Monday, October 31, 2011

Ideas For Simple Living

by Dick Mac

Simplicity is beautiful. A simple life is a good life. Possessions are a burden. Love all living things.

I know that the mere suggestion of these ideas is anathema to being a 21st Century patriot and Christian. A true patriot, a true Christian shops until the credit limit is reached, loses her job, and lives (like Jesus Christ) as a homeless person for the rest of her life. Just ask the last president. During the national melancholy that struck America after 9/11, he actually told us that shopping was the solution. Show them they did not win, go shopping. Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani of New York said pretty much the same thing: the way we show them they didn't beat us was to come to New York City, see a show and shop.

It is no wonder that the simplest things in American life have no value. Simplicity is not revered, is not even considered. Accumulation of stuff, and things to do, and places to go, are a sign of success in our culture. The bigger the better, damn the expense.

There are few philosophies in modern America that offer much different.

In the latter part of the last century, Buddhism became more mainstream in America, and it is easy to see the similarities between Buddhist teachings and the teachings of Christ (although not necessarily the teachings of Christianity).

If Jesus Christ had been born today, he'd reach more than a small nation ("Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication.") with his message. He'd have encountered Buddhism. Along with his traditional spiritual education he would likely have come to the same conclusions about love, peace, neighborliness, and life that we hear in Buddhism (and in the Gospels, but not necessarily from Christians).

Writer Leo Babauta, has published an article that I found engaging and helpful. He writes:
A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what's important to you.

It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

However, getting to simplicity isn't always a simple process. It's a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.

If you’re interested in simplifying your life, this is a great starter’s guide (if you’re not interested, move on).

That article is not long to read, but if you are too busy or irritated about reading seventy-two items, it is summed up this way:

1. Identify what's most important to you.
2. Eliminate everything else.

Thanks to Michael for the link.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Revolution - Nina Simone

by Dick Mac

Here are the lyrics to Nina Simone's rendition of "Revolution" along with two videos.

And now we got a revolution
Cause i see the face of things to come
Yeah, your Constitution
Well, my friend, its gonna have to bend
Im here to tell you about destruction
Of all the evil that will have to end.

Some folks are gonna get the notion
I know theyll say im preachin hate
but if i have to swim the ocean
well i would just to communicate
its not as simple as talkin jive
the daily struggle just to stay alive

Singin about a revolution
because were talkin about a change
its more than just evolution
well you know you got to clean your brain
the only way that we can stand in fact
is when you get your foot off our back

And now we got a revolution
Cause i see the face of things to come
Yeah, your Constitution
Well, my friend, its gonna have to bend
I'm here to tell you about destruction
Of all the evil that will have to end.

Some folks are gonna get the notion
I know theyll say im preachin hate
but if i have to swim the ocean
well i would just to communicate
its not as simple as talkin jive
the daily struggle just to stay alive

Singin' about a revolution
because were talkin about a change
its more than just evolution
well you know you got to clean your brain
the only way that we can stand in fact
is when you get your foot off our back

Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Thursday, October 27, 2011

So . . . Are You Part Of The 99%?

by Dick Mac

Pretty much everyone I know supports the #Occupy movement that started with Occupy Wall Street over a month ago. The phrase "I Am The 99%" is seen and heard in many places, at many different times, for many different reasons.

If we discuss this literally, we are referring to those people beneath the 99th percentile of income. It is believed that these are the people who have least benefited from the re-engineering of our society.

I don't dispute that. It's not rocket science, nor even liberalism, that let's me see that the rich are much richer and the poor are much poorer than thirty years ago, before the implementation of Reaganomics.

What annual income does it take to be in that top 1%?

$US 205,000

It is suggested by the slogan that people earning $205,000 or more are those who have most benefited from the re-engineering of our society.

Those who earn more than $205,000 are the 1%, and there are about 2,150,000 earners who fall into that category.

I am surprised that the number is so low. I do not consider those who earn a quarter-million dollars to be particularly wealthy. Yes, they are comfortable, but I don't think of them as rich.

I wonder if they think of themselves as rich? I'll bet not.

What is that invisible line in each of our minds between rich and not rich?

Is it half-a-million? A million? Two million?

If I had an annual income of $500,000 a year, I think I would start to feel rich.

This got me thinking: where do my friends and I fit in that list?

