Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wage Reform part 3 – “It’s stupid, the economy.”

Alright, in Wage reform: Part 1- The Difference between you and Bill Gates. I attempted to show the depth in the disparity between you and Bill Gates. I hope there was an understanding that money represents time, opportunity, and buying power. You have to spend hours of hard work to have the opportunity to buy a tank of gas, while Bill has to spend only seconds, if not less to have the same opportunity. In post two, Wage reform: Part 2 – "Basically" you and Bill Gates are the same, I hopefully conveyed the fact that we all have basic requirements to survive in our society. These requirements are different as a part of an industrialized economy then they would be if we were still driven by agriculture. It was also an introduction to the idea that a minimum percentage as a way to shrink the disparity between the top and the bottom income earners. I also touched upon a few of the advantages of having an economy with a tighter disparity ratio. And there are so many more. That is where this post hopes to pick up.

Recently when I tried to briefly explained the idea of Minimum percentage to somebody they asked, " are you going to try to take money away from the rich people and give it to the poor?" The quick answer to that question is a trap. His intent is to get me to say that the rich are more deserving and the poor are lazy, stupid, and undeserving. He even threw in something about minorities. Taxes forcefully take from the rich and give it to the poor. The answer to this question will hopefully be clear at the end.

Another common misconception about the minimum wage is, "I don’t make minimum wage, why should I care about it." If you hold that sediment, before you can understand more complex features of the economy, you must understand this simple one. As the floor raises so will your wage expectations. Lets say tomorrow they raised the minimum wage to just a nickel below whatever it is that you are making. Your boss isn’t going to raise your wage, at least right away, to compensate you. So if you have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, work your ass off in a factory, are a fruit picker, or you're a schoolteacher, that following morning after minimum wage increase, as you get your breakfast sandwich, the person asking, "would you like to make that a combo?" is making only a nickel less then you are per hour. All of your hard work, and all of your sacrifice, and all of those things that make you feel that your deserve more then the pimply faced whopper flopper on the other side of the drive through speaker are meaningless. It will make you ask and then eventually demand that you are paid more. After all with gas prices what they are, you are actually making less then that kid. The extra nickel isn’t even worth the hassle of your job. Eventually the cost of living goes up, you get the adjustment, and everybody is right back to where they were at before. The whole cycle starts all over again. You make more but everything cost more, you still work the same amount of time to buy the same amount of things. So it turns out that the minimum wage does matter to you. Ask your parents and your grand parents what a "good wage" used to be? You may make more physical cash then your parents did, however your "buying power" is the same, maybe less. A recent report showed that men in their thirties earn less, with inflation adjustments, then their fathers did.

The drawing at the top of this post is a representation of how an economic system works. Hopefully it is a clear demonstration of how some changes in the system can have profound effect, and how other changes have little effect on the productivity of the system. The fact that the less endowed are closer to the system "work" and "production" end is not an accident. Cash deposited into system at the end nearest the wheel has little time for pause before it is put back into the system. While as the cash deposited into the system at the end closest to the pump is held up and may take a long time before it is ever returned. The openings to the "Cash Flow River" are about the same in size. The opening represent the combination of basic needs, extended needs, and luxuries. In reality the opening on the 70/10 is probably a bit smaller. This situation can threatened to clog and slow the whole system, slowing the wheel and drying the pool of products from which the goods and services pumps cash back into the system.

The reason The lager pool keeps growing larger can basically be blamed upon the economic theory known as "the law of diminishing returns". An easy way to think of this is as follows. I already outlined the concept of basic and extended basic needs in the second post. We all require the same amount of these needs. "Luxuries" add cash also. You would like a big screen TV. You might even buy one. A big screen TV is a luxury in and of itself because you could get by with a 12" black and white. In reality you might like 2 or even 3 big screens. The problem is that you can’t afford to buy more then the nice one you have got. You want it, and there is a snot nosed big box store sales man who wants to sell it to you. The only thing missing is the cash. Your are not a definitive victim of the law mentioned. Enter Bill Gates. He decides he wants a big screen TV. He likes it. He decides to buy 8 more for his mansion. Each one he really doesn't get the same satisfaction as the previous one. After 8 he can think of no reason to buy anymore. There is no more potential for cash flow for big screen TVs. The desire to buy a big screen TV has "diminished". From the moment that a person reaches that top percentile range, they have a limited amount of expenditures before they slow down to a spending to a pace much slower then the amount they earn. After they have bought their giant houses, vacation homes, electronic gadgets, children, and water crafts. At that point cash starts to back us in the system.

