Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I was getting ready to say some really nasty things about Bush, until I realized that this report was comparing 2003 and 2004. This time frame is too close to the tax cuts to say if the increase in the poverty rate was due to the tax cuts, or if it was a result from the stock bubble burst and 9/11 trauma.
The BLS has more current data, the BLS shows a steady rise in hourly earnings. It shows a big drop in the number of jobs after the stock market burst ... but with a steady gain in jobs for the last two years. The BLS shows the number of jobs peaking at 132,546,000 in 2/2001. We dipped to a low of 129,827,000 in May 2003. We reached the 2001 level of jobs again February 2005 at 132,873,000.
The BLS Data indicates that the 2004-2005 report might be better. 'course, we won't know the answer to this question for another year.
Regardless, an increase in the poverty rate brings to light the issue of how to organize society so that we minimize the poverty rate. I suspect that this report will surface in quite a few publications demanding more social spending. I tend to lean to the people talking about the ownership society. It seems to me that the best way to decrease poverty is to define policies that increase the base of ownership.
Unfortunately, I am really not sure if Bush had structured his debt fed tax decreases to foster ownership, or if the tax breaks simply favored the rich. Citizens for Tax Justice has some due criticism for Bush's 2003 tax break, and the spending policies.
A regressive tax break funded by a huge build up in debt would end up increasing poverty and further fuel the gap between rich and poor. Mr. Bush, to create an "ownership society" you need to do things which increase ownership. Regressive tax cuts won't hack it.
Unfortunately, I the 2003-2004 report is too close to 2003 tax break to judge the affects of the policy.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
This massive debt is the thing that is putting social security in jeopardy.
The problem is that the Pay As You Go retirement system has placed the bulkwark of American retirement income on a single financial tool - taxes on income.
There really is no guarantee that our children's incomes will rise to meet the challenge of our retirement demand.
I favor personal accounts because the accounts could help diversify this retirement bundle. Failure to diversify the retirement incomes leaves the future elderly at a greater risk than they have in the market. A drop in incomes or a continued drop in the employment rate could devastate the future elderly.
The goal of private accounts should be to diversify retirement investment...not to destroy social security. It should be an optional thing. There needs to be only a modest percent of people opting for private accounts. Allowing some people out of SSN makes SSN stronger.
The problem comes in implementing a switch from a Pay As You Go to a diversified model. The money going into social security at this moment goes to pay liabilities assumed decades ago. The money being paid into the system creates liabilities that we will not see for decades.
Moving from a Pay As You Go system would require shifting liabilities backwards. Those people who opt for private accounts take money out of the current system and remove a future liability. The problem is that the government today would then have to borrow money to pay current retirees.
Since the goal of private accounts is to diversify future retirement incomes and not to destroy SSN, I think the initial phase of retirement accounts should be both modest. Opting out of SSN should also be costly. Let's say a particular future liability was $1000 at current prime rate, a person opting for a private account would only get $750.00 in their private account. The other $250 would in the main SSN pool.
The goal of SSN is to guarantee that people have an income. As such, you may want the private accounts to have saving requirements. For example, you may only be allowed to have a private account if you have x number of dollars in an IRA or savings.
The goal of private accounts is to diversify and reduce the demands placed on future paychecks. Diversifying does not mean and end to SSN. I think the ideal solution would be to adopt private accuonts but to make it costly to switch to a private accounts.
Looking at the current US deficit and the massive increase in entitlement payments, the US is placing unrealistic demands on future paychecks. If we cannot figure out a way to diversify retirement income, we could create a systemic crash.
Monday, August 29, 2005
I suspect that the aftermath of Katrina will push the US over $8 trillion in debt.
The reign of George the Second began with a debt of $5,674,178,209,886.86. The first several years of the run up in this debt could be attributed to actions taken by Bush's predecessor. A portion of it is due events such as 9/11, the tsunami and Katrina. Still, it looks like Bush can go down as the least fiscally conservative president in history.
The government needs to rush relief to the areas hit by Katrina. It will be close. My guess is that the US will tip $8 trillion this fiscal year (before 9/30). The debt was $7.932 trillion on 8/26. We need only a 0.857% increase to hit $8 trillion.
