Sunday, April 05, 2009

Laughing at Laffer

Arthur Laffer is at it again. One of the core rationalizers in the push for a New Feudalism, he weighs in against the Estate Tax (ET), which is scheduled to go back to historically normal levels in 2011, after briefly zeroing out in 2010.

(In the Bush Era's final gift to greedy scions, 2010 is known as the year that Mom and Pop hide from their kids, lest they be tempted to hurry the parents along, for tax reasons.)

Laffer starts with the sly trick of offering up a strawman - claiming that top and only purpose of the Estate Tax is to redress a blatant unfairness of some kids inheriting vast fortunes that they never earned, while others languish in poverty. Yes, that is terribly unfair, and Laffer even concedes it. But then, he says, so is the unfair and unequal distribution of inherited talent, intelligence health, attractiveness. He implies that those who admire the Estate Tax are pure-pinko lefties, who want to level out everything, with inevitable homogenizing effects that lead to ruin, as in Ayn Rand's book "Anthem" or Kurt Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron."

= Two Types of Leveling =

This is a standard neocon stunt, of course. Couch the debate in terms that none of your opponents ever dreamed of suggesting, then portray yourself as arguing sweet reason against a vile phantom. So, before getting to my main point about the Estate Tax, let's first deal with Laffer in his own, rigged playground, by considering the distinction between two types of "leveling."

The kind that right-wingers like Laffer accuse modern liberals of seeking -- confiscating and repressing the fruits of endeavor and successful competition, with the smothering, paternalistic goal of equalizing of all outcomes. Indeed if society ever plunged down that road -- eliminating all inequities and quashing of any natural competitive advantage -- that would, indeed, lead to a "Harrison Bergeon" world...

...and it is not at all what most American Liberals seek. Only a few ditzo, socialist-lefty flakes want that kind of foolishness, and those nuts have been marginalized, ignored by the vast majority of pragmatic liberals and democrats. (A far different situation than the one enjoyed by the nuts and flakes of the far right, who run, rule and dominate the GOP and have for decades. Indeed, the chief difference between Democrats and Republicans has much less to do with fundamentals of philosophy -- Europeans claim to be able to tell the two apart -- than it is simply this; in one party, the inmates have been allowed to run the asylum.)

levelingThe other kind of leveling is one that Americans find far less viscerally displeasing. Indeed, it has been the American consensus to pursue it, for generations. The very goal of Classic Market Liberalism (as envisioned by Adam Smith himself) was to maximize the feed stock of healthy, knowing and capable competitors that can enter into the mill of market capitalism. A little state intervention, in other words, with the clear goal of increasing the number and capability of competitive players. This is precisely the chief outcome of many liberal and progressive endeavors, from free public education to civil rights, to womens' rights, to the unleashing of the Internet. And many of them have been fantastically successful at pouring millions of new, avid players into the great, creative game of markets and enterprise.

In other words, "leveling" can be good and loyal to market capitalism, if it helps to increase the overall levels of vivid, vigorous and creative competition. This is the inherent complexity and irony that men like Laffer have deliberately obfuscated for two decades. One would wonder why... if one did not already know.

Think about it. In his article, Laffer deliberately uses his strawman to dodge the obvious question -- won't some of the funds gathered by the Estate Tax go toward helping other children better leverage their health, intelligence, etc? So long as the discussion is about children, helping them get to the starting blocks all together, to run a fair race, Laffer loses, bigtime, and he knows it.

So he strains to turn the question in other directions -- "we should focus on its impact on those who bequeath wealth, not on those who receive wealth."

You see, it is all about polemic. When the issue is kids, then disparities in wealth look unfair. But when you talk about adults, well, now those disparities were (to some degree) earned. And so, any attempt to take any of those earnings away is unfair confiscation of rightful earnings by a brutal state.

= Estate Tax vs Inheritance Tax =

EstateTax-InteritanceTaxIn fairness, Laffer does make a distinction worthy of some note, between an estate tax and an inheritance tax. The estate tax in effect puts the burden of proof on the IRS to prove that the money isn't in fact going to little Stanton III at Harvard, and if you're very rich you can hire better tax lawyers than the government can, thus giving you an advantage over the middle class woman who owns a small business and wants to leave it to her daughter.  The estate tax can thus be twisted to, in effect, work as a force to help create exactly the kind of dynasties we abhor.

An inheritance tax does the opposite.  Stanton has to prove that he's not getting the money--much harder to evade. All right. I am happy to argue details like that, in good faith.

But in fact, I am still falling for Laffer's strawmen. Because this clever master of distraction has done it again!

For the real issue, when it comes to the Estate/Inheritance Tax, is not about any kind of fairness and "leveling" the playing field, at all. No, those are diversions. Instead, our focus should turn to something else entirely, a matter of utter pragmatism -- the very survival of the Western Enlightenment, and the vibrant market-and-competition system upon which it is based.

For there is a ghost at the banquet. It is a stark and ironic truth... that only liberals want those markets to survive. And conservatives like Laffer are doing everything in their power to ensure that markets fail.

How can I say this? Well, one could start with the recent record. Across all the years since the second World War, almost every economic indicator has done better, on average, under Democrats than under Republicans. If you subtract three years of Reagan and three years of Eisenhower, then the correlation is near perfect.

But no, I want more history than that. A lot more. Will 4,000 years suffice? A historical record that spans every continent and every single civilization that ever had both metals and agriculture?

Wealth-of-NationsThat long and brutal story shows, as Adam Smith very clearly described, that markets, democracy, science and everything we value has had one terrible enemy. A foe that is relentless, because it rises out of human nature itself, every time an elite forms at the top of any social order. It is an enemy that has ruined far more markets and systems of competitive enterprise than socialism or enlightenment governments ever did. It has been THE major enemy of human progress and freedom.

It is conspiratorial oligarchy. Feudalism. Under which the main and central goal of every aristocracy has always been the darwin-driven compulsion of elites to favor their own kin. To warp public policy in favor of cronies and offspring. To become top lords who are exempt from law and market rules, and then ensure that your children inherit your position, so that they can keep using those advantages, all the cheats that come with privilege, in order to keep augmenting that position, and become kings.

= Evolution in Action =

At one level, this is simple evolution-in-action... we are all descended from the harems of insatiable men, who succeeded at achieving this profoundly biological goal

Every effort of the right has been aimed, for 30 years, at bringing back a feudal-friendly regime.  Rationalizers and court apologists like Laffer cry out "class warfare" whenever anyone raises this overall issue.  Furiously, they distract attention from the blatant horror-story of human history, spanning every continent and every era, where oligarchs routinely shut down all competition, picking and choosing winners with far greater zeal than the most oppressive bureaucrat, ever.

Free-MarketsSo far, the campaign of distraction has been most impressive.  Especially enlisting armies of libertarians to march against the very same enlightenment institutions that made free markets possible.  By calling government the sole and only enemy of freedom, they manage to serve their masters well.

In the short term. But not over the long run. Because they are fools if they think a limit won't be reached. We are starting to hear populist rumblings, and this time they are refusing to be diverted into silly-ass "culture war" distractions. The trick of turning rural folk against urban citizens won't work much longer, when both sets of red and blue middle class Americans start realizing and recognizing the Old Enemy.

Now is the time for Laffer's masters to ease off. To recognize what Franklin Roosevelt -- a man born to the top elite -- knew so well. That FDR's liberal restraints upon neofeudalism weren't "treason to his class."

Rather, they were a social compact that SAVED his caste and made America the safest place in all of history... to be rich.

========

See also: The Economy Past, Present and Future

78 comments:

Sociotard said...

Sociotard, make allowances for polemical exaggeration. If there are 10,000 McVeighs, allow that 99.99% will be to timid, stupid or lazy or else smart, to actually perpetrate real mayhem. That doesn't mean the stirred up malevolence isn't there. When the feedstock gets big, you'll get some actual fruit. Bitter fruit.

I knew you didn't mean 10,000 literal terrorist attacks. :) I also agree about the malevolence. That fellow in Maine, for example.

I'm getting the feeling you don't feel this prediction can be put into a falsifiable prediction, which is fine. You've pointed out a very real malevolence, which is valuable. Sticking a number on it though, would just make it interesting. More Obama assasination attempts than for Bush (who had 3, according to Wikipedia)? Another Oklahoma City level attack from a domestic terrorist?

Again, I can understand if you really don't want to make a solid prediction here. After all, even if your prediction came true you wouldn't be able to enjoy being right.

eda said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cliff said...

I'm counting this guy as a McVeigh:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090404/ap_on_re_us/pittsburgh_shooting

David Brin said...

First, someone go to:
http://www.mcginnis.com/listings/detail.php?lid=41846127
And get all the details about Heinlein's Colorado home, now for sale! Does the listing mention the legendary bomb shelter?

Sociotard, if there is a substantial surge in redneck /skinhead violence and fanatical talk of "black UN helicopters" and such, anyone would call the McVeigh forecast qualitatively true, sociologically. If it results in one or more major incidents, then that ought to suffice. Personally, I would rather lose that one, and live down the teasing.

Jumper said...

Laffer seems to be pulling the bait&switch in another well-used way. They take any tax and reason how awful it is to take money the government hasn't earned from the one who has. This is, in effect, a plea to end ALL taxes - but they never put it that way. Otherwise the loyal opposition would be seen as - well, a bunch of flipping crazy anarchists.

Like many, I see the estate tax as a simple income or capital gains tax. which is usually levied at point (in time) of transfer.

Bigwig said...

MY Political party has marginalized it's nuts. THE OTHER political party is run by them.

MY Political party uses only facts in its arguments THE OTHER political party relies on scurrilous bait and switch tactics.

Bright you may be, Brin. But you've got as wide a streak of dumbass as any cracker sheriff.

It makes me sad. I so liked your books, and they seem....diminished, somehow, now.

Brother Doug said...

Just a reminder to everyone not to feed the trolls. I enjoy these posts and if people want to insult our host they should say it on there own blog. The trolls should be grateful when Brin chooses to ignore them as I have seen him rip apart fools in real time. I think its only his enlightenment meme and other pressing writing that prevents it from happing more often.

Brother Doug

TwinBeam said...

David Brin - you might want to check your site - for some reason, with Internet Explorer, its process is hitting ~100% of one CPU - infinite-loop-ish. It responds very slowly. No problem in Firefox or Chrome.

Anonymous said...

Brin here. I'll be checking in as Anonymous for a while. My old Power PC Mac g5 is in the shop. It gets occasional "curdle panics" - whatever those are.

(Wow those people at the Apple Store are nice... and helpful! generally for free!)

Now Brother Doug be nice, Bigwig is welcome here, if he tries to be less rude. Distilled free of his nasty tone, he is offering an assertion that might bear honest scrutiny: am i perceiving selectively the sins of the party I oppose while neglecting to notice those of my own?

Certainly this happens! Indeed, it is rife, and has been made even worse by "culture war." In which emonization of opponents has reached a fevered pitch.

Am I prone to this all-too human failing? Certainly. Except that I compensate for some unusual reasions (1) training in science, (2) utter ornery cobtrarianism, in which I poke at whatever's in sight! (Bigwig, ask anybody here!)

But the biggest reason that I must bow out of your strawman dismissal of my views is simple. (3) the party that I diss is the one in which I'm registered. I'm a Republican. Moreover, I have given a keynote at a Libertarian party national convention. I have been thrown out of as many liberal gatherings as conservative ones!

No, look in a mirror. The problem of the conservatiove movement is that the decent conservatives stood back while all the apparatus were taken over by genuine bona fide criminal monsters. This event has nothing to do with left-or-right. It simply happened and the results are inarguable.

ALL metrics of national health were high in January 2001... at their highest ever. ALL metrics of national health have plummeted since. BE A SCIENTIST and accept that such a perfect correlation demands reconsidering your allies.

There's far too much here. No time or space to explain. But if you would just ponder the POSSIBILITY that your side is not so much WRONG as it is the victim of some truly wretched monsters....

Jumper said...

I thought Bigwig has sly sense of humor. He didn't mention which "his" Party was. It could be either.

David McCabe said...

That's "kernel panic", where the kernel is the lowest layer of the operating system. It panics when there's no well-defined way to respond to some condition.

Best of luck with that. My MacBook was in the shop four times and it still doesn't work right, and now it's out of warranty. May you have better fortunes.

Aaron said...

You can log into your Blogger account from other computers, you know? With this whole internet thing you supposedly predicted and whatnot.

Marino said...

Re: equality of possibilities vs. equality of outcomes, I feel it's somewhat a trite stereotype.
I know many people on the net who are fond to quote Rand and "Harrison Bergeron" and the Handicapper General, but imho it's not a binary opposition, but somewhat of a continuum.
In order to have an equality of opportunities you must reach some equality of outcomes in any given field: _all_ the people who compete to be accountants, computer techs, brain surgeons or whatever must have reached at least an equal basic level of skills in that field. And on some skills, as the three 'Rs, the equality of outcomes is the only acceptable one.

tacitus2 said...

David

ALL the metrics of national health were higher in 2001 than they are now? If you are speaking of our state of medical health, supply references please, and prepare to defend yourself.

Oh, if you mean our nation has declined in financial, moral, ethical health I will agree with the assertion but not entirely with your reasons for why.

Tacitus2

Gilmoure said...

Brin said... My old Power PC Mac g5 is in the shop. It gets occasional "curdle panics" - whatever those are.

Bleah! I spent most of Sunday night on my G5. Ended up reformating drive and installing OS X again. Was working fine until I added a USB TV tuner. I like Macs, I fix 'em for a living but man, they can be frustrating when they stop working. This stupid G5 had been running just fine for 4 years and all of a sudden it goes and pukes on me. What a pain.

If any y'all have any Mac questions, feel free to email me: gilmoure --> gmail

Jacob said...

Greetings,

I have a different outlook on this topic. David Brin argues for an important government role which is to take care of children. I agree completely with this, but do I not see how that is related to estate/inheritance taxation. In theory, funding could come from any number of sources.

But lets talk about taxation in general. Primary sources of taxation are Income Taxation, Sales/Transaction Taxes, and Asset Taxes such as property taxes. An estate/inheritance tax is a transaction tax which happens very rarely as wealth is transferred (generally along family lines). If we lower estate/inheritance tax, we shift the burden of paying for services more into Income, Sales, and Asset Taxes. If we raise the estate/inheritance tax, we shift the burden away from these.

I find it very compelling to want to leave our children money that we have saved for them. However, we help our children by reducing their burden when they are just starting off by accepting a tax shift off of them and towards estate/inheritance taxation.

This argument falls apart if the revenue collected is used for new spending rather than tax shifts (cuts in other areas).

Ilithi Dragon said...

Jacob,

It doesn't necessarily fall apart if increases in the estate/inheritance tax are not used to allow decreases in other taxes, since it could be argued that an increase in estate/inheritance taxes would allow the funding various government services and programs that would not be possible, or possible to the same extent, without an increase in other taxes, or an increase in the federal deficit. Either way, it's more for the people as a whole, without adding the burden where it will be felt more. It really only falls apart when the revenue generated by it is spent on wasteful or pork barrel projects that do more harm or spend more money than they do good (or are used to line politicians' pockets). The important factor to keep it from falling apart on the spending option is to remember the distinction between wasteful or bad spending, and spending in general (the latter of which is often made out to be the former by default).

