Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Through Thick and Thin: This is not a Difficult Concept

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Image brought to Doug’s Darkworld inspired by the Oklahoma Senate, which just passed a bill claiming that a fertilized egg is a human being. We live in an interesting age, but when one tries to enforce a bronze age morality on a  21st century nation, the going really gets weird. Bottom line: It’s OK for people to have sex for reasons other than procreation. Really, try it some time, you’ll be surprised. As soon as we get that settled, the sooner we can go about sensible ways of making sure that every child is a wanted child, but sadly the evangelicals are never going to give up on sex. It’s how cults control people. It would be like a government giving up taxation, aint gonna happen.

Whitney Houston died. Whitney who? This  story got vastly more press than it deserved, but that’s the corporate fawning media at work, real news get short shrift, dead celebrities get top billing. Yes, the mainstream media is now little different that  the celebrity magazines by the checkout counter at Safeway. The state of New Jersey is even going to fly its flags at half mast for Whitney, so yes, it can always get weirder. Some aren’t exactly thrilled by this, who can blame them?

The UN has condemned the Syrian government and asked them to step down. Yes, an organization touted as being a way for states to avoid conflict with each other is now simply the enforcer of western hegemony, the US and its allies get to decide what a legitimate government is. The usual burblings about it being about human rights, like the bloody sores that are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya were. Only tyranny and discord can be imposed on a country from outside, freedom can only be had when a people chose to be free … which of course is what the west is so freaking terrified about in the Middle East. They aren’t afraid of terrorism, that’s to distract the rubes. The real fear is powerful sovereign governments running their countries in their own best interests. Can’t have that, it makes it almost impossible to exploit them for their resources.

Speaking of fake scary again, Iran made its heralded nuclear announcement. Which got zero news coverage because they announced that they had installed their first domestically produced fuel rod in a reactor, and that they had made a breakthrough in medical radioisotopes. All under constant western supervision of course, since Iran’s peaceful nuclear program is carefully monitored as per its obligations under the NPT. Iran being a peaceful responsible player isn’t part of the crazy mullahs meme, so I doubt anyone even saw this in the news. No, just the stories about purported amateur Iranian plots to kill Israeli diplomats, stories so fishy one has to hold their nose while reading them.

Greece. What a mess. My current understanding is that the crux of the whole Euro thing, is that everyone borrowed beyond their means on the assumption that the world and national economies would continue to grow forever and outpace the debt. Yes, basically every nation in the west acted like a crack head with a  credit card, and now the bills are coming due. All in collusion with the bankers of course. If people really understood that,  capitols would burn. So instead a fall guy has been found, Greece. If the bankers can just get the population of one county to agree to be serfs to pay off the bankers debt, maybe others will follow. I don’t think it’s gonna work, people may be sheep, but they are going to notice if serfdom is brought back.

One would hope so at least. Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s all over the Internet, I have no idea who to attribute it to. Redefining reality to promote social control, that’s religion in a nutshell.)

Occupy Wall Street Explained: End the War, Tax the Rich.

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Despite the veritable bullshit storm of nonsense tossed about by the corporate media (owned by the very people who are being protested, go figure,) the philosophy of the Occupy Wall Street movement is very simple and can be explained in six one syllable words: End the war, tax the rich. Not complicated at all, not hard to remember. Easy to explain to liberals and conservatives alike, easy to explain to anyone who still thinks the mainstream media or the two parties represent the interests of Americans. Anything else is a distraction and a diversion.

And no, they aren’t saying we should surrender to Al-Qaeda. They are saying that spending more money on our military than the rest of the planet combined is insane. That waging counterinsurgency war in half a dozen countries is madness. (You’d think we’d have learned that one in Indochina.) The best way to support our troops is to bring them home, they are dying overseas for nothing. We have enough nuclear weapons to flatten any nation that dares attack us, there’s no need to spend endless American treasure and blood trying to force democracy down the throats of tribesmen on the other side of the planet. When their people are ready for freedom, they will seize it, as the Arab Spring is showing us as I type. There are better alternatives to endless war and limitless military spending, trust me.

And then there’s “tax the rich.” A quick review: The USA has gotten vastly wealthier since the mid 1970s. Virtually all of this new wealth ended up at the very top of the pile. Through rented politicians giving the rich tax cut after tax cut, to rented politicians gutting depression era regulations intended to the prevent the sorts of financial shenanigans Wall Street used to steal trillions of dollars. I’s been more than thirty years since Reagan sold Americans on the cool aid that if the rich get tax breaks, they will run out and hire people. The so called trickle down theory. Well, guess what, turns out if one gives the rich tax breaks, they put the money in an offshore account and start pleading for the next round of tax breaks. Reaganomics has failed, it’s time the rich to start paying they same share of taxes as the rest of us.

