another myth we can fix

Hey kiddos,

Let’s talk turkey – specifically about those turkeys who want to cut Social Security benefits. What’s up with that?

http://www.justscrapthecap.com/

Well, it sure as heck isn’t because of the deficit. Social Security’s trust fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus right now, which is enough to pay everyone’s benefits in full for another 25 years.

If anyone tells you Social Security is going broke, they’re blowing more smoke than a chimney.

Here’s the reality: Social Security would pay full benefits forever – not just to us, but to you, and even your kids (hint, hint) — if millionaires simply paid the same Social Security tax rate as most people.

Heck, we could even afford to improve Social Security benefits a bit.

Right now, everyone pays Social Security taxes on the first $106,800 they earn, which means most people pay Social Security taxes on their whole paycheck. But since $106,800 is the cap, a whole lot of wealthy people don’t pay a dime in Social Security taxes on most of what they make.

Not to get all parental – it’s your life – but this is important stuff. Because unless you tell Congress to “Just Scrap the Cap,” they could cut Social Security benefits — and we might be movin’ in.

Tell Congress no cuts to benefits – Just Scrap The Cap.

Love,

Mom and Dad

rights we neglect

The Seventh Amendment. Do you know the Seventh Amendment is one of our most important?

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Yes folks. You may bring any complaint more than $20 to a jury of your peers. Guaranteed.

Then why is there a steady increase in mandatory arbitration?

“Corporate America does not trust the jury.” —Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick asks, Will corporations continue to immunize themselves against ordinary people? Can consumers sue credit repair companies for excessive fees? Can investors bring securities fraud suits for insider trading? Can oil and gas workers injured on the job sue to receive workers’ compensation?

the finery of denial

“Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” -Voltaire

How did we get here?

Consider this thought experiment. If you were really, really, really rich — say, not just part of the routinely opulent 1%, but a card-carrying member of the eye-poppingly decadent .01% — what part of your life would be American?

If you had the money, I’d bet you’d drive a German car, wear British shoes and an Italian suit, keep your savings in a Swiss bank, vacation in Koh Samui with shopping expeditions to Cannes, fly Emirates, develop a palate for South African wine, hire a French-trained chef, buy a few dozen Indian and Chinese companies, and pay Dubai-style taxes.

Were to you have the untrammeled economic freedom to, I’d bet you’d run screaming from big, fat, wheezing American business as usual, and its coterie of lackluster, slightly bizarre, and occasionally grody “innovations”: spray cheese, ATM fees, designer diapers, disposable lowest-common-denominator junk made by prison labor, Muzak-filled big-box stores, five thousand channels and nothing on but endless reruns of Toddlers in Tiaras — not to mention toxic mega-debt, oxymoronic “healthcare,” decrepit roads, and once-proud cities now crumbling into ruins. Sure, you’d probably still choose to use Google on your iPhone to surf the web — but that’s about far as it’d go.

price of civilization

Ponder this:

When you think you are the highest point, you don’t look up !

 
Ponder this:

“…the energy, the optimism, the altruism and the humanity that won the admiration and devotion of so many of my generation who found in America in the postwar decades the idealism and excitement of a society that looked to the future with high hopes and moral purpose.
 
“This perspective has alas threatened to turn sour over the last 30 years as cynicism, greed and fundamentalist clap-trap have been mobilised to occupy the temple of enlightenment.”

 

86 percent of New York voters agree with the protesters’ views.

When it comes to social justice the USA ranks near the bottom.

 

 

the national interest

New York Magazine:

Rising income inequality, like climate change, is an ideologically inconvenient issue for conservatives. They would prefer not to discuss it altogether. If forced to discuss it, they will generally either deny its existence or simply carry on as if it doesn’t exist.

The underlying facts, like the facts of climate change, are stark.

Over the last few decades, income growth for most Americans has slowed to a crawl, while income for the very rich has exploded. That’s a reversal of the three decades following World War II, when all income groups got richer, with the poor and middle class rising at a faster rate than the rich.