Anonymous said...

When David predicted "10,000 MacVeighs" I didn't believe it. Looks like he was right, though.

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/observer2/2009/04/bachmanns-armed-and-dangerous.php?ref=reccafe

http://www.balloon-juice.com/?p=19544

This stuff may just be anecdotal for now, but there sure seems to be an awful lot of frenzy on the far right about Obama. And we're only a couple of months into Obama's first term. Wow. I wonder how crazy the far right will get by 2012?

Speaking of crazy, Newt Gingrich proposed that we zap North Korea's missiles with our laser beams (???huh??? WHAT laser beams???):

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/04/05/gingrich-laser-fantasy/

Good idea, but I think we should use our giant flame-throwing robots against North Korea instead. Or better yet, America should unleash its secret army of killer pterodactyls against North Korea from our hollow volcano hidden on Alaska's north slope.

Oh boy. Looks like the entire Republican party has gone nuts. These guys are just doing a complete meltdown. At this point, Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin are starting to look like the *sensible* ones in the GOP...

Marino said...

When David predicted "10,000 MacVeighs" I didn't believe it. Looks like he was right, though.

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/observer2/2009/04/bachmanns-armed-and-dangerous.php?ref=reccafe


The detail that the Pittsburgh shooter feared that "Obama would infringe his rights" made it even to the Italian press.
Oh, the same Bachmann that doesn't understand currency used as legal tender inside a country and currency used by central banks as reserve, and who envisions labor camps for reeducating youth under Obama? Call those big strong guys clad in white, who speak softly and carry syringes and straitjackets..

William_Shatner said...

Yeah, the Macs seem to have an achilles heel in recalcitrant USB devices.

Sometimes the hardware reset switch (located near the battery on the Motherboard) can help. Shutdown, push it for one second. Disconnect every device that can be removed. Restart holding down command+option+p+r and you reset the Parameter Ram. Then restart again holding down Command+O+F and that boots you to something like the command prompt (but it is actually open firmware). Now type; "reset nvram" return and then "reset all" and restart (if memory serves). You've now made the machine start from scratch and check all the devices. The procedures I've described are fairly harmless -- just don't hold down the battery reset button (it's a small round black button about 2/3rds the size of a pencil eraser on a black background and can be mistaken for another transistor next to the battery -- typical Apple insider style to hide it this way).

This MIGHT solve some USB related problems and kernel panics. The other common problem is RAM that isn't up to snuff -- and with static in the winter, it can go in a moment.

Use Apple's hardware test or you can download an application called "Applejack" on versiontracker.com. It's a great utility to clean up your mac and it includes an optional RAM test install. After downloading and installing it, you restart at the command prompt by holding down Command + S (why can't Apple just have one boot dialog to access all these obscure functions)? At the prompt, you type "applejack AUTO restart" and it will do all it's routines to clean up caches and reset application paths and such.

Use the onscreen prompt to also run the RAM test.

After the USB and RAM test, the other common bug-a-boo is a bad font file. Helvetica Neue for some reason, goes bad like a 10 day apple in the sun. Also, some of the Microsoft fonts -- mostly because they come from many sources. But font conflicts are less of an issue now and easy to manage with the font utility built in.

>> Anyway, if it isn't a hardware problem, I can help and it sounds like others are fairly adept on Macs around here -- who'd a thunk it, the odds of having 5 Mac pros in a group of maybe ten folks on a MENSA level blog (and honestly, they just want your money for the vanity entry -- just like the book of lists)? If your blog doesn't give you any utility financially, it at least ought to be a way to get free help.

I've dealt with and consulted on almost every Mac application in the known Universe. OK, maybe a fleeting familiarity with 2/3rds. Maybe sometime it might be cool, if we just had a topic of; List all your skilz.

I could mention that I am a multimedia developer in Flash, Director, Quartz Composer, know a smattering of the lower level programming languages, do some web dev, advanced technical artist, blah, blah, blah, and my Armor Class is +5, Dexterity -1, and my Charisma is -3 unless my wife is around and then it magically becomes a +3. I like long walks on the beach...

I'm not a fan of putting this kind of stuff on all those social media sites, however, not because I think they are run as a psi-op collection by the CIA, but because I know they are run as a psi-op collection by the CIA.

In totally unrelated news -- there are some amazing breakthroughs in the editing of memories, even a pill that can make you forget that last few hours to reduce Post Traumatic traumas or what the nice senator did to you. [places on double-ply tin foil hat]
But please, read the Digg page on the topic. You will get a great example of pages and pages of input by various people with an interest, and absolutely no useful content what-so-ever.

Not even one comment about Macintosh maintenance.

William_Shatner said...

On the topic of our home-grown Timothy McVeighs. Tom Hartmann put out a great book called; "Legacy of Secrets." He spent about ten years and $250,000 researching the Kennedy assassination and that led him to follow the same group to MLK. Amazing that there are three guys who confessed to it. Though I'm not convinced that some in the government weren't involved in a Let It Happen On Purpose -- because, none of these racists had the wherewithal to snatch JFK's brain. There is a good explanation of why the government covered up a conspiracy because they didn't want to start WW III.

>> But the central point was -- that Hartmann thinks that the great number of hate speech threats on MLK led to a racist organizer finally putting money towards his assassination (rather than just putting it into his own land deals). It isn't the lone gunman we need to worry about -- it's the energized splinter group. Very few McVeighs are around who can do it all (and he likely had help).

There were numerous attempts on JFK that were covered up, most leading to the Cuban mafia. And still today, there seems to be a desire not to excite the masses and talk about similar attempts.

Really, we need to bring it up more, and talk about how letting it go is not acceptable.

It's strange how there is more of a threat now, blaming Obama for things that Bush did -- why were these factions not so upset then? Perhaps its obvious. But the culture war from the right has a higher likelihood of turning to violence rather than great songs by the Dixie Chicks (which is typical of how the cerebral Left deals with anger). And people like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the like need to be schooled in what is appropriate talk on the radio.

Perhaps even good old Mike Malloy on the Progressive side needs to tone it down -- even though I probably agree with his dower assessment 90% of the time. Even if he is right -- it allows the "he did it too" excuse on the other side of the isle.

Because real actions end up resulting from hate speech. And that is what we've allowed to replace real news on a lot of TV and Radio. The Liberals got a little feisty with the continued shirking of the Law and war crimes by the Bush administration. But the Right has gone over the top -- over a 4% hike in taxes for the top 2% of income earners. Sheesh. How angry are they going to get if we try to make sure all kids get healthcare?

I try so hard, to keep an open mind about the Right -- but that last comment of mine should have been some sort of exaggeration -- hyperbole. But it is all too often reality.

I think it's been mentioned that on one side we keep the inmates penned up and on the other side they are running the asylum. Take a peek at Glenn Beck and you have to wonder who's idea was it to give this guy employment, with so many able bodied homeless people around who are more interesting when they rant at the occasional park bench.

One question; If I store the tears of Glenn Beck's weeping for the destruction of America by the Liberal Socialists in a glass vial around my neck -- will it ward of the Evil Eye of a Animal Rights Activist?

William_Shatner said...

Oops. Sorry, and addendum to my last point. It seems that in history and the media, when we finally put a dark tribulation behind us -- we on the LEFT have made the mistake of being too forgiving.

The outpouring of grief for JFK, and the immediate way "everybody liked him" obscured the fact that before he was taken out -- there was the same ranting on the right about "Communist this" and that as there is now with our current President. Before EVERYBODY knew how bad the enemy was in WW II, the right in this country, was very much on the side of the Reich -- and conveniently, that is forgotten, while it seems that every course word of the Weatherman Underground gets recited at the almost ground zero of that great Liberal atrocity.

I mean, each and every Liberal blemish -- from the mountains of copied material concerning Sandy Berger's performance that were stuffed in his cod piece, to the possible connection of Hillary Clinton, and every unexplained death in the state of Arkansas, has made the news. I think I've heard of every alleged Liberal, in a Public school, who has done something stupid as a teacher.

Yet, no mention of why McVeigh did what he did and would sound like one of the "reasonable people" on the average NeoCon blog. No mention that the right opposed Civil Rights -- it was just "people." Slights by the pro-citizen folks get magnified, and mountains on the Pro-Corporate side get turned to mole hills. I'm not as concerned by the Unfairness of it all -- as by the amazing amnesia.

Does anyone know that it used to be called the "Republican Great Depression?" Could the Democrats ever live that one down? They can barely even get anyone to admit that damn it, FDR did get us out of that mess with public works projects, and we used to know that Wars did NOT help the economy -- for super obvious reasons that building an expensive bomb to blow up a bridge that costs less may provide a job, but building a bridge in the USA provides something for people getting to work to drive over.

It never stops. I have to fight tooth and nail to get people to notice that Bush spent just as much OFF balance sheet, as any of these "super expensive socialist experiments" that Obama is using to stimulate the economy here at home. It was just 3 months ago that Bush was ruining the economy -- and 5 months ago when he was puffing out his chest telling everyone it was almost the best economy ever.

What is in the water that makes everybody forget?

Cory Cong said...

yeah! i agree with thatC

tacitus2 said...

Too often the posters here seem more interested in taking on strawman conservatives than in engaging the real thing in debate!

David made what I considered to be an outrageous statement, i.e. that all metrics of national health could be conclusivly shown to be better in 2001 than in recent times. And could be scientifically shown so to be.

But I recognize that:
A: he may well have mispoken, and did not really mean health care parameters
B: he is having some computer troubles.
and
C: his time is too valuable to expend too much of it here.

So I will give him a pass, assume I misread his intent, and give fair warning that when (if ever) we actually have a national debate on Health Care that I will be redoubtable.

Shatner, I seldom take up debate with you. Our worldviews seem rather dissimilar, and I find the conspiracy thing to be a deterrent to reasoned discourse. Not that you are not welcome to believe what you choose.

Is this Detroit fellow a "McVeigh"?

My first, rather queasy thought, was yes. Later reports had him enraged aoout a dog messing on a carpet, and I figured him to be a garden variety loon. But if he really has been posting dreck on White Supremacist sites the first impression may have validity.

Of course, the hallmarks of McVeigh were his degree of organization, the fact that he was a part of a conspiracy with at least one other, and the cold impersonal nature of his hate. He knew there were daycare kids in the Federal Building after all.

So this latest guy seems to me to be a member of a related genus, but not McVeighus Infernicus.

We are getting innured to these atrocities, to our discredit.

To some extent unsophisticated crazies take on the color of their environment. In 1509 you would have been possessed by Satan. In 1809 you would think you were Napolean. In 1909 you might throw a bomb for the Anarcho-Communist Cause. In 2009 you would nod your head listening to inflammatory crap and direct your anger against the government.

But these events either are worse or seem worse in our times. Why?

More firepower. I do not personally object to reasonable gun control measures, nor do most conservatives if you start your discussion at some reasonable middle ground. It was hard for earlier nuts to kill more than one person at a time, which could be quite bad enough if it is Grand Duke Franz Ferdninad.

More glorification. I opened the paper today and read the cheesy manifesto that the Binghampton loser sent to the object of his adoration, the TV station. Hand these off to the police and give the next loser no hope for a pulpit from which to postumously spout.

More tolerance of violence. Our TV, movies and video games are an embarrassment. And I personally feel that they desensitize those weak minds that feed on things like "Shooter" games. I do not know how to fix this. Only that something should be done.

Breakdown of other societal structures. Where was the immigrant community that would help a troubled member? In an age of declining belief in religion should we be surprised when a germ who has no joy in this life and no fear of the next decides to have his moment of hideous glory?

I have run on too long and to no particular point. But any time I hear sirens during the school day this conservative has the same chill of fear that all of you have.

Tacitus2

Brendan said...

Anonomous: We should use our giant flame-throwing robots against North Korea instead.

Good idea! Much better idea than troop bases in Japan. They probably wouldn't mind parking your robots on their territory.

CSM said...

Inheritance and estate taxes have quite a few side-effects.

1. They spawn a gigantic industry of tax accountants and lawyers who work through the loopholes. (Read Forbes magazine.)

2. They turn successful family businesses into corporations run by the croney network you claim to despise.

3. They encourage generation jumping -- bequeathing to grandchildren vs. children.

4. They create all sorts of trust funds, resulting in a class of people with income without responsibility.

5. They create tax free foundations which over time diverge from their original mission -- creating yet another unaccountable power base.

----

OK, so you want to tax heirs. At least, let's do it right! To wit:

1. No difference between inheritance and gift.

2. No estate tax; inheritance taxes only.

3. Any deductible should be accumulated over years not used. Spreading an inheritance over time should have zero tax consequences.

4. Tax rate should based on the age difference between giver and receiver. Grandchildren pay a higher rate than children. Trophy wives more than first wives.

Or, better yet, ditch income taxation in favor of wealth taxation and then you need no estate/inheritance taxes whatsoever in order to get your desired outcome.

William_Shatner said...

Tacitus2,
Don't sweat it. I never wanted to get into the conspiracy stuff either. Met a guy during the early 90's who told me all kinds of crazy stuff. It all turned out to be true. It ruined me for good.

I could have a lot more people respecting my opinion, strangely, if I thought carefully enough to BS them and only repeat the most accepted ideas. It's easy to do. Just echo back what someone is saying and say; "You are so right." And pretty soon, they will come to you for advice all the time. I'd rather make a living as a high price call boy however, but Jeff Gannon already has that job.

So, after having a lot of non-mainstream things told me by a smart but crazy guy, I was primed when I saw the election of 2000 stolen. Then of course, 9/11 and it was all down hill.

The problem is, the Conspiracy minded-ness, is either finding connections where there is no causation, or you are connecting the dots. The only difference is if there is an ability to try and refute your own claims.

Yes, I can understand that it can be a huge waste of time - and it's hard to debate people who can find whatever facts they prefer. Try debating someone about the logic of why you think Aliens would never bother invading earth. Some of these guys quote their own dreams for reference.

On the other hand, If you can't accept a Good Conspiracy -- how can anyone be religious? There isn't any proof for much of any of the big issues in life. Even those of us with some good history knowledge -- can't be sure that somebody didn't just make ups something and snuck it through peer review. But nobody peer reviewed our religions on earth, and most people seem to be involved in one or another of them. It's also, a pointless task to debate the issue.

But I believe in a higher power -- because of science and statistics, not thanks to the church. I think Jesus is just OK with me. I was never enamored of all the miracles --- so it doesn't shock or hurt me to find that all those miracles and prophesies match up just fine with the Egyptian God Horus. How much of a conspiracy nut would you be, if you walked into a church and said; "all Praise the God Horus, who had 12 disciples and rose from the dead on the third day!" Like a tax auditor at a Scientology convention.