The media is of course doing their best to discredit, ridicule, and trivialize the OWS movement. The want people to think that it’s all about a bunch of incoherent pot crazed hippies causing trouble for the sake of causing trouble. That the media is going to all this trouble shows just how scared the establishment really is, since virtually always they simply ignore protesters. Sadly it may work, there’s still tens of millions of Americans still convinced that the Republicans or the Democrats are going to somehow save the situation. By doing what, exactly? Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have made any serious changes in America’s foreign and fiscal policy in decades, and look where that has gotten us. At war with half the world and up to our eyeballs in debt. And, you know, the recession.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Every USA election since 1984 (at least) has been nothing more than a stage magic show to make people think their voice still counts. No, it doesn’t. And if Obama with his “Bush on steroids” foreign and domestic policy hasn’t made people realize the folly of thinking their vote counts for something, I don’t know what will. Hell, the stolen 1980 election should have woken people out of their torpor, but Americans have been softly screwed into a coma for decades.

Some of them are finally waking up. Occupy Wall Street. Stop the war. Tax the rich. Pass it on.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is arguably an historically important image. It’s all over the web, but I couldn’t find the copyright information, if someone supplies it I will be glad to post it. I chose it because it’s one of many images that show this movement has wide spread support. Tomorrow, I will expand on how we could conduct our foreign policy and defend America without endless deficit spending or waging war around the world.)

Written by unitedcats

October 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm

We’re Fracked

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And no, not another 9/11 post. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on those, there’s a even a few I haven’t responded to. Granted, I don’t get around to responding to every comment, but I try to respond to many or most of them. I get a lot of international comments, not terribly surprising, I’m a rare breed in the USA, an intellectual. I’ve known that since the 80s when we met some German brothers in New Zealand. Later they hitchhiked across the USA and visited us in California. One of their questions was, where are all the intellectuals? I couldn’t say.

I digress, the topic of today’s blog, fracking. Fracking is a method of drilling oil out of low grade oil deposits like oil sands and oil shales, of which the USA has in abundance. During the last gas crunch a few years ago, some wags tossed fracking around as a solution to our oil problems. The Bakken Formation was a favourite example. Experts in the field pointed out that we were decades away from being able to commercially exploit these deposits in a large way. My own considered opinion was that the experts were right.

Well, apparently I was wrong. So were the experts. The technology is here, now. Fracking wells have become commercially viable, and are sprouting up all over the place. It’s entirely possible that in a decade or less the US could produce its own oil, or even become an oil exporting nation again. This is a pretty big change from the peak oil scare a few years back, apparently peak oil has been put off a few more decades.  This is all good, right?

No, not necessarily at least. There’s three points that make this an interesting topic, the first of which is, who knows? This is a wonderful example of how things can change very quickly on the world stage. For decades the exploitation of oil shale and oil sand deposits have largely been a pipe dream. They aren’t any more. This is a huge change. And when the equation changes, all sorts of things can fall out. So this is an important development that might change everything, so people should be aware of it.

Secondly, even if fracking really does produce copious amounts of oil and natural gas, the environmental consequences appear to be non-trivial. Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, which basically is pumping heated fluids into the ground to fracture rack and allow oil and gas to flow out. Um, what heated fluids? And um, isn’t there groundwater down there? Who knows, and yes. This is why fracking has been outlawed in a few minor jurisdictions. Like Queensland, Quebec, France, and several US states. At best it’s safe to say there are future unknown costs, possibly significant,  due to environmental concerns.

Lastly, are there geopolitical implications? Yes, yes there are. One would think it would be a good thing, but anything is possible. My fear is that this will fuel American militarism abroad for a few more decades. And at our current rate of enemy creation, that means we will be at war with the entire world in a few decades. Yeah, that will work out well.

(The above image is of the burning Piper Alpha oil platform. It’s claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. It was a disaster that was a classic disaster, a whole string of events led up to it, and it’s a study in disaster prevention to this day. A bunch of guys died. I chose it to illustrate that the exploitation of oil and gas involves costs, sometimes very human ones.)

Written by unitedcats

September 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm

The Truth About the Economy in Two Minutes

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Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains the problems with the economy in less than 2 minutes, 15 seconds. With illustration even, check it out here: The Truth About the Economy in Two Minutes. I highly recommend watching it now, especially as I will be discussing it in this post.

Basically his point can be summed up in far less than two minutes. Since around 1980, the rich in the USA have gotten richer, while the middle class has lost ground. So while the USA has far more wealth than it had in 1980, all the new wealth is concentrated in the hands of the very rich. And they have increasingly used this wealth to buy influence in congress, get their taxes lowered, and play the average American off against each other by placing the blame on poor people, immigrants, liberals, conservatives, whatever.