For that matter, I am proud to live in a nation where police brutality is an exception and the rule.
The fact that police brutality is not the rule means that occurences of brutality are more sensational.
There is big money in getting pictures of police brutality. A few good shots of police brutality with sniping slogans about the evils of civil society will shoot any web site into the stratosphere. You can also make money by selling the footage to big media or taking the direct approach of lawsuits.
Documenting Injuries is a page by Legal Support Ottawa. The purpose of the site is to train activists to get the most from the violence that they incite. The goal of any mass demonstration is to create a sufficient threat to illicit a response from the police. You don't get much from the violence without documentated evidence.
The police tend to react more stongly against minorities. Putting minorities in the way police during a praxis is a good way to get photographs of brutality. Unfortunately, although people with dark skin hurt every bit as much light skinned people, the bruises really don't stand out as well.
The article notes that the medical community isn't that eager to help create the damning documentation needed to support the cause. It is almost as if the medical community has this pathological attachment to the Hippocratic Oath and err on the side of treating patients toward the more noble goal of furthering revolutionary aims. Taking the victims to an emergency room or calling in paramedics seems to invoke some sort of hidden triage procedure that separates the activist from the praxis.
The Jury system also seems rigged with far too many rulings favoring the police who were incited to brutality to the victims that were brutalized after the police were incited to violence.
The article fails to mention that the police are also documenting and recording their activities at an unprecedented rate. We can hope that this documentation will lessen police brutality. Many of the most damning videos of police misconduct in recent years have come from the police themselves. You know, there actually are policemen who hate police brutality.
Although activist group's that create praxises aimed at inciting violence turn my stomache. I think it is good for the public to know how to document abuses from the powers that be. Photographic documentation of unprovoked abuses can lead to change. For example, the photographs from the unprovoked police raid of a permitted party in Utah County is making an impact. The poeple living in Utah County do not want a police state, although the ideology of the area often makes them lean toward that direction.
Being prepared is a good idea, although the chance of your being in the right place at the right times to take world alternating photographs of real events is small, I think it is good to have a digital camera on hand. Likewise, the courts should continue to err on the side of those people who do document abuse.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
"In Washington, they call this [personal accounts] the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it - Social Darwinism
Apparently Barack Obama made a big splash by equating personal accounts with Social Darwinism. I have seen this references to this quote of late. The hint is that libertarians are such evil people that they not only want to see you starving on the street. They want to see you go EXTINCT!
Equating your opponents policies with widespread death and poverty is a very effective jab.
Personally, I've filed this stab equating Social Darwinism and Ownership Society as garbage discourse.
The people who are promoting the Ownership Society start with an entirely different question. They start by asking what is the best way to achieve social progress: It is better to tax the middle class into submission to hand people checks, or it is more effective to help the poor develop meaningful assets?
The proponents of the Ownership Society hold that the best route to social progress is to organize society so that people have ownership of meaningful assets. Those promoting the ownership society are essentially promoting an end to the status quo where there is a very small, very rich class that owns everything in favor of a broader distribution of ownership.
The opposite of an ownership society is one where the majority becomes wards of the state, and we become dependent on our politicians for our sustenance.
Nowhere in the ideals of the ownership society do you see people arguing that our society should be organized so that the majority of people die and go extinct. The ownership society is driven by ideas on the best path to progress.
The Ownership Society fits well within the thoughts of Adams, Locke, Jefferson (who's ideal society seemed to have everyone owning a farm) and other classical thinkers.
Classical thinkers tend put economic collapse, famines and widespread economic depravity as things to avoid.
Social Darwinism is a different beast. The term "Social Darwinism" orginated in the field of sociolgy, and became popular among economists who had more of a Marxist view of economics. Marx's material dialectics pretty much makes people helpless cogs in the meat grinder of history.
It is within the scope of material dialectics that you see the idea of Social Darwinism take its full bloom. It is within the tradition of Hegel and Marx that you see people arguing that mass starvation of one's enemies and the extinction of entire races as a good thing.