To me, people who believe that it was just one lone shooter who went after JFK, just took the Warren Commission at face value. I've listened to Tom Hartmann, and he plods through his points with names and dates, making connections and supporting evidence. All calmly and with no ax to grind.

The single shooter people just believe doctrine of a larger church. So many of the "Truths" we hold in America stack up to be. People don't look closely at our policies and what they did in South America. People think Noriega was just busted because the US wanted to stop the drug trade. People don't get paid the big bucks to tell you the truth.

You've "smacked Brin" back about his statements. But he has supported many of them in detail in the past. How many times does he say a fact, or connect a dot, that would place him as the "crazy guy" on a TV News show? At least once a week. Yet, if you follow the LONGER explanations, well, there are historical references, links, and logical statements that can be disproved.

Before I was this "conspiracy nut" -- Americans like myself, just sat back and watched the TV news or read the Wall Street Journal and we were content that we were the best nation on earth, that none of the big problems on earth could be solved, and all we have to do to be good people is make lots of money and follow the rules laid out for us.

Arlen Specter gave us the Warren Report and the "single shooter" theory. His career took off after that. Not-with-standing that the "Magic Bullet" defied all sense of physics, and must have been one of those "rule free days" like we had on 9/11. Does the average person know what was thrown out later from those findings? That a single shooter could have done it. Yet that is the "sane facts" that everybody quotes --- I've seen it on at least 3 made for TV movies so it must be true.

Well, I'm not too surprised by things today. It is fitting more and more into the "connected dots" or you might see it as the "uncorrelated navel lint."

I'm not trying to convince you about any THEORY I have -- I'm trying to point out that philosophically, you can take things at face value, or you can test your beliefs. Too many of the things I've examined to "KNOW TO BE TRUE" were based on specious ideas that just got repeated a lot.

The Status Quo of what everybody knows to be true, is as much a "theory" as anything else. There is no greater truth, separating the two. Most of the things I believe are in the form of "theories" and as soon as their is better evidence, I abandon that view.

Two years ago, I abandoned the idea of a multiverse because I started to believe all the alternate realities would cancel out to leave just the one, where "equal and opposite" forces add up to zero. The "alternate" courses, that could spawn off from each and every possibility, would not be stable. OK, one example and I'm probably not convincing anyone with my sanity.

The other example would be that I'm now more inclined to believe that the Cuban mafia with Castro's backing engineered the hit on JFK -- according to Tom Hartmann. It mimicked a previous CIA attempt on Castro when he was driving a convertible. There was even a document showing a previous attempt in Florida three days before -- that got released a few years ago under the Freedom of Information Act, and then someone realized that that was one document that slipped through the cracks and promptly re-classified it. But I certainly remember reading it. So it would seem, that our government, actively hides things -- does that seem so crazy?

They wanted to prevent WW III with an attack on Cuba, and then they covered things up. But the real perpetrators went on to kill MLK. It helps that all three actually confessed to the act, and there is documents showing their fundraising amongst Georgia Union members who were also Klan adherents.

That just seemed like better information and a connection of dots than anything I'd previously seen -- including what the Government released as the story.

>> My brother, ever the fashionable and intelligent person, who has opinions that 80% of the people at the water cooler could find reasonable. Has arguments with me all the time. Calling my notions tin-foil-hat as well.

So far, he seems to have come around to most every crazy ass idea I've pushed on him, about two years after I said it. He now agrees that the election machines were used to rig elections. He now agrees that there was torture in Iraq and a conspiracy to lie us into war. He still doesn't believe that 9/11 was an inside job. But he does now have an iPhone, after telling me their telecommunications specialist said it would fail miserably.

And yet, every time I'm pushing him a little bit further from the water cooler, its the same reaction that his idiot younger brother has another silly notion.

If I kept score on my predictions and theories, vs. what passes for pundits on TV news, I'd be batting 800 and they'd be traded to the Mets.

>> With the story out today, that a Pakistani security officer foiled an attempt on Obama on a recent overseas visit.

>> But back to the main point, of things more concrete and debatable.

The Timothy McVeighs of the world are NOT necessarily the problem, ultimately. There are always going to be damaged people like him. But he got his impetus, from people who make a living stirring up ants nests.

Can't point to the study right now, but there was clear evidence showed that violent video games actually reduce the incidence of violence "on average" of the people who play them. In cities where the access to porn went up (in this case 11% however they measured that -- not sure), violence against women went down 7%.

Apparently, there is some need for stimulus in people and ignoring it doesn't make it go away. So, I don't see that as the threat to society that some do.

The downside is, we get a lot of overstimulated people who become a bump on a log. The lack of real protest in this country concerns me a lot more than the increase in violent video games and cheap thrills. It's apathy that allows people to lose control of their fate.

People like McVeigh are engaged and activists. He was not a stupid person and I don't think he was crazy. I do think he had traumatic stress syndrome that was untreated, however. I think that, along with thousands of heros coming back from our protracted resource wars overseas, we will have hundreds of potential McVeighs. People with skills, who have ACTUALLY committed violence for their country, and who feel lost, abandoned, filled with rage.

Brin's prediction of 10,000 McVeighs seems to me a real concern. However, I thought at one time, that a lot of kids were going to just go bonkers from apathy because their some total of experience in life was Malls and Disney movies -- and they'd be destroying things for the thrill of it. Score one for human nature. It seems that people who are trained to kill, become more likely to be involved in killing, and people who merely killed time, no matter how bored, don't really become a great threat.

It reduces the pool of people to watch out for. But it also means, that we increased that pool of people during the Bush years if we ignore the damage. We also cannot ignore figures of authority, who egg people on -- it seems historically, that can often motivate people to organize their dystopia into real action.

Taking care of vets is only they are owed. I don't support these current wars, and I'd like to see a lot of reduction of our approximately 800 military bases around the world. But these guys did what they were asked to do, with as much honor and integrity as they were taught to use -- some without honor and integrity because some were taught that (like the Fallujah massacre).

Sorry for the long post. But to me, so many things are connected -- with reason of course.

I seriously don't mind being wrong -- especially about my theory that our International Banks are holding the world economy hostage. But that is another topic.

William_Shatner said...

Oops. I trailed off -- happens when I'm working to 5 am and get up at 7 am;
With the story out today, that a Pakistani security officer foiled an attempt on Obama on a recent overseas visit.

I wanted to wonder out loud about how this might effect our current policy of lobbying cruise missiles at suspected Talaban holdouts in Pakistan. In the world of intrigue, you might well expect that the Syrian was set up to go after the US leader so that they could rescue him and affect US policy.

*Sigh* I'm so cynical.

Anyway, if our bombings continue -- and I'm not sure one way or the other, I just think that we should be protecting green zones, building schools and letting the prosperity we bring to Afghanistan be our weapon of choice. Either way, it should say something if we do or don't change policy. Exactly what -- I'm not sure.

Afghanistan is still mostly about a gas pipeline. So that India can get free of Russian influence. I suppose the theory goes, that if we can make them our friends, we don't need Pakistan. Pakistan, which is more or less propped up by the US against an angry and religious majority, must dance quite a dance to stay necessary and perhaps interfere with the pipeline. And then they have to dance even more, to help the US slightly, against the extremists, while not looking like more of a tool of the US with the angry majority.

Their only distraction from total implosion, must be a rivalry over Cashmere with India. The only value of the rivalry, of course, is to keep all the angry, illiterate poor who are ready for revenge from losing their fear of the other country long enough to remember how much they dislike their own government.

No wonder the Randian/Straussian/NeoCons believe in the Noble Lie, when half the world is being juggled and controlled by phony external threats.

>> My theory, should be bolstered by what sorts of targets the opposing forces go after. If the targets are mostly moderates who are trying to find peace. If you actually thought another country was a threat, you'd go after the biggest threat, right?

A good war profiteer, likes to have as crazy a radical nut on the other side to scare his people into line, and spending all their dough without question to build up those castle walls. Just because we have proof of these sorts of gambits in the middle ages feudal societies, and all through American history -- well, we don't do that sort of stuff TODAY, do we?

William_Shatner said...


CSM said...
Inheritance and estate taxes have quite a few side-effects.

1. They spawn a gigantic industry of tax accountants and lawyers who work through the loopholes. (Read Forbes magazine.)


Uggh. If I could force myself to read Forbes, I think I might choke down more fiber because my gag reflex would be destroyed [kidding].

This argument you have can be said of ANY and ALL taxes. Make few and simple exemptions. The loopholes are there, because we have lobbyists.

The alternative to Taxes, is to borrow from China -- which costs more over the long term.

Without slogging through all these tried and true suggestions, the question should be asked; "If we don't tax large sums of inheritance and reduce generational dynasties -- who do we tax MORE?"

It's pretty simple. If we don't take money from Sam Walton, so that his sons have lots of dough to spend on lobbyists to change Estate Taxes to "Death Tax" and to fund the Cato institute, then we are going to tax grandma. Or we are going to cut school lunches. Or we are going to cut out that next stealth bomber.

The biggest "sell" on this let's not tax the great engines of our economy meme, is Consumption or Sales Taxes. Instead of 1 or 2 Walton heirs, it's somehow supposed to be more economical and fair, to add 3 cents to every dollar at every store in the state of Ohio to make up the difference.

Then, if we get enough sales taxes to get rid of Federal income tax -- we need to make sure we hire more police, to deal with all those darn Tax cheats, because at 20 cents or more on the dollar -- their sure is an incentive to get around the gates on that one. I'll try to forget all the wealthy engines of our economy who sneak their money into offshore accounts right now.

>> I mean, I could lay out a dozen things that would likely be a bad side-effect to hire sales taxes. Not the least of which is that rural communities will have to charge more and more, because only the high-volume sales points in the inner cities could eat enough of the costs to attract more customers. The high traffic areas would see more and more sales, while the low traffic areas would see more and more taxes.

Talk about keeping Government out of your business; 4. Tax rate should based on the age difference between giver and receiver. Grandchildren pay a higher rate than children. Trophy wives more than first wives.
No your honor, I really, really love my husband -- and here are is my 10,000 love letters to prove it which I now submit as "exhibit A."

And you know, eat the dang Grand Children, they are so less worthy than the direct decedents.

>> I don't think that there is any tax that does more GOOD for society than Estate taxes and Tariffs.

Why is China pulling out of a recession right now? Because of massive government stimulus spending. Why is China eating our lunch, taking our milk money and building airplanes with our technology? They protected their key industries with tariffs and had a policy built on getting more people working and not propping up the Yen.

Having said that, however, I think that China is in for a big crash.

My theory of the Universe, is that Democracies are good for the Ecology. Where there are lots of cheap natural resources, the people actually are worse off, because the government doesn't need to tax them. Without taxes and government's dependency on us having enough to tax, they don't need to listen to us. Look around the world.

Where women don't have equal rights with men -- there is high population growth and infant mortality.

China has a huge efficiency and corruption problem - despite their great growth at the expense of our short-term thinking on quarterly profits.

But the future belongs to the sustainable.

The old paradigm of expecting to keep growing and having unlimited resources is going to die, along with the inefficient Oligarchies. The Robber Barons who build castles with external threats can only maintain their positions with ignorance and corruption. The countries with more powerful Robber Barons will fail, while the stronger Democracies will succeed -- since the good treatment of people, will reinforce the real efficiencies.

As the world gets more complex, and the ability for a few people to do more damage grows -- there seems to me to be only two paths to sustainability; either you have a police state where you watch everyone, and watch the people who watch like in pleasant old North Korea, or you go the path of nations like Sweden, and educate everyone and make everyone feel like they have opportunity and a shared stake in their society.

Despite the great scam that is the Federal Reserve, and the very clever way that Paulson and Banksters hoodwinked the fools and their money -- over time, I think their way of doing things, the NeoCon/Globalist way, is doomed to failure because it is no longer sustainable. A really big war to put everyone back into Feudalism -- because they won't do it without force, would wreck the planet.

>> And we can't have huge Walmart and Koch family dynasties and have a sustainable society on this planet. And that means estate taxes of some form or another. The Economic Royalists are doomed or we all are doomed.

What say you all?

Ilithi Dragon said...

What say you all?

Here here.

I don't have enough information to agree or disagree with you on everything, but I definitely agree with your basic premise, which happens to be the same basic premise that Dr. Brin has been promoting for some time now: Our real 'enemies' and greatest threat to our freedom and our future comes from the oligarchs, the "elitist cronyism" of the people who hold large amounts of wealth and influence. It is the schemes of a powerful few, to benefit themselves at the expense of others, irregardless of the cost to others, that is the root cause of our major problems, and the core reason why those problems are hard to solve.

I also agree that it cannot last, that the uneducated masses will educate themselves, and empower themselves to overcome the conniving influences of their would-be oligarchical masters. Technology will be one of the key factors that will allow that.

Personally, I think the key factor of the Singularity will become manifest and effect day-to-day life less so than it will effect how power is distributed in society. The advancing technology and levels of education will continue to empower people, and as humans begin to enhance themselves with technology, and our ability to connect to major, minor and globally massive networks, share, search, and manipulate data, and access and record footage from all over, the secrecy, deception and misdirection that the oligarchs depend upon for power will become increasingly difficult to maintain. As that difficulty increases, the number of oligarchs, and what they can get away with, their power, will decrease. Eventually, a tipping point will be reached, where the reduction in oligarchical power will result in a reduction in oligarchs, that will compound the reduction in oligarchical power, and increase the rate of oligarchical reduction, in a sort of feed-back loop enhanced by the advance of technology and education.

Anonymous said...

Tacitus said: "Too often the posters here seem more interested in taking on strawman conservatives than in engaging the real thing in debate!"

That's because people like tacitus are not considered "conservatives" by America's self-identified conservatives today. Tacitus would be called a RINO (Republican In Name Only) or "closet Dhimmicrat" by America's self-identified conservatives.

The truth is that nobody on this forum wants to engage people like tacitus2 in debate because there just isn't much to debate. Self-identified liberals pretty much agree with people like tacitus2. Both he and the self-described liberals agree that we need to cut back on America's foreign wars; both he and the self-described liberals agree that the U.S. government has gotten too big and too intrusive; and both he and the self-described liberals agree that we need to stop spending like drunken sailors and show some fiscal discipline. On just about every point, liberals and people like tacitus seem to be in complete agreement, from the importance of shutting down warrantless wiretapping to shrinking the out-of-control Pentagon budget, to increasing accountability in government. In fact, the points of disagreement between people like tacitus and the self-identified liberals are extremely small and mostly involve issues of degree. For instance: How much do we shrink the Pentagon budget? And in what ways? How do we limit government surveillance of private citizens without harming national security? These are very minor points of disagreement, more like polite discussions about methodology when everyone basically agrees on the policies.

Gore Vidal keeps saying that America has one political party with two right wings. In European terms, that's true. There are no major political parties in America that would be identified by Europeans as genuinely "left." In European terms, a U.S. left-wing party would advocate policies like nationalizing America's basic industries (oil, electric power, big pharma, &c.), replacing CEOs with workers councils in all major corporations, mandating public transit and banning single-driver cars, enforcing a universal national VAT tax that starts at, say, $50,000 excluding purchase of a house or car, that sort of thing.