To understand how a minimum percentage works there is an important concept that needs digested. An economy isn’t healthy just because it has a lot of wealth in it. "Pooled wealth" is not a sign of a productive society. A healthy economy is one with wealth flowing through it. Observe what would happen if the wealth flowed only into the "70/10" pool and no increase to the contributory occurred. The flow would slow to a trickle and work and productivity would slow to near stopping. The faster the wealth flows, through the system, the more work done, the more productive and happily the society is moving.
The numbers are not made up. taken from a study using figures from 2001 you can see for yourself here. Because of the basic needs limit that was described in past 2 posts, we know that earnings greater then these need can potentially gathers in the larger pool and becomes stagnant.
In the drawing the first pool represents this 10% of the population. They are people with so much accumulated wealth that it would take many lifetimes to spend it all. Their Buying power has been maximized and any further earnings is of no advantage to the economy.
The second pool is that of those who belong to the class that can afford to meet their basic needs, buy some luxuries, and even save a little. They also earn more then the amount required to meet basic needs. The difference is that they have not reached their maximum buying potential. They could have a nicer home, car, or other luxuries, but they don’t own enough wealth not to be somewhat frugal. Most of us like to believe we are part of the middle class. Most of us are not. A description of what it means to be "poor" in America will have to wait for a different post.
A minimum percentage slows down the "buying power" being directed into the stagnant pools of the top 10 percent and unclogs the pipeline feeding the middle class and poor. Real investments into the American economy are more likely to happen by enabling the entrepreneurial spirit of the middle class. What a minimum percentage does is effectivly put a control valve on the system so that if the valves opens to the bigger pool, a direct but not equally proportional result occurs in the "valves" of the other spouts. Cash, after all, is a hard piece of paper. Buying power is relative.
There are a few requirements. For one you have to be part of the work force. When every lawn mower, housemaid, fruit picker, and drywall installer can afford to cover their basic needs, then welfare will be unnecessary. The 4.5% of the unemployed Americans can take jobs that are not going to put them further in debt, and the 4.5% of the illegal immigrants can be pack up and shipped back home.

We expect policy makers to develop policies that create more jobs in effect reduce unemployment, make basic needs affordable such as health care, and dissuade the development of unfair advantages, or in other words breakup monopolies. A big part of keeping the game fair is reducing the time it takes to meet the basic needs. Then it is up to the individual if they want to spend that extra time and capital educating and bettering themselves and the community or standing on a corner drinking a 40 oz and smoking Newport's.

In the 80’s Ronald Reagan developed "trickle down economics." His policies were designed to give money to the already wealthy Americans with the intention that it would inspire investment and create more jobs. It only succeeded to speed up the widening of the disparity trend already in motion. Many of them also invested in over seas ventures draining money out of the economy.

The most effective way to encourage money flow is to increase volume to the 2nd (middle class) and 3rd (lower class) pools. Think of it this way. If you give Bill Gates a $1000 he is probably going to laugh, and deposit it into his bank account to sit with the other billions of dollars till the end of time. Nobody is going to get any work out of that money for a long time. However if you give that same $1000 to a bum on the street, the money will immediately be returned to the economy. As a result, a liquor store clerk, a hooker, and a fast food staff will get work. Because of this work they will earn money, they use to buy product such as gas, schoolbooks, and more liquor. And now that money is rolling through the economy.

An idea such as the one to give $400 to most families in the US was an attempt to add money into the economic stream. The problem is that today’s poor and middle class have so much debt, that such a small contribution is consumed by work that has already been done but not paid for (debt). The same is said about using "tax breaks" to stimulate the economy. The problem with tax breaks is that most of us get so little out of them that the only result is that creditors get paid one more month.
So the answer is, would I "take from the rich and give to the poor?" is a resounding and definite "not exactly". A minimum percentage doesn’t take wealth already accumulated from those who have accumulated it. Heck I would agree to decrease the tax burden on the top 10% in exchange for a minimum percentage policy. What will happen is the future wealth will be turned into buying power and diverted to people who will return it more quickly back into the economic system.
Realistically the reduction in power would be less then the poor and middle class would be increased. This is in part due to the fact that wealthy people don’t need and use credit in their personal finances. Credit has an evaporating effect on money in the economic system. But that is for a different post.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How about this as a Debate format?

The CNN / YouTube format was heralded as something "new and provocative". In the end it was still just the same questions. So some gay people asked the questions. Anderson Cooper is a homosexual anyway, so why couldn't he just ask it. The candidates still had their "foot in mouth and head up asshole". The continued to danced around the questions until they redirected it into a way to squeezed it back into the box of the normal rhetoric. They still were free to lie and mislead about not only what has happened but what will happen when they are elected. None of them actually explained how any of their proposed policies would be implemented. In actuality, I don’t blame them. They only have 30 seconds to explain difficult and sometimes situation specific issues of the day. Man i have spent 2 post just explaining wage reform and it will take two more to get most, but not all, of the concept laid out.

The point of a debate is to figure out who the most qualified candidate is to make and approve policy. A president doesn’t "debate" after he is in office. This president has shown they don’t even listen to others. Debating to choose a president is like giving an algebra test to determine who gets a drivers license. (Not that I would be opposed to the idea of that at least being part of the formula. But that is for a different post.) Presidents think through and offer policies. The truth is a president doesn’t often write policies. He simply accepts or rejects those sent to him. What he will or won’t do is solely dependant on what the legislative branch sends him. A president can talk about implementing a national health care program. But if a republican majority dominates the congress or senate, the president may never get a chance to sign such a bill.

Instead of a bunch of questions that a moderator cold have asked, why not have a debate conducted across a blog. Allow them time and a way to not only state what they would do, but how they would do it. For instance, if they were asked a question about weather they would sign a bill, or what it would take to get them to sign a bill that created a national health care policy. They could explain what why and how. They could references and make videos that explains their responses. They could be asked follow up questions by the readers and/ or the other candidates. Everybody wants to help the poor. That is a big topic with many different approaches. Each candidate could reference website, post graphs and upload video is necessary to show they actually know what they are talking about. They could demonstrate the ability to understand the topic at hand, and not just use some predetermined catch speech.