I don't know how much my friends earn, but I have a rough idea of who makes about the same as me, who makes more (or a lot more) and who makes less (or a lot less). I know roughly what certain positions in certain industries pay. So, by knowing my ranking in the income list, I have a sense of where my friends, family, colleagues and neighbors rank.

The picture above is a screen shot that shows I rank in the 97.97 percentile. We'll just call it the 98th percentile. This translates to there being 4.3 million Americans earning more than me.

Those people living in the 98th percentile are not rich (but wish we were). I also find it hard to imagine the people at the bottom end of the 99th percentile being rich.

A woman earning a half-million dollars a year fall into the 99.5 percentile, which represents the position where 1.1 million people earn more that her.

Do we call that rich?

What is rich? Who is wealthy?

Would the #Occupy slogan be more accurate if it said: "I am the 99.5%"?

My point isn't really to split that hair, but rather ask you to consider where you are in the list of American salaries and how the notions of economic disparity affect you.

You can start by finding your rank with the What's Your U.S. Income Ranking? tool.

I know many people that are pretty far down the list:

Those earning $US 75,000 are in the 89th percentile.
Those earning $US 50,000 are in the 76th percentile.
Those earning $US 40,000 are in the 68th percentile.

Most of the people I know in the 90-something percentile support the #Occupy movement, and believe that our re-engineered society is detrimental to America's future; that we must examine how the money is moving up, up, up while so many are earning less, less, less.

The people I know who oppose the #Occupy movement and support Reaganomics are generally people below the 89th percentile.

From my perspective, it's the people with some privilege that are most concerned about those with the least privilege.

Where do you fall in the rankings?

Do you support the notions behind the #Occupy movement?

If the numbers make you unhappy, then perhaps you'd rather see where you fall in the Global rankings. Use the tool at Global Rich List - How Rich Are You?.

I am in the top .27 percent. Whatever your salary in America, chances are you are rated high in the global rankings.

But this isn't Somalia or even Portugal or Greece, and Americans have worked hard to be so high on the global rankings.

Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Simple Math

by Dick Mac

This has been floating around the internet the past year, and I don't know who wrote it. I was reminded of it when my friend Karen posted it on Facebook today:

Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - babysit!

We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school.

That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan--that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to babysit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day? Maybe 30?

So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

LET'S SEE: That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Masters degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour.

That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute -- there's something wrong here!

There sure is!

The average teacher's salary (nationwide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student: a very inexpensive babysitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!


Make a teacher smile; re-post this to show appreciation for all educators.

(And remember, if you can read this, thank a teacher, and your parents' teachers!)

And then read this for entertainment:

Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reagan: The Economist! Bachman: The Adoring But Clueless Admirer!

by Dick Mac

First he was an actor, then he was president of Screen Actors Guide, then he became a politician. He was Governor of California, and then reached the highest office in America . . . No! not CEO of Goldman Sachs, silly: the President.

Long dead, he is now called a "great economist." I like the way we re-write history to make our heroes seem even more heroic.

For my tax plan, I take a page out of one of my great economists that I admire, Ronald Reagan . . . I want to reinstitute the Reagan tax model from the 1980s.
- Michelle Bachmann

This is a brilliant idea! If we returned to the tax model of the Reagan years, we could probably get out of debt and revitalize our treasury!

Bachmann: 'I Want To Adopt The Reagan Tax Plan' (Psst…Those Taxes Were Higher!)

Sure, taxes fluctuated between 30% and 50% during Reagan's administrations, but, he knew that taxes played an integral part of running a nation. Today's leaders campaign on the notion that taxation is bad, giving credence to the insane anarchistic notions of libertarians.

Taxes must be collected.

It is not wealth re-distribution as the rigfht-wing likes to say. It is collection of monies for fees and services rendered by the government that built the most amazing society in history.

Even if we don't change to the tax levels of 1984, I sure wish the right-wing would treat taxation the same way as the right-wingers of 1984.

Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Monday, October 24, 2011

Exodus 22:21-27

by Dick Mac

The thing I find amazing about America, now that we are a right-wing country, is that we go on and on and on about morality and God and the Bible, and we ignore all the teachings of the prophets (including Jesus). We are quick to condemn the sinner, quick to absolve the rich of their dereliction, and quick to impose limitations on the freedoms of those different from us. When it comes to charity and society and community, however, we talk about Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman; and God and Jesus are forgotten.

Exodus 22:21-27

"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.

"Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

"If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate."