No major political party in America holds any of these positions. In fact, it's hard even to find fringe political groups in America that advocate these kinds of genuinely leftist positions.

All the American self-identified "leftist" serious politicians and major political parties espouse what would qualify in Europe as conservative positions -- fiscal prudence, strong national defense, market capitalism, and so on. So I think the reason that liberals have nothing to debate with people like tacitus stems from the fact that there aren't any real left-wing major political parties or serious left-wing politicians in America (using the European sense of "left"), just various flavors of centrist and conservative politicians and political parties in America.

Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily. Obama is a centrist and I don't have a big problem with his policies. For that matter, I didn't have any problem with Bush 41's policies (the father) or Clinton's policies, and they were centrists too. I'm just saying, that's the way it is in America.

Also -- as far as "straw men" go, well, you know, when prominent members of a major political party like the Republican Party make crazy public statement after crazy public statement, I don't think that fits the definition of a "straw man." Michelle Bachmann is a member of congress. She's not some fringe militia member. Michael Steele is the head of the RNC. Newt Gingrich is the former speaker of the House of Representatives. These are not camo-wearing gun nuts skulking in the wilds of Missouri. They're serious major voices in the Republican Party. In what sense do these people represent "straw men"? It seems like these people are the bread and butter of the modern Republican Party, and it also seems to me that it's perfectly legitimate to quote these politicians when they make crazy public statements -- as they seem to be doing on every day now.

That's not a straw man, that's telling it like it is.

Tacitus also said: David made what I considered to be an outrageous statement, i.e. that all metrics of national health could be conclusivly shown to be better in 2001 than in recent times. And could be scientifically shown so to be.

???Huh???

Why is that an "outrageous statement"?

It seems pretty clear that if you measure just about any aspect of American society, things have gotten worse in the last 8 years, not better. Run down the list: we pay more for health care and get less for it than in early 2001, we pay for our military and still can't win any wars, the culture war has gotten more rabid (just look at the people at National Review's corner online, talking about Obama as "more of a Maoist than a Leninist"!!! and Michelle Bachmann calling for her constituents to become "armed and dangerous.") Literacy is down, college costs more and employment is down for new college grads, corporate profits are in the crapper, everything is worse today than in 2001. I don't see how a sensible person can argue on the basis of the facts that any aspect of American society has gotten better in the last 8 years.

Possibly if you twist the definition of "better" to include perverse developments like "the ability of people like Bernie Madoff to defraud the public in massive stock swindles" or "the opportunity for the superrich to dodge taxes" as things that have gotten easier today than in 2001, but that's not what most people would consider "getting better." You really have to tie the english language in knots to define those trends since 2001 as "improvements," I think.

tacitus2 said...

Anony-Dave

For the clarification, thanks. I read your original post in the narrower sense. By many metrics our measure of health (as in life expectancy, rates of various diseases, etc) is either slightly better than in 2001, or is running up against "intelligent design limits" (sorry, couldnt resist) of biology. Lots of the other stuff you read about health care news contains big ol' dollops of GIGO. sigh. I was so looking forward to lambasting you with 2008 CDC data.

Now, to be sure, we pay far too much for our health care, and a good part of that money is frittered away. But we are not demonstrably losing ground. Yet.

RINO I can live with.

Dhimmicrat was uncalled for.

Tacitus2

Ilithi Dragon said...

Tacitus, I don't think Anony-Dave was calling you a Dhimmicrat, but merely pointing out that, like many moderate Republicans who are quite willing to work and maintain friendly and amicable dialogue with the 'other side', you would be accused of being a Dhimmicrat by the radical pundits, voices and figureheads that seem to have taken over the vast majority of Republican publicity (and leadership).

In short, he wasn't calling you a Dhimmicrat, but pointing out that many prominent members of your own party would call you one.

Anonymous said...

Several points:

I wrote that comment about liberals agreeing with Tacitus2 above, but I am not David Brin.

I'm defending David's statements because I think the evidence shows they're correct, but please don't mistake my arguments for David's. David Brin is much smarter and more knowledgeable than I am, so my arguments in favor of his claims are bound to be much weaker and less convincing than his. However, I still think I can convincingly argue in favor of David's claims that all metrics including health care have gotten worse since 2001.

Second, it was in no way my intention to call you a "Dhimmicrat." That's what the people who self-identify as "conservatives" today would call you -- the people at Sarah Palin rallies, the Limbaugh audience, the Fox News audience who talk about "going Galt." Let me be clear: those people now form the base of the Republican Party, but in any normal political environment, they would be considered on the fringe. It's a sign of our dysfunctional politics that such people now form the base of a major political party. I was only trying to describe what I think those people on the fringe would call you, Tacitus2. It should be clear that I don't think such a description is remotely accurate.

In fact, because we're having a reasoned discussion about health care it seems obvious that neither of us would be welcome in what remains of the Republican Party. The Red State-Limbaugh-Malkin-Coulter axis (who are now what remains of the Republicans) would call us both "Al Qaeda supporters who hate America" and then they'd ban us from the Red State blog and that would be that.

Once again, I don't think we actually disagree about health care. We are really quibbling about definitions here. The reason I say this is that I think your definition of a better metric for health care since 2001 is numerically incorrect. You are claiming that we have better health care today because we have longer life expectacy. While it's true that life expectancy has increased since 2001 (and has gone up every year since about 1940, I believe), I don't think it's accurate to attribute that to health care. Life expentency has increased for a variety of reasons that have little to do with America's health care delivery system.

For one thing, nutrition has improved steadily -- but that's because of the industrialization of America's agriculture, and also thanks to Norman Borlaugh's "green revolution" of the 1960s. We must also credit DDT to some extent, and other less harmful subsequent pesticides. Big irrigation projects like the Central California valley acqueducts are also a big factor in increased food produced and thus decreasing food prices.

At the same time, selective breeding has produced hardier varieties of corn, wheat, and so on, more resistant to problems like wheat rust. Mroeover, the American population has undergone a huge shift over the last 60 years from rural to urban, and since really deep poverty was predominately rural in America, this has also improved our life expectancy. The advent of new biotechnologies like polio vaccines also boosted life expectancy, but this doesn't fit the traditional definition of American health care.

To really get to the heart of hte matter, I think if you look at the statistics you'll find that child poverty is up per capita and now at a record rate for the last 30 years. Child malnutrition is also way up, with America now leading the developed nations on that score. Distrubingly, vaccination rates have now declined. At the same time, a record number of Americans are now uninsured, 46 million, and still climbing.

All these stats paint a disturbing picture. When we put them together with your claims of life expectacy increase, I think we can see what's going on -- your claims about health care improvement are incorrect because 1) you are attributing the results of epiphenomena (rural to urban population changes, Borlaug's "green revolution") to the cause (health care) itself; 2) what has actually happened is that the top 20% of our population has enjoyed an explosion of incredibly opulent health care, along with people in the last 6 weeks of life, while an increasingly number of our population has gotten shut out of health care completely.

As a result, the mean has moved up while the median has shifted down for most of the American population. (I know this is a stupid and ignorant argument and David Brin would do much better, but I also think David's conclusion is sufficiently buttressed by the evidence that even an argument as ignorant as mine suffices to convincingly support it.)

In particular, America has displayed a peculiar pathology in its health care: we entirely ignore preventive care while concentrating fanatical amounts of money and resources on the very last few weeks of life. This is incredibly wasteful, and among other side effects, it has caused the poorest 20% of our population to use emergency rooms as their first line of defense when they get sick. I'm sure you'll agree that this is insanely wasteful as well as counterproductive, and constitutes a classic example of how badly broken America's health care system is.

If you look a the median stats for life expectacy, you'll find they're plummeting for the bottom 20% of the economic distribution, dropping somewhat for the middle 3 quintiles because so many insurance companies and simply refusing to cover illnesses listed on their policies (the "sue us but you won't live long enough to collect" mentality of bean counters at big health insurance companies and HMOs), and where the gains in life expectacy and general health are really concentrated in America is among the top 20% of the economic distribution. Those people are doing great. Stem cell therapy, limb regeneration, nanomaterial artificial limbs, you name it, the sky's the limit for the top 20% of our population in terms of health care. If you're a CEO or a senator or a congressman, your health care is the best in the world.

If you're a middle class guy who just got laid off and lost his COBRA, or if you're a single mother on welfare, your health care is nonexistent, and your life expectancy is dropping, after rising steadily from the 1920s into the 1970s.

However, even this is not as powerful an argument as I could make. Namely: we shouldn't just be discussing absolute life expectancy, but life expectancy per capita per dollar national health care expenditure. This matters because America's health-industrial complex has exploded in cost exponentially, and it's headed to the stars on a rocket sled. At some point that exponential increase will have to stop, and at that point, triage will set in. It matters right now that we're the worst among the first world nations in terms of life expectacy per capita per dollar spent, but it will really matter when we start triaging patients and telling some people "Sorry, you have a terminal illness, so we're going to have send you home to die with a morphine pump." America's GDP is not infinite, and at some point, we are going to have to do that. If things don't change, that will mean that many millions of Americans with fatal illnesses that could be cured will be left to die because they just don't have the money.

Right now, we can't regrow spinal cords or cure MS or cure type II diabetes or regrow hearts failing because of congestive heart failure. But soon we will be able to. Things will get ugly in this country if you get told, "We can cure you, but you don't have the money, so you're going to have to go home and die" because we were unable to control our health care costs.

Let me point out, too, that it's not just a matter of reining in costs in absolute terms. America has a bizarre habit of spending nothing on preventive care, but spending millions on heroic life-saving elaborate surgical procedures even when there's essentially no hope for the patient. Remember those news stories you hear about simaese twins getting surgically separated? That's the kind of health care the dysfunctional American system loves to deliver, and it's crazy. Instead of spending millions on those kinds of heroic life-saving operations for patients whose survival odds are slim, we should be spending a modest amount per capita for the many millions of poor kids who aren't getting vaccinated, the millions of homeless people who are contracting drug-resistant TB, and the millions of morbidly obese people who are destroying their health with extremely and unnecessarily unhealthy diets.

Ultimately, a lot of the improvement in America's health care will have to come from reform of societal trends like our bizarre addiction to incredibly unhealthy fast food restaurants. Nobody talks about this, but it's a big issue in American health care. I think that issues like these tend to vitiate your claims about the rise in our mean life expectancy, which in any case distracts from the catastrophic drop in median life expectacy for the bottom quintile particularly, but now increasingly for the entire middle class.

Here's some hard statistical evidence to back up my claims. I'm sure David Brin would do better, but these numbers seem pretty bulletproof:

U.S. census data from 2004 shows that the percentage of children in poverty in America increased to 17.6 percent. Poverty is directly correlated with health problems.

The official stats on health insurance are deceptive because (and I quote) "The percentage of people covered by government health insurance programs rose in 2003, from 25.7 percent to 26.6 percent, largely as the result of increases in Medicaid and Medicare coverage. Medicaid coverage rose 0.7 percentage points to 12.4 percent in 2003, and Medicare coverage increased 0.2 percentage points to 13.7 percent." However, if you read between the lines you can see the kind of scam the Bushies were pulling here. Coverage under Medicare means that you are effectively uncovered for most serious illnesses, as most doctors won't accept Medicare because it pays too little. This means that access to health care actually declined because those people with only Medicare coverage to fall back on must for all practical purposes go to an emergency room -- and typically they must wait until the health problem is so serious that they're in real trouble (the well-known "cycle of poverty" in which an ER won't treat you unless you're dying, and by the time you're dying, it's too late to help).

http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/income_wealth/002484.html

For evidence about the severe negative impact on life expectancy of the downward slide in median income, particularly among the bottom quintile in America, see this report "Socioeconomic Status, Race and Life Expectancy."
http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:BNr6bUO5ylkJ:cssd.ucr.edu/Papers/PDFs/7-Socio-Economic%2520Status.pdf+median+life+expectacy+lowest+quintile+America&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

It deals with California from 1970 to 1990, but we can reasonably extrapolate the conclusions to the rest of the country.

According to the stats, infant mortality actually rose from 2000 to 2003, and it's not a statistical fluke:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/20557.php

Also note that one of the main drivers in increased average life expectancy is the fact that women pulled ahead of men even farther in life expectancy. If we remove that gender difference from the stats, things have gotten worse since 2000. (Why are more women living longer? Because more of them are working, giving more of them access to health care. But that is a statistical quirk, and not related to any actual increase in the quality or delivery of health care for the population as a whole.)

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/20557.php

Infant mortality up...child poverty up...number of uninsured way up...number of people with insurance who are underinsured way up...bottom quintile life expectacy dropping...overloaded ERs way up... Look at the overall picture. It's grim, and getting worse. David was right. Health care at the very top is better than ever and improving by leaps and bounds. For the bottom 80% of the American population, it's bad and getting worse.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Very, very well presented, Anony-Dave (and thus you shall be called until you create a name for yourself, so that you may be distinguished from all the other Anonymouses } ; = 8 P ), and it hooked me into reading even though I should actually be leaving for work; you can expect high praise from Dr. Brin, I'm sure (and more than you might expect, I think).

Anyway, keep up the posting!

Jester said...

Turns out, well over 80% of Job losses since the start of 2008 have been suffered by men.

For the first time in our history, women now outnumber men in the workforce.

Last year, 61% of four year degrees went to women.

Those aren't bad things, except that it means we've got a hell of a lot of uneducated unemployed men who see very little prospect of escaping Gamma status.

The recent rash of mass shootings (I'm counting the five latest) have involved men who suffered job loss.

Unemployed, mostly young, omniverous bipedal savanah apes with guns. One need not point to whatever ideology they glom on to in order to understand that they are the most dangerous creatures on earth.

It's not Glenn Beck, it's not the availability of firearms, it's not PTSD from serving in Iraq (not one actual vet among them - the Pittsburgh shooter washed out of Boots in three weeks), and really, it's not fear of Obama.

It's fear of homelessness, it's frustration, it's a loss of hope.

Unable to create a meaningfull life, the American suicide gunman is "inspired" by the desire to create a meaningfull death for himself.

No different, really, in real motivation than the Palestinian youths who strap on explosives.

It's not Mullahs or Michelle Bachman who create them, although they do sometimes influence the direction of the inevitable explosion.

In the Thirties, the papers were loaded with stories of men who killed their families and themselves.

Now, it's possible that without incitement, a few of these men would have just eaten a gun alone, or "just" murdered their own family as was so common under Hoover, but I doubt that's really something most of us would view as a desired outcome either.

Men commit suicide at more than 4 times the rate women do, and are considerably more likely to commit suicide during a situational depression (as opposed to commiting suicide due to underlying mental health conditions) than women.

Everything that leads to suicide can also lead to these kind of killing sprees...which are different than the McVeigh type of terrorist attack in one very fundemental way.

McVeigh thought he was going to get away with it and go on to fight in the Revolution he helped to create with his vile act.