Here is how this format might look. Candidates are asked a question on a blog that is moderated. They are given 3 or 4 days to get around to answering the questions. The public and other candidates view all of the answers. The candidates comment on each others responses in hopes of generating a dialogue. The public can submit questions also that the moderator picks from and posts the best of most commonly repeated version. The moderator should be used to research the factual nature of some claims, and the validity of any references used. that includes affiliations and conflicts of interest. A "Moderators comments" section could be used to let people know that a source has been checked out. It would look much like a discussion that happens across blogs and news formats everyday.

The benefits are that we get thought-out and well defined answers based on knowledge and not how pretty they were when they delivered it. We get an understanding of how well they can communicate their ideas civilly and accurately. We have written proof of things that they said they would or would not do. This will allow for some accountability later in life for the winner.

Some people point out that there is no way to guarantee that the candidates will be writing the entries themselves. So what. Every president has a cabinet of experts who actually address the issues as they come along. I heard what GW Bush thought about "nation building" in his speech during a debate. I would like to have known what donald rumsfeld, dick cheney, paul bremmer, and others he planned on putting in the circle of influence around him thought. I might have made a different decision in 2000. Let them counsel him. in the end he is going to have to "approve this message." They candidate at least better have read and agreed to the contents in it.

Outside of this format, the only other suggestion I could offer is a "Survivor" style obstacle course of activities. Mud wrestling in Speedo’s, a Jeopardy style quiz game, a hot wing eating contest, maybe even your classic drunken tricycle race could be considered as part of the events. Bare knuckle boxing shouldn't be considered "off the table" either.

In all intellectual debates, both sides tend to be correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny.”- John Stuart Mill

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wage reform: Part 2 – "Basically" you and Bill Gates are the same

There will defiantly be a part 3. Feel free to ask questions or post comments, but there will certainly be issues left unresolved.

Every single human being needs three things to survive. We were all taught in school that the basic needs were "food, shelter, and clothing". Close. We need food and clean drinkable water. We need a way to stay at an acceptable body temperature. The use of clothing, shelter, or a combination of both can do this. God knows I have spent many of weekends without clothing and I survived. Shelter has its own set of basic necessities. We need protection from the elements. Weather those elements be human or natural threats in nature. These are the things we need to ensure we will see the sun rise tomorrow.

In the United States, we have "extended basic necessities." (I hope I am making up this term.) These are need required because we live in an industrialized, free market, urbanized, well populated society. These are needs that if you live on a sail boat wondering the ocean you do not require. If you live on a couple acre plot of land in Croatia with your own garden and your own livestock, your own wood lands, you don’t need "extended basic needs". However, If you live in the United States on a small couple acre plot of land, with all the same fixin’s, you still need to pay property tax. That requires money. So you will have to produce more then you need to survive. Most of us are born into more settled and even more urban areas. We don’t have that plot of land to begin with, in order to get it we need to get money. So much for "Freedom".

The basic necessities plus those extended basic necessities equal the minimum life requirements of a citizen. Theses are the least you could get by with weather you are Bill Gates, or Bill "The Janitor". Both Bills need about 1500 calories to sustain life. I think that is a Big Mac. (Oops, did I say "Bill Gates" and "Mac" in the same paragraph?) so that is about $2 a day in most places. Of course somebody is going to have to bring it to you because getting it would throw the whole figure off. They both could live under a bridge with a pair of old cloths they got from the trash. They will have to get a stick to defend themselves from any other Bills that might want to bring them harm.

That would be the unrealistic "basic necessities". In this country you need a form of transportation. That also mean you are paying for energy costs. You need a house, a way to regulate the heat in it. Communication is as much a part of allowing upward mobility promised by The Constitution as freedom of speech is. In other words, you are going to need a phone in this society. Television is also another part of that communication requirement. Doesn’t have to be cable, but if your government is trying to tell you that you need to leave your shelter because an F5 hurricane is coming your way, you need to have one. Transportation, Communication, and energy are really the three major categories required in this society. Like Basic needs, there is a measurable bottom minimal level. Like with nutritional requirements that you must have all of these things. They require money to pay for them.

The best way to tell if a attribute is one of these extended necessities is if it fits this simple formula. It requires money to get it, and it is required to get money. You need to be able to call and/ or get called by an employer in order to get a job and make money. You need to make money in order to buy a phone and pay for phone service to make a call. You need a form of transportation to get to work. You need work in order to get money to pay for transportation.

So back to the "Bills". There is a certain amount of money that each requires for a minimal standard of living. Many economist and politicians refer to this as a "living wage". It is the same amount for both "Bill's" as it is for everybody that is a member of this society. When you start adding family members they fall into one of two categories. They are either liabilities, or they are assets to the family’s minimal standard of living. Bill "The Janitor" makes only a few dollars more, or in the advent of credit, even less then the required amount of money to sustain his family’s life. Bill Gates makes many times more then his families standard. He has the option of buying many thing that are not necessities. But they are both alike in the fact that they need to cover the basics first.

