's the difference if we give a little aid to those who've made it to our soil?

To assume that illegal immigrants bring crime is first racist. Second, part of whatever crime they might bring is strictly due to the fact that we've made immigration so difficult that they feel forced into the illegal method of border crossing to begin with, and so they are already dipping their toes into unlawfulness. Third, a lot of the presumed crime is drug related, and that's a problem WE created by making drugs illegal. Again I'm opening a door to another debate, so I'll just quickly note that I'm not condoning or supporting drug use, but I do think it's wrong to make it illegal and it creates more crime, it creates the industry of drug production and smuggling. The more we try to contain drug proliferation, the greater the lengths cartels and dealers will go to protecting their source of income. As for terrorism, this is frankly a difficult subject but the bottom line is that you would have completely ban all travel, all tourism, permanently ground every plan and erect giant walls at every boarder and on every beach to keep out people who don't like the United States. Even then, some would still get through and you wouldn't have accomplished anything in the way of preventing domestic terrorism.

The planet was here before we were, the physical land we call the United States of America was here before we were, and in fact there were other people here before we were (I saw Gary Shandling say in an interview with Tavis Smiley that Native Americans should be in charge of immigration policy). So the idea that This Land is Our Land, apologies to Woodie, is a bit flawed. The land is there whether we are or not and the concept of telling certain people they aren't welcome is convoluted. We've created a society, and a greater community, and it's right to want to protect that, but should always be striving to perfect it and that means we can't just exclude people, that's not what democracy is about. We are in great danger of letting fear devolve into nationalist fervor and then further still to fascism.

Friday, August 6, 2010


A quick response to this news:

I feel like our country is going completely insane, and I'll have more to say about that at a future date, but I just thought I would briefly address the plight of this blog's namesake species. If you read the article provided with the link, you probably won't be surprised. The US's puritanical roots have yet to shed the "man vs nature/order vs chaos/good vs evil" mandate, and ranchers hating wolves is an old story. But we have to keep addressing it because the balance of our ecosystem is off and will continue to be until we accept that we are part of nature, not above or removed from it.

If wolves decrease livestock, I understand the economic concern for ranchers, but as a country that provides ludicrous subsidies to other agriculture interests, including corn farmers (that is a whole other story for another time), we should be able to make accommodations. The meat industry is already a heavy burden on the environment because Americans stubbornly demand high quantities of beef for their diet and we insist on eating a non-native species, when in fact we should be embracing the more eco-sustainable and healthier option of native buffalo (you know, that animal our gun-crazy fore-fathers nearly wiped off the earth). Again, I find myself introducing another debate. But the issue is that complaints of reduced livestock are overstated and provide a weak argument when trying to defend the destructive way of life that is our agricultural industry.

Hunters that complain of wolves reducing game-stock? Less prey makes hunting more difficult, so are they afraid of a challenge? Modern hunting is so lacking in honor-ability with all the tech available and game preserves that this concern lacks any substance.

I don't know if this is a problem Obama can address, but if Idaho gets its way, it will feel like he hasn't set the right tone for environmental issues.


Indeed, according to an NY Times editorial, under the Obama administration, the Interior Department had been upholding Bush era doctrine that removed wolves from federal protection in Montana and Idaho.

But the good news is that a federal judge has ruled against this policy and so wolves will in fact remain protected for the time being, reversing the fears laid out in the earlier article from Reuters which is linked at the beginning of this post. However, they won't be safe forever, since public policy wavers with every regime change, and apparently Obama is not on the side of the environment, or at least not on the side of the wolf. Disappointment persists.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Civic Duty?

This morning in a bit of sleepy stupor, I subjected myself to an extended and extremely asinine segment on a network morning news show about the split between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston or whatever the hell his name is. And now, writing this, I must restrain myself from subjecting the reader to unending profanity. Not only am I offended that our journalistic institutions consider this news worthy at all, but I am also unnerved and terrified that these media-baffoons actually had "experts" on their show to give critique! And the experts had nothing intelligent to say! Because what would they say? They were powerless to disguise the absurdity of what they were doing.

I had fully intended to update this blog on a regular basis. And certainly there's enough going on in the realm of politics to give me a plethora of things to criticize. And yet I still felt uninspired for several months. It's quite plain why, since when I actually turn on the news, stupidity slaps me in the face. I stopped caring.

That hasn't changed. But I have begun to wonder why it has been that way. The answer is probably as old as politics itself. Disillusionment. And that's a phenomenon that's bound to go in and out of my mind, or anyone's mind, like the tide. Of course, I never believed in any way that writing a blog would change anything in even the smallest way. Rather, my growing apathy is rooted in the perpetual sameness of our government during a time when I was expecting great change. If the economy still has to suck, then let me see some daring change in how finance operates. If we can barely handle an oil spill, then let me see some concrete movement towards sustainable energy. We just get placating incremental efforts.