I don’t see anything wrong with his analysis. It’s a breath of clear air in a dank cave, that’s for sure. The current debt ceiling limit debate is a wonderful example of how political theatre has replaced real debate on the real issues. Almost everything I read about the “debate” has been stuff and nonsense. Neither “side” want to talk about the two biggest contributions to this mess: Our insane military spending and the insanely low taxes on the rich. Until and unless these are addressed, the whole debt situation is just going to get worse and worse.

Both “sides” of the “debate” use different, equally idiotic, talking points. The right loves to blame poor people, immigrants, and sick people for all our nation’s woes. And of course still sticking to the utterly demolished argument that giving the rich tax beaks will magically create jobs. And the left, among much irrelevance, often likes to claim that the debt is no big deal, and that the $400 billion a year in interest on the national debt is trivial. I’m pretty sure $400 billion a year could finance all sorts of things far more useful to the average American than paying bankers ever more money.

Although the point needs to be made, if the government was spending all this money on things that would eventually create wealth, the debt wouldn’t be such a big deal. Things like education, health care, and the nation’s infrastructure. This is how the government used to spend money, and up until the mid-seventies it made the USA the envy of the world. Since then spending on things like education and infrastructure has died the death of a thousand cuts, American’s public education is among the worst in the industrialized world, and the nation’s infrastructure is falling apart. Not to mention a national health system that is a sick joke. France spends about 11% of its GNP on health care, and provides everyone in France with what is widely regarded as the best health care in the world. The USA spends about 16% of its GNP on health care (the most in the world) and has a health care system that is dead last in the industrialized world. Yes, one has to go to second and third world countries to find worse health care than in the USA.

So it doesn’t really matter whether or not they raise the debt ceiling. Until we have a government that puts the needs of the nation and its people ahead of the needs of the hyper-rich … we’re all screwed. Don’t hold your breath.

(The above image is of a huge German tank that the Nazis were working on during World War Two. It would have been essentially invulnerable to other tanks and artillery. Unfortunately it would have been a sitting duck for aircraft … and completely unable to cross rivers. This is the kind of nonsense militaries’ come up with when they have too much money. The current US military being no exception, maybe some blog posts on that will come down the pike.)

Written by unitedcats

July 31, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Aren’t we too puny to rival the great forces of nature that shape our planet?

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Aral Sea 1989-2008I was wondering the other day how much human activity is altering the plant, erosion specifically was what got me looking into the subject. I mean, humans have converted vast amounts of forest and prairie into farmland or worse, and erosion rates must have gone up significantly over normal background  rates of erosion. Well, turns out geologists have calculated that the global erosion rate is about 10 billion tons of sediment moved from mountains to sea every year. Since the onset of agriculture, this has risen to about 28 billion tons per year. And we also move tens of billions of other material around in the form of mining, concrete production, etc. There’s not any question that humans are now the dominant force shaping the very surface of the Earth by a huge margin. The numbers a so huge that geologists are seriously considering defining the human era as a whole new geological era, the Anthropocene Epoch.

Then there’s the impact of humans have on the atmosphere. Let’s look at volcanoes. Every year volcanoes erupt and dump copious amounts of CO2 and SO2 (sulphur dioxide) into the atmosphere. Humans? We dump about 100 times and five times respectively as much CO2 and SO2 into the atmosphere every year as volcanoes. This is not chicken scratch. In fact the amount of CO2 released by humans and absorbed by the oceans has increased ocean acidity by 25%. This is a huge increase, and has changed the geological processes on the ocean floor in ways we don’t begin to understand.

Let’s just look at it from an energy standpoint. The heat energy released by the Earth every year is well understood. It’s about 44 trillion watts a year. This is what powers volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics. Human activity is about 16 trillion watts per year. Yes, human energy output is now about 1/3 the energy output of the Earth itself! And if it keeps doubling every 34 years, the current rate of increase, by about 2060 humans will be generating more energy than the Earth! Puny my ass.

It gets worse. As CO2 builds up in the atmosphere it increases the greenhouse effect, IE it traps more of the Sun’s heat on the Earth, warming the crust, the oceans, and the air. If the CO2 in the atmosphere doubles, it will add about 1300 trillion watts of heat energy to the Earth every year! That’s about 28 times the energy the Earth generates every year. And we’re well on the way, humans have increased the CO2 in the atmosphere by about 40% so far with no end in sight. Humans are literally cooking the planet’s crust, atmosphere, and oceans. Literally.

And these are just the big picture items. Little picture items, though the term is misleading, include deforestation, habitat destruction, over-fishing, and groundwater depletion just to name a few. Then there’s the dizzying array of chemicals we make and dump. Any of these could fill volumes with their effects, at least their known effects. My point here is very simple, humans not only are having a huge impact on the nature of our planet, we have no clue what the end results of these will be.