Now that we have established Bill and Bill need to buy many of the same things, lets go back to our example of H. Lee Scott and his cashier, lets call her Jane. She deserves a name. (I know this should have been part of the differences post, but it just fit better here.) If Jane buys a gallon of gas, it cost her $3.20. If Mr. Scott buys a gallon of gas it costs him (Provided he isn’t using a company gas card or just pulling up to one of his stations.) $3.20. The same right? No not really. As stated in Part 1 Scott makes $1057 an hour compared to Jane’s $8.05. It cost Scott 1.25 seconds to Jane’s about 1/3rd of an hour. That is if you don’t take her taxes away. Life is another measurable and guaranteed quality. Time spent going to work to make money to meet basic needs, is time not spent being "free". It is also time not spent educating, creating, or promoting a citizen to a higher class.

There are other things that have the same price no matter how rich you are. A 40 oz of malt liqueur, a membership to a fitness club, a gallon of milk, a DUI, a VIP dance at the million dollar strip club, a dinner at Friday’s with your wife, a loaf of bread, a car, a bus ticket, a lottery ticket, a pack of Newport’s, a medical bill to have your liver replaced, a 5th of John Daniels, or a credit hour to Yale. (Now a passing grade might cost different people different money at different colleges. You will have to ask George Jr. about that though.) Especially the VIP dances, that pack of Newport’s, and the milk are necessary. They all have the same price, but the "cost" to each buyer is different. It still will be under a minimum percentage economy, but not that much different.

In a free market economy governed by a democracy, the goal is to let aspire to whatever heights of financial success as their hard work, intelligence, creativity, and luck will let them. The citizens are empowered to control their own destiny. There is no single source of financial strength that could be corrupted. In contrast a "controlled" or "Command" market economy governed by a dictator or a monarchy the people's wealth and opportunity is repressed by the limits of a narrow power basin. It is easily corrupted. A problem in the US is that less the 2% of the citizens control 80% of the wealth, and for all the reason I explained why money is required for freedom, an understanding that the 2% are controlling the freedom on the other 98%, the US has become a command economy. That is the first cousin to dictatorship. The difference between the two situation is that there may be no malice intent by those who have rose into the elite. It is just the way things are.

Understand, I am not talking about making it even. I think that 3% would be a nice goal in the future. That kind of change could not be imposed without adverse effect over night. Maybe at first we start out with an .08% requirement. We might even have to put a minimum or living wage bottom in effect until the system "settles down". At 3% that would mean a CEO making $1 million, would be paying its employees $30,000 a year. Jane is not going to be sitting on the USS H. Lee Yacht sipping martini’s with him. It will mean that Jane will be able to put her son through community college and still keep her sanity as she juggles the other bills. There are so many other benefits to the economy it could and probably will be another post all together.

A minimum percentage will be an avenue that brings top and the bottom income earners together. It will do it however without destroying the virtues that have made America great. Hard work and perseverance will still yield a way happier life style then those who just choose to be normal. Excellence will still be rewarded. As a matter of fact it will bring back some of the lost innocence that was once the driving force behind that greatness. It will make America more American. It will free some of those innovative free thinkers from the chains of just trying to sustain life. It will give them time to build greatness again. The result will allow the legislative branch to put reins on the economy. They will be able to really stimulate growth by adjusting the percentage of disparity. It will also strengthen the US dollar so much that we will truly be a super power once again.

Please Post any questions or comments Here

"Society comprises two classes: those who have more food than appetite, and those who have more appetite than food." ~Sébastien-Roch Nicholas de Chamfort, Maximes

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Iraq- Waking up with a headache

The growing rhetoric of the few people who still support this travesty in Iraq is, "What happens after we pull out?" The first response is to say, "Well you should have thought about that before you stuck that thing in there!" But what is done is done. Leaving the troops in there isn’t going to stop the pragmatic result. (yah I know it is a stretch of the use of the word "pragmatic" but it sounded so close to "pregnant" that the artist in me couldn’t resist.) The outcome of the past 5 years is a freight train in motion. It is not going to stop on a dime.

As the US pulls the troops out of Iraq, it is widely accepted it will swell with violence and crumble into complete civil war. How that Civil war will pan out is not as easily predicted as one might think. Turning your attention to the picture included on the post (taken from Time march of ‘07 ) and note that there are a few important issues. People like to think of Iraq as having a "Shiite majority". This may be true per capita. But the Sunni majority is overwhelming in the around the entire Middle East.
So the Sunnis with help from Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey could overwhelm the country and retake control for their cause. However, Iran and it’s aggressive foreign policy and a pretty sturdy and rugged history of surviving as the little guy in the neighborhood. So you can’t count them out.

Two things that seems certain is that there will be a blood bath. It is quite possible that the place will become divided into three nation states. That is a popular prediction right now. The Kurds in the North The Sunnis in the west and the Shiite in the east. The second thing is that the US military can not now, and never really could, change Iraq. There is a story I once heard about a child who had a sick pet chicken. He asked his dad to help him fix his chicken. His dad was a butcher by occupation. His father helped the only way he could. The chicken's death was quick and she never saw it coming. The US doesn't have the knowledge or capabilities to fix Iraq.

After the pullout will feel the same as waking up the morning after a night of heavy drinking. We will feel drained and confused. We will feel hungry but too afraid to eat. We will drink but nothing will cure our thirst. Our wallet will be empty, however we won’t quite understand where the money went. Oh the headache, pounding and clouding your judgment. Your friends and acquaintance alike will have a new lowered level of respect for you for those acts you did while intoxicated.

