Tag Archives: plutocracy

#Sloppery

6 Feb

1. The problems with the Sochi Olympics are myriad and sundry, but most of the mockery has been centered on the general shoddiness and unpreparedness of it all. Not to mention safety concerns. What people don’t get is that Russia is not a functioning nation-state, and doesn’t have anything in its long history that comes within miles of the “customer service” concept. Indeed, Russia’s only functioning economic sectors are “corruption” and “graft”, with “gangsterism” close behind. Putin’s portrait on the front desk of one of the unready local hotels speaks volumes. 

It has forever been a feudal kingdom run first by imperial gentry, then by communist nomenklatura, and now by a hybrid kleptocracy/autocracy with a fierce nationalist streak that is joined at the hip with its secret police service. The notion that this Russia could get it together to throw together an Olympic games in its current political and economic climate was always absurd. Perhaps a future Russia will do better. 

2. A United Nations human rights panel sharply criticized the Vatican for: 

…systematically adopting policies that permitted priests to sexually abuse tens of thousands of children globally over the last several decades.

The United Nations committee faulted the church for failing to take effective measures to reveal the breadth of clergy sexual abuse in the past, and for not adopting measures to sufficiently protect Catholic children in the future.

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse,” the report said.

The report also criticized the church’s culture of secrecy and longstanding practice of silencing abuse victims in order to protect the reputation of priests and the church’s moral authority worldwide, asserting that the church had systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.

This is quite possibly the sharpest and strongest criticism yet of what really amounts to a worldwide criminal conspiracy to protect and cover-up sexual assault perpetrated against children by people in a position of trust and authority who donned a mantle of sanctity and holiness. It is nothing short of sickening. 

3. Much of the criticism of the ECC North STEM expansion is emotional rather than factual. The downtown campus isn’t so much a campus as it is a building, and my curiosity is piqued by the interesting group of people who are most vocal about it, and I’d love to know more about who’s funding these efforts. The fact of the matter is that the health-related expansion is taking place at North campus to (a) effectively compete with NCCC and ensure that students and their money don’t end up in another county; and (b) North has the capacity to most inexpensively support the building. It would seem to me that complaints about the commute to Main & Youngs could be alleviated by an improved, more frequent shuttle bus service between downtown, the medical campus, and ECC North, with longer hours and an app to track bus location, departure, and arrival times. If, as the expansion opponents argue, the real issue is student convenience it would seem as if cheaper, more immediate solutions are at hand. A lawsuit to block the ECC North expansion is great for lawyers, bad for students. 

4. Yesterday, bigshots were in town to announce the creation of 43North, a huge business plan competition that will award $5 million in prizes to the best business plans, with the top idea getting $1 million to get started. The competition is open to anyone in the world over the age of 18.  Winning companies will be required to locate in Buffalo for one year, and will receive not only the cash prizes, but free space. Got an idea? Apply here.  

5. You know how people like Chris Collins are salivating over a CBO report that supposedly concluded that Obamacare will cost 2 million jobs? Chris Collins is one of those plutocrats who think that America only exists to comfort the comfortable and further afflict the afflicted. When Paul Ryan is busy fact-checking your clumsy ass, you’ve really gone down a weird rabbit hole. Next time you see Chris Collins in person (that’s a laugh), ask him why he doesn’t think you and your family deserve health insurance. The CBO didn’t say it would cost 2 million jobs – it said that Americans with newly acquired health insurance coverage would be more free

Obamacare would lead to a decrease in the number of hours worked by up to 2 percent in 2024. Most of that drop, the CBO said, would be the result of Americans choosing not to work, for various reasons, but not because employers would want to hire fewer workers on account of the law. Translate those lost hours into full-time employment and it equals up to 2.5 million jobs by 2024. But that’s not the same as jobs being cut.

6. Speaking of our plutocracy, if you want to see the Koch Brothers’ sausage-making recipe, you’re going to want to click here. What people like the Kochs and other billionaires are plotting is to effectively turn the United States into two distinct countries, divided by class.  Succinctly put, they want to effectively end America as we know it and replace our bourgeois revolution of the late 18th century – a product of the Enlightenment – with some restoration of feudalism. The people on the list that Mother Jones obtained would be the lords and you and I would be, at best, mere vassals. The problem is that they’ve got a compliant media, a wholly owned political party, and a poorly informed tea party army to help move the fight along. 