We are deliberately and literally geoengineering our planet, our only planet, with little to no understanding of the long term consequences of our actions. This is why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet, and this is why I question the idea that humans are an intelligent species. We are transforming the globe in ways we don’t even begin to understand, in the name of greed, ideology, and religion.

This isn’t going to end well.

(The above image is a NASA image and is being used legally, essentially it’s a Public Domain image as long as it is used in such a way that does not imply that NASA is endorsing a product or service. NASA does not endorse Doug’s Darkworld. It’s the decline of the Aral Sea in central Asia, once the world’s fourth largest lake. It’s now about 10% of it’s former size, entirely due to human activity and the results have been catastrophic. Lastly, much of the information on this post came from Our effect on the earth is real: how we’re geo-engineering the planet.)

Written by unitedcats

July 10, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Doug’s Angryworld

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fall of the Rebel Angels

Part of the reason my blogging has slowed down recently is that so much of what is going on today makes me mad. So I decided to vent about it, maybe it will be cathartic, maybe it will just make me madder. In no particular order, and in no way comprehensive, here are ten things I spend my time seething about. Be warned, I may use some harsh language as the situation warrants.

1. The rich are ass raping us all, and tens of millions of Americans are clamouring for more. The rich have been getting richer in the USA since the 1970s, while the middle class has slowly and steadily lost ground. This is not debatable. They’ve moved our factories to foreign lands, slashed their taxes, taken over our government and mainstream media, and stolen trillions from the public till. And most Americans are so brain-washed and propagandized that they blame immigrants, liberals, conservatives, atheists, shriners, whatever. Anyone but the people who have actually gotten us into this mess.

2. The debt, an extension of number one. The Federal government  has been running in the red a record breaking 33 months now. State and local governments are no better. How in the name of God did the richest country the world has ever seen run up debts so insane that there is no conceivable way to ever pay them off? The infinite greed of the rich and the apparently infinite stupidity of the great unwashed masses is my guess.

3. The Pentagon. There was a reason the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to a standing army. Armies get involved in politics, and then get the country involved in wars. All of which costs the country blood and money. And it just keeps getting worse, while tens of millions of Americans regurgitate the crap that our legions overseas are fighting to “defend our freedoms.” No, they are fighting and dying to make the rich richer and create endless new enemies for the USA. Frankly the US army needs to be disbanded it’s so out of control.

4. The historic last flight of the space shuttle. Good riddance. The space shuttle was one of the biggest boondoggles in history, it should never have been built in the first place, and it most certainly should have been canned after the first one blew up. Yet Americans are celebrating the lives lost and the billions wasted on this flying cash cow.

5. Iran is going to have nukes soon! Yes, another right wing think tank claims that Iran is going to be building nukes soon! Yes, the exact same claim that has been made by Israeli and American war mongers since the 1980s! Yes, for nearly thirty years Iran has been “just about to” build nuclear weapons! Meanwhile Israel and the USA have massively increased their war spending, including the creation of an Israeli nuclear arsenal. The USA spends more money on air conditioning for its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than the entire Iranian military budget, yet we are supposed to quail in our boots because Iran might someday acquire a few fifties era nukes?

6. Casey Anderson. A woman was acquitted of a terrible crime in a fair trial … and millions of Americans are braying for her blood. Literally. How does this make them any different than stone throwing Muslims? It doesn’t.

7. Health Care. France spends 11% of its GNP on health care, and provides everyone in France with cradle to grave health care of the highest quality. The USA spends 16% of its GNP on health care and provides its citizens with the worst health care in the industrialized world. Anyone who isn’t mad about this is a fool.

8. Fucking the globe. From climate change to deforestation to over-fishing humans are making widespread and unprecedented changes to the surface of our fine planet. Humans are now the greatest force for change operating on the surface of the Earth in numerous realms, in most cases either ignorant of what the end result will be, or worse, deliberately proceeding even though our best minds say the end result will be catastrophic. Collectively we are no smarter than ants.

9. Religious nuts. Even the Romans understood: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – 65 A.D.) And here we are two thousand years later blowing each other up, destroying the planet, and breeding like rabbits because people think it’s a great idea to do stuff because of what someone’s imaginary friend said. Jesus wept.

10. We’re all little better than monkeys. Yes, science has now shown that our brains are hard wired to be stupid. When most people are confronted with logical and scientific evidence that refutes some stupid idea they have, it reinforces their beliefs! This wouldn’t be such problem if our leaders weren’t all too eager to promote dumb fuck ideas because it makes them richer and more powerful.