So far, these are men saying "screw it, I'm going to die anyway".

The undereported gender disparity in the financial impact of this recession/depression/clusterfucktothepoorhouse masks the raw number of unemployed men - and as a result, leads us to underestimate the danger to our society resulting from it.

We need a WPA. We need a CCC. We need to start building a "boulder canyon dam".

Give these men work they can take some pride in, paying them a decent wage and giving them sound reason to hope for economic stability, and these sort of attacks will drop off.

Why did it take 7 months for Iraq to start exploding with home-grown suicide bombers?

Well, it took Bremer a while to lay off half a million men from previously state run industries, in addition to the quarter of a million soldiers who had already been effectively laid off.

It may have been Osama Bin Laden or Sadr who aimed those men towards a target, but it was failed Bush occupation policy that created them.

It may be Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage aiming our version of the suicide bomber toward a target, but it's Obamas failling policies that are creating them.

Oh, short version?

Men need work and a bit of dignity, or some of them go *BOOOOOM*.

I'm glad Obama went to Iraq...maybe he can make it to a tent city one of these days.

tacitus2 said...

Annony-Dave

Have to go to work, so no time for a detailed look at your post. But first, I did not actually take offense at Dhimmicrat. I have been called worse. I was just kidding a bit.

Second, I assumed you were our genial host, as he has been posting as an Annonymous while his computer recovers. And you sound rather, well, "Brinian". Of course the Ur-Dave gives in to banging down the CAPITAL LETTERS when you start scoring a few rhetorical points!

As the topic seems to be of some interest I will try later to distill some info. I doubt we will find much to really argue about. I just took offense at the notion that all aspects of health care were failing, which appeared to be the assertion.

Obviously we are doing great in some areas, so so elsewhere,and failing in some. But how to actually address some of the failures? Diet, bad life choices, to what extent are these the business of the government? Does the equation change if the state is paying the bills? Who says no? And the issue of cost benefit is important, if one our leaders avoid like the plague.

Among the many hats I have worn over the years I have been an HMO medical director, an ER doc and a long time primary care doc. I know the front lines and the REMFs.

Tactitus2

reason said...

Jester,
wow great comment!

William_Shatner said...

Dhimmicrat?
I hear a new term every day.
Tacitus, anony-Dave made the point that most Republicans would call you such, because you don't fit with what is considered a normal Republican. The difference between you and them, I think, is that you don't just hold an opinion because its convenient -- I hope I'm not going out on a ledge on that.

When discussing things with Republicans, they tend to tell me "rationales" for things -- justifications. Somehow, they believe what they do, and they are trying to find reasons to "win" that argument.
Perhaps the "straw man" argument you are offended by, is that we are describing people who don't "fit" with how you see things.

Take for instance this comment (I'm paraphrasing); "I'll debate gun control with people who are rational. I'm not going to be against gun locks or some limits on weapons that could take out a large crowd. But first people have to recognize that we don't want government disarming us." You know what -- most "self-labelled" Liberals would agree with that position. Unfortunately, the NRA would call you a freedom hating cook. They are against safety locks, background checks for felons, and in limiting assault rifles.

For me, I think a lot of gun issues could be solved, by ending the licenses for people to sell out of the trunk of their car (sorry, that means trade shows). Also, if someone gets too many weapons "stolen" from them -- meaning no listed owner, they lose their license. I don't see how all these vendors can be losing all these weapons to crime and still be in business.

Sure, there can be a "rational debate" about what you limit and by how much and what has an effect. But, there are folks that are NOT rational about the gun position, because the common tactic to rile up Republican support, is to tell everyone; "They want to take your guns." Meanwhile, that Republican representative let them take your pension plan. The common theme amongst the right that I see is that someone is after them. I think the Left has joined that position, but we don't think it's animal rights activists that are the major threat -- we can feel their hands already in our pockets.

I think Liberals for the most part have given up the Gun issue for the time being. I thought a few wacky survivalist might come in handy if Bush ever declared Marshall law myself -- but now they are jumping up and down about FEMA camps -- which were there since Reagan and got new razor wire under Bush, to they just notice it now that the great leader got all "ethnic" on them? Are these soldiers of fortune ever going to be of any use and realize who is "after" them? We just want to have some shelter from the economic storm, the assault on civil liberties, and get the judicial system functioning again to deal with the Maddoffs (there are a few thousand just like him), and not to be hounding prosecutors who don't find enough people who voted twice to keep that charade going.

William_Shatner said...

Our increase in life expectancy, is just piggy-backing on the improvements every developed nation. We've increased a bit, but so have they, and on an index, we've fallen behind on every measurable category I can think of but number of people in Prison.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/jul/17/internationalaidanddevelopment.usa

This one shows that the well off are keeping up with advances of other countries, while those who are poor, are the people being left behind;
http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/webfeatures_snapshots_20080716/

So it is nothing to crow about. We would have had the increases for those who can afford it regardless of who was running things.

But dang if we didn't pay more to tread water.

William_Shatner said...

Jester said...
Unemployed, mostly young, omniverous bipedal savanah apes with guns. One need not point to whatever ideology they glom on to in order to understand that they are the most dangerous creatures on earth.

It's not Glenn Beck, it's not the availability of firearms, it's not PTSD from serving in Iraq (not one actual vet among them - the Pittsburgh shooter washed out of Boots in three weeks), and really, it's not fear of Obama.

It's fear of homelessness, it's frustration, it's a loss of hope.

Unable to create a meaningfull life, the American suicide gunman is "inspired" by the desire to create a meaningfull death for himself.


When I was talking about the returning troops and McVeigh -- I wasn't saying that I "DON'T" see the issue of frustrated men going on a shooting spree. It's hard to miss, that most of the time you hear about someone going mad dog -- they just lost their job. It's rare when you don't hear about that or a divorce.

We haven't hit the McVeigh's wave yet. I think what Brin is worried about is what I'm worried about .... not the "Mad Dog" man who lost his job. Of course, they are going to become more frequent in the next two years -- more, if Conservative Dems make sure that Obama fails in his stimulus plan. When the McVeigh's organize, they will plot and plan, and now how to mix aluminum and steel to make thermate. They will go after people they think are causing their problems -- but, that's where the Corporate Shill spreading disinformation and rage like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh come in -- their violence will be used to empower the same Robber Barons who put everybody out of work so that they could raise the profit margins and not wages.

>> We are just talking about two different things. In the third world, terrorists recruit from the ranks of the disenfranchised.

My post on the last thread -- I think I mentioned that there was a relationship between disenfranchisement, a loss of union jobs, and the growth of gangs. So those "Law-and-order, get a job you hippy" people who think we can just keep throwing people in jail and don't have to address that these parents are working poor and don't get to be with their kids.

We either have to share the wealth a bit, and make sure that people have opportunity, or we will have to "INVEST" in a lot of weapons to secure our homes.

We have three really serious trends that may take off:
Disenfranchised young men.
Returning troops who have PTSDs.
The growth of Gangs.

While we work to get people working again, it's important that we make sure that there aren't a bunch of irresponsible rabble rowsers. Many of these, again, are backed by the people who benefitted from causing the inequities. They are masters at shifting blame, and finding a scapegoat to make people angry at.

3 years ago, Neal Bortz talked about how noble Mexican people were. How they got here and worked hard and didn't ask for handouts. 2 years ago, he was railing about their abusing our healthcare system and dragging it down with their illegal kids. These guys can turn on a dime, and let their crowds know exactly who to blame.

William_Shatner said...

llithi Dragon,
Good comments. But I have to voice that I'm not so sure that a "singularity" will mean that we get rid of Oligarchs.

In America, we've gotten comfortable with this notion that we can throw off the yoke of tyranny. Yet we are slowly being emerged in it, and we are not out on the streets enraged. AS long as we are well fed, we are docile.

Here is a model where Oligarchs can keep ruling; http://digg.com/travel_places/Dubai_s_Slave_society
Dubai has been the major benefactor of the Bush regime. They even own at least 7 military fabrication plants in the USA. The UAE is also set to get nuclear weapons -- what a great friend Bush and Cheney were to them. They've even gotten involved in banking with them, and moving their corporations like Haliburton and Carlysle group there.

Dubai is one of the principle bankers for terrorism and big in the arms trade. Carlysle Group is the largest weapons dealer outside of a nation in the world.

I have to really argue with the idea that the civil war in Iraq was a "mistake" by Bush.

Bushies organized the fledgling government along Suni and Shia divides instead of pushing for a non-sectarian organization.

Bushies probably made the decision to padlock and leave major weapons Depots from the Hussein Regime all around the country.

Why were the troops just sent home, with weapons in hand when they surrendered to us? Why were they not detained or at least disarmed? We were so dang violent going in there, and then this weird spot of kindness?

All you need to do, to cause major unrest, is to make a good portion of the people unemployed. Then leave a lot of weapons around.

If calm had been restored in Iraq -- we could have left by now. But because there was violence, the cost-plus no-bid contracts just kept raking in the dough.

>> I could find many more examples. These "mistakes" have happened everywhere a NeoCon ruler has been in charge -- and not only in the USA. Sarkozy in France, is the only one of the NeoCons so far to NOT be involved in war.
As somebody posted last week -- this is important reading to understand that War and conflict, is something that is the GOAL of NeoCons; http://ariwatch.com/AynRandAndTheNobleLie.htm

Giving a huge tax break to the top 2%, while going to war - and making it as expensive as possible, was not only to gain influence. IN the months leading up to the Economic 9/11 on Wall Street, Negroponte was going to financial institutions to get them to leverage over 40 times (increases profits AND risk), bypassing SEC rules but justifying it with the Patriot Act.

The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005, changed the rules for how banks liquidate in a bankruptcy. Before that, Banks had to pay employees and immediate debts first. Then finally Stockholders and some of the strange financial obligations. Well, that was reversed -- pretty lucky for crooks like AIG that now their risk and over a Quadrillion in Derivatives, now becomes the obligation of the American people.

I can't see how these people could have made the machinations they did, got all their money and power -- and been this stupid. One little downturn in a financial institution with 40x leverage and they can fold.

The Fed and the World Bank, seem to now have control over a lot of rich people. Because they are either extremely rich, or extremely poor depending on how the CDS and Derivatives are settled. Everybody is watching and waiting and doing what they can to keep these people happy.

>> So the flip side of the singularity, is everybody broke with a few thousand incredibly rich. Cameras on every street to "protect us" from all the random violence. The entire society something like North Korea in the poor areas, and a play pen for the wealthy like Dubai in the Rich. They won't call us slaves, but losing our jobs is easy, and would spell doom in such a world.

People set against each other, with convenient scapegoats trumpeted by the media.

Violence and desperation met with force and "tough on crime" politicians who are compromised by whomever is pulling their strings.

The majority of the population, will just be getting by, working 60 hours a week and too tired and distracted to think beyond paying the bills.

And there would be lots of religion. Very strict laws on behavior because people are wicked and evil. Coupled with an ever present security threat -- the person who steps out of line is dealt with harshly. Religion is really great to establish tyrannies, because you don't need evidence, and the person supported by it can lob the threats. Being "good" is believing what they say, and repeating the propaganda.

The Mark Foley's and compromised politicians, would be more in the closet and even easier to control. You promote flawed people, and use the threat of exposure to have them always do your bidding -- much more effective than trying to bribe them with lobbyists. Only those who step out of line will be exposed for their wickedness.

And for neoCons like Bush and Cheney -- that would be heaven.

All they need is a big enough disaster. And that's all I saw them plotting for their entire time in office. I don't think they've given up on this dream yet. I still have to wonder why Obama is doing everything to protect their crimes.

Ilithi Dragon said...

WS, the 'liberation through singularity' certainly isn't an inevitability (nothing is), but I think it's a likely route. Barring some massive catastrophe, that allows for a police state, I think it is the next best thing to inevitable. Don't underestimate the power of the network. A good demonstrator to research would be the Anonymous "War on Scientology" - a spontaneous protest movement centered around elements of the internet culture/group known as Anonymous, which sprung up last year in response to Scientology's attempts to have a leaked internal promotional vid featuring Tom Cruise being even more nutty than usual removed from the internet (it's also good to research because Scientology is just, well, very bad, though I think many here already know this). The initial response was, predictably, over the network, and within two or three days of Scientology's initial attempt to have the video removed, their servers were shut down through a massive DDoS attack, and they received thousands of prank calls, black faxes, etc. Within two weeks, simultaneous world-wide protests were organized, and almost ten thousand people appeared outside of Scientology centers across the globe on February 9th, with fliers, banners, posters, masks and costumes of all kinds, despite the short notice, and in many cases, severe weather conditions. Protests have been held ever month since, along with additional major protests and 'mini raids'.

There was very little mainstream news coverage of this, though, despite many coordinated attempts to get major media coverage, for obvious reasons.

Provided the network is there, even in the primitive, rudimentary form that it exists in now, any attempt at a real coup that doesn't require a complex charade of 'business as usual' will be very difficult to pull off.

Ultimately, though, the slow undermining from within is, always has been, and always will be the greatest threat to freedom that we have to face. These villains aren't twirling their mustache (though some of them are coming pretty damn close), and their corruption is slow, camouflaged by good deeds and intentions. Indeed, many of them probably do not even realize themselves that they are the villains, and honestly have good intentions, or think they are doing the right or correct thing, either because they are horribly misinformed or out of touch with reality, or are deluded idealogues (often times a far worse danger than true villains).

It has been noted on here often how it is a tactic of the wealthy to crew foul 'Class Warfare!' when the uneducated masses get unruly and suggest that their rightful lords and masters are anything but, and should actually share their hard-stolen bounty, but really, that is exactly what we face. A war of class, the same war of class that has been fought since the first human picked up a stick and made the first club, and along with it the first cultural elite (and indeed, since even before then). It is the war of the oligarchs, the aristocracy, the 'elites' who have power and want to keep it, and expand it, at the expense of everyone else (outside of their 'circle', anyway), against those whom they would lord over, the rest of us, the 'commoners.' In the past, that war has been fought openly, because the common wretches were too uneducated, too indoctrinated, to recognize what was happening. In the last few centuries, that has changed, as the common wretch managed to pull him(or her)self up by the bootstraps, gaining education, and a recognition of the tyranny of the elites. There was a period in which the common wretch made great advances against the oligarch, fighting the elites with new weapons and tactics they didn't know how to defend against. Thus our nation, and many like her, was born, and many other nations were reformed along similar lines. But the elites are old hands at this game, and not about to give up their positions without a hard fight, and it wasn't long before they had learned to adapt to the new way of the world, and shifted their tactics to subtle manipulations and undermining from within. The elites have begun to retake ground that was lost during the Enlightenment, and we are now facing a return to the feudalistic oligarchy of our past. But we are also on the verge of a technological and cultural revolution that could all but eliminate the power of the elites, along with many who hold elite status, and this time, we do have the capacity to fight back against our enemies, though the war is far from over.