Not surprisingly, it is in left leaning societies that you see political leaders actually creating economic situations to starve out their enemies.
In the classical line of thinking, the question of personal accounts verses pay-as-you go is about whether or not we should try and acheive social progress by making people wards of the state or by helping them develop meaningful assets.
Claiming that Ownership Society = Social Darwinism is simply an example of a projecting Marx's views onto people who reject the Marxist model.
BTW, people who've studied evolution would know that evolution continues regardless of who is in power. We are not going to magically stop the fundamental structure of life by putting socialists into power.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
I think the bump in gas prices is great as the fluctuations create interest in alternative energies. The question is what is more unnatural. The mystery drop in the price of oil to below a dollar a few years ago, or the bump in prices up to $3.00 that currently dominates the news?
Anyway, here is a link to the National Renewable Energy Lab which researches alternative energies (well every thing but nuclear ... which is politically incorrect.)
My personal low for Bush came with the shock and awe campaign followed the failure to defend Iraq's cultural treasures.
The fact that Americans troops are staying and slugging out the fight for a legitimate attempt at democracy makes me proud. The ongoing violence in Iraq shows a people caught in the struggle between forces wanting their leaders to rise through violence and those who want a system based on civil discourse. I was upset with the US invading Iraq, but am happy that we are standing beside Iraqis working for a civil form of government.
Progressive elements in the US are calling this current process a quagmire.
I don't see the quagmire, if any thing, it seems that the US is pushing the transitional process too quickly. The rapid pace for writing the Constitution fails to give sufficient time for public input. One of the news reports I saw mentioned that the current Iraqi Constitution is looking less like a contract between the Iraqi government and its people...and is looking more like a pact between warring factions in Iraq.
If anything, the process of writing a Constitution is going too quickly and is missing the deliberation needed to create a lasting document. The greatest fear is that the rush to get a Constitution on the table runs the risk of creating a document so geared at appeasing the conflicts between Kurds, Sunni and Sh'ites that it fails to provide adequate protection for the many minorities in Iraq.
Wars are clean and spectacular. They make great footage. The creative process of developing a deliberative democracy is painfully slow, full of rhetoric and contentious.
In the long run, I think the efforts by Progressives to paint the process of writing a Constitution as a quagmire will back fire.
Where Bush failed was not telling us that invading Afghanistan and Iraq would entail a decade long committment and creating the illusion that the fight for freedom is simply a matter of a shock and awe campaign. Such techniques work to establish a dictatorship, democracies are necessarily ugly and usually take several generations before the democratic ideals firmly take root.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Here are some web sites describing the event:
Music Versus Guns includes news reports and first hand accounts of the raid. The Salt Lake Tribune's article includes links with videos of the raid. The DJs also posted an account of the raid.
The whole rave thing appears silly to me. Provo's tendency to close venue when they become popular is also silly. I've been following the Provo Music Industry for several years. It appears that Provo does everything possible to block permits for any organization counter the the LDS dream of creating an Iran in the American desert. Provo has a horrifically convoluted system of permits. It is not surprising that a promoter ends up with the wrong permits.
Provo is a college town filled with raging hormones and entertainment starved youth. It is all but guaranteed that any venue providing music and dancing in an unrepressive atomosphere will flood over with party-goers.
The scary thing is watching the Utah swat teams in action.
The story of this raid in neocon Provo is raging throw the Internet. So I thought I would help it along with a blog post.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Without an internationally recognized codex, countries and businesses would have to depend on bilateral agreements with each trading partner to establish food labeling and safety standards. Let's say there were 200 countries and 10000 foods. A system of bilateral agreements would require 200 * 200 * 10000 different definitions. A system of separate bilateral agreements between each nation really is untenable.
Setting up an internationally recognized codex allows people to draw from an recognized set of definitions.
In bureaucratic parlance. The FDA is interested in "harmonizing" their definitions with the Codex Alimentarius.
The fear is that if the Codex becomes corrupt, then you have this big corrupt supernational organization affecting the food that we eat.