You know, when the rich unionize to halt taxation and further concentrate their wealth and power, doesn’t that prove the fallacy of supply-side, trickle-down economics which has enthralled and destroyed the country since the early 1980s? 

On Smashing the Plutocracy

30 Nov

From CBS News, our budding banana republic plutocracy/kleptocracy unravels itself:

An interview with Lloyd Blankfein is as rare as a look inside the Goldman Sachs money machine. He showed us one of seven trading floors at his Manhattan headquarters. Goldman is one of America’s most successful investment banks. It had net earnings of $4.4 billion dollars last year. When we asked Blankfein how to reduce the federal budget deficit, he went straight for the subject politicians don’t want to talk about.

BLANKFEIN: You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations — the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because it’s not going to — they’re not going to get it.

PELLEY: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?

BLANKFEIN: You can look at history of these things, and Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. … So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.

Blankfein is CEO of Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street institution that was about as deep into the Wall Street scandal and collapse of 2008 as could be.  Goldman Sachs received a $12 billion TARP bailout related to its holdings in then-defunct insurer AIG. Goldman Sachs repaid the government through a sale of equity in April 2009

Despite the fact that it’s become quite evident that Wall Street is Washington’s puppetmaster, and not vice-versa, Blankfein now has the audacity to come to Capitol Hill to lecture the government about good governance and how we need to aggressively cut so-called “entitlements” like Medicare and Social Security. As if caring for the sick and elderly was some sort of societal ill, while committing fraud against one’s own customers is perfectly reasonable, and the sanctions wrought therefrom a mere cost of doing business. 

Here’s what America’s favorite socialist Senator, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders has to say about it all. Thing is, he’s right, and the plutocracy must be exposed and, frankly, smashed and replaced with the representative democracy the Constitution guarantees. 

The Morning Grumpy – 6/4/12

4 Jun

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 

1. After a massive decline during the last recession, corporate profits have now skyrocketed to historic levels. Somehow, it’s the fault of the government fault that those companies are not using those profits to hire people who would then use their new salaries to, ya know, buy stuff and stimulate the economy.

As a reminder, the effective corporate tax rate in America is lower than most other developed nations and U.S. corporations ARE actually hiring, they’re just doing it overseas.

2. 32 innovations that will change your tomorrow

We tend to rewrite the histories of technological innovation, making myths about a guy who had a great idea that changed the world. In reality, though, innovation isn’t the goal; it’s everything that gets you there. It’s bad financial decisions and blueprints for machines that weren’t built until decades later. It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the belly-up failures that teach us what not to do.

When we ignore how innovation actually works, we make it hard to see what’s happening right in front of us today.

Worse, the fairy-tale view of history implies that innovation has an end. It doesn’t. What we want and what we need keeps changing. That’s what this issue is about: all the little failures, trivialities and not-quite-solved mysteries that make the successes possible. This is what innovation looks like. It’s messy, and it’s awesome.

An awesome list of cool things that reminds us what a tricky thing innovation can be. I’m a big fan of the “Shut-Up Gun”

3. Are people too dumb to participate in elections? A new study says they are.

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

If you live in Western New York, you know this to be fact.

4. Bill Moyers says we should pity the poor billionaires.

You see, according to the website Politico.com, the so-called “mega-donors,” unleashed by Citizens Unitedand pouring boundless big bucks into this year’s political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates — and the opportunity to try to figure out why.

As a reminder, welcome to the plutocracy.

5. A fantastic long read, “Our French Connection“.

For some Americans, the Parisian way of life is best. Others simply prefer “freedom fries.” A two-week journey across the United States—passing through a handful of small towns named Paris—to find out what Americans really think about the French these days.

Our attitudes toward the French tell us as much about our xenophobia as it does our openness to culture. The story is a journalistic diorama of American attitudes.

Fact Of The Day: 12% of all the people ever born are walking the planet at this very moment.

Quote Of The Day: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal” – Oscar Wilde

Video Of The Day: Idea For “Canalside“! This would go really well next to the hot dog shed, deck chairs, and the solar powered whatnot they want to put down there. I’d love to see Donn Esmonde try it.

Song Of The Day: “Ain’t Good Enough For You” – Bruce Springsteen

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

The Morning Grumpy – July 26th

26 Jul

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.

I’ll keep it short today, just two items, but I’ll be back tomorrow with your regular dose of 8-10 stories.