The only thing that The US can do once it pulls out is stand wand watch. What the US could do is spend the next $500 billion on a zero tolerance for illegal occupants in the country. The pilots of 9/11 were here on expired visas. We can hire more intelligence agents. The money could be better spent in Afghanistan chasing Bin Ladden. Ah remember that speech about not resting until the perpetrators of 9/11 have been brought to justice. How about spending $500 billion on promoting alternative fuel research. This is the only military action in history where so many of the US citizens financed the efforts of the named enemy. Sure George’s great grandfather financed the Nazis, accidentally of course. I am starting to notice a trend here. We don’t need to do it with our gas purchases. $500 billion could be used to a lot better then kicking up sand trying to be a judge at the Salem witch trials in Iraq. Everybody in Iraq has enemies. Everybody's enemy is a terrorist.

The next thing congress should do is start asking, who is responsible. A comprehensive discussion about who caused this. Was it the result of malice or incompetence? Then a persecution and prosecution of those responsible.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wage reform: Part 1- The Difference between you and Bill Gates.

I tried to cut this issue down but there is just now way. It is the single most pressing domestic issue in American politics. Yet oddly enough nobody has ever come up with what seems to be an easy solution. The installation of a minimum percentage. So here it is in smaller more digestible bites.

As the subtitle invites, what is the difference between you and Bill Gates? This question is meant in respect to occupational knowledge and financial needs. I use Bill gates because most people using a computer to access a blog knows who he is. A better example would be what is the difference between you and Wal-Mart’s CEO H. Lee Scott. Lets imagine that you are a clerk at Wal-Mart clerk.
Wal-Mart’s Chief Executive H. Lee Scott last year made more then $23million last year. However there average wage of a Wal-Mart clerk is $8.05. This is full time employees, for which they try to avoid having, and an average, meaning some are paid less. In the end, if you were to pay $8.05 to a 40 hr employee for 52 weeks a year, you would end up with a grand salary of $16,744. That is .078%. yes that is less then 1/10th of a percent.

Now it may be true that Mr. Scott is smarter then a clerk at one of his stores. He may be more experienced then the clerk. He may even work a little harder then the clerk, however I doubt it. He even may "work" more hours in a week then you his lowly clerk. But not 1375 times more. He is certainly not worth that multiple factor in value to the society or economy.

It is the job of the policy makers to design laws and policies that uphold the guarantees of the constitution and deceleration of independence. The right to be considered equal being one of those inalienable rights. Freedom of choice, control of ones owns life, and the pursuit of happiness. If you are too busy trying to just survive, happiness is a distant goal.

The disparaging distance between the richest and the poorest in our society has robbed us of the freedom that we pride and base ourselves on having. 230 years after our forefathers left England and its monarchy behind. "the American dream" has been subdued. Instead of the "ruling class" being related by blood, they are related by money and power. Oddly enough that mentality from all walks of life that, "in America anybody can make it" is defended vehemently. They cite celebrity, sports stars, and educational successes as example. They never note that it requires a grand amount of luck. A blind eye is turned towards the fact for every Lebron James, there is 1000 kids that didn’t make it. For every Will Smith, there are hundreds of kids that had to get jobs to support their family. When the first Americans came in search of freedom, they found it easy. Back then it just meant you needed a piece of land where you could raise your livestock, grow your crops, and raise your family. The advent industrial age priced that kind of living right out as an option. At that point the inequality among the citizens developed. Prior to that point, there was not a major financial distance between the upper and middle class, poor were truly lazy, and often short lived.

So while I do agree the drive and creativity that has yielded inspiration and for inventions such as the automobile and the computer chip were a result of free market and free enterprise systems. The value of that one aspect has been overpriced. The pure running waters of freedom and democracy have grown stagnant. It has allowed the environment to become favorable to corruption and mosquitoes who would suck the life blood of the system. So how do we get that water moving again? How are we going to make the system work again? How are we going to promote you the store clerk with out penalizing the CEO for his superior contributions? How are we going to purify the waters again? For that you will have to read on. In part two.

If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. ~Charles Darwin

Post Comment Here

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Nation of Fear

I was listening to a show broadcast on BBC called "World Have Your Say" a few days ago. The show has a great format where a few topics are presented and English speaking participants call in and voice their opinion from all over the world. There is a link to the website here on my blog. The question asked on this day in particular was "Are you afraid of al Qaeda?" Not many people, even from the US said they were. It is a very liberal attended program so that wasn’t a shock really. But it got me to thinking. What would American’s in general say they were afraid of, and how does it stack up logically to what threatens their life.

If you believe the politicians, and by extension policy, represent the fears of the people, then you would believe that most Americans do fear al Qaeda above all other. I could cite budget figures till your were lost and bored out of your skull. If you would like to see a graphical representation you could look here. When all the figures wash out, we spend at least 10 times more money "fighting terrorism" then we do developing and funding education, enforcing border security, curing diseases, or improving general quality of life. We spend many times more money killing people in terrorist acquainted countries, then we do on researching how to gain energy independence. Many of these countries and eventually the terrorist groups get money from our own oil purchases.