The most controversial area of the codex is with the definitions of nutritional supplements. The cut off between supplement and pharmaceutical is up for debate. A large number of prescribed drugs in the United States evolved from remedies and plants found in Central America.
The fear of the natural food and supplement industry is that the Codex is more restrictive than the FDA. Harmonizing the FDA and Codex would create new restrictions on supplements.
The issue on the Codex came to a boil during the recent vote on CAFTA which one by only one vote.
The internet debate on this is interesting. There appears to be a great deal of disinformation coming from the John Birch Society and from the natural food industry. Of course, there is also the claim that the WHO, FAO, FDA and big pharmaceuticals are generating their own disinformation.
This link contains a quick time presentation published to defeat CAFTA. A large number of anti-CAFTA and anti-Codex sites appeared on the net in the effort to beat CAFTA. The various articles and blog posts have a number of circular references. So it is difficult to determine what is real and what is the product of group imagination.
Things I find interesting. The anti-Codex groups labels anything contrary to their world view as disinformation (This is a good example of the reflexive paradox in action.) The other thing I find intestering is that the claim from the Supplement Industry is that the big pharmaceuticals is trying to use fear to suppress the use of supplements. It appears that the supplemental industry is trying to create a culture of fear to defeat the Codex.
I am supportive of the Health Food industry. I will add more links to LinksAlive.
Monday, August 22, 2005
This idea of jobs that no-one wants is really interesting. There are very few jobs in this world that people really, really want to do. For the most part, we have to do things that we don't want to do to make ends meet.
Refusal to do particular jobs generally has more to do with bad working conditions and low pay than simple pride.
I happen do believe in the free market. If there was not an available crop of immigrant labor to fill argicultural jobs, working conditions and pay would probably increase to the point where the jobs were desirable.
Anyway, the question du jour is: "What would the agricultural system in the US look like without a large pool of exploitable labor just to the south?"
My guess is that the big farms would have to start scrambling to raise wages and working conditions enough to attract Americans back to the farm.
The one really exciting thing is that as the price for farm labor increases, we might start seeing the emergence of new businesses to provide agricultural support and we might see a resurgeance of the independent small farm.
I do not hold the idea that argicultural work is repulsive to the human spirit. The human race grew up on the farm. It is only in the last century that we transformed from a primarily agicultural society to our big modern cities.
In the last century, big commercial farms were able to exploit immigrant labor to undercut prices and drive small farms out of business. It is possible that the loss of access to exploitable labor would lead in a reverse direction...back to more independently owned farms.
In a free market, there really is no such thing as a job that no-one wants. There are untenable business plans. The massive farms that depend on cheap illegal labor for survival would be untenable in a society that does not have such easily exploitable labor. The untenable big farms would likely fail. Small independent farms would resurge.
The "jobs no-one wants" is a complete hoax. The fact that we have a large exploitable class of illegal immigrants that represses wages is the real problem.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Showing a complete lack of wisdom, the mayor of the host city (Rocky Anderson) is calling for a big antiwar protest (Salt Lake Tribune).
The VFW convention is about veterans. Yes, there should be protests by Veterans who are for peace. Yes, locals should join them. But, come on, the host mayor calling for a protest is a bit out of hand. I do agree that there's good argument that Bush II is as bad of a president at Bush 1. But I figure that the VFW meetings should be about the Americans who have put their life on the line to defend the interests and ideals of the nation.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
It seems clear that the Heavenly Father used Intelligent Design when he created the earth 6000 years ago. The obvious answer is to DNA evidence is that, when the Heavenly Father smited the Lamanites, he did so with intelligent design; thus changing their DNA.
Like, the answer isn't obvious.
I am kind of good at this. If there are any other issues you want explaned away, let me know. I could start up a business. I will explain away any issue for just $9.95.
While the act appears as a ruthless uprooting of Isreali citizens (a violation of property rights) the resettlement is about the definition of national borders. Property does not really exist until the property is defined.
The disengagement is clearly an overture for peace and not a cave in to terrorism. For that matter, this risky step toward peace is likely to result in a wave of terrorism from groups in both Isreal and Palestine wishing to block peace.