In conclusion, speaking globally, this isn’t going to end well. Speaking locally, despite a missing lime and a recalcitrant pull tab, it’s going quite well and will end up nicely. And when I wake up, maybe the last 31 years will have all been a nightmare. A man can dream.

(The above image is of a painting made in 1562, so it’s currently Public Domain under US copyright law. I expect that to change soon as corporations twist the law to their own purposes. It’s titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Brueghal the Elder. I believe it’s self evident why I thought this was an appropriate image for this post.)

I’m back from my tour of North Korea

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kim il jong looks at things

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, nor did I go to North Korea. Just a combination of personal stuff and utter dismay at the state of the world. However, two recent comments left on previous posts made me think, and both deserve a considered response. See how diplomatic that sounded, one can learn a lot by watching the current actor in the White House. Also I wanted to say a few things about this terribly sad story: Microwaved Baby. The comments people have made about the story are particularly interesting.

First though, a comment left on my post “Why Not Invade North Korea?” It’s actually one of my older posts, I could make even more cogent arguments today about the folly of invading North Korea.  However, in response to my post, I recently got this comment:

“It’s not about the threat to the US; it’s about NK’s threat to HUMANITY.

Millions dying there per annum; disease, starvation, all manner of depraved sub-animalistic goings on… cannibalism. Even the ‘mere’ relentless indoctrination of so many with a fascist, anti liberal / Western / democratic ideology is dangerous far beyond the need hypothesize about expunging it.

Isn’t this the kind of thing the ‘world police’ are meant keep off of our planet’s streets?

Oh. Yeah… my bad. North Korea DOES have WMDs but not oil / resources, so of course that grants them dispensation from being invaded. What was I thinking — d’oh! =P”

Well then, that settles it, North Koreans are the bad guys so we should just invade and “fix” it. Well, the esteemed author of said comment is certainly an extreme example of confirmation bias in action, I know there’s no argument I can make that will shake their world view. Invading other countries, even countries on the far side of the world, because of our moral and ethical superiority is the crusader mentality illustrated. Again, people who maintain that crusades are acceptable are espousing an ideology, simplistic as “good vs evil” is as an ideology. People making ideologically based arguments, like ones making religiously based arguments, are pretty much immune to reasonable argument. In fact reasonable argument actually can strengthen people’s contravening beliefs, go figure.

Just quickly though I would point out that his argument has two fatal flaws. The first is that it completely ignores the role the west played in both creating, and maintaining, the North Korean regime. Even more fatal, is the fact that nation building crusades as the gentle commenter is suggesting, rarely work and frequently make things much worse!

Moving right along, in response to my recent post “Socialism for the Rich Illustrated,” someone left this comment:

“When you give money to the rich, they INVEST it.
Selfishly.
Expecting to make a profit.
No matter why, the money still goes into the economy.

I agree that we must have greater quality, but basic economics teaches that that will be at the cost of having lesser overall wealth.”

Sigh. When the rich get richer, even if their ever increasing pile of money is technically still part of the economy, so what? In fact that’s the problem, the rich have so gamed the system that all their money does is sit at the top and suck up more money. Which is exactly what I was illustrating with the empty store front above, this rich fellow is not investing his wealth in the economy, his store is just sitting there empty making him  money from the public trough!

Secondly, economics is not a “zero sum game.” At least not since Sam Adams a few hundred years ago. If you take a thousand unemployed people, build a factory, and put them to work, you are creating wealth. A healthy civilization like the Romans for example, sets up laws and regulations so that the rich are encouraged to invest in the economy in ways that create wealth. And then there’s the opposite approach, illustrated above.

Lastly, the sad case of the microwaved baby. And equally sad, how many of the comments were eager to rush to judgment and subject her to all sorts of hideous torments. Right, and it’s Muslims that have a violent culture? This “microwave her” attitude is like, the opposite of civilized. This is because simply don’t know yet what actually happened. The fact that the police have charged her means nothing.

Take a socially isolated women taking care of small children 24/7 and you already have a recipe for mental breakdown. Add another layer of mental illness like depression or postpartum psychosis, and bad things can happen. Or even add a controlling abusive husband who didn’t want another daughter and made damn sure his wife got the message that she had to “get rid of the problem.” This sort of thing does happen in the west, yes, it really does. Until far more background information is available, I’m not going to even guess at how culpable she is.

Yes, possibly she is just a psychopath who was getting rid of an annoyance, but those types of cases are far more common in Hollywood movies than in real life. I’m betting it will turn out she was in a  pretty horrible place to have done such a thing. And one even has to wonder if there are other possibilities. Like her other small children did it while she was distracted for a moment, imagine what a mind messing nightmare that would be for a mom to deal with. To make my point obvious, the fact that so many people are willing to suggest horrible punishments for this women even before her trial, or even the facts have been made public, shows that the sort of toxic misogyny that we are so quick to condemn in other cultures is not so deeply buried in ours.

