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Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/21/2010 13:53:11 MST Print View

Thought provoking posts Craig, and I agree with George that it's good to air these opinions and have this discussion as a way of communicating these eternal issues across generations.

What is real? Well, one of the aims of the scientific 'enlightenment' was to dispel the fog of religious superstition and political machination and bring rational debate to the forefront of human endeavour, politics and culture. And it was hugely successful in a lot of ways.

Citizens formed science clubs and debating societies, endowed libraries with public subscriptions, inspired wealthy people to engage in good works for the public commonwealth, building universities, colleges, theatres and arts foundations.

So what happened that undermined this progress? The political and ownership class reaction to postwar disatisfaction? The fear of demands for equality? Or was it the corrosive influence of the danger forseen by Dwight Eisenhower? The domination of public policy by the military industrial complex and the technological scientofic elite, all fuelled by the desire for profit and power? Or just too much easy living?

As we grapple with these questions, the danger is that we sacrifice the things we wish to preserve in the fog of the battle. So scientific truth is dispensed with in the urge to foster percieved good aims, a means justifies ends situation. The danger is that this becomes an assault on reason itself. A descent into the surreal in order to steer 'reality'. Let's hope we don't lose our way in the labyrinth.

http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Daedalus.html
"It is a fairly safe prophecy that in 50 years light will cost about a fiftieth of its present price, and there will be no more night in our cities. …

Personally, I think that four hundred years hence the power question in England may be solved somewhat as follows: The country will be covered with rows of metallic windmills working electric motors which in their turn supply current at a very high voltage to great electric mains. At suitable distances, there will be great power stations where during windy weather the surplus power will be used for the electrolytic decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen. …

It was of course as a result of its invasion by Porphyrococcus that the sea assumed the intense purple colour which seems so natural to us, but which so distressed the more aesthetically minded of our great grand- parents who witnessed the change. It is certainly curious to us to read of the sea as having been green or blue. I need not detail the work of Ferguson and Rahmatullah who in 1957 produced the lichen which has bound the drifting sand of the world’s deserts (for it was merely a continuation of that of Selkovski), nor yet the story of how the agricultural countries dealt with their unemployment by huge socialistic windpower schemes."

-JBS Haldane 1923-

Edited by tallbloke on 11/21/2010 13:59:48 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no light either. on 11/21/2010 21:07:30 MST Print View

"At the heart, this a culture of smoke screens, marketing spin, legalized corruption, and lies. Spectacle has replaced knowledge. Because of this, I'm not even sure how to have an honest discussion with anyone...especially not on the internet."

Oh so spot on, Craig. The most disheartening part is that very few seem to care, or even notice anymore. Too far into their Soma, I guess. Sooner or later, though, reality will intrude. Hopefully I'll have moved on to that great Sierra in the sky. It ain't gonna be pretty. Entropy never is, especially if you are the entrop-ee.

"Thank you for mentioning doublespeak Tom, as well as the reference to Clinton's discourse on "is". Very pertinent; I truly believe things are becoming so warped that it's hard to know what's real..."

I'm ambivalent about having phrased it that way. It was born of a frustration with Nick going "legal" on me when, heretofore, he had always been very straightforward in our discussions. I guess I got spoiled. I'm sort of used to hearing it in general, but not from him. Still, if it hurt his feelings it was a mistake. Hopefully there's no hard feelings and he'll be back, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, with that list of CEO's that got fired for their campaign contribution choices. ;-)

I share your concern for your grandchildren, and everyone else's as well. I have been Uncle Tom to a lot of friends' kids down through the years and on more than one occasion, especially of late, I have sort of choked up when I look at their innocent faces and eyes all full of wonder and curiosity. They don't deserve what we're leaving them.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/21/2010 21:09:33 MST Print View

"If I'm wrong about this, please explain how what this culture is currently doing is sustainable by any measure."

The silence will be deafening.

Excellent posts, both of them.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/21/2010 21:33:47 MST Print View

Tom et al,

Do not worry, no one has upset me. As a matter of fact, the only person who can upset me is: Me, and that has not happened in several decades. And this thread is the most fun I have had in a long time. Unfortunately, I cannot really spend the time to respond as I probably should.