Let me see if I've got this right:

Do not abuse immigrants, because my relatives were immigrants once. In fact, my grandfather was an undocumented immigrant (the Irish quota had been met, so he wasn't allowed to emigrate). He was deported to Canada, returned to the border weeks later, and applied for admittance on the Scottish quota. He became a citizen. That was a crime. He was white. We treated immigrants better in the 20th Century. We still treat white immigrants well. We should treat the brown-skinned immigrants half as well.

Widows and orphans? I guess we interpret this to mean we should leave them alone, on the streets, or in a homeless shelter. We shouldn't use tax dollars to support programs that get them into secure living conditions and help them find a job. I wonder how God would judge our treatment of single-mothers, widows, children from broken homes, and orphans?

And I wonder how God would judge the bankers who sold all those homes, secured with bogus mortgages, and then foreclosed on the homeowners with non-existent paper?

I am often left with thoughts like this after church on Sunday.

Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bulls v Bimbos

by Dick Mac

Red Bull New York has taken a wild card spot in the 2011 MLS playoffs.

The team shocked the faithful with a wonderful performance. Who were those guys in the white uniforms last night?



Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Obama Accomplishments?

by Dick Mac

Oh! How I wish I had written the article Quell the Naysayers! President Obama Has Accomplished a LOT! Here's a List... at the Please Cut The Crap Blog.

It is popular opinion, one that I generally share, that President Obama has been ineffective and done very little for his country.

You hear it said by pundits in the right-wing mainstream media: NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC, CNBC, and hear it implied by so-called "progressive" pundits on MSNBC.

It is easy to focus on a president who does nothing for his people. We just finished sixteen years of George W Bush and Bill Clinton re-engineering our government to focus on corporations and the citizens living at the top of the economic food chain.

We are correct to be cynical about the effectiveness of an American president.

Clinton's major achievements were more right-wing than his predecessor: NAFTA, DOMA, and DADT were amazing milestones in the history of American government; and they were all brought to us by an allegedly "liberal" president.

Bush's major achievements were somewhat less effective than his predecessor's: the Iraq War, War in Afghanistan, and major tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, are not as impressive as Clinton's; but Bush also presided over the most dramatic collapse of the American economy in 80 years. That collapse was very much assisted by his previously-mentioned wars and tax-cuts.

After 16 years of shitty leadership from Clinton and Bush, it's easy to conclude that our presidents are lousy administrators, terrible leaders. Those who were born in the 1980s have known only the current president and his two predecessors. They have also grown-up in the only era where mass communication and the public dialog was driven, controlled and formed by a politically driven organization willing to fabricate stories every day, sometimes all day, to further a right-wing agenda.

Because the right-wing media (NBC, CBS, Fox, et al.) object to any administrative decisions that veer away from a complete and total corporate take-over of our nation, they must minimize anyone who gets in the way.

Come now, Barack Obama.

I don't like Barack Obama because he is economically conservative. He does not waver from his complete support of economic theory and government structure that furthers the thinking of the Chicago School. That is: he completely supports supply-side economics, Reaganomics, as have all four of his immediate predecessors.

It is my belief that whatever good Obama can do will always be tainted by his support of an economic system that has destroyed our once-great nation. Within that framework, however, he has accomplished dramatically more than Bush or Clinton before him.

Over at the PCTC Blog, Milt Shook has published Quell the Naysayers! President Obama Has Accomplished a LOT! Here's a List, which outlines the accomplishments of the Obama Administration. Some of the entries include:

Congressional Quarterly reports that Obama has won congressional approval for his efforts more than 96% of the time, the highest percentage of any modern-day President, including LBJ (93%) who was considered out nation's greatest arm-twister.

He froze White House salaries.

He pushed through "the stimulus package" and launched, so that taxpayers could track spending from the Act.

He oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.

Demanded that scores of CEOs who took bailout money cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money - and they did.

He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007.

He found a $20 billion increase for Food Stamps that help feed millions of formerly middle-class citizens whose jobs were lost and lives destroyed by Bush-era policies.

He ordered the closure of secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and around the world.

He developed the first and only strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to defeat alQaeda.

Oh, and he killed Osama bin Laden, too.

He provided our troops with better body armor, something his predecessor failed to consider, and then explained it was too expensive.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he invested heavily in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.

Under Obama, tax rates for average working families are the lowest they since 1950.

He increased funding for National Parks and Forests by 10%.

He eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only education, and he rescinded the global gag rule.

And this is just a smattering of Obama's accomplishments. Go to the original article to see the full list.

Thank you Mr. Shook for the article, and thank you President Obama for your hard work.

Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Putting Americans To Work

by Dick Mac

When America decided that it hated the economic system that built the greatest civilization in the history of humanity (Keynesian economics), then embraced the voodoo economics promoted by Ronald Reagan (supply-side economics), we were promised great riches and plenty of jobs.

By 2005, twenty-five years into the restructuring of our economic policies, it was crystal-clear that it wasn't working. More jobs were being shipped overseas, and although there was a financial bubble during the 1990s, it burst and things began to look pretty bleak.

By the end of the last decade, the financial situation in America was dire. Unemployment has sky-rocketed, and the numbers don't even reflect the depth of the unemployment problem.

(Think back to 1983 . . . the Reagan Administration changed the way that we counted the unemployed so that out-of-work adults were counted as unemployed only if they were receiving unemployment benefits. So, when an unemployed worker's benefits run out, he is no longer unemployed, even if he doesn't have a job.)

So, by the end of the last decade, it became clear that one of the greatest trends of this new economic policy was the loss of jobs for Americans. It is cheaper to hire workers overseas (especially when you are still getting all the tax breaks you want). So instead of all these jobs the Reaganites promised us, we have fewer jobs than ever.

As the last decade came to a close, those who promoted Reaganomics explained that the reason there were no jobs for Americans is because the god-damned illegals were taking all the jobs. An impressive political and marketing campaign has been waged against migrant workers (legal and illegal alike), and most Americans believe there is a real problem with illegal immigrants. In reality, the problem is no different, no better no worse, than it was in 1980. What is different is that there are fewer jobs for Americans and those in charge have decided to blame people who can least defend themselves.

There is also less education, less health care, and less opportunity for Americans; and somehow we are supposed to believe those problems are also part of the immigrant problem, that our economic policies are of no consequence.

Some tea party supporters (man, I hate calling them that) have built remarkable political careers on the promise to get rid of the illegals who are stealing all our jobs, schools, and health care. Arizona was the first when their governor (the descendant of an illegal immigrant - like so many of us) signed a remarkably punitive law that cannot possibly be enforced in a free society. Sadly, Arizona tea party supporters are of the mind that we can sacrifice our freedoms if it gets rid of the illegals. Well, not all the illegals, just the brown-skinned illegals. The Irish and Eastern European illegals are more than welcome to stay.

But, I digress . . .

Alabama has followed Arizona with it's ground-breaking immigration law that focuses on employment. Alabama farmers will be in big trouble if they hire illegal immigrants. The result is that the migrant farm workers (legal and illegal alike) have fled the state, leaving Alabama farmers to scramble for employees.

The state (now controlled by those who insist supply-side theory is a success) is happy to provide a list of unemployed office clerks, hair dressers, secretaries, factory workers, custodians and school teachers who are desperate for work. Hundreds of these citizens signed-up to apply for the new farm labor jobs.

Most of them lasted a day or two. One actually lasted two weeks!

You see, farm labor is not just hard work, it is really, really hard, back-breaking work that Americans haven't had to do for two generations, or more.

My grandparents were not farmers in America, and yours probably weren't either. If they were farmers, they likely had immigrants or African-Americans who did the really hard, back-breaking work while their children (our parents) got an education (at least through high school) so they could leave the farm.

Our grandparents all worked really hard so that we could work really hard in a sophisticated society that didn't require second-, third-, and fourth-generation Americans to be slave laborers.

Back to Alabama . . .

So, a couple/few hundred unemployed Alabamans jumped at the chance to work. They made their way to the farms and started working. It's an impressive job: you work ten hours and are paid twenty-four dollars a day (on which you will owe taxes). At the peak of the season, however, if you work really hard, you can earn up to $125 a day.

Word among the farmers is that most Americans are in no physical condition to work that hard. So, Americans are only able to earn $24 per day -- and then they quit.

Those of us with a computer and the ability to read are not only unwilling to work ten hours for $24, but we are likely physically incapable of doing it. I am physically incapable of doing it. I can make $24 a day collecting cans or pan-handling.

So, the migrant farm workers (legal and illegal alike) have left Alabama and the harvest is coming in. It appears they have gone to Georgia and Mississippi, where the immigration laws have not yet been changed to destroy what is left of the state's agricultural industry.