1. Joe Illuzzi, my favorite convicted felon, alleged blackmailer, and “journalist” decided to respond to our in-depth coverage of marriage equality with the following post on his website:

Now, I certainly won’t defend myself against an accusation that I’m gay. Why? Because I don’t feel the word “gay” is a pejorative. I will, however, defend the fact that we have written over 50 stories, posted several videos and taken to the public airwaves to advance the marriage equality agenda while small-minded religious assholes like Joe fought to deny people their human rights.

The marriage equality movement and the vote for its passage into law was one of the most important social justice and civil rights issues of our time. I am proud of every word we’ve written, every frame we’ve shot, and every syllable we’ve uttered in support of it and we will continue to fight against religious bigots like Inmate Illuzzi.

Politicians who advertise with this horrible excuse for a man should be ashamed of themselves and do not deserve your support until they re-evaluate their subsidy of his hate, bigotry, corruption, and terrible web design skills.

Pro Tip for Joe: Get a spellcheck program you ignorant fucking moron.

2. I’ll skip posting any analysis of last night’s showdown at debt ceiling corral between our weak-kneed President and the lunatic fringe of American politics and instead leave you with this. The closing editorial by Bill Moyers during the last episode of his PBS show, Bill Moyers Journal.

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Moyers is a hero of mine and his words provide the proper perspective on everything that is happening right now on our national political stage. Please share this video in as many places as you can.

Plutonomy

3 May

Plutonomy was a term coined by the Global Strategy Team at Citigroup back in 2005 to describe an economy that is driven by or that disproportionately benefits wealthy people, aided by market-friendly governments. You can read the two part report here and here.

Why is a five year old report relevant today?  Because one of America’s best journalists signed off his last broadcast with a discussion of plutonomy and gave us a parting editorial on why plutocracy (rule by the wealthy) and democracy (government by the people) don’t mix.

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Unless you’ve been asleep since 1980, our country has been moving towards a plutonomy and a growing inequality in wealth distribution.  As wealth centralizes, social and economic mobility at the bottom is limited. (click image to enlarge and make readable)

It’s ironic that conservative politicians, pundits and talking heads long for a “better time” when the American Dream was never far away from any person (aside from minorities or women) who simply had the gumption and guts to work for it.  You know why they remember it that way?  Because their formative years were spent in the greatest economic boom in world history, supported by higher marginal tax rates on the wealthy and legitimate corporate taxation and regulation.

Hourly rates of pay have been stagnant in the bottom 80% of the workforce for nearly fifty years and CEO pay continues to rise at unprecedented rates, we’re entering another era of robber barons and the super rich.

It’s also relevant as The Buffalo News posted a story on Sunday about rising CEO pay at local publicly traded companies.

While wages for the average worker in Erie County were virtually stagnant over the last year, the top executives at the publicly traded companies in the Buffalo Niagara region still managed to increase their overall median pay by an average of 6.6 percent, to more than $872,000 during 2009.

While the deepest economic slump since the Great Depression had companies cutting costs, slashing jobs and imposing pay cuts and wage freezes on many workers, local CEOs capitalized on the sharp rebound in the stock market to keep their paydays growing far faster than the pay of their employees.

This isn’t intended to be some socialist treatise on how the workers need to control the means of production and seize control of corporations from the plutocrats.  It serves as a reminder about the current state of our economic culture and the underlying motivations of our public policy decisions and political choices.  I believe in the entrepreneurial economy, I believe in the power of regulated markets, I believe in capitalism as an economic theory, I just believe we need balance.  We currently lack balance and honest discourse about the implications of our policy choices and it is slowly eating away at the fabric of our republic.

Those who would begrudge a public school teacher (who might equip their children with the skills to exceed their current standard of living) a good living at $60K per year, also defend the right for Bob Wilmers to earn tens of millions of dollars and his effort to strip the public schools of funding.  We complain about gasoline taxes, yet we care little that the majority of the inflated price of gas has to do with transactional profits taken by energy traders at Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms.  We get angry with people who bought into a bloated mortgage market, but care little about the banks who purposefully created the bubble by structuring mortgage securities which needed failure prone sub-prime loans to realize profits for the banks themselves.  The examples are almost too numerous to cite.

It’s bizarre, the system is out of whack by any empirical measurement, and many of those on the outside want to keep it that way.

Welcome to America, where many members of the working class fight for their right to be screwed daily by Plutocrats.