Let me provide some insights on campaign contributions. Yes, many corporations do sponsor PACs and most corporate officers contribute via PACs, not directly to candidates. The reason corporations sponsor PACs is to solicit donations from people who support the company's point of view. The corporation cannot contribute itself, and the individuals are limited to the amounts I posted a few days ago. All of this is to set the record straight as to corporations directly contributing to campaigns, as many Americans assume corporations own the candidates.

Now to address contributions to trade groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce, and many others, and even lobbyists. It happens and it is a LOT of money. I do not advocate, do not try to rationalize or justify it. But I will explain why it happens (and it is legal). Business is so heavily regulated and taxed that the lobbying industry rose from the attempt of business to protect themselves from government. And why would a business have to protect itself in a country where individual rights are guaranteed by law? Without all the regulations and with limited government, there would be no need for any of these lobbying organizations. As a matter of fact, the lobbying industry has become a multi-billion industry in itself!! The president of the US Chamber of Commerce earns almost $4 million per year!! The government created this industry by trying to control the citizens, businesses, and taxing the economy to death.

And how much are all of us being taxed? The following information includes all taxing agencies (city, county, state, and federal) and was recently reported by the Washington Post:

"At the beginning of President Obama's term, government spending made up 35 percent of gross domestic product. Now, it is up to almost 45 percent, which puts us seventh among advanced economies."

No wonder America is in such a mess.

We do not need all the regulation. If a corporation harms someone or a group of people, we have courts to handle this. The regulatory agencies are not needed, as long as we adjudicate objective laws... laws that can be reduced to the protection of individual rights. Not something like the report I heard about a city on the east coast that was going to make it against the law to leave your car unlocked. If a policeman finds an unlocked car, the owner is issued a citation (e.g the car owner is now the criminal). This how they handle the auto theft problem; not go after the criminals, but go after law abiding citizens. Because leaving your car unlocked turns people into criminals. Insanity.

To give you an idea of how crazy it is getting...

In southern California, any company that employs more than 200 people must comply with SCQAMD ride share rules that are administered by the counties (check out Riverside County Ride Share for another bureaucracy). It is up to each company to comply and to "force employees" to use the company ride share solution. If employees refuse (and they do because ride share is often very inconvenient), then the company is fined... and not a monetary fine. They have to purchase "energy credits" from someone who has them to sell; another crazy business that rose from government regulation. Anyone want to be an energy credit broker? Totally crazy. Oh by the way, the Company Ride Share Administrator has to occasionally travel to meetings and training as required and provided by the government agency, and for some companies this means an employee driving over 200 miles round trip... but guess what? There is no ride share for this mandatory meeting, and often no public transportation. Total waste of time, money, fuel, and emissions. Try to argue that with a government bureaucrat.

Several years ago I ran a business that created excess "energy credits." I could have sold them for a "profit," but I refused. Businesses that needed them were mad at me for not selling, and the mousey government bureaucrat was mad at me because they needed me to sell them to support their half-brained system. The mouse told me it was my civil and social responsibility. I told him that I was not in the business of selling energy credits. But he argued that my company would make more money; and I told him that it was money that we did not earn, so we did not want it. I told him that his agency was immoral, and as such why don't they just take them away from us by force, like everything else they want to take from all of us. I imagine those energy credits are floating around somewhere, or the government acquired them by eminent domain or some other scheme.

Do not be confused by all the government agencies. Many of them have their own agendas and many of the bureaucrats (not all of them) are most concerned with more budget, more power, more rules, and career advancement. I have seen too much of it during my business career. Remember the corner gas station many of us grew up with? Today in California if the gas station also repairs vehicles they often have OVER THIRTY licenses and permits. > 30 to run a small business!! And it you live in California, not only are the State Fuel Road Taxes higher than the majority of the states, but you also pay SALES TAX on gasoline, which is not charged in most states. And in California, gas stations are the only business that I know of which has to pre-pay 50% of the sales tax before they even sell it (unless this has changed since I got out of the business a few years ago).

So all of this means they we are consuming much more than we produce. It is irrational to think that a person, society, or government can continue to consume more than they produce and survive. Actually it is a physical impossibility... which means that we are becoming economically, socially, and morally bankrupt.