(The above image is North Korea’s redoubtable leader, Kim Jong-il, looking at things. In this image he’s looking at a piece of plywood. Democratic leaders have to shake a lot of hands, despots have to look at a lot of things. Mr Kim can go anywhere and look at anything he wants in his country, I’m sure that beats shaking a bunch of sweaty hands in shopping malls every day. Another reason dictators shun democratic reform I suppose. I got it from this fine aptly titled site: kim jong-il looking at things.)

Written by unitedcats

June 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Socialism for the Rich Illustrated

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Black Oak Books

This is the former site of Black Oak Books, a once thriving book store in North Berkeley. To say it was an anchor store in the neighbourhood would be an understatement, it as an important part of the community and a serious business draw for its local little business district. It thrived till the mid nineties, then business slowed because of competition from the Internet, Amazon.com in particular. Who can blame people, local sales taxes are at 10% now, on Amazon in California they are 0%. It got to the point where they couldn’t make their $16,000 monthly rent, they were unable to renegotiate a lower rent with the landlord, who insisted on getting “market” rates, and it folded about a year ago.

And since then the store has sat there, empty. And I wondered how it could be that the property owner could afford to have the store sitting empty for a year instead of collecting some rent. I mean, that’s nearly $200k a year in lost rent, wouldn’t it make sense for the landlord to agree to a lower than “market rate” rent just to keep some income coming in? How can even a well off person just piss away $200k a year? Easy … he gets to write off the “loss” on his taxes.

This is … insane. And a wonderful example of how the rich in America have perverted the legal and tax codes to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. By allowing the landlord to simply write off his losses because he can’t get a “market rate” renter, society as a whole is screwed. Jobs are lost, commerce is lost, and taxpayers pick up the tab to allow someone who is already very wealthy to pursue a business “strategy” that in anything resembling an actual capitalist free market would be insanely unprofitable.

And this is just one example of how the rich have perverted the laws and tax code of the land to benefit them at the expense of society at large. Very few Americans really understand how serious and terrible this situation is. I mean it’s so serious that the rich have been able to convince most Americans that there is something terribly wrong with taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor, but it’s perfectly OK to tax the poor and give the money to the rich, because of course the rich will invest the money in ways that will “trickle down” to the poor.

Let’s think about this, what happens if one gives money to poor people? Do they squirrel it away in their mattress or deposit it in an offshore bank account? Of course not, they promptly run out and spend it. Creating commerce, jobs, and the whole shebang that makes an economy work. And what happens if one gives money to the rich? They promptly stick in in an offshore account or otherwise do what they can to make sure they keep the money, they most certainly don’t run out and spend it. People get to be rich and continue to be rich by not spending money. I mean, d’oh.

Yet in America we’ve allowed the rich to so control the laws and even the public discourse to the point where millions of Americans think that redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor is somehow evil. Excuse me? For a civilization to have any long term prospects, everyone has to benefit. A civilization where only the rich benefit has no long term prospects, or at least no long term prospects that benefit anyone but the rich. If the upwards transfer of wealth is a sacrament, eventually the wealthy own everything, and the rest of us are slaves.

And sadly this appears to be where America is headed. One giant company town, or worse, one giant plantation where most of us are effectively slaves. In other words, there isn’t going to be any recovery from the current depression, because all the government is doing is bailing out the rich at public expense. Well, unless one regards a job at MacDonald’s and overpriced rental housing as a good thing. The disparity between rich and poor has never been greater in the USA, and legions of Americans are not only defending the status quo, they are clamouring for more of the same. The rich are laughing all the way to the bank.

Sigh. Have a great week everyone.

(The above image as taken by me. Credit and Copyright © Doug Stych. It stretches the imagination that anyone would want to use the image, but they are free to do so for non-commercial purposes if properly attributed and linked to Doug’s Darkworld.)

Written by unitedcats

June 6, 2011 at 5:14 am

Through Thick and Thin

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Syria Damascus ProtestsWell, no rapture. No surprise. It really is dismaying how people can believe prima facie nonsense in this day and age. It’s especially galling because so many Americans, especially the ones who fall for this kind of crap, have an especially high opinion of America and Americans. A country where tens of millions of people think the Earth is a few thousand years old or that evolution is “just a theory.” And don’t even get me started on people who think the Moon landings were hoaxed. Our educational system as once the envy of the world, it’s rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the world.

