Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Like befuddled deer leaping into a mirage of water
Deluded fools in their ignorance cling to outer forms
And with their thirst unslaked, bound and confined,
They idealise their prison, pretending happiness.
 - Royal song of Saraha

According to Alternet, this is what's in the "Budget for All":

• Direct hire programs that create a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, and a Student Jobs Corps, among others.
• Targeted tax incentives that spur clean energy, manufacturing, and cutting-edge technological investments in the private sector.
• Widespread domestic investments including an infrastructure bank, a $556 billion surface transportation bill, and approximately $2.1 trillion in widespread domestic investment.
Look at that. Amazing. It's going to hurt us, somehow. It has too much relevance to the state of reality.

So what does a country need to have equality and prosperity?

France and Brazil were the first to have trade surpluses  after the recession hit. What's also curious is, according to the Economist, the tax pictures of the two countries look about the same, "Brazil levies enormous taxes on just about everything: despite an estimated half of its economy being informal, its tax burden approaches 40% of GDP." France's comes close.  They also have very strong cultures of democracy, but I'm putting that aside for now.

I bring this up because there are other proposed budgets that will be cheered for the wrong reason. When I see his logic, it's impossible for me to take seriously someone like Business Insider's James Pethokoukis who wants to have "economic growth" without taxes, since taxes would be "economy-crippling." He laments that "the middle" as well as "the wealthy and the bankers" are both in it together, getting "pinched." This is common rhetoric in the business press, from the Economist to Business Insider. One simply wags his finger when taxes and regulation come up. Is this factual, or just a superstition?

According to Pethoukoukis's paper, France is always "inventing new forms of taxation" and busily having protests. The paper admits these are what outsiders don't like about the country, and pretty much leaves the discussion there.

As the two countries stand today, France now has a trade deficit, partly due to the Euro. However, they also have a president who is saying things like this:

“There’s no reason why deregulated finance, which brought us to the current situation, can’t participate in the restoration of our accounts.”

So maybe France doesn't have the winning strategy. But the picture of crippling an economy with taxes just doesn't hold up. While Coca-Cola warned France that they would lose business for a tax there, it's still obviously operating, and adjusted its policy to the regulations. They also have far more opportunity, the poor can become richer easier.

Moving on to Brazil, what do we see? They still have a trade surplus.

If the hostile rhetoric against the "Progressive" budget tells you anything, it's that whatever good there is in the plan isn't going to be looked at.

Starting with the center of the road budget, the Bowles-Simpson act, which was defeated before I had time to even know what was in it:

  1. $200 billion reduction in discretionary spending[13] with proposed cuts including reducing defense procurement by 15% and closing one third of overseas bases, eliminating earmarks, and cutting the federal work force by 10%.
  2. $100 billion in increased tax revenues through various tax reform proposals,[13] such as introducing a 15 cent per gallon gasoline tax and eliminating or restricting a variety of tax deductions such as the home mortgage interest deduction and the deduction for employer-provided healthcare benefits.
  3. Controlling health care costs by maintaining the Medicare cost controls associated with the recent health care reform legislation,[13] in addition to considering a public option and a further increase in the authority of Independent Payment Advisory Board.
  4. A reduction in entitlements, including farm subsidies, civilian and military federal pensions and student loan subsidies.[13][14]
  5. Modifications to the Social Security program to raise the payroll tax and the retirement age.[13]

So, the priorities, man! Tax the ancient oil, whatever, work out the kinks in the mortgage blah blah, good. But, cuts to school loans, what the heck? Good riddance to this, and Obama's bonanza of tax cuts is hardly any better. The Ryan budget, which puts our spending at a measly 19.8% of GDP, needs to go too.

So is there anyone who has the right idea in the business press? Hard to find them. Dug up this gem though, that Business Insider pretends to link to, who says

For the record, I think the “fiscal responsibility” zeal now sweeping through Congress is equal parts delusion and sham. For a vigorous debunking of the current fixation on deficits, see James K. Galbraith’s recent Nation essay. Real fiscal responsibility would mean ramping down military misadventures and making smart investments in future health, prosperity, and ecological sanity. Devoting real resources to school lunches is a perfect example. Doing otherwise is a grave mistake.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I have a lot of questions about protesting

Will I be arrested and humiliated? How do I help stop war? Is going door to door going to turn people away from the cause? If I don't show up with 29 footnotes in a paper covering Obama's favorite wars, Libya, Afghanistan, the Serbian civil war and World War 2, am I not even helping at all? Am I prepared enough? I sure hope so. I don't know why I'm not going to door to door to hand out fliers. Does that hurt or help the cause?

Do I need a legal permit to protest NATO this May?

This will be my first protest. What happens to people when they do something for the first time? Will I be traumatized like Hitler when he saw where his hot dogs were made?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Limbaugh Reflects Sick Culture

Rush Limbaugh called a law student, Sandra Fluke, a "slut"   -- he says: taxes paying for contraception amounts to prostitution. I don't really expect much better from him. What are the consequences of this?

I want to get out of the way the obvious. Limbaugh is playing his usual game, which is to make his point but let people get distracted by another point. It's very sneaky and he's good at it. It's a fake-out. Bring up government's role, and then come up with a way to make everyone listen to him. You know he's following this rationale when he only apologies for his choice of words. It's why he has some quite stupid people agreeing with him, which is especially depressing. That means that the fact that Limbaugh is not actually exploiting anyone except people dumb enough to listen to him is the minor point. The major point is that he has dumb people listening to him, so he is an influential public figure and controls to some degree the spirit of the nation. He might even be rewarded with new advertisers for what he said.

Let's also get his logic dismantled. Limbaugh isn't the rebel. He's picking on a woman for asking the government to actually protect people. Limbaugh's perspective is protected (maybe) but it should be long gone from the present. The label of "slut" arguably made sense (maybe) before condoms were invented because if you slept around, you'd spread disease. It sure explains why sex is considered "original sin" and "taking foreign wives" is a huge sin in the Bible. But that logic works against Rush here.

This points to the most dangerous thing here. It is not Limbaugh's word choice, as he wants to believe, but his entire argument. The "get the government to stop paying for healthcare" crowd is probably small enough to be its own cult. Bad things happen in cults, you start to adopt a very narrow set of values and hatreds, and you just live in your own little world.

It should be noted that there's a larger cult than Limbaugh's following. It's called the whole country. The country is plugged into the media. It is estimated that Americans watch around blah blah blah, we all know, we watch an enormous amount of television. Not only that, we watch mostly our own television, that is, made by us.

I bring this up because what saturates the media are Limbaugh's very old fashioned gender roles. Viewers are expected to accept women as "passive" sex objects, with men more or less preying on them. In fact, when the roles are reversed, and a woman rapes a man, it's played off as humorous. This is the starting point of entertainment. So even recognizing that advertisers are fleeing Limbaugh, there are still problems.

When you have a culture that totally misinforms you of what women and men actually are, you have to expect terribly evil things to be said. For heaven's sake I used to think you just had to stare at a girl to make her like you, because that's how Bart Simpson did it.

When people ask me what do you want to do about this stuff, I say, "encourage people to challenge what they believe." That means start with yourself. If you're a liberal, read conservative opinion. If you're an atheist, read the bible. If you're a Christian, read Hitchens or something. Otherwise, you might even attribute the very act of prejudice, cult-like qualities, or others to a specific group and believe yourself immune. Don't be a Limbaugh.