The real qeustion at the this point is the reaction of the Palestine authority. Isreal put a unilateral action on the table. Will the Palestinian authority take this overture as a step toward peace or revert to the subtle corruption of the Arafat days?
Anyway, I wanted to laud a gutsy step toward peace. Disengagement Forum is an open forum discussing the action. MFA.gov has documents related to the plan.
Monday, August 15, 2005
There also seems to be a recognition that the United States is one of the leading voices against the genocide. The United States has done just about everything short of unilateral action to stop the genocide.
Unfortunately, all efforts have resulted in little more than slowing the pace of the genocide.
My primary opposition to the Iraq war was that, by investing all of our effort in one international cause, we lost our ability to address other concerns such as Darfur. One could put forward an argument that by invading Iraq, we turned our backs on Darfur. The more likely complaint is that we thought we could do it all. The US cannot unilaterally engage Sudan. UN efforts were blocked by China and Syria. So the only real weapon is moral outrage.
There is currently a call to divest from Sudan. I don't like this tact because divesture tends to wipe out the middle class while strengthening the bad guys. As US pension funds divest at bottom dollars in Sudan, China is buying.
Of course, from a progressive standpoint, having American pension funds sell their investments at below market value to China is a great deal. China is, after all, the most "progressive" nation on the planet.
The history of investments and embargoes have been poor. Generally they end up consolidating power in dictatorial hands. Look at the massive wads of cash that we found in the hands of Hussein. The same is true of Castro. Embargos and divesture consolidates wealth into the hands of tyrrants. It also provides an excuse for rogues like Castro and Hussein to rob their people blind.
We should be supporting socially responsible investment in Sudan. Investment in the survivors of Darfur would help reduce the number of post genocide starvations. The real goal should be to give the people of Southern Sudan the wealth of their birthright...the oil under the land.
Rather than a total divesture from Sudan. There should be a qualifier of investments. There should be a demand that multinationals invest in socially responsible ways and should not be benefitting from the genocide. A goode example of this is European Coalition on Oil in Sudan.
The cause of this genocide is economic. Competing warlords want control over the oil to fund their meglomania. People seeking divestment are correct that the solution to the problem is economic. The solution is to structure the ownership of these oil reserves so that more people, not fewer, benefit from the extraction of oil. Divesting simply consolidates controls into the hands of the people who spurred the genocide.
In summary, I am extremely happy to see left and right consolidated on the issue of stopping the genocide in Darfur, but find it heart rending that the United State's hands are tied on this unifying cause. As with so many other issues, we are left with less than adequate means to respond to the issue like divestment. Divestment is a feel good statement, but I am not sure it is the most effective means of ending the hostilities. Divestment and embargos often make matters worse.
There is not an easy answer. People need to maintain the pressure on this issue, continue the documentation.
Church World Services has an informative page on the crisis.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
The film recounts the 2004 presentation of “Fahrenheit 9/11" at UVSC.
This showing was designed as a publicity stunt just prior to the 2004 general election. Moore’s tactic was to make a big showing in the most “conservative” state he could find. Utah is a neocon state. (Utah flip flopped from being the most Democratic state in the Union to the most Republican State in the Union in the 50s).
To make the stunt controversial, the UVSC student committee spent way more than the lecture was worth. They basically spent the entire student entertainment budget on a single event. I would be upset if I were a student at UVSC. I would want my money spent on wild concerts.
Michael Moore is a skilled propagandists who holds a leftist view of life. Provo is the heart of a breed of Mormon propaganda that produces a steady stream of rewritten history to support their world view. The documentary shows the comical results that occur when different propagandists meet.
It would be a worthwhile film in that regard. We get to see the clowns on the left engaged with the jokers on the right. Christian Right and Leftist propaganda are just two sides of the same coin.
My reason for not wanting to see the movie is that I am really stuck on the issue of whether or not discourse is possible. The modern tradition pretty much dismisses the Enlightenment’s faith in reason as naive. The modern tradition holds that man is just a bundle of instincts created through an evolutionary process. Man cannot reason. Man is simply manipulated and controlled by propaganda.