America and most of the world needs jobs to feed the population. Companies supply the jobs. Take away their excess profits, and they can no longer create innovative products or new jobs. Keep taxing the wealthy and they will reduce charity, consumer spending, and investment. Over a hundred years ago America created wealth that benefited a percentage of its population that had never been seen in history. If we continue this path all of us will be poor. I do not know about everyone else, but I have never been hired by a poor person. I have always been hired by a wealthy person or successful company.

Edited by ngatel on 11/21/2010 21:40:53 MST.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/21/2010 23:59:39 MST Print View

thanks for the posts xnomanx.

I feel ill seeing the rampant spread of apologist behaviors promoting corporatist, for-profit interests that reduce humans to commodities. Your posts are truly refreshing.

Our legal system is not above the great reach of money, funny seeing these calls to trust a broken system. Now someone needs to call Monsanto, or similar, ethical so I can actually laugh out loud because of something written on the interweb.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/22/2010 00:50:58 MST Print View

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3902.htm

This is the submission of the UK Institute of Physics to the Parliamentary committee which was charged with investigating the CRU email and files leak. Strong words softly spoken, with a few recommendations about enforcing some regulations to keep scientists on the straight and narrow, like submitting data and methods and codes along with papers for publication.

Nick thinks laws can provide the right deterrent to corporations to keep them on the straight and narrow and that this is better than bureaucratic regulation. In an ideal world he's right, but we live in a much less than ideal world where corporations and groups of scientists will get away with what they can, and the only misdemeanour is getting caught.

So Nick, if a corporation kills me through their deliberate negligence, the court will uphold my right to sue them aferwards? That's swell. ;-)

Edited by tallbloke on 11/22/2010 00:51:52 MST.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/22/2010 02:26:27 MST Print View

"Remember the corner gas station many of us grew up with? Today in California if the gas station also repairs vehicles they often have OVER THIRTY licenses and permits. > 30 to run a small business!!"

What's interesting is that a lot of US citizens will still tell you that the US is the home of laissez-faire capitalism: the evidence was always that it was at best a mixed economy.

And it appears that you have so much bureaucracy yet the US owes its current economic malaise to the complete lack of regulation of derivatives and non-recourse home loans. Not very long ago Australia was being criticised for the (comparatively) tight rein its regulators kept on the security markets, banks and insurance companies: no-one's saying that now.

By the way, were you aware that the A$ is now worth more than the US$? The last time that was the case I was in my early 20s.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/22/2010 08:58:40 MST Print View

"All of this is to set the record straight as to corporations directly contributing to campaigns, as many Americans assume corporations own the candidates."

Nick, you can keep talking from dry factsheets (figuratively, not literally) all you want, but Corporations own the lobbyists. The lobbyists often write the laws, favoring their industry, that candidates (well, elected officials) submit for votes.

So I guess you could say that corporations don't own the candidates, they just rent them as needed for a nice, fun bondage session.

"Do not be confused by all the government agencies. Many of them have their own agendas and many of the bureaucrats (not all of them) are most concerned with more budget, more power, more rules, and career advancement."

It's horrible, especially since all those nice, benevolent corporations and their officers don't have any agenda and certainly aren't concerned with more power, more money, and career advancement.

"Without all the regulations and with limited government, there would be no need for any of these lobbying organizations"

Well, of course there would still be a need for lobbyists. Who's going to represent regular Americans in Congress? Certainly not the elected officials! At least, they haven't yet.

"If a corporation harms someone or a group of people, we have courts to handle this."

In theory, sure. But, of course, the corporation can spend all kinds of money on lawyers, get things delayed for years, even outlast whoever is trying to get redress (if they don't bankrupt them first). The do that now, for crying out loud. The 'justice' system is too often as broken as government, to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

Nick, for every story you relate about some crazy government bureaucracy, there's another story about corporate greed harming the general public. Are there too many rules and regulations -- some of them outlandishly stupid? You bet. But that hardly means we should do away with most regulation.

The picture you continually try to paint of the saintly businessman up against the terrible government bureaucrat simply doesn't mesh with the reality of many of us.