Moving right along, I think it’s clear at this point that Obama is going to get reelected. No one in their right mind is going to run against him, so its going to be a very amusing election. Especially the Republican primaries, a collection of, well, political suicide bombers like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich squaring it off. They might as well skip any actual pretense of debate and settle the issue mud wrestling. Hell, I’d pay to see Sarah and Newt go at it in a mud pit. On the plus side, I won’t have much to blog about since Obama’s inexorable progress will be painfully obvious to all. I wonder if peeps will be dancing in the streets the second time he gets elected? (Of course by then public displays of affection towards our Dear Leader may be mandatory.)

The economy still sucks. Tushima is still a disaster. The Gulf Oil Spill is still wreaking an unsung toll. Iraq is still a bloody mess, Afghanistan a repeat of Vietnam … without even the option of carpet bombing the Taliban’s cities because they don’t have any. Egypt is still a mess becasue Mubarak’s cronies throwing him and him alone to the wolves was not exactly the democratic revolution the people of Egypt struggled for and deserved. Libya is now effectively two states, with NATO bombing here and there. The totalitarian governments of Syria and Yemen are slaughtering people in the street, Syria’s may survive, Yemen’s is looking more doubtful. Bahrain is still a brutal mess. Pakistan gets more unstable every day. And the rest of the world is looking on and trying to stay out of the scrum … or see how they can benefit from it. See, more information about the state of the world in one paragraph than in an entire year of the New Yorker.

I wanted to mention Pakistan in a bit more depth. There’s been a lot of hostile talk about Pakistan in the USA, about how they aren’t a good ally, and they may have even known about OBL’s location. All possibly true. Then there’s reality. In reality, Pakistan is far more fractured and power is far more diffuse than in the USA. It takes a long time to forge a nation out of nothing, and Pakistan has had less than a century as a nation under conditions that make the United State’s infancy look like a romp in Disneyland. Secondly, aside from understanding what a mess Pakistan is, more importantly, they only joined the USA’s war against the Taliban because of threats and bribes. Pakistan was the Taliban’s best friend, for perfectly reasonable geopolitical reasons. So basically the USA is in the position of a bully who with a combination of threats and bribes forced Pakistan into a war not only against its best interests, but into a war against elements of its own society. To then blame the Pakistanis for being less than enthusiastic participants in the mess we made is, well, ignorant. We’re lucky they’ve cooperated as much as they have, we should be counting our blessings.

Lastly, as far as I can tell, the western cabal’s control of the mainstream media gets more pervasive and more subtle every day. Not that it was ever easy to figure out what was going on, but more and more huge numbers of people think they are tuned in … and they aren’t. This isn’t going to end well.

(The above image is being used legally under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Credit and copyright: Syriana2011. It’s an image of protesters in Damascus this spring. It’s obviously been photo shopped, since none of the thousands of Muslims in the image is engaged in violence.)

Written by unitedcats

May 23, 2011 at 6:28 am

Fukushima Lies

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Well, as was obvious almost immediately, the nuclear power lobby and their supporters went into overdrive to downplay and obfuscate the seriousness of the Fukushima crisis in Japan. No, this isn’t another Chernobyl. And World War Two wasn’t the same as World War One, that doesn’t mean World War Two was no big deal either. I’ve even read commentaries claiming Fukushima “proves” that nuclear power  is safe. My jaw drops on that one, the Fukushima crisis isn’t over yet, so how the hell does this prove nuclear power is safe? Until the plant is safely brought back under control, and that may take up to a year, it’s a little premature to claim that this crisis is even over, let alone claim that Fukushima is no big deal.

The biggest lie I see about nuclear accidents is ones revolving around the death toll. By focusing entirely or almost entirely on how many people died, it’s easy to make nuclear power look safe compared to say coal power. There are two things horribly deceptive about this argument. For one thing it relies on the lowest possible estimates for deaths caused by nuclear accidents, often even limiting it to the people directly killed on site! It’s debatable how many people were killed by Chernobyl, maybe a few thousand, maybe many more, but focusing on this single statistic obscures the bigger picture. What about the people who got cancer but didn’t die? What about the hundred thousand people who were rendered homeless by Chernobyl? What about the area the size of Rhode Island (or Lancashire) that was rendered uninhabitable by Chernobyl? And what about the incredible cost of accidents like Fukushima or Chernobyl? Can a fire at a coal power plant bankrupt a nation?

And speaking of coal power plants, the claim is often made that we have a choice between coal power plants and nuclear power plants. To say this is oversimplification would be unfair, this is simply regurgitated energy industry propaganda. The energy industry has done a fabulous job convincing people that the only way to provide power in the modern world is giant power plants and their attendant giant electrical grids. Conservation, energy efficiency, distributed power generation, etc. are all simply dismissed as hippie nonsense. If this were really the case, the energy industry wouldn’t need tireless propaganda for their cause, and more importantly, it completely obscures the massive public subsidies that the energy industry has enjoyed for decades. From the Rural Electrification Act to the development of nuclear power itself the energy industry has enjoyed generous public subsidies. Not to mention that the health costs of both coal and nuclear power are simply dumped on the public. Anyone who says coal and nuclear plants and centralized power  are the “only option” is missing a big part of the picture.