Alabama farmers are without farm laborers, because it is a crime to hire illegals. The legal migrant farm workers have fled the state because they are treated as poorly as the illegals. Alabama has established a culture that criminalizes migrant culture, migrant lifestyle, migrant workers. So they don't have any.

The Governor of Alabama has met with the Governor of Georgia, in an effort to establish a similar immigration law in that state.

Georgia will probably do it, not because it will help their citizenry, but because it will allow the governor to say he is tough on immigration and get re-elected (maybe even have a chance at a Senate seat, or even the White House).

If Georgia does this, the state should be prepared (as Alabama wasn't) to be without farm workers to pick their crops.

One of the possible outcomes of these laws - one that may or may not be planned by the supply-siders - is that remaining family-owned farms will go bankrupt. Those farms will then be gobbled-up by corporate farms. Corporate farms are destroying the quality of our food supply, poisoning the environment, and under-employing Americans.

Whatever the upshot of the farm labor situation in the South, we can be certain of two things: those who promote a blanket condemnation of brown-skinned immigrants are hurting America, and it's not illegal aliens that have taken our jobs.

Efforts to replace immigrant workers in Alabama fields coming up short at

Test fails to replace immigrant laborers with U.S. citizens in Alabama from The Boston Herald

Ala. Immigration Law Update: Farm Work Is Hard

Test fails to replace immigrant laborers in Ala from The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Dead Enz
Kyle G. Brixton

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are We Really Closing Our Accounts?

by Dick Mac

Last night I had a bit of a rant on Facebook about the movement to close our accounts with big banks and to move our money into small, local banks.

I think this is a splendid idea. I have often advocated small banks over big banks, Personally, I use Amalgamated Bank - America's Labor Bank. They don't have a lot of branches and they do not have fancy on-line banking like the big boys, but they are politically more palatable to me.

A couple weeks ago, twenty-five people entered a Citibank in Greenwich Village, New York City, to close their accounts and they were arrested. It's not clear what transpired inside the bank, but apparently none of these people succeeded at closing their accounts. Their cause did garner a great deal of publicity, which is one measure of success; but, their money is still in Citibank.

I think the closure of the accounts is more important than publicity.

For some, this will be difficult. If you are in the middle of buying a car or a home, you can't really start moving your money around all-at-once -- you have to wait until the deal is done.

If you are just busy, but have an account to close -- you have to strategize.

If you already have an account in your local bank - a savings account or a CD, as well as a checking account in the big bank, creating a new checking account at the small bank is easy and transfer of the funds will take place with nominal effort on your part.

If, however, you only have the one checking account with a big bank, you need to consider how to get this done.

Do this some month right after you've paid your bills and you have a couple/few weeks without immediate payments due.

First step is to open an account with your local bank (Amalgamated). Even a local bank probably has an online process for opening an account. If the bank offers free checking, open a checking account. If not, open a savings account. You now have a relationship with the bank.

While that account is new, and you are awaiting the new checks, move some of your money from the big bank (Citi) into it.

Now, make a list of all the online or automatic payments that come out of your Citi account.

Move enough money into the Amalgamated account to cover those payments and spend an evening changing the online accounts to the new bank.

If you have direct deposit, arrange for that deposit to change to Amalgamated.

Over the next month, move the money from Citi to Amalgamated, being careful to leave a little money in the Citi account to cover any pending charges.

At the end of that month, go into your Citi branch and close the account.


I kinow . . . it's a pain in the butt; BUT, if you want to do this and think you can't, then think it through and make it happen.

If all you want to do is get on and get arrested, then march into your local Citi branch with a sign and start yelling. Be sure to bring a cameraman with you. And really, nobody gives a flying-fuck if you get arrested because you will have failed at actually closing your account - which is the point.

The press is starting to cover the story:

The banks fight back: Customers locked in and arrested after attempting to close their accounts in Occupy Wall Street protests at the Daily Mail

Occupy Providence to close BofA accounts at the Boston Herald

Occupy protesters close bank accounts at the Brown University Daily Herald

Wall Street Protest Rallies at JPMorgan Branch to Close Accounts at San Francisco Chronicle

'Occupy' Staunton Protestors Close Bank of America Accounts at WHSV-TV

Buy a book:

Monday, October 10, 2011


by Dick Mac

Dick Mac (alive!) is travelling for business and will be on hiatus until Monday, October 17, 2011.