My own cynical belief (related in grand generalization): Corporations are corrupt and greedy, elected officials are corrupt and greedy, the average American citizen is intellectually lazy and greedy. Let's call the whole thing off.......

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/22/2010 14:03:54 MST Print View

I finally found out what's really wrong with America. Only 80% of you are firing on all cylinders!

"A new survey finds that 20% of U.S. adults -- over 45 million people -- experienced mental illness in the past year.

Overall, 4.8% (11 million people) suffered serious mental illness, 8.4 million people had serious thoughts of suicide, 2.2 million made suicide plans, and one million attempted suicide, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Nearly 20% (8.9 million) of adults with mental illness in the past year also had a substance abuse disorder, the report found. The rate was 25.7% for those with a serious mental illness -- about four times higher than the rate of 6.5% among people without a serious mental illness,"

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/22/2010 17:00:09 MST Print View

"Do not worry, no one has upset me. As a matter of fact, the only person who can upset me is: Me, and that has not happened in several decades."

Now that is truly an exemplary life. What's your secret, Nick?

"But I will explain why it happens (and it is legal)."

If you own Congress, just about anything you want can be made legal. Whether it is just is another story.

"Business is so heavily regulated and taxed that the lobbying industry rose from the attempt of business to protect themselves from government."

Just as regulations and agencies to enforce them arose from corporate abuses and the need to protect the rest of us from irresponsible businesses.

"The government created this industry by trying to control the citizens, businesses, and taxing the economy to death."

Perhaps a more holistic way to look at it would be to say that businesses created the industry by behaving irresponsibly; this eventially led to regulations, which in turn created the need for lobbyists to grease the palms of legislators, in return for which they were allowed to help write new laws that would enable them to circumvent the regulatory regime they so richly deserved.

"If a corporation harms someone or a group of people, we have courts to handle this. The regulatory agencies are not needed, as long as we adjudicate objective laws..."

Ah, yes, the courts, increasingly packed with pro business "judges" by pro business presidents. The best justice money can buy.

"laws that can be reduced to the protection of individual rights"

Yeah, I keep forgetting that corporations are individuals in the US legal system. It often turns out that some individuals are more equal than others.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/22/2010 17:22:32 MST Print View

"The reason corporations sponsor PACs is to solicit donations from people who support the company's point of view."

Including, I would venture, just about anyone who wants to get ahead in the company. Sort of reminds me of the old United Way fund raising drives where some mid level manager would come by and try to intimidate the peons into contributing. Of course, it was out of pure altruism and not because it would make him look good to his superiors.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/22/2010 17:43:50 MST Print View

"At the beginning of President Obama's term, government spending made up 35 percent of gross domestic product. Now, it is up to almost 45 percent, which puts us seventh among advanced economies.
No wonder America is in such a mess."

A lot of that mess was dumped in Obama's lap when he took office. He's spent the last year and 11 months trying to dig the country out of it, in the face of near treasonous efforts by the Republicans to oppose anything and everything he tries to sort things out, even as the situation continues to deteriorate. I realize it's a principled stand, of course, against encroaching socialism. Bush Jr & Co increased our national debt by ~41%, or some $4 trillion and through lax regulation, sorry Nick, allowed the Wall Street predators to drive the economy into the toilet. Net result? Obama has had to spend a huge amount of money to bail out the banks and try to put enough money into peoples' pockets to generate economic activity, and just plain keep working people from total destitution. Naturally the money had to be borrowed because revenues were down, due to Bush tax cuts and decreased economic activity. But at least you got the last part right: It is, indeed, no wonder the country is in such a mess. You were just off a little on the proximate cause.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 04:50:19 MST Print View

"At the beginning of President Obama's term, government spending made up 35 percent of gross domestic product. Now, it is up to almost 45 percent, which puts us seventh among advanced economies.
No wonder America is in such a mess."

Nick, you're confusing cause and effect: as Tom said, the spending is because of the mess: the mess isn't because of the spending.

And the mess is largely due to an inappropriate absence of regulation, pushed by the same people now criticising President Obama.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 07:11:27 MST Print View

Nick, you're confusing cause and effect: as Tom said, the spending is because of the mess: the mess isn't because of the spending.