Crucially, the Congressional Budget Office’s new analysis shows that changes in government policy over this period have made inequality worse. (In CBO-speak: “The equalizing effect of transfers and taxes on household income was smaller in 2007 than it had been in 1979.”)

We’re not having a debate about how to reverse or even stop the growth of inequality. Nobody has a real plan to do that.

The Democratic plan is to slightly arrest the growth of inequality by hiking taxes on the rich a few percentage points, so as to minimize the need to cut the social safety net. The Republican plan is to slash taxes for the rich and programs for the poor, thereby massively increasing inequality.

That is a hard position to defend in the context of exploding inequality, and conservatives would rather not defend it. Instead the right’s response has been to persistently deny or ignore the facts.

destructive stuff to prosperity

Umair Haque’s snippets & tweets:

It wasn’t just what America did that made it great. It wasn’t just what it believed. It was why we believed it.

This isn’t just money, jobs or income that we’re talking about. It’s human life.

So basically, the American national discussion alternates between mocking and blaming the powerless….

It’s funny how we’re at the mercy of dolts, buffoons, and sociopaths. Actually, it’s not.

History will remember what happened to the American middle class as an illustration of the fatality of nihilism.

The sense of despair–no jobs, no opportunities, no security, total fear–pulses out from the American ruins like a tsunami.

Shattered cities, boarded up neighborhoods, crumbling ruins, squandered lives. So inexpressibly sad.

A society that wishes to remain civilized cannot allow such extreme misery and squalor to grow at it’s very heart.

Inside the glass and steel, another world. Suits and ties, in furious pursuit of extracting the last morsels of prosperity.

I don’t know how to express it. But it’s so, so disturbing to see the juxtaposition of great wealth right next to implacable misery.

It’s not just the level of injustice in America that’s seriously disturbing–but the garishly exaggerated glorification of it.

It’s not just that a tiny few are getting rich. It’s that they’re getting super-rich by doing super-destructive stuff to prosperity.

Why Money Won’t End the Great Stagnation

Harvard’s Umair Haque offers an interesting ‘thought experiment’ to help us understand how our economy is structured; that it sucks prosperity from most of the population.

Try this. Imagine aliens are listening to our politics and protests. Imagine a miracle. They give each & every American $500,000. Will this help?

What happens next? Have we fixed the problem? Well, it depends.

If Americans then proceed to hit the mall, fill their coffers with lowest-common-denominator faux-designer junk, buy several SUVs, a membership to the VIP room at an ultra-trendy nightclub or five, and a McMansion–well, then, in a few short years, they’re likely to be right back to square one: broke and jobless. For the simple reason that the above don’t create much more than McJobs and capital flowing upwards, from the collapsing middle to the super-rich.

Worse, because they haven’t invested in public goods, they’re likely still to be absent the basic safety nets of health, life, and unemployment insurance, not to mention working infrastructure. If, in short, people choose the post-modern American dream of opulence, this crisis will recreate itself —forever.

reformed broker

Dear Wall Street:

“We bailed out Wall Street to avoid Depression, but three years later, millions of Americans are in a living hell.”

“In no uncertain terms, our leaders told us anything short of saving these insolvent banks would result in a depression to the American public. We had to do it!

“At our darkest hour we gave these banks every single thing they asked for. We allowed investment banks to borrow money at zero percent interest rate, directly from the Fed. We gave them taxpayer cash right onto their balance sheets. We allowed them to suspend account rules and pretend that the toxic sludge they were carrying was worth 100 cents on the dollar. Anything to stave off insolvency. We left thousands of executives in place at these firms. Nobody went to jail, not a single perp walk. I can’t even think of a single example of someone being fired. People resigned with full benefits and pensions, as though it were a job well done.

“The American taxpayer kicked in over a trillion dollars to help make all of this happen.