See you on Twitter or Facebook.

Until then, go blog yourselves!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Something In The Air/The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Labelle

by Dick Mac

Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles were Patti Labelle, Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx, and Cindy Birdsong.

The Bluebelles broke-up when Cindy Birdsong replaced Florence Ballard in The Supremes. The three remaining singers moved along, and reformed as Labelle. When they sang back-up for Laura Nyro on her brilliant R&B cover record "Gonna Take A Miracle," they shot into the limelight.

Their album, "Pressure Cookin'" was a highlight of the 1970s for me, and when I saw them at The Music Hall, in Boston, circa 1974, the show was absolutely stunning. They were the only black, all-girl glam act.

One of the songs on "Pressure Cookin'" is a medley of two well-known political songs of the time: "Something In The Air/The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

Here it is:

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Pushing The Money Around

by Dick Mac

The failings of modern capitalism are easily masked by consumerism. The more conspicuous the consumerism, the more obvious it appears that capitalism is remarkably successful, rewards only the hard workers, and is the only path to freedom.

Consumerism is a wonderful thing. I like stuff. I like nice stuff. Modesty, and by extension humility, are difficult in a modern capitalist society because not only is modesty not rewarded, it is denigrated. Modesty is weakness, or worse: failure.

Consumerism is the primary product of modern capitalism (and I define modern capitalism as the open-market economic system established during and just after World War II). If the majority of the citizenry is able to consume, then a happy and productive society and workforce will follow. Without this simple part of the economic equation, modern capitalism is a failure.

For the past thirty years, we have embarked on modifying capitalism in a specific way: we have decided that if we push the majority of the wealth up to the top of the economic ladder (that is, give more money to those who already have the most money), that our economy will grow in ways never known to mankind.

Those of us who voted for Ronald Reagan are primarily responsible for the liberalization of the economy, which is promoted by the most conservative Americans.

After the establishment of Reaganomics as our new form of capitalism, however, those of us who voted for Bill Clinton, Geroge W Bush, and Barack Obama have reinforced the decision to follow this path. The only chief executive of the United States who ever spoke against this economic plan was George H.W. Bush, who succeeded Reagan. He knew that this economic policy would destroy our marketplace, our work force, and our financial stability. He spoke out against it, referring to it as "VooDoo Economics."

His attempts to restore some semblance of stability to our nation when he succeeded Reagan was met with derision and rejection by his own peers. He was chased from office, and those who at one time promoted his career (including his son), have left him to his retirement.

Between 1932 and 1979, prior to the advent of Reaganomics, American capitalism was pretty much like capitalism in the rest of the free world (that is, the Western world), with some minor differences. Workers worked hard and were rewarded with the newly-minted lifestyle called "middle class." The middle class did not exist prior to its creation (using federal subsidies) by us as a society. Workers earned a decent salary and the executives who ran the companies earned about twenty or thirty times more than the workers.

If the average pay for a worker in a company was ten thousand dollars a year, the chiefs of the company earned about a quarter of a million dollars.

This economic structure helped promote hard work in the hopes of reaching the chief level, and provided sufficient income for the workers to maintain a middle class lifestyle, including the consumerism that drives the market.

Since the advent of Reaganomics, the tax code and government spending plans that created the middle class have been changed to this new mode of thinking called supply-side economics, the method of pushing the wealth to the top so it trickles down to the rest of the citizenry and creates vast opportunity and more evenly-distributed wealth.

After thirty years of this, we have fewer jobs, more poverty, less money to run and maintain our infrastructure, and a situation where the income disparity between worker and chief has exploded to embarrassing levels.

In modern capitalist societies in the rest of the free world the difference in income between worker and chief continues to average about 25 times. If the average income of the workforce is $50,000, the chiefs are earning about $1.25 million.

This is what would be called "equity" if it were true in America.

In the last thirty years, however, that difference between worker and chief salaries has increased from about 25 times to about 475 times, in the United States.

If the average American worker is earning $50,000 then the average chief is earning about $23.75 million.

This is called disparity, and so-called libertarians and so-called conservatives would tell you that this is the natural force of the markets. This, however, is not remotely true.

All economic systems, just like all societies, are engineered by laws and policies and codes and mores. Just as the United States created a successful and thriving middle class in the mid-20th century (a phenomenon copied by all of our allies), we have spent the past generation re-engineering our economy and society to eliminate the middle class.