Then we come to the amazing amount of misinformation spread about radiation itself. Mostly through conflating various types of radiation, and by claiming that “radiation” is normal and that a little bit more won’t hurt. Yes, we live in a world where there is a lot of radiation, it’s unavoidable. What the “it’s all OK” people deliberately ignore or don’t mention is that fallout is not normal. Fallout is radioactive particles that get released into the environment. And yes, the radiation produced by fallout is trivial. What they don’t mention, is that if the fallout gets incorporated into bodily tissue, it is horrifically non-trivial. It’s like if someone was shooting at you with a BB gun, close your eyes and you would be safe. If however they could insert that BB gun inside our body at shoot at point blank range at various organs, the results would not be pretty. This is the difference been the radiation one receives on a  plane flight and the radiation one receives by ingesting fallout, same “radiation,” wildly different consequences.

The other way that nuclear industry apologists deliberately understates the risk from fallout is that they make the claim that it’s so widely distributed in the environment that the dose anyone gets is small. While this is sort of true, it completely ignores the way fallout in the environment get concentrated in the food chain. Sure, there’s very little fallout on that grass. Then however the cows eat that grass, and a small amount of radioactive fallout gets concentrated and becomes dangerously radioactive milk or meat. In fact there are all sorts of ways radioactive fallout can get concentrated in the food chain, many of them no doubt as yet unknown. This especially goes with the release of fallout into the sea, this is simply a complete unknown at this point. Don’t worry though, the risk is so small that our government is going to protect us by not even bothering to test for it. Phew, see, no problem.

Which leads to another point. It’s so easy to hide the damage caused by this sort of event. Let’s think about this. Governments and the nuclear industry have incredible incentive to downplay the consequences of Fukushima. Combine this with the fact that the actual risks of this, increased cancer rates in decades to come, are going to be very easy to conceal and obfuscate and deny. Pretty sure any poli-sci freshman can give many reasons why governments lie through their teeth in situations like this. This is just how human institutions work, especially today when the mainstream media is owned lock, stock, and barrel by these very same interests that have reason to lie. Is this proof that they are lying or that the consequences of Fukushima are extremely serious? Of course not, but it’s definitely proof that people need to take government, industry, and media “expert’s”  pronouncements of safety with an extremely large dose of salt.

Lastly, a related point that Fukushima illustrates. Nuclear waste. There are decades worth of nuclear waste “stored” at Fukushima, under circumstances that are hardly safe. This is the most toxic waste humans have ever produced, and it’s going to remain dangerous for thousands of years. The fact that the fawning corporate media never even mentions this issue anymore is proof that they are simply shills for big energy and big government. I mean, passing their negative costs onto society is standard procedure for big business, but in this case they are passing the costs on to countless future generations. This should be factored into arguments about how “safe” and “practical” nuclear power is, but instead it simply gets ignored. I’m sorry, but ignoring the nuclear waste issue in the discussion of nuclear power makes about as much sense as ignoring a lump in your breast or testicle in a discussion about your health.

In summary, am I saying that Fukushima is a mind numbing disaster that’s going to kill huge numbers of people and proves that nuclear power is insane? Not at all. I’m saying that Fukushima  is a serous disaster of yet untold proportions, and it’s very much proof that the whole issue of nuclear power needs to be publicly debated. And I’m also saying that anyone, government or otherwise, who claims Fukushima is “no big deal” is at best premature  in their pronouncement, and at worst simply lying. No one knows the future scope of the Fukushima disaster, especially since the reactors and nuclear waste storage pools won’t be brought under control for months at best. This could still get a lot worse before it gets better. Sadly, I’m betting on worse.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. And yes, I’m kinda skirting the boundaries of copyright law here, but since I’m plugging their show, I hope that in the extremely unlikely event that a CBS corporate copyright attorney sees this blog, they can overlook this copyright violation. At worst, they can tell me to remove the image. Credit and Copyright: CBS. Anyhow, I digress. I chose this image for several reasons, the main one being that it illustrates that the comfortable post World War Two fantasy that most Americans have been living in is rapidly drawing to a close, and Fukushima and its attendant costs and disruptions to the world economy are one of the factors driving this sea change. Wealth can only be funnelled upwards while costs are passed onto the public for so long  before the whole rotten edifice collapses of its own weight. And also because it as a really good TV series and I highly recommend it to my readers.)

Written by unitedcats

April 18, 2011 at 7:21 am

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