“But the banks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.”

dance in the rain

In 1932 L. P. Jacks said,

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which.

He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. Enough for him that he does it well.

force of menace

In 1967 Rod Serling said,

“I happen to think that the singular evil of our time is prejudice. It is from this evil that all other evils grow and multiply.

“In almost everything I’ve written there is a thread of this: a man’s seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself.”

wisdom’s wake

Alanis Obomsawin said in 1972:

“Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency.

“When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

these that run the world

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world.

There’s 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy.

As anti-capitalist protesters take to the streets, mathematics has teased apart the global economic network to show who’s really pulling the strings.

An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.Science may have confirmed protesters’ worst fears.

 

occupy designs

They tell you we are dreamers.

The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are.

We are not dreamers.

We are awakening from a dream which is tuning into a nightmare.

We are not destroying anything.

We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. –Slavoj Zizek

 

Occupy Design is a grassroots project connecting designers with on-the-ground demonstrators in the Occupy Together movement. The project’s goal is to create freely available visual tools —the Occupy Design Toolkit— around a common graphic language to unite the 99%.

turning pyramids

The New Order Pyramid | October 2011

Is a monument to remember those who have given their lives and spirit standing up to injustice and inequality. It is a space to celebrate our unalienable human right to life and liberty.

The site we propose for the New Order Pyramid would be Tahrir Square. We propose the construction of an inverted pyramid shaped auditorium for people to come and talk and participate to share ideas and to have a focal point.

Steps flow downwards for you to sit and voice your ideas, listen, participate and occupy.

We are seeing sites popping up around the World, they start as make shift campsites demarcating the space where a collective human spirit has chosen to voice dissent.

These spaces in time will grow into architectural signifiers, marking the dawn of the new age of global human co-operation, overturning inappropriate systems of governance, finance and trade.

the extraction hunters

Paul Fussell in his book Class:

“In the United States everything is coated with a fine layer of fraud.”

Speculation identified as gas, food price driver

“Research analyzing commodity markets for the last 27 years shows that Wall Street’s speculative trading through commodity index funds is causing market disruptions, interfering with price discovery, increasing the costs for businesses to hedge, and needlessly pushing prices higher for all Americans.

“It shows how the biggest banks, all bailed out by the taxpayers in 2008, are lining their pockets at the expense of America’s families and farmers.”

 

Frank Schaefer:

These protesters have not come to work within the system.

They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.

This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives.

The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured.

And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.

fix the fixable

Angry Bear: So to elaborate a little, let’s take two people who make exactly the same amount:  $100,000 in taxable income.

‘Worker Taxpayer’ earns her money by working (getting compensation by way of a W2) and ‘Investor Taxpayer’ earns her money from dividends in a $4 million stock portfolio she holds (its about 2.5% in yield – about right).

Let’s say they are both unmarried.  Investor taxpayer does not work and has no compensation income.  They are otherwise ‘equal’. Right? (Except that investor taxpayer fits the description of those who vituperate about lazy welfare recipients who sit on the couch all day and watch TV, right? I’ll keep the rhetoric down, because the facts are outrageous enough to speak for themselves.)

Worker taxpayer will pay $7650 in payroll tax, plus $21,617 in income tax for a total tax burden of $29,267.

Let’s look at investor taxpayer.

You would think they would be taxed at the same rate as worker, right?  Wrong.

Because investor taxpayer receives all of her income from qualified dividends, they get a “special” tax treatment.  Bear with me, we’re almost done.  Generally, the maximum tax rate for qualified dividends is 15%, BUT HERE it is actually 0% because investor’s other income (remember she doesn’t work) is taxed at the 10% or 15% rate.

To refresh: Worker making $100K pays about $30K in tax.
Investor making $100K in qualified dividends pays $0 – no – tax.  Huh?  Yup. 