We have become a nation of fear. It seems to be the only thing that motivates us. The media and its advertisers have found it to be quite profitable. Think about how much you alone spend on fear. Anything that includes the word "insurance" is a cost associated with fear. Auto insurance is fear of getting in an auto accident. Health insurance is the fear of encountering health problems. Home insurance is required if you fear you couldn’t repair or replace your home. Generally if you are an insurance sales man you are a leach to the American free market economy. It has become a symbiotic and necessary occupation. But one that serves no propose other to be the middle man between the mechanic, doctor, or carpenter.

The only exception to this rule might be the life insurance salesman. He is more of a gambler. Everybody is going to collect on that someday. His job is to set the rules and play the odds that he is going to use the money you give him to make more then the amount eventually paid out. You may never get in an auto accident (unless you live in Oklahoma City), you may never get sick, you may never have your house damaged, but you will die. No matter how much money you spend on insurance the agent will not be able to fix that.

Fire alarms, security alarms and equipment, auto theft device, and even the concealed weapon are all designed to set fears at ease. How often are you offered warranties and guarantees? They are a vendor’s way of quelling your fear of a substandard product.

The media through influence of vendors have made us afraid of what we eat, afraid of where we go, and who we talk to. There are programs that make you self conscious (afraid) about how you look, how your house looks, how your kids act, and how your life is run in general. This type of fear has lead to an un-confident dysfunctional generation that beg, "rate me", "judge me", "vote for me".

I spend more time quelling my wife's "superstitions" and unwarranted fears then I do just hanging out with her. From fear of spiders, bugs, and traces of dirt, to public perception and approval. It is humorous to consider the things she doesn't consider "fear"able. Things like health, finances, and family relationships. She is more the average American then I am. This is evident by the state of our national health, economy, and family structure relative to the prosperity of companies that offer beauty and perception products. A strong media emphasis on these shallow attributes has been instilled through repetition through generations. Despite 2 doctors, 3 nurses, the Lamaze coach, and a few friends telling my wife that you no longer have to boil water for the baby’s bottles, she still insisted. This was mainly at the drive of her mother. The marketing was so strong that even trusted experts were not trusted on this issue.

Many of these precautions are necessary. The question is the logic of use of resources compared to the potential of the risk. Huh? There you go again. Let me put it this way. Here is the top 10 reason people die in the United States according to CDC for 2004, the latest compete data.

  1. Heart Disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Lung Disease
  4. All Accidents (Auto, home, work)
  5. Diabetes
  6. Alzheimer’s Disease
  7. Flue and Pneumonia
  8. Kidney Disease
  9. Septicemia
  10. Suicide

Top 10 and you notice what isn’t in there? "Terrorism". As a matter of fact Homicide squeaked in at number 15 that year. Terrorism would have been listed as a sub-category of that field. Yet we spend 500 billion per year just in direct cost on defending ourselves from a foreign agent. There is about 2.5 million deaths per year in the US. So in 2003 your chances of dying at the hands of a terrorist was .12%. Yet we spent 1/5th of the budget on that issue. See it graphed here. (Note that the "emergency spending bill for Iraq was not included. It’s been going on 4 years, how could that have not been an pre-estimated?)

The NIH grants a mere $28 billion in research money for diseases. This is spread out over 300 universities. Look down that list again. 8 out of the top 10 reasons for dying in the US is a disease. Yet we spend less then a 16th % of what we do on defending against terrorism. Much of that defense money is poorly invested after all of that.

What is the drive behind the American voter who would so willing spent their money, send their sons and daughters, and caste their votes influenced by a fear of something that has little chance of effecting them? If the end result of spending tax dollars is meant to protect "Americans from dying" why not pump more money into disease research. Hey how about any drugs developed under government funded programs are given out free or greatly reduced to Americans who paid for them!!

The problem with this environment is that it counter intuitive to the ideology that is required to be the United States of America. Could you imagine if out relatives and forefathers were to given into their fears. Those strong enough to face their anxiety and the ridicule of others are leaders. Followers are what you find in the extreme sectarian nations. There the leaders use fear to keep the people subservient.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.-- Helen Keller.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Open Letter To The Terrorists

Dear Terrorist,

In the past you have been using your violent and destructive acts to scare us and coerce us into not wanting freedom. Since we do not condone violent and terrifying acts, "terrorism", to change the minds and practices of other countries’ citizens, we can only assume our current non-violent and pleasurable attacks have not worked on you. Since we know our government doesn’t condone "terrorism", our planes must have dropped puppy dogs and fluffy pillows on your villages. I can not believe that has not made you submit to the ways of democracy and freedom. Since bullets and machine guns are pretty violent and certainly would inspire "terror" certainly our troops must be using squirt guns and strawberry flavored silly string to bring you to your knees. Yet this has not wavered your resolve to rob us of our freedom, pursuit of justice, and functional democracy.

Since your armies were not waiting to storm our borders and take over on September 11th 2001, we can only assume you meant the strike to be a catalyst. How did you know Americans so well that if you scared them enough they would shoot themselves. Since nobody would believe that you could bring the United states to ruble by simply crashing a few planes into a couple of sky scrapers and a building in the capital, your mission must have had a deeper objective. We have been told that you will not stop until you have robbed us of our desire to remain free, just, and in control of our own government. You have sought to destroy our ideology that we have set forth as "self evident". Our governing officials tell us that your objective is to disembowel our "perfect union" and destroy our system where people are "to be treated equally under the law." Your ultimate goal is to get us to accept that the only means of conducting negotiations is through acts of violence and destruction as you do. We are told that after hundreds of years, you have all the suddend decided that we needed destroyed and converted on a whim.