WS, I have equipped myself with knowledge and a desire to be aware, two of the strongest weapons with which we can arm ourselves in this 'class war', but I am critically lacking in the ammunition of facts. I have a good idea of what is going on, at least in general, but I lack specific details, especially facts that can be referenced. I would be very interested in any information that you could provide, if you have the time (a lack thereof which is one of my own handicaps).

Also, on that last note of the temporal issue, I have recently abandoned my attempts to invent a time machine - while I have had success in moving forward in time in increasingly greater increments, and was working on enhancing my prototype to be capable of making forward transition of a full hour with a travel time of only 3600 seconds, I have yet to achieve any backwards travel through time, or even lateral movement. As such, and given the fact that the temporal issue seems to stem from a problem of 'not having enough time', and the success of various time management protocols that treat time as a resource to be spent and saved, I have come to the conclusion that time travel is impossible, and that we do not, in fact, move through time at all. Instead, my new project revolves around the theory that time travel is impossible, and that we do not actually move through time at all. Instead, under my theory, time is a natural resource, that we use. As such, my latest endeavor to solve the temporal issue attempts to address the issue directly, not by traveling through time, but by generating it. Thus, with more time to spend, the temporal issue will thus be solved. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Ilithi Dragon said...

And wow, my grammar sucks when I'm sneaking bits of sentences in at work while simultaneously trying to sound intelligent...


Susan: Former alias of the monster known as Ginormica

William_Shatner said...


Also, on that last note of the temporal issue, I have recently abandoned my attempts to invent a time machine - while I have had success in moving forward in time in increasingly greater increments,

>> Yes, I have the same forward motion time machine -- it's called a bottle of Scotch, LOL.

I agree that your points there on singularity have merit. However, I look at the "anonymous" attack on Scientology and wonder if that wasn't the exception. The people doing that had to be REALLY GOOD at hacking. A lot of people that good, are either working at hacking fool time (black hats), or have been caught and are working for the CIA or some other three letter department. One of the Anonymous people (or so we are told) was taken into custody for forming a protest in Atlanta. The police work black riot gear, with plexiglass masks, flak jackets, tasers, riot gear, semi-automatic weapons, to face down a group of people in t-shirts whose only issue was that they wanted to voice their support. I have yet to hear what happened to this guy, I'm sure they have about 20 charges trumped up on him -- proof or not.

If you or I engaged in bringing down a home page, likely we'd see more prison time than a serial killer. The web page would be valued at $22 million in lost business revenue, and the judge won't laugh.

The Obama administration has yet to grant a reprieve for a civic-minded man, who posed as a Oil Executive, to bid on some land and protect it from exploit. Even though it was later proved that the Oil Company bidding on public lands turned out to be improper (illegal, dang it), this guys prank and citizen activism is being met by 20 years in prison for "Deceiving the Government." Are there any Haliburton execs going to prison for being caught doing that and actually raking in millions in the process? No.

The laws are against your t-shirt or pranks that might use the information systems to disrupt for freedom. While the Blackwater mercenary can shoot the chief of security for the Iraqi president in the face, and he gets quietly moved out of the country to avoid any repercussions. Karl Rove, has put an elected Governor in Alabama in prison, and he has yet to even bother answering a subpoena from congress to answer for it.

We KNOW Cheney authorized torture. HE even bragged about it on TV.

We have a new Sheriff in town, but I don't know if he is in cahoots, or working against a very powerful group that owns everything important. Can Obama actually go against the banks that spent $5 Billion to lobby Washington? I doubt it. Bill Clinton didn't rush to invade Iraq, and they tried to impeach him for extramarital sex.

Do you get it?

You have to be better, smarter, and more organized -- and WILLING to go to prison for a long time to do the right thing. If your harmless prank embarrasses one of the robber barons, they will INVENT new names for what you did.

While if you do the wrong thing, you can get millions, and the only risk is that you might see 9 months in a low security prison like Scooter Libby. The biggest punishment meted out for treason, and risking perhaps hundreds of covert agent's lives.

>> In theory, yes, there is a lot we can do. In practice, it's a lot trickier. We may have a good guy in office right now. But if the media doesn't tell us a few times about some outrage -- who would know?

tacitus2 said...

For Annonymous, and other interested parties. Health care circa 2001 to current, with side commentary.

We are collectively older. Baby boom effect and longer lives. From 1990 to 2006 life expectancy has increased 3.6 yrs for men, 1.9 years for women. Life expectancy for all groups has increased slightly, with the usual spread from black men to white women. 70/80 expectancy at birth. At 65 the expectation is to reach 75/85.

Infant mortality dropped dramatically from 1950 to the present. Roughly 2/3 drop in all groups. The rate is effectivly flat from 2000 to most recent cdc data in 2005. 37% of infant deaths are due to preterm delivery, which makes coverage for octamom level embryo implants near criminal in my eyes. There are large racial and socioeconomic discrepancies, with complex dynamics.

Regarding the common causes of death, from 1950 to current, cardiac causes are down 64%, stroke down 74%. Much of this has been ealier, but modest improvement has continued every year. Cancer deaths rose from '60 to '90 and have been in decline since. This is mostly the "echo" of declining smoking rates and concordant lung cancer rates.

Viral hepatitis is way down.
Vaccines and HIV awareness measures.

Invasive pneumococcal disease (sepsis, meningitis,etc) down 80% in children and even 30% or so in household contacts. Vaccination, which has also essentially wiped out other bacterial meningitis in the toddler/early school years.

Smoking rates continue a slow decline, showing something of a tendency to stall out around 23% of adults. The solid core of stupidity imho.

Poverty and uninsured status are not per se health issues, but certainly impact health. In 2006 a record rate of births to unwed mothers was recorded. Soberingly it was 39%. To our collective shame the rate among blacks was over 50%, making fatherless homes the new "norm" in that segment of society. Here, certainly, is an area where President Obama could/should speak with passion and make an impact.

According to the CDC, private health insurance has declined and Medicaid increased from 2000 to 2006. In their words there was "little change in the percentage of persons under 65 who were uninsured". (18%). Of course, Medicaid is not as good as swell private insurance, but is at least as good as lousy private plans. And where I live and work, Medicaid and Medicare folks get seen and treated just like anybody else. Off topic a little, many stats that quote higher rates of being uninsured use the standard of "at any time in the last year" rather than at the time of interview.

The age group most likely to be uninsured is 18-24. They are the most likely to be in transition from school to work and from home to independence, so this makes sense. They are also, thank goodness, by far the healthiest group out there.

So what areas are actually looking "worse"? Pneumonia deaths are up, as is Alzheimers. Makes sense. If you do not die of an MI at 60 you are much more likely to get Alzheimers at 80. And pneumonia is the common terminal event for many frail elderly.

Anecdotally, we are certainly devoting resources to prevention where I work. Lots of people are being more tightly controlled with respect to BP, diabetes and cholesterol. Dying of an MI at 50 is now an oddity. It was once common.

To say immunization rates are dropping may be true. But the overwhelming majority of children are immunized, and stats need to be read with care. With so many more immunizations out there it is easy to miss one or two and become a statistic. But you likely still have a good level of immunity with partial series. Genuine non believers who opt out for religious reasons or from autism concerns are rare.

You have to be very carefull with statistics. Health care stats in particular can be made to jump up on the bar and dance the Macarena. A recent article on increase rates of chlamydia tried to link this STD to worsening economic times. In paragraph 4 it mentioned that the increase was largely due to a more sensitive and patient friendly testing system.

I agree that our challenges are many. In particular, how do you reduce stupid lifestyle choices like tasty food from Lardees, smoking cigs, early sexual activity, lack of exercize. Conservatives and Progressives might have differing views on these points.

I also agree that the biggest increase in life expectancy came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and involved better sanitation, understanding of germ theory, better food standards, better work place safety, and so forth.

We were able to establish and fund public hospitals and public health departments. We improved working conditions and food inspection. We installed rural electricity and urban plumbing. All these things were accomplished in a political environment much more conservative than the current day. We had better conservatives back then.

Of course, they were prodded onward by Debs and U. Sinclair, and Fightin' Bob and the Sufferagettes. Compared to the current pygmies, we had better progressives too.

All for now.

Tacitus 2

Ilithi Dragon said...

WS, a Denial of Service attack, basically overloading a server with requests for information, does not require a lot of hacking - doing it by yourself against a large, high-volume server can be challenging, yes, and there probably aren't many people with the knowledge and skills to do that, but that's not what this was. This was a DDoS attack, a Distributed Denial of Service attack. A single person can orchestrate a DDoS attack with a lot of hacking, or actually a small and simple but cunning worm, that controls hundreds or thousands of computers. Alternatively, you can hop into a large IRC channel, post a url, and "DDOS NOW! FIRE TEH LAZORS!!!" All you need for a DDoS attack to bring down even a fairly high-volume server is a couple hundred people clicking refresh over and over at the same time, and flooding the target server with requests for information. It's not even illegal, just clicking the refresh button a few times. No skill is required, just enough people running with the idea. It was DDoS attacks such as this that brought Scientology's main website, and a few secondary websites, down for an entire weekend, if I remember correctly. Many of the people involved were computer savvy, and there were probably a few Black Hats involved as well, but the actual methods were quite simple and non-technical.

The pranks quickly ended, though, and the core Anonymous campaign against Scientology shifted to actual activism, with a strong emphasis on obeying all applicable local laws, respecting locals, law enforcement, etc. and generally providing a very well-mannered example of peaceful protest (thanks in large part to the influence of Mark "Wise Beard Man" Bunker, a long-time anti-Scientology activist).

The incident in Atlanta, GA, where Police and SWAT showed up in full riot gear to handle a hundred or so young protesters waving signs alongside the road was an overreaction due to hysteria generated by the Scientology center being protested - the Scientologists calling for police protection that Saturday made it sound like they were going to be stormed by a raging mob. The appearance of SWAT there was a singular event; to my knowledge, such a heavy (and expensive) response to protests did not occur anywhere else, nor did it occur there again in the months to follow. Further, several protesters were detained and issued citations for violating noise ordnances, partly because of miscommunication between the organizers and law enforcement on what the local noise ordnances were, and at one of the protests, passing cars that honked were issued tickets, but to my knowledge, they were simply detained and issued a fine, not arrested with dozens of trumped up charges.

Ultimately, this is just a small example, but it does show how quickly a well-organized response, including direct, real-world action, can be organized, among people who had never met before, and in many cases, never even interacted with each other online at all before, let alone in any significant way, and how vast and far-reaching its effects can be made to be felt.

To be sure, this is not something that is inevitable, there are certainly many things that could prevent it from coming to pass, but if the trend of networks continually expanding, interconnecting, and becoming more powerful in terms of actual user capability continues, I believe it will come to pass as a matter of course. It also won't necessarily require massed civil action, a 'networked revolution', in which millions of people take to the streets in anger and protest, etc.

The key factor behind the power of any oligarchy that doesn't depend on open and frequent brute force of arms to keep people in line or kill them, is secrecy. The more people know about what people with power are doing, and what it means, the less they will be willing to go along with schemes that benefit a few while putting the costs on their shoulders, so in a society such as ours, an oligarchy has to operate in secrecy. The stronger the network, and the more networking power the individual common user has, the harder that becomes. It doesn't make it impossible, and the network itself isn't invulnerable, but it will be a great force in the on-going class war.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I have not posted since that earliest anonymous claiming to be me. I'been on the road. All other anonymous daves were simply anonymous "daves".

One brief note. The issues could not be greater. If old fashioned human nature gets to fashion the singularity, then we are screwed, because the new oligarchy... presumably machine-centered... will have total surveillance and control.

Only if we double down on the Enlightenment wager will the OTHER possibility reify -- maybe -- in a system whose emergent creative properties look like markets and democracy and science to the nth power!

Only only only a transparent scoiety has even a slim chance of swinging things that way. It really does seem to be either -or.

david brin - from the mountains

William_Shatner said...

Real Anonymous Brin said;
...One brief note. The issues could not be greater. If old fashioned human nature gets to fashion the singularity, then we are screwed, because the new oligarchy... presumably machine-centered... will have total surveillance and control. ...

I think that's the basic difference in viewpoint between Dragon and myself. I see us at a crossroads right now. The 2008 election was pivotal, because it seemed to me, even if Obama cannot bring the Bush crime family to justice, and doesn't deal with the Banksters -- it's at least "on the track" of Transparency. One of his first acts, was to make the assumption of documents accessible to the public, and required someone to find a reason NOT to release them -- which contrasts to trying to prove that a document should be released. If you some up the hits and misses (like hiring the economic meltdown architect Geitner), this one might telegraph more than any other which way he is going.

I believe the situation is much worse than most people think. The Revelation of immanent collapse in November, was not at all a shock to me like so many "experts." The only surprise that it was before elections. In hindsight, I now realize that it was the "inside, insiders" pulling the rug out from under the Nuevo Rich chumps. The doctrinal nonsense that pitches the Republican or Democratic product doesn't matter. What the Oligarchs want is Corruption and Religion. Doesn't matter who is corrupt, just as long as it is someone in power, and it doesn't matter what religion -- as long as it is fundamentalist and dogmatic.

The main reason I've been for Dems over Republicans, is that as much as they've drunk from the corporatist cool aide, and are now the ones getting all the lobbyist's money, they at least are embarrassed about the betrayal. Also, their rhetoric, at least pays tribute to a working model. Ron Paul and Republican models, don't seem to be made from people serious about running a country. It's just Santa Claus nonsense that they aren't going to increase spending and pay for it with deficits. RP has this idea that you can run things through anarchy, and his ideas sound like a well meaning track to make the USA turn into Mexico. But enough of that.

The big shock to me was the Democrats bailing out the banks. At first I thought it was just the issue of "the short straw." The Republicans being in a tough spot with elections, so the Dems, not wanting a majority OVER 60 in the senate, thought they'd help out the 2010 campaign. Didn't some of that $5 Billion spent on lobbying by the financial industry land on Republicans? Didn't they push the stinking Bankruptcy Reform Act in 2005?

I realized that is was part of the systemic engineering to swing the course of the Singularity. I'm pretty sure the Republicans wanted to cause an economic meltdown by not funding the TARP and forcing the Bankers to retaliate. The Democrats, as cowardly as usual, went along with the TARP bailout, because basically, the bankers had enough debt strapped around their chests to destroy the world economic system. So they hired the people who caused the problems to fix the problems -- because they knew whether to cut the red wire or the green wire.

But the Democrats were very wrong, and Obama is still not really getting the right advice on economics -- or he is being EXTREMELY savvy.

That's why it comes back to that transparency. Obama cannot go after the International Bankers, because they can take everybody out with them and retreat to their yachts. Bush and Banks are hands off or global economic melt down -- get it? But, if you leave the tools for others like the Spanish Banks to unravel the problem -- then Bankers are forced to educate those people who get too close, that they are indeed, holding a bomb.

That's the cagey thing here; it's all about how people view the reality -- not if but when the debt bomb goes off. A great deal of money has been stolen, as the chumps bought into the worthless CDS market, and the smart money left. But if the currency is destroyed --- then only hard assets will count. That's fine, if the world thinks it's something that anti-corporate Socialists did. But, if the people go after the bankers, the only way for them to warn off the people from such scrutiny, is to say; "Hey, don't you know we have a Quadrillion dollars and it ties up most of the rich folks fortunes and we can make it worthless?"