Those earning twenty million a year did nothing special to earn it, they performed the same tasks their predecessors performed for a fraction of the earnings. What has happened is that we have re-written laws and codes, policies and mores to ensure that those at the top garner more of the nation's resources than those at the bottom.

I am actually OK with this, I accept it.

What I am not OK with is our society accepting the notion that these people have somehow done this all by themselves, that government intervention and subsidies have had nothing to do with their success, and in order to save America we must not just continue these policies, but we must further subsidize and codify this system because it is the only way to save ourselves.

By continuing this path of corporate anarchy, this policy of "everything done by corporations is good" and "everything done by the government is bad," we are doomed.

Governments subsidize society. That has been true since the beginning of time, and the more civilized the society, the more social engineering is performed by that society's government. This is what has made Western Civilization a success.

If we are choosing to eliminate government from the social engineering part of civilization building, then we should be eliminating from the top down, not from the bottom up.

We have spent thirty years changing laws and policies, codes and mores to prevent those at the bottom of economic ladder from progressing into a stable middle class, and we have promoted the acquisition of wealth only by those at the top of the ladder, those who need these subsidies the least.

That is what supply-side economic theory is about.

There is nothing in the implementation of supply-side economic theory that suggests the rich will earn their fortunes all by themselves with no help from the society around them. What we have done is change the focus of our social engineering from those at the bottom and in the middle to those at the top.

Billionaires don't exist in a vacuum. Their fortunes have been created by participating in a society funded by everyone along the economic spectrum.

Do I think everyone should get the same resources and benefits like some sort of socialist nirvana? No! But we need to stop pretending that those at the top amassed their fortunes all by themselves without the help of government; and we must shift some of our societal focus away from pushing the wealth to the top, and we must return to laws and policies, codes and mores that will re-establish the middle class.

If you think that is socialism, you are wrong. That is what made America great and created the most amazing capitalist society that ever existed. The path we have been on for the last generation is socialism for the rich.

If you oppose socialism, then you oppose everything the GOP and most modern-day Democrats promote, and if you oppose socialism then the policies of the Tea Party should scare you more than anything else.

Socialism for the rich is NOT capitalism, and it is not freedom.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


by Dick Mac

I do not know who created this image, I got it from Pi on Facebook.

This is a wonderful picture and should be considered by some news agency as a long-term project: dress-up every single elected official in a NASCAR-style uniform showing the corporate sponsorship of each seat in Congress.

Perhaps during elections, the candidates could be dressed the same way!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Struggling On A Small Salary

by Dick Mac

The statements against Occupy Wall Street have been filled with lies.

Some liars are good liars, and some liars are bad liars.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, is a terrible liar. I think this is part of what has made him appealing to voters: they don't know he's a bad liar, but when he's in a jam and doesn't know the answer to a difficult question, he lies. Not vindictively, not with a sense of evil; but he stammers through a couple of sentences that show his ignorance, but makes him endearing to us and in some ways lets us ignore his statement.

The Mayor is remarkably silent about Occupy Wall Street. He's made some statements and answered some questions, but has truly detached his office from the fracas and left it squarely on the shoulders of the police. Sadly, policing is not what this uprising needs, the people participating in Occupy Wall Street need a leader, a billionaire, or a powerful elected official (someone who Wall Street will listen to) to begin negotiating on their behalf.

Bloomberg would be perfect, but there is no way he would ever take the side of the protesters, and hardly acknowledges their existence.

To prove his ignorance about the reality of the situation (a reality that no billionaire could really fathom in this day and age), a recent statement about the protests exposed his ignorance.

The protesters are protesting against people who make $40-50,000 a year and are struggling to make ends meet. That's the bottom line. Those are the people that work on Wall Street or on the finance sector.
Bloomberg sheds a tear for bankers, makes up bogus numbers

Either the mayor believes that the people working on Wall Street earn forty grand a year, or he is lying, neither of which is really acceptable during these times.

This notion that the employees on Wall Street are somehow victimized by government regulation or consumer protest is absurd.

I know people who work on Wall Street (or for financial institutions that are not on Wall Street, itself, but are considered part of "Wall Street"). Wall Street, although an actual street in lower Manhattan that runs from Broadway to South Street, is an industry, the financial industry. So, many companies whose address is not actually ON Wall Street are considered to be part of Wall Street.