What this means is that rich people – who are incented by tax policy to remain on their couches (too much earned income would otherwise trip them into the 15% dividend tax bracket) – are now getting off their couches and going to tea-party rallies to maintain this unfair redistribution of wealth in their favor.

the occupiers

Eddie McShane:

I live in New York City and until last week had not gone to Zucotti Park to see the Occupy Wall Street protests for myself. I wanted to see who these people were so I decided to set up a portable studio and make formal portraits. I feel that these stripping away all of the background noise and just showing the people demonstrates their undeniable humanity.

Their faces tell their story.

What I learned is that these people are not whackos, anarchists, or indigents.

They are overwhelmingly working and middle class people of all backgrounds who feel that their government has failed them and does not represet their interests. They are there to protest corruption, not to tear the rich from their penthouses and drag them down in to the streets. They just want the basic promise of America; that everyone has a fair chance to live with opportunity and dignity.

These people are your friends and neighbors, their children, and your own.

They are Americans, they are Patriots, and they have a right to be heard.

dirt, food, people, money

Yes.
This is a purple cauliflower.

Andy sez:

Organic farmers act on the belief that if they care for the soil then the soil will care for them. Care of the soil does not end, or even begin, with adding fertilizer.

Soil is a living thing, an ecosystem, a complex bioactive medium, and a renewable resource. Each plant family draws a certain spectrum of minerals and nutrients from the soil, and each plant family attracts and hosts certain pathogens.

Organic growers rotate crops to avoid depleting the soil or increasing the population of pests. At Mariquita Farm we take each piece of ground on a cycle through the Alliaceae, Apiaceae, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Fabaceae, Gramineae, the Solanaceae etc. These Latin words are only botanical words for common plants; we rotate crops from the onion family, through the carrot family, the lettuce family, the cabbage family, the beet family, the squash family, the pea family, the corn family, the tomato family, and so on.

Crop diversity is intelligent soils management.

what’s cyberazzi?

What does the FTC chairman say about online personal data?

snippets via [pdf]
Online and Overexposed:
Consumer Privacy, the FTC, and the Rise of the Cyberazzi

First, companies in the business of collecting, storing, and manipulating consumer data need to build privacy protections into their everyday business practices – we call this “privacy by design.” Companies that collect consumer data should do so only for a specific business purpose, store it securely, keep it only as long as necessary to fulfill its legitimate business need, then dispose of it safely.

The more sensitive the data, the stronger the protections should be. To its credit, much of industry is embracing this approach – even before we issued the draft report.

Second, transparency. Any companies gathering information online need to tell consumers what’s going on. And by this, I do not mean another three-point font, ten-page document written by corporate lawyers and buried deep within the site. I asked our staff to look at data disclosures on mobile devices; one form took 109 clicks to get through, and the staffer who discovered that is probably the only one who ever made it to click number 109.

Transparency is not an unreasonable request. My daughters can go to any of a number of retail clothing websites, and, with one click, see a clear description of a pair of pants – color, sizes, fit, customer reviews, shipping options. One more click – that’s a total of 2, not 109 – and they can choose exactly the pants they want, in their sizes and favorite colors, shipped where they want them. Put the guy who designed that page on the job of presenting a meaningful disclosure and consent form.

Third, choice. Consumers should have streamlined and effective choices about the collection and use of their data. That includes choices about when, why, and how cyberazzi follow them into cyberspace.

To that end, we proposed a “Do Not Track” mechanism that will allow consumers to decide whether to share information about their browsing behavior. We envision a system consumers can find and use easily and one that all companies employing cyberazzi must respect.

A vision of Do Not Track bears some similarities to the successful Do Not Call program. Now with more than 200 million registered phone numbers, Do Not Call has brought some peace and quiet to Americans’ dinner hour; no wonder Dave Barry called it the “most popular federal concept since the Elvis stamp.”

But unlike Do Not Call, the FTC does not think Do Not Track should be administered by the government.

We hope different sectors of industry will work collaboratively to give consumers choices about how and when they are tracked online.

HA!