What that would do, is take the heat off of people trying to solve the problems, and put it on the people who caused the problems. Good luck finding new identities and running away from an entire planet of angry people.

Yeah, sure, Tacitus -- me and my conspiracy theories. But I'm just trying to make sense of things because nothing at face value on the news really adds up to me. Nobody with power and money wants you to know anything of real value -- that should help anyone realize that; there are ALWAYS conspiracies. Always. You may not know what some group of rich and powerful people are doing, but they got that way by planning things better and not letting others know about it. We lost the healthy distrust of wealth and power we gained after the last Great Depression.

>> But I TOTALLY AGREE with Brin, that there can be a BAD SINGULARITY. The government would finally have the tools in place to monitor humans as no despots ever have before. They could break up and intimidate anyone trying to organize. They have Twitter, FaceBook and MySpace to collect psychological profiles and blogs to monitor at a minutes notice, how the public responds to events and news. There are more tools coming out, to effect attitude and perspective -- the human mind is more well known. A good percentage of the population responds in a knee-jerk fashion. And the way our schools are moving towards "teaching to the test" more and more kids minds are being trained to find the "correct answer." It isn't about intelligence or creativity -- you make good grades if you figure out the teacher and give them back what is expected. It isn't about "liberal" or "conservative" -- again, it doesn't matter what you believe -- it matters if you had a thought process involved in the acquisition of that knowledge, in order that you can change your mind if better data comes along.

Al Gore nailed it with his book; "The Assault on Reason." To me, that's also the difference between the Dem and Republican parties; what works and pragmatism vs. "this is the right way, get used to it." It's an attitude that permeates the voters.

But again, if the Democratic party becomes more corrupted, and they have a "right response" that people get trained to (the Politically Correct thing that annoys so many Conservatives -- and I agree, but that's another topic) learn that there is ONE RIGHT ANSWER.

If we get turned into a Feudal State like North Korea -- there may be no social uprising that can bring us out of it. If the media doesn't cover unrest -- then it didn't happen.

The good news, is that people are abandoning traditional media in droves -- they no longer trust it -- not just because of the digital trend. The Bad news, is that information is becoming Balkanized, such that splinter groups can get their own "truth." There is a Buffet of truth, and you can find whatever you are looking for has a home page to back it up on the web. The only remedy is a disciplined mind, and a desire to look for verification. To move away from blogs that don't stand up to the fact checking, and break with logic. I think ENOUGH people have some sense, that there is hope. Most people, in America are good, and they have a sour taste in their mouths from the Bush years -- even if they didn't understand it.

>> Anyway, rant over. I just feel like this fork in the road is coming up -- and if I can illuminate more people to question more, maybe we can go to the "good Singularity." It is heartening to me, that I can find some like-minded individuals here, who can read between the lines and know what is at stake.

For better or worse, the condition of mankind is going to change in fundamental ways. And whichever path we go down, can be reinforced and made permanent.

Take for instance, Life extension and cloning. If it's available to the rich, they are going to have new bodies, and either do it in secret, or pay the priests to say it's OK. In another 50 years, a Fidel Castro or Little Kim in North Korea, could hold their countries in thrall indefinitely, with no change in leadership. Life extension should be able to at least double life span in the next 50 years -- so the generational dynasty is going to have a new wrinkle it never had.

The "good thing" about death on planet earth, is it's the one sure way of changing the mind of people. A lot of the racists in the USA only got old, and fewer of them were replaced by the next generation. That's just ONE change, amongst hundreds of paradigm shifts. I can think of a couple dozen ways that life for humans will never be the same. And each one of them has opportunity or disaster.

Anonymous said...

Especially enlisting armies of libertarians to march against the very same enlightenment institutions that made free markets possible...

See, this is why I think that Pohl and Kornbluth's The Space Merchants should be nominated for a Prometheus. For once (and decades ago), absolute unblinking honesty with regards to the outcome of right wing libertarianism.

Totally off-topic. I know.

Lars

Gilmoure said...

William Shatner said... Are these soldiers of fortune ever going to be of any use and realize who is "after" them?

Years ago (early 90's ?), Bob Lassiter (the Mad Dog), a radio commentator, went off on a caller who was trying to bring up the cultural divide and how once Clinton was elected, they'd be going after him and his buddies in rural Florida. Bob's main point was that the main divide in the country wasn't right/left but a class/income divide (the top 5% versus everyone else). When people realize that the lords and masters, while willing to throw folks a bone every now and then, they're really in it for themselves and their associates. Now, the L&M's may differ on process/procedure and how much the kine should be fed but overall, they're using the multiple production of others in order to expand their power and influence over others.

I wish I had the time to find the recording of this (if it exists).

It's too bad Bob is gone. He shared David Brin's 'big picture' view of the world and was pretty adept at explaining it.

TwinBeam said...

A fairer estate tax method: "7 for 7" - a surtax of 7% of the estate's value, yearly for 7 years.

The government ends up getting about the same net revenue stream, once it's phased in.

Family businesses wouldn't have to be sold off to pay the taxes. (Sorry, big un-dying corporation competitors.)

There'd be much less incentive to avoid the tax. Some estimates have $1 spent avoiding the tax, for every $1 brought in. If those avoiding the tax are saving just $2 for every $1 they spend, ending avoidance would triple estate tax revenues, and eliminate the unproductive "estate planning" business. (Sorry tax lawyers.)

TwinBeam said...

Most of what Obama has been doing, I kind of understand - even if I believe he was deceived into bailing out the banks, and is wrong about not pursuing Bush/Cheney/Rove/etc criminality.

But I don't quite understand why his administration has suddenly taken on the Bush position on warrantless wiretaps.

He was Mr. transparency and accountability. He had a moderate position on the Patriot Act before he was elected, and opposed Bush's warrantless taps.

Now he wants to keep that power, and protect AT&T from lawsuits "For Reasons of National Security".

Is it possible that they know something that they believe is just too scarey to tell the public?

Maybe they've got solid information about nukes being smuggled into the country, or some other terror attack plans to make 911 look paltry?

Ilithi Dragon said...

You mean an even bigger inside job? Maybe. I think the biggest thing is that Obama's got some very big, and very powerful people to fight, on multiple fronts. People who don't want things to go the way we elected him to take them. What I've seen of him (which, admittedly, isn't enough to be conclusive), though, makes it seem to me that he isn't the type to cave to the sorts of pressures the oligarchs would bring to bear, and I suspect (and hope) that our president would be a very good chess player. But we shall see.

William_Shatner said...

Though I've mentioned concern about where Obama stands -- I have to admit, that if I were President, and if what I suspect to be true is going on behind the scenes -- I would do EXACTLY what Obama is doing. That is, if I were 25% wiser and politically savvy.

I would keep in place all the executive decider privileges and spying so that I could use them, to get dirt on the people who undermined the Government. I would bet anyone $10,000 (OK, I know it's pocket change, Jeeves), that the Bush government used most of their spying for political advantage.

So, if it makes no sense why Dems and Republicans were voting with Bush -- then blackmail should help fill in the gaps.

That's why I keep saying the Economic Royalists (the PTB to use a cliche), want more corruption and don't really care who is running things. Crooks they can deal with, and usually with carrots and sticks. The DC Madam challenged their game of having dirt on people, and we can't have the outing of politicians unless they are Bloggo from Chicago and going off the reservation to help a Union.

No, the enemy is massive and entrenched, and they have a figurative gun to the head of most of the people who MIGHT support you. So you bide your time, and create a situation where other people can go after the administration -- but not look like you are doing it.

When Obama makes a move, it's going to be massive and sudden. It will be a "night of the long knives." That's at least my fantasy, and I feel comfortable in saying this on the webs, because if anyone with real power were paying attention to my rantings, they'd be hiring me to build my heat to light converter for $2 a unit.

And to bolster my argument that the financial crisis was a Let It Happen On Purpose, I give you evidence that the first Republican Great Depression was also, suspected of being a Make It Happen On Purpose kind of scam; PICTURE

Anonymous said...

WS--When you referred to the DC Madam,are you referring to her suicide?

Ilithi Dragon said...

WS, that's what I suspect (and hope) Obama is planning, as well. I'm really hoping the man's a damn good chess and poker player. Or Risk player. That would work, too. Risk, that is, being the global domination board game. Played it a lot in scouts, and won all the time, mostly by how I played everyone else to ignore me and attack each other while I quietly set things in place for a sudden, massive sweep across the board. I can see a similar approach, here, especially in the disarming presentation of not being a real threat, not really pushing things, just making token attacks to keep up appearances, while working the targets to convince them that you're not really a threat to them, when even the attacks themselves are all part of a larger plan, putting things in place or building things up for the sudden, massive sweep from nowhere.

Well, we can hope, at least.

Anonymous said...

Fake William Shatner said: Though I've mentioned concern about where Obama stands -- I have to admit, that if I were President, and if what I suspect to be true is going on behind the scenes -- I would do EXACTLY what Obama is doing. That is, if I were 25% wiser and politically savvy.

???Huh???

You'd throw more money and men and materiel into a doomed disastrous war in Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires for 3000 years -- a war which is already lost? Really?

You'd appoint the criminal Robert M. Gates, who was at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal, the thug who masterminded a plot to subvert the constitution of the united states, as the secretary of defense? And then you'd increase the already obscene and insane military budget, which every defense expert proclaims to be in a "death spiral" of chronic dysfunction? Seriously?

You'd put the thieves and crooks who stole America blind in charge of the TARP bail-out and you'd continue the previous financial policies of the insect who infested the Oval Office? Are you serious?

David Brin called Obama a "genius." I see no sign of it. Never saw any sign of it. Obama seemed like a smart pol with a pragmatic commonsense data-driven approach to policy. And after the loons we've had in the White House for the last 8 years, believe me, that was plenty good enough for me. But now I'm starting to doubt the "commonsense" and "data-driven" parts of that estimation.

Why the hell isn't Obama spearheading a push to put usury caps back in place? For the last five thousand years of human history, every civilization on earth has recognized a prohibition against usuary as a fundamental part of their society. We decided to do away with that. Now we see where it got us. The wonder is that even today, even after all this financial wreckage, it's still legal to charge 350% interest on payday loans and 35% on credit card loans and extort $37 overdraft fees from hapless users for a 1-cent overdraft on their debit card.

When did this kind of mass insanity morph into "wise" and "politically savvy," Fake Shatner?

When did french-kissing the bunghole of our out-of-control military-industry complex and continuing the unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping of his predecessor and deep-throating the extortionate robber baron crony capitalist bankers who caused this financial meltdown (by appointing Geithner and Summers and the other culprits who helped create this financial crisis as secretary of the treasury and White House economic adviser) mysteriously transmogrify into "genius," David Brin?

I don't get it. Explain it to me, please. That's like making the guy who robs the First National Bank into the chief of police.

I don't ask a lot from Obama, but I do demand common sense and pragmatism. If you see a policy has failed catastrophically over the past 30 years, like, oh, say, the war on drugs, common sense suggests that you end that policy. Doesn't it? I mean, really. Doesn't it? Repeating the exact same doomed & failed policies that plunged us off the cliff militarily and financially and in terms of our horribly failed criminal justice system as a nation, well... that's not my definition of "genius" or "wisdom" or "political savvy." It'd say it's closer to the definition of insanity.

Gilmoure said...

Looks like some banks are actually being closed down, not just taken in to receivership, sold to other banks. I wonder what the story is behind this one?

FDIC Creates a Deposit Insurance National Bank to Facilitate the Resolution of New Frontier Bank, Greeley, Colorado
Bank of the West to Provide Temporary Operational Management


New Frontier Bank, Greeley, Colorado, was closed today by the State Bank Commissioner, by Order of the Banking Board of the Colorado Division of Banking, which then appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC created the Deposit Insurance National Bank of Greeley (DINB), which will remain open for approximately 30 days to allow depositors time to open accounts at other insured institutions. At the time of closing, the receiver immediately transferred to the DINB all insured deposits of New Frontier, except for brokered deposits, certificates of deposit (CDs) and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The receiver also transferred to the DINB all secured public unit deposits. Under the FDI Act, the FDIC may create a deposit insurance national bank to ensure that depositors have continued access to their insured funds where no other bank has agreed to assume the insured deposits.

Sociotard said...

Amusing story about how the stray dogs in Russia have begun to act smarter, even learning how to use the subway:

link
http://englishrussia.com/?p=2462

Sociotard said...

Oh, and a case of "I don't think the article has enough information."

12-year-old sues father over grounding . . . and wins
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2009/04/07/mtl-quebecgirl-sues-dad-0407.html

Jester said...

"Smoking rates continue a slow decline, showing something of a tendency to stall out around 23% of adults. The solid core of stupidity imho."

There is absolutely no correlation between intelligence and susceptibility to addiction.

I'm inclined to wonder if this is how you view patients with HIV or Non-A Non-B Hepatitis.

Like nicotine addicts, they made a stupid choice that many others also made without getting sick. The vast majority of nicotine addicts made that choice at a very young age, and many of them were already primed to make it due to prolonged exposure to second hand smoke.

While 12 step programs do not collect statistical information, I can tell you that it is widely agreed that nicotine addicts involved in Nicotine Anonymous have far higher rates of relapse and just plain giving up than those who suffer from any other addictions and get involved in other twelve step programs.

They aren't "continuing to make a stupid lifestyle choice", they are suffering from an illness.

That it is a partly psychological illness makes it no less real. That it is a result of a choice that they made at some point in the past does not mean that they are stupid, or somehow deserve what they get.

It's no more comparable to the decision to gorge on fatty foods due to time constraints or laziness than alchoholism or heroin addiction is.

For me, in-patient treatment followed by continued involvement in a twelve step program was the only thing that worked.

It cost 3,000 dollars for a week, or about 1 percent of what my health insurance would have had to pay out if I developed lung cancer. I had to go out of pocket for that. At the time, I had a job that paid well and provided me with paid vacation, so I was able to bear the cost.

For others, drugs are at least partially effective. I know several people who quit with Zyban or Chantix.

Yet, most "health care" plans only cover some of the cost of these drugs, and many do not cover them at all. A cost of 150-550 dollars, which can lead to savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Now, who's making stupid choices?

Of course, from an Insurance point of view, it's a wise choice. Those addicts will probably be covered by Medicare by the time the cost comes due, and you and I will pay for it.

Smokers who can quit cold turkey, DO. They are a minority, and they are really no different than people who go through a period of alchohol abuse without becoming alchoholics.

The rest, the majority, are SICK.

They don't need condescenion, derision, or aspersions cast on their intelligence. They've become addicted to a designer drug, literally "cracked" into freebase to insure that it is as addictive as possible.

You know that, right? That as much as 30% of the nicotine in a modern cigarette is Freebase?

That the nicotine dosage is very carefully controlled with the express purpose of maximizing addictive potential?