The average amount of money made by people in each industry is information that has been collected and analyzed for almost a century by the United States Department of Commerce. I don't know about you, but I don't think the Commerce Department is involved in a conspiracy to fudge the numbers gathered by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. See for yourself in Section 6 of this page: National Income and Product Accounts Tables

When citizens display anger about Wall Street, they are not actually discussing only the people who work on Wall Street, but are discussing the industry. Generally, Wall Street is considered to be those people who work in securities, commodity trading, and investments. I believe the lawyers who work for them should be included, but for statistical purposes they are not.

Receptionists at Wall Street firms earn more than fifty grand. Analysts, engineers, and other lower-level staff make double, sometimes triple that. Bankers, managers and brokers earn four, fix, six times more than that. Or even more. Executives and directors earn amounts of money that most of us don't even dream of.

What is the average salary on Wall Street?

In 2010, the average salary on Wall Street was $204,539. That's almost a quarter million dollars.

I do not object to those salaries, nor do I think the government should dictate or define, in any way, shape, or form, the salaries. I think American workers should be paid as much money as they can get from their bosses.

When Michael Bloomberg, one of the most successful men on Wall Street, puts forth an argument that people on wall Street earn forty or fifty thousand dollars, when in reality they earn, on average, four to five times that, it proves part of the point that the protesters are trying to make: the people in the financial industry and the government are completely out-of-touch with the realities of being an American citizen.

Unemployment is rising all the time, and the people who control industry and finance, that is, Wall Street, continue to off-shore our jobs, lower our salaries, reduce our benefits, and now are dismantling our government!

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are not hurting working people; they are hurting no one. They are shining a light on the invisible problem that is the control of our financial industry.

People on Wall Street earn a lot of money, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Manning Beef, LLC - Where's The Beef?

by Dick Mac

There is another food recall.

The Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a recall notice for the recall of bee tainted with E.coli.

One of the thing "conservatives" have promised us over the past three decades is that removal of burdensome regulation will lead to a healthier market, more and better-paying jobs, better products, higher profits, and satori. Well, OK, not the last bit about satori, but they have promised all the rest.

It took a little time for us to get this de-regulation thing going full-steam, but Bill Clinton and George W Bush did a remarkable amount of de-regulation in a very slick way: did not close any of the regulatory agencies, they followed Reagan's method and simply staffed them with the CEOs of the industries that are being regulated by those agencies. At the same time, Congress has slowly, but steadily, passed laws that take the teeth out of most agency rules enforcement.

E.coli is discussed at
E. coli and related bacteria constitute about 0.1% of gut flora, and fecal-oral transmission is the major route through which pathogenic strains of the bacterium cause disease. Cells are able to survive outside the body for a limited amount of time, which makes them ideal indicator organisms to test environmental samples for fecal contamination. The bacterium can also be grown easily and inexpensively in a laboratory setting, and has been intensively investigated for over 60 years. E. coli is the most widely studied prokaryotic model organism, and an important species in the fields of biotechnology and microbiology, where it has served as the host organism for the majority of work with recombinant DNA.
See, Escherichia coli

What this says, generally, is that E.coli is most commonly spread when poo gets in your food.

Food recalls are on the rise.

The USDA is not staffed to inspect the number of factories in its purview.

So, there is poo in your beef. And there will be more poo in your food as time goes on.

The current recall is from Manning Beef, LLC, of Pico Rivera, California. About 80,000 pounds of poo-beef has been distributed.

This is a Class I recall, the most serious type of recall, meaining there is a chance that eating the poo-beef will cause serious illness or death

The USDA defines it:

Class I Recall: This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

WASHINGTON, Sep 30, 2011 - Manning Beef, LLC, a Pico Rivera, Calif. establishment, is voluntarily recalling approximately 80,000 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The following products are subject to recall:
  • Combo bins of BroPack Inc Beef Manufacturing Trimmings "65/35, 50/50 or 85/15" produced on Sept. 23, 2011.
  • Combo bins of Paso Prime Beef Manufacturing Trimmings "65/35, 50/50 or 85/15" produced on Sept. 23, 2011.
  • 30 and 60 lb. boxes of primal cuts, subprimal cuts and boxed beef produced on Sept. 23, 2011.

See more at: California Firm Recalls Beef Products Due To Possible E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination

Fortunately, at this time, nobody has been reported sick or dead from the tainted beef.