I happen to be one of those naive hold outs who believe that we can reason.
The different reviews and previews I’ve seen indicate that it is a good cross section of thought in Utah. Maybe, I just want to pretend that I am living in a place other than the divisive Utah.
The film makers have a blog, and appear to be both educated at reasonable. Since I like to support artistics expressions from the local community. I will probably end up seeing it when it goes DVD.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
I have nothing against new age, nor do I have anything against California. In many ways, California new age is a welcome bit of rationality compared to what goes on in Salt Lake. I have to delete the entries because I want to maintain the integrity of the regional directory.
Anyway, the entry that showed up today is David Stanley Bell who wrote a book called Foreplay to Afterglow for the Soul, which I guess is about some sort of orgasmic nature experience. Mr. Bell appears to be among the legions of baby boomers who've decided that they were really Native Americans because Native Americans have a superior spirituality. This is one of the quotes from the site.
Native Spirituality is close to nature, dominant culture seems to "rationalize" away truth in exerting its dominion over nature.
The idea that western culture lacks spirituality and that Native Americans lack rationality seems to be a very widespread belief. The basic idea seems to be that nature and science are somehow at odds, while nature and spirituality are in harmony. I love the little aacusation that the science of the dominant culture is a way to rationalize away truth. The impulse of science is to pursue truth by detailed examination of nature.
The actual history of science seems to be the exact opposite of this modern myth. In ancient times, we find man trying to make explanations for all their hardships in supernatural forces. The dominating theme of the spirituality is that this nature we see around us in an illusion, we should seek truth in myth.
It was the scientists who told us to start examining and learning from nature. For that matter, the idea of looking first at nature for answers is still the primary theme in science and analysis.
I think it is also possible to argue that the idea of dominating nature comes from the spiritual side of western culture. Churches and religions seem to have a strange preoccupation with the the way we organize society. It is generally through religion that we find the justification to dominate others and nature. Science does not provide the justification for human dominance.
This theme of a superior spirituality of Native Americans is extremely interesting. The "noble savage" was central to JJ Rousseau (1712-1778). The idea appears in many writers such as Wadsworth. There was even a popular myth in early American that the Native Americans were in fact a lost tribe of Isreal ... giving them great religious significance.
I believe that the early colonial experience with native cultures found the Native American tribes to be extremely diverse. The Cherokee and other tribes found great utily in European science. The French Indian wars found a certain Machiavellian streak in north eastern tribes. The plain Indians and western tribes showed great ingenuity in adopting the horse and rifles before the appearance of white men.
Different pioneer journals seem to indicate that white people were aware of a great amount of diversity among native tribes. They seemed to know that you could seek aid from certain tribes, but needed to avoid others.
I Will Fight No More Forever attributed to Chief Joseph shows a person receptive to Libertarian ideals.
The modern myth is that white man only became aware of the great spirituality of Native Americans in the spiritual awakening of the 60s.
Reading this site by David Stanley Bell, the different rantings of Ward Churchill and other white people who pretend to be indians, I can't help but think that our present new age myth of the super spiritual indian is as much a myth as Noble Savage and other images that white people have tried to impose on Native cultures.
It would be fun to pretend that I am an indian. I think the definition of who and what native americans are should be up to native americans.
As for my particular love of nature. I think I will stick with the love of nature that is inherent in analytic science.
Monday, August 08, 2005
Oddly, most of my traffic seems to be coming through ProtoPhoto, which was a pathetic attempt to make an online photo gallery. I wish I had time to beef it up. The site had a tight diskspace cap. I moved it to a new server, but have not had the time to start working on the content.
Hopefully Back to School will start reversing the fortunes of this web collection. The truth of the matter, though, is that my heart just is not into selling things. My desire is simply to explore ideas. Shopping online is still just a concept in my mind. To really excel at selling stuff, I think you need to be someone who's primary focus is stuff.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
I don't imagine this blog ever having any value because it doesn't have a theme. The shares idea sounds like an interesting way for people to value their ideas. So, I think it will be a fun game to figure out.