I sometimes don't know what I want from the news, because often I'm not interested enough to warrant more than a glance at Google headlines. And yet news-media often proves that this is about as much attention as they deserve. Its quite a thrill to stumble on an article of investigative journalism, but how often do those pieces really get the attention they deserve?

So what I do know I want is a paradigm shift in the political sphere and in the journalistic sphere. Journalists should stop pandering to the public and tell us some hard truth and not hide behind "objectivity." Government needs to get its hands out of the pockets of big business and focus on the citizens it serves. These are two big and vague statements. They're also two things that won't happen and it is a symptom of the problems that I don't even feel inclined to say anymore to help make my own point.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Take heed, leftists, the Tea Party cometh. Take heed because this is what you should be doing. Just because you got the President you wanted doesn’t mean you can rest, that you can stay quiet. Now is the time to be loud because now you have an ear. Meanwhile, the Tea Party rises, steeped in secrecy (is it a legitimate movement or orchestrated by a powerful-elite-cabal for a greedy agenda?) and an ambiguous if not ignorant message. There’s no better illustration of this than the upcoming first National Tea Party convention which is barring journalists from full coverage and has Sarah Palin as a spectator. In case you need that explained: a supposedly populist movement is shrouding their biggest even yet and is featuring a woman who couldn’t even recall the name of any newspaper let alone prove she knows how to read (I don’t think Going Rogue is any credit, that’s what ghostwriters are for) and who is a documented liar (I site her lumping Obama in with terrorists during the infamous campaign and her claim that Democrats wanted to set up “death panels” to judge the elderly). I suppose some discount the Tea Party as isolated irritants with no influence. But even so, these gatherings that keep popping up show a trend, a very real trend that took shape during the race to replace Ted Kennedy. Democrats lazed about thinking it was in the bag; Republicans took up the example of the Tea Party and caught the Blue state unawares.

The Tea Party’s professed points of contention are valid at a glance. Anyone who’s ever gotten a pay check wishes they could get some of that dough back, and certainly health care has come off the rails. Of course, they don’t want to fix health care; they just don’t want to pay for it. But they can’t discuss these issues intelligently, or without using disinformation. For example, at a rally in Wisconsin recently, they had one Dr. Pureth deriding the socialized health care system of Ireland, painting it as a third-world-chop-shop in a cautionary tale of uncared-for pregnant women. Yet the infant mortality rate in Ireland is lower than it is here by both the reckoning of the UN and the CIA World Factbook. The lowest rates are attributed to Iceland by the former and to Singapore by the latter. The infant-mortality rate is generally used to assess the overall health of a country and both of those nations have universal socialized medicine.

Additionally, the event in Wisconsin featured a large bonfire and Joe the Plumber. Sounds more like a keg party then a political rally, and definitely not something that any good could come from. Progressives need to pay close attention to this rabid mob trying to sway Washington. JournalTimes.come gave a list of some signs held up in the crowd and I list them here, each followed by some of my own commentary:

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

(The day this isn’t true is the day we wake up in Utopia.)

“The ACLU is the enemy within.”
(This seems digressive. I thought we were talking about healthcare and taxes? Furthermore, if you want to claim a position of liberty – with such other signs as “Wake up America, your liberty is gone,” and “Liberty, not tyranny,” – then the ACLU is your friend.)

“Marxism. Communism. Obamaism. Sameism.”

(Isn’t Joe McCarthy dead?)

“Don’t blame me, I voted for the American.”

(This reeks of racism – what makes Obama un-American? Skin color? Foreign father? Politics?)

“Free markets, not freeloaders.”

(Unregulated free markets got us in this recession mess. End of discussion.)

According to Wikipedia, Tea Partiers have been seen co-opting leftist iconography such as the raised fist of solidarity and the usually pro-choice slogan “Keep your Laws off my Body.” This makes for a perplexing political movement. It also confuses the greater discussion because the left is not yet thrilled by Obama’s performance, but it would be counter-productive to side with tea-partiers. Society can be stifling, but once you agree to adhere to a civil society, maintaining it is not achieved by being more passionate about making sure everyone can own a gun over making sure everyone has access to a doctor, food and shelter. And if the Tea Party really is a manufactured phenomenon marionetted by Big Business, then we all lose because we already have two puppet political parties.

This is a tricky time. After eight years of having a Mayflower-Ivy-League party boy posing as a good-ole-Texas-rancher in a ploy to appeal to the common man and conceal ineptitude, our country came around and elected a candidate who didn’t hide his illustrious education or his flaws. Obama stumbled, perhaps by relying on too many Clinton cronies, and somehow we’ve disproportionately lost ground and gone dumb again. Polls show no one wants Palin for President, but she’s a persistent polyp on political podiums. Scott Brown, just elected in Massachusetts, is another case of populist pandering: the most important thing on his mind after winning? Announcing again that he drives a pick-up truck. Scott Brown, Bruce Springsteen you ain’t, so shut the hell up.