This letter is to inform you that you can stop the attacks now. You have won. We are well on our way to being everything you wanted for us. We now have less right to privacy by way of the domestic wiretapping policies of this administration. The justification is the new threat created in the "post 9/11 world." Since that devastating day in September of ‘01 we have willingly looked the other way as our government has imprisoned American citizens with out just cause. You will be happy to know that we no longer democratically elect our leaders in true respect to democracy. Sure we all are allowed to go and vote. But magically the outcome of these elections are not consistent with popular opinion. This can be attributed in part to Walden W. O'Dell, the CEO of the company that makes the voting machines. He said Diebold was, "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president." Amazingly, Ohio, the most devastated state in the nation by way of the Bush administration and republican legislative policies, delivered. They delivered the decisive last tipping votes. Americans looked the other way and accepted even though many suspicious inconsistencies showed up on these unauditable paperless machines have manifest. Diebold has been opposed to producing machines that create a trail. Fear has driven the most sensible Americans to accept reduced liberties in favor of security. Now we even accept kidnapping foreign citizens with no offer of innocence until proven guilty. We kill innocent civilians in the name of our own cause. We have even reverted to encouraging acts often used by you terrorist, a.k.a. torture, to get what we want. You hit the US for no apparent reason to spread your ideology. We in turn turned Iraq into rubble for no apparent reason to spread our ideology. This past week we have been shown that not all men are equal under the law. If you have connections to leaders and lots of money, you do not have to suffer the dame fate as the poor, especially true if you are a man and not a woman.

Our country has become less free, less just, less happy, and less democratic since you sucker punched us on 9/11. Our leader believes he is directed by God to kill. Sure he isn’t Muslim, but hey these things take time. Who would have thought we would be so immersed in the Hispanic culture just 50 years ago. Don’t worry, we will still send money to support your Jihad via the purchase of gasoline for our gas guzzling SUV’s. Currently it seems you can count on a steady stream of "infidels" in your countries in which you can martyr yourselves against for at least the next year. Think of all the money that people won’t have to spend trying to get over to the United States to get your 70 virgins. I mean it took like 10 years of planning to do that crazy thing before, and let us face it, that was a one-time deal, nobody is going to let you do that again.

Well , that is it. I am guessing that since you haven’t attacked, you already knew this stuff though. The fact that the only CIA terror plots uncovered so far has been those concocted by angry and mentally unstable US citizens. All of them like the plot against JFK, Fort Dix, or the rag tag group from Florida has been held up as huge successes. While many have tried to contact Al-Qaeda, none have been linked. I would think that if they did uncover a legitimate intonation plot, they would tote it out like a thanksgiving turkey.

So please stop attacking us. We are doing enough to kill ourselves anyway. Thank you and have a nice day.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pardon Me

The pardon

Today the illogical and bully conservative movement are making points that resemble a group of 2nd graders caught spying on the girls bathroom. “But he did it too.” First statement out of their mouths is usually, “But Clinton pardoned 400 people.” Like your mommies told you when you were kids, “Just because your friend jumps off a bridge…..” is still wise advice today.

In the wake of the Clinton debacle I voted for Bush in 2000. Not certain that he was going to make a great leader, but at the time I thought, “How much worse could it get?” Boy I will never ask that again. I felt what Bill Clinton did was wrong and was appalled at the time. He was charged with perjury. I also agree with the critics who say that those questions were not ones the government had a right to ask. But they did, he lied, he ultimately was acquitted. An acquittal that was handed down by a republican held senate. He lost his license to practice law for awhile.

In the end what he was questioned about was not a crime. Lying to the grand jury was. The result of his actions were that millions of potential Americans ended up staining Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress and the American male got to add another term to his vocabulary to insinuate oral sex.

Scooter Libby was convicted in a court. He was convicted of “obstruction of justice”. He was sentenced and was on his way to jail. His crime was undeniable. The jurists came out of the trial and stated that they had no doubts of his guilt during interviews. They believed that there was a greater cover up and that they wished to have heard from the vice president. His crime was part of a ring of deception perpetrated on the American public. What that means is they felt equally moved that more people were also guilty. The prosecutor did not have enough evidence to guarantee a conviction.

Libby was part of a group that sought to bully Joseph Wilson through means more becoming of a dictatorship. Ambassador Wilson offered intelligence that could have persuaded the congress and senate to not send nearly 3,600 US soldiers to their death, send 26,000 of them to be injured, create a new “breeding ground for terrorism”, and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. If the Administration had heeded his information, maybe would cold have spent the money chasing down the terrorist connected to Al-Qaeda. At the very least an avenue of accurate intelligence wouldn’t have been collapsed. Mr. Libby and anybody connected to this criminal act should be considered enemies of the state and not pardoned.

Now that we had a little American Legal history lesson, let us put it in context we all can grasp. Imagine two guys run a red light one gets a $150 fine the other two years in prison. Sound like an imbalance of justice. They both committed the same crime. The truth is one was charged with a traffic violation, the other with Vehicular homicide. The result of two people doing the exact same action had two different impacts. To make it more accurate, I would have to include the guy who was convicted of vehicular homicide was fleeing from police at the time. That shows the difference in intent. Libby was fleeing from the grand jury in order to cover up a crime. Bill Clinton was on the back end of a line of traffic scooting through a yellow light.