Well, I think the problem goes in all directions. There is spending because of the mess, but there is also a mess because of all the spending. I don't think there is anyone really in control of all this. The sheets have snapped in the severity of the storm. And it's going to get worse. No one can control that either. To think we have it all under a control is a really feeble joke.

By the way, I came across this article. Ought to add some spice to the great slithering worm here.

Edited by butuki on 11/23/2010 07:14:46 MST.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 11:15:22 MST Print View

Well butuki, maybe I can offer some feedback about economic climate...

One could blame Nixon's decision to dump the Bretton Woods Agreement by the advice of Milton Friedman - "Just let the free market set currency exchange rates, he said, and trade deficits will self-correct."

David Stockman (of Reaganomics fame) had this to say about Nixon's move - "once relieved of the discipline of defending a fixed value for their currencies, politicians the world over were free to cheapen their money and disregard their neighbors. Global monetary chaos as foreign central banks run their own printing presses at ever faster speeds to sop up the tidal wave of dollars coming from the Federal Reserve."

Or we could go back to the signing of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson had this to say about it's signing:

I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial Nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the Nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the world, no longer a Government of free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.

I'll add some more comments from prominent figures -

Theodore Roosevelt:

Corporation cunning has developed faster than the law of nation or state. Corporations have found ways to steal long before we have found that they were susceptible to punishment for theft. But sooner or later, unless there is a season of readjustment, there will come a riotous, wicked, murderous day of atonement…. These fools on Wall Street think that they can go on forever! They can’t!

James Madison:

The stock-jobbers will become the praetorian band of the government, at once its tools and its tyrants, bribed by its largesse, and overawing it by clamors and combinations. Substituting the motive of private interest in place of public duty, leading to a real domination of the few under an apparent domination of the many.

History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.

Thomas Jefferson:

Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a monied aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [them] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless…. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

Andrew Jackson:

Unless you become more watchful in your states and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges, you will in the end find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away, and the control of your dearest interests have been passed into the hands of these corporations.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 15:28:01 MST Print View

"Unfortunately, I cannot really spend the time to respond as I probably should."

I, for one, would encourage you to take a little extra time. If you are currently posting with one hand tied behind your back, so to speak, I am sure it would be an education for all of us were you to give the subject(s) the attention you feel they deserve.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 15:31:00 MST Print View

Craig, all of which goes to show that it is human nature that nudges the economic climate this way and that. Since people can almost never agree on anything (this thread is a perfect example), there is no way that there is any real control over any of the economics of the world.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 15:31:17 MST Print View

"Yes, many corporations do sponsor PACs and most corporate officers contribute via PACs, not directly to candidates."

Again, to your knowledge, have any of them ever been fired by their board of directors for the choices they made?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 15:43:40 MST Print View

"We do not need all the regulation. If a corporation harms someone or a group of people, we have courts to handle this. The regulatory agencies are not needed, as long as we adjudicate objective laws... laws that can be reduced to the protection of individual rights"

Let's go back 100 years or so, to a time when there were no safety regulations, no child labor laws, no environmental protection laws, and unions were put down violently, often by the police, when they attempted to organize workers to attain decent working conditions and wages. Where were the objective laws then? What recourse did workers and children have? I can speak from personal experience of child labor, because my Dad's father lost 3 fingers working in a stave mill when he was 12 years old; it was not an uncommon accident, either at the mill where he worked or elsewhere. They bandaged him up and he was back at work the next day. My point is that regulations and bureaucracies to enforce them up were a natural outcome of egregious violations of basic human rights by corporations, not just a few outliers either; it was the norm. To this day, corporations get away with what they can and are constantly chipping away at regulations, especially when the Republicans are in power. As for courts increasingly packed with Republican nominees in recent years, they offer scant protection to the common man.

Edited by ouzel on 11/23/2010 15:46:03 MST.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Is it really that bad? on 11/23/2010 16:34:56 MST Print View

With my background in family members coming from countries where the regulations are still like those of America 150 years ago (my Brazilian wife started working in a factory when she was 12) and my experience living with migrant workers here in Japan (mostly from places like Thailand, Viet Nam, Brazil, even, at that time, Ireland!) I can tell you that corporations have little sympathy for the well-being of their workers. People will get away with murder if given the chance.