The defenders of this actions also state that Richard Armitage was the one who leaked the name. They say that since he didn’t have access to that information through secure venues he couldn’t have violated his obligation or the law. Basically he must have surmised on his own Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status, and there for he did not disclose a known state secret. It is a great defense that stinks like a skunk, but really it is difficult to disprove. Remember we are dealing with lawyers, they are paid to find loopholes like a McEmployee is paid to sell fries. First why would anybody believe him is he didn’t have access to the information. Secondly, why would this lone guy want to go out and take this activity on his own? What was his intent? And if Cheney had nothing to hide, why not come state it in court? It didn’t hold water for the jury, the judge, and the logic.

This action still walks the line as dangerously close to being a violation of the law.
The reason for pardoning was to give a citizen a way to receive reprieve process. The founders had the foresight and understanding to know laws that have sentences guidelines left loopholes or various disconnects between the crime and sentencing. The only sentencing guideline in the constitution is a death penalty for those who commit treason. Sharing state secrets with the enemy would be considered treason.

In old England a lot of trivial crimes carried death sentences. These crimes cold easily be brought against their political rivals or movement leaders. The downside is that they could easily be proven against friends and cohorts of the monarchy. So in those cases the Lords had the ability to pardon.

That example is what the founder didn’t want pardons used for. However, they did understand that crimes are not black and white. For example currently there is a young adult in jail in Georgia for 10 years for having sex with a minor. We all agree that child molestation is a heinous crime and should be prosecuted to “the fullest extent”. However the perpetrator in this case had less then 2 yrs in age difference. He was 17 at the time and his consenting partner was 15. (His Name is Genarlow Wilson's and the story can be found here.) This is the reason pardons were created. Everybody agrees that two teens having sex should not constitute a 10 year sentence against the male. The law has since been changed. That is what pardons were meant to be used for.

The pardon of Lewis Libby was closer to the reason the founders hesitated and ultimately gave that power to pardon only to the president. Remember that there were no term limits when the constitution was written and it was always assumed it would be political suicide to pardon somebody that was unpopular. The “lame duck” is one of the few ill side effects of term limits.

This pardon also walks the line because the one reason a pardon can not be issued is in the case of impeachment. This is where the law and justice has been bent over the rail and forcefully taken from behind. Again, the law states that you can not pardon people involved with an impeachment. The vice president and possibly the president would have been impeached if Scooter Libby was forced to disclose what he knew. Libby refused to talk about issues that would have lead to the impeachment of his boss. He did this knowing full well that even if he was convicted, as long as his boss was never impeached, he could get a pardon. Even the jurors said, “the wrong guy was on trial.” The hope was that the fall guy would become a singing bird. He no longer has that inspiration. This is exactly what the founding fathers feared would happen with the power of pardons. That is why they only granted it to the president.

Law enforcement knows the value of getting a conviction of a low level drug dealer to use as leverage to work up the chain. The events have walled up the ability to eventually hold the perpetrators of the misguided intelligence to be forced to answer weather they were criminally fraudulent or just incompetent. This is way there is such outrage over this action. Something went severely wrong in Iraq, and “We the people” want to know why?

You know I have been trying to get rid of this dang parking ticket that I got unjustly for years now. Do you think I could get a pardon?

"The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through." - Alexis de Tocqueville

Monday, July 2, 2007

He Went And Did It

President Bush pardoned I Scooter Libby!! As readers know this is an issue near and dear to me. The previous post can be found here. In a show of the extent of the corruption that runs rampant through this administration President Bush chose to pardon the only person so far held accountable for the act of high crimes and treason.

Here is direct evidence of the two faces of this crime ring that has histed the white hose for the last 8 years.

From Monday September 29th 2003. Highlights. "The president believes leaking classified information is a very serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest extent..." "McClellan said that if anyone at the White House leaked Plame's identity, he should be fired, and pursued to the "fullest extent."

Then October 29Th 2005 nearly 2 hard fought years later. The best the political process could come up with is an obstruction charge. More Highlights from this article. "Libby said in a written statement he is "confident that at the end of this process I will be completely and totally exonerated." Well you weren't Mr. Libby.

This is a law that needs changed. Any person connected with an administration with direct reporting to any of the executive offices (and yes Mr. Cheney, you are part of the executive branch) can not have effect on any sentence brought against them. Connections to disclosure of state secrets needs to be reaffirmed a serious crime. Presidential pardons in general need to be removed from the books.

Where was Mr. Bush's compassion when Martha Stewart was convicted of the same thing. Here actions amounted to gaining basically one slow days salary. We are not talking about stains on a dress. Scooter Libby's actions resulted the fear mongering motivation that helped convince congress and the American people to send 3600 Americans to their deaths, and many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as well.

You know I voted in 2000 for this idiot. The main reason was I was looking for honesty and accountability to be restored to the office after the Clinton indiscretions. What we got in that department was the replacement of a firecracker with a nuclear bomb.
As an American I see this and feel my hands are tied. When will these criminals be held accountable for their actions. Who is going to pay the price for these heinous acts. I guess there isn't really much more that I can say about that.

Counter text

New counter