For all the evils of the Alchohol industry, they didn't spend 40 years and hundreds of millions trying to convince us that alchoholism was a myth, while also spending hundreds of millions developing ways to make alchohol more addictive.

The difference between what your patients smoke today and what they smoked 30 years ago is essentially the difference between cocaine and crack.

One of the reasons we're "stalled" out 23 percent is, quite frankly, that all to many medical professionals continue to view nicotine addiction as a "stupid lifestyle choice", despite the mountains of evidence showing it to be a serious addiction.

Those who could quit easily, did. It wasn't easier for them because they were more intelligent or better able to understand the health risks of smoking.

Generally, they had a different biological makeup which made them less susceptible to addiction, or were dealing with different psychological issues underlying their addiction, or had help (pharamcutical and/or a support group and/or addiction counseling).

Take your patients illness seriously, or refer them to someone who will.

BTW- I bear you no ill will, Tacticus, and this isn't a personal attack on you. You may be an excellent Doctor for a lot of other patients, and with an open mind and a willingness to revaluate your views, you might be a decent Doctor for people suffering from nicotine addiction too.

P.S. Sorry all, for the tangent. I just hate to see the reinforcement of the "dirty habit" meme.

It kills people.

tacitus2 said...

Jester
No offense intended nor taken. It is an area where my personal and professional opinions are somewhat divergent.
I work hard with smokers, and in my professional opinion anything that helps them quit is good.
Most serious smokers start young (or started before it was known to be horrifically unhealthy). 15 year olds are so much more prone to risk taking, to peer pressure, to advertising hype. These lead to decisions that by adult standards would be considered stupid. Those who pick up the habit later, say in college, tend to be "occasion" smokers, only when out on the town for instance. Still a bad notion, but overall less of a threat.
Most of the Hep C and all of the HIV I have dealt with professionally has been related to IV drug use. That is an issue too complex to address here.
If you want some thought provoking, but very uncomfortable stats, there are folks who calculate the cost to the health care system caused by smoking, the revenue brought in by cig taxes, and the "excess" costs to the sytem if all smokers quit and lived longer (with more expenses for other things). Disturbingly, smoking does not look like such a hideous burden financially to society with this perspective. But on the basis of trying to alleviate individual suffering, smoking has to go.
Congrats on quitting. All my patients who suceed get a handshake and my personal wishes for continued success. Those who try and fall short get the "back on the horse" talk and the acknowlegment that being human we do not always triumph on the first (or later) attempt.
Those who shrug and say "whatever". Ah, that's a harder attitude to accept, especially in instances where they are, literally, often burning their disposable income instead of saving for their kids' futures. But I try to be friendly and supportive.
And being human do not always succeed on my first or subsequent efforts.

Tacitus2

Anonymous said...

TwinBeam said: But I don't quite understand why his administration has suddenly taken on the Bush position on warrantless wiretaps.

[Obama] was Mr. transparency and accountability. He had a moderate position on the Patriot Act before he was elected, and opposed Bush's warrantless taps.

Now [Obama] wants to keep that power, and protect AT&T from lawsuits "For Reasons of National Security".

Is it possible that they know something that they believe is just too scarey [sic] to tell the public?

Maybe they've got solid information about nukes being smuggled into the country, or some other terror attack plans to make 911 look paltry?

I'm calling bullshit on this argument. No, I'm sorry, this is classic grade-A 100% 24 carat horseshit. And the historical evidence proves it.

I've got the advantage of hindsight here because I was alive during the Vietnam war. LBJ used this exact same argument to support continuing the war in Viet Nam -- "We know things that you don't know, and they justify what we're doing." Yeah, right. When the Pentagon Papers got leaked, it turned out that whole argument was a lie. It was pure B.S. No factual basis to it at all.

Then, during the 1970s, Nixon used the exact same argument to support his refusal to release the Watergate tapes -- "We know things that you don't know, and they justified the Watergate cover-up." And once again, when congress supbpoened the Watergate tapes and people got a chance to hear them, it turned out that argument was garbage. Watergate was just a sleazy political power-grab with an extra helping of corrupt unconstitutional crime on top in order to obstruct justice.

Then, during the 1980s, the Reagan administration (Robert H. Gates, our current secretary of defense!) made the exact same bogus argument -- "We know things you don't know, and they justify our end run around the constitution in the Iran-Contra arms deal." Once the computer records that Oliver North thought he had deleted got recovered (because, like all criminals, these people were stupid as well as devoid of a conscience and didn't realize that when you delete a computer record, the filesystem only deletes the file header, not the file itself), it became clear that Reagan's arguments were a complete lie.

Then in the 1990s Bill Clinton tried to force the Clipper Chip on everyone and his DOJ tried to make certain types of math illegal to talk about in public -- yes, they actually tried that, they attempted the make the prime number public key algorithms behind PGP encryption illegal to publish. Well, that attempt fell apart when crypto-freaks started wearing T shirts with the PGP algorith printed on it. Once again, Clinton's DOJ made the exact same bogus argument, "We know things you don't, and this justifies making publishing hard crypto algorithms illegal." And once again it turned out to be a complete lie.

Then in the 2000s we got the mother of all lies, the all-time Number One With A Bullet example of the bogus argument "We know things you don't, and it justified what we're doing. " I'm talking about the pack of Big Lies we got fed to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion, in case you haven't figured that out. Yeah, once again, the argument "We know things you don't, and it justifies what we're doing" turned out to be pure bullshit.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sick of this bogus argument. Enough! No more! I've had it. The next person who tries this bullshit argument here will get hosed down with so much industrial-strength ridicule, he'll molecularly resolve into dog food.

Haven't we heard this discredited phoney argument long enough, and seen it debunked decade after decade for enough generations, to realize that every time some guy in power claims "We know things you don't, and it justifies what we're doing," we should instantly and loudly call BULLSHIT on this completely unsubstantiated fairytale?

(Sigh.)

So much for that intellectually bankrupt argument.

Twinbeam dredged up that defunct argument in the process of saying that he "didn't understand why the Obama administration has suddenly taken up the Bush administration position" on a variety of policies. Warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, violation of habeas corpus, widening the doomed Afghanistan war, and so on.

Glenn Greenwald has an article about Obama's positions on these issues here:
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/04/11/bagram/index.html

Okay, Twinbeam, I'll explain it to you clearly and simply.

Obama lied.

Before you jump down my throat, let me clarify: Obama shaded his campaign statements in such a way that he created the impression that he believed things he doesn't really believe. This might not be actual lying, but it has the same effect, so I call it lying. You may call it something different -- "creating a mistaken impression" or maybe "drifting to the left during a campaign" or maybe just "fudging things a little in order to get elected."

Every politician does this. It's not evil, it's just part of life. Pols make clever use of words to get people to support them. That's what a politician does, even highly moral politicians. The monsters we had in office before Obama lied us into a pointless lost war in Iraq and they lied in order to destroy our constitutional rights and they lied in order to let thieves loot the economy until it broke down, and they engaged in this kind pf predmeditated pathological lying persistently and with malice aforethought, and they did it with outrageous contempt for the electorate. So, really, what Obama did in shading the truth during his campaign is about a million times better.

Still, Obama created a false impression.

If you're a starry-eyed idealist, this will break your heart. Sorry. That's the way the world works. All politicians fudge their public statements to get elected.

The reason Obama fudged his public statements is that there isn't a dimes worth of difference between Obama's policy positions on Afghanistan, warrantless wiretapping, violation of habeas corpus, extraordinary rendition, etc. and Hillary Clinton's policy positions on those subjects. If you don't like that, well, I'm sorry, but again, that's life. These are the D.C. beltway establishment positions. Anyone who wins the presidency will hold those positions. If you thought otherwise, you're being naive.

The best we can hope for is that Obama has enough common sense to change these failed policies when he sees they're not working. The previous administration didn't do that. Instead, when it became obvious that their policies had failed, the previous administration doubled down on them. That's the real difference between Obama and McCain. At least, I hope it is.

A lot of liberals seem to have created a cult of personality about Obama. David called him a "genius," other people have made wild claims about Obama's purported wisdom or intelligence. I don't get it. I have seen no evidence that Obama is any smarter or any wiser than anyone here. Obama has a gift for uplifting rhetoric, he's a very good writer, and he's a skilled politician. Other than that, no, he truly does not appear to be any different from any one of us. Why this cult of personality has formed, hm... I think I can answer that one. The previous president was so terrible that the American people acted like a battered wife. As soon as she meets a guy who doesn't beat her every night, she thinks he's the Second Coming. He isn't, but it seems that way from her point of view.

This has been another edition of "simple answers to hard questions." It probably pissed you off. Sorry about that.

TwinBeam said...

Anonymous: Yes yes, but you don't answer the question:

WHY defend Bush's warrant-less wiretapping through AT&T? Most here would be willing to suspect that Bush was up to no good with his wiretaps - getting dirt on political opponents or some such.

So why, then, is Obama supporting it? Just pure power-mongering as you seem to be claiming? On an issue that is so likely to upset so many of his own supporters? Seems a bit counter-productive, to me, if power is his goal.

Unlike some here, I'd be willing to believe Obama could be using it for political purposes - if I saw even a shred of evidence, instead of baseless supposition. It's kind of early in his term for his administration to have time to be making such Machiavellian moves, anyhow, especially with everything else on their plates.

Either Obama has a reason to keep AT&T and other communications companies compliant (i.e. the "imminent danger" argument), OR there's something about the method of wiretapping that would come out, that would tip off subjects of legitimate wiretaps.

If I had to guess, there might be proof that the phone company can activate phones to listen in, without a call being made. That's sort of an open secret, but government officials often try to prevent official confirmation of open secrets, I suppose in hopes that criminals/terrorists might discount the potential.

Anonymous said...

Obama is defending Bush's warrantless wiretapping because the alternative is to throw the executives of the world's biggest phone company into a courtroom and send them to prison, while letting class action lawsuits proceed which have been estimated at a trillion dollars.

Do you have any idea what kind of chaos that would create in Washington D.C.? Obama's entire administration would grind to a halt as everything focused on a series of circus show trials. AT&T would be destroyed, it would be wiped out. The partisan firestorm would be unbelievable. Obama is a moderate. He doesn't want to rock the boat. Letting AT&T get blown apart with a trillion dollar class-action lawsuit and its executives tried for committing literally millions of felonies wouldn't just rock the boat, that would sink it.

Obama is a moderate who believes in the status quo. So he's not interested in doing things that would hurl Washington D.C. into chaos and create a partisan firestorm. Unfortunately, TARP transparency and prosecuting the former members of the Bush administration for violating the constitution and letting the lawsuits and criminal cases against AT&T proceed would all do exactly that.

TARP transparency would reveal that most of America's banks are insolvent, which would throw the world financial markets into chaos. Obama's administration would grind to a halt while he dealt with that crisis, and it would probably be only thing he could deal with in his entire administration. A former president and vice president and cabinet members have never been prosecuted for violating the constitution, and if that were to happen, Obama's administration would grind to a halt and that would probably be the only thing he could do during his entire administration. It would also set off a partisan firestorm the likes of which hasn't been seen in America since the civil war. Prosecutions of AT&T execs for millions of felonies and a class action suit seeking a trillion dollars in damages would set off such a series of show trials that Washington D.C. would clog up and shut down. It would become a media circus unrivalled since Watergate, it wouldn't be possible to do anything else during Obama's administration than deal with that media frenzy and partisan firestorm. His economic agenda would go on the back burner, Afghanistan would be completely eclipsed, everything else would become of distant secondary importance.

Unfortunately, Obama is wrong in these decisions, because the alternative is worse. By refusing to prosecute the former president and vice president and cabinet members for violating the constitution, Obama has set a precedent that the executive branch is above the law. Future presidents can now safely order any violation of the constitution, including torture and kidnapping without trial or charges, and they can point to this precedent to justify their unconstitutional crimes. This means that, in a very real sense, we no longer live in a republic under the rule of law. We now live under a series of emperors, and as soon as we get a bad emperor, torture and kidnapping resumes, the right to a trial goes away, and the rule of law disappears.

In this case, a moderate response to the extreme radical lawbreaking and systematic violation of the constitution is exactly the wrong response. The radical attack on the constitution and the rule of law mounted by the Bush administration demands a radical legal response, including indictments, prosecutions, trials, and convictions. The rule of law must be restored, regardless of how extreme the disturbance to the Washington D.C. beltway consensus.

William_Shatner said...

Fake-Anonymous-Brin.

This is Fake-William_Shatner (heh).

I think your point about upholding the "warrentless wiretapping" being about not rocking the boat (while it is sinking) is a good point.

But, this would mean that Obama is MORE NIAVE than I imagine. ON the surface, it seems like he thinks he can achieve bipartisanship, and get Republicans to not continue the circus show.

I just learned that, out of about 500 appointments, he has only gotten through 15 via the Republican Log Jam. The justice department is still Bush's and can still run a great show trial. The Republican strategy is to make Obama fail, and run out the clock on any indictments, which would show how corrupt Bush and the Republicans have been, and end their support from everyone but the home spun Christo-fascist Militia, and crazies behind padded walls.

>> So, if Obama hasn't figured out that "transparency and justice" are job #1 (more important than the economy), then he isn't going to solve this crisis. You can't solve the economic issues, if you still have Cheney and Bushy moles in the government, punching holes in the ship as fast as you can fix the leaks.

>> No. I think a better explanation is that Obama is supporting Bush's spying campaign, so that he can get enough dirt like Rove and Cheney, that he can blackmail these punks into being honest.

For the past 20 years, Republicans have chosen leaders based upon their ability to steal via corruption. I could easily support that but it would take a lot of time -- merely trying to link scum bags like Newt Gingrich, all the Republican presidential Candidates, and the rest to the thousand and one bits of evidence that they should already be behind bars. Not spurious allegations -- things on court documents that get glossed over.

It would take a least 20 pages to list in one sentence the number of crimes, bad policies, and things that need investigating on Bush alone.

>> Why the hell is it so hard to get justice? How are the Republicans keeping the Democrats at bay? The answer is; that most of our politicians are like Bloggovich from Chicago or Mark Foley.

Ted Stevens, while not the paragon of virtue, seems to have been the victim of a BushCo prosecutor witch hunt. He was made an example of by destroying his career by prosecutorial misconduct.

Mark Foley, got Rove's endorsement AFTER his problems were discovered. He was "outed" After, an open threat by Bush said; "I'm gonna get him." Apparently, Foley was critical of the emperor.

Bloggovich, outed an conspiracy to close Republic Windows and Doors, so that they could kill off their union, and re-start non-union shop under a different name in Chicago. Bloggo, for all his faults was off the reservation.

Why did they even have a wire-tap on this guy? I seriously doubt, he is the only Governor horse trading for a Senator appointment. Every bill through congress, is the result of horse trading.

If all these guys are a little larcenous, then perhaps the pattern of "who gets caught" is more based upon "who disobeyed the ruling principle" rather than who is more guilty. Politics is a club, and you don't out each other. At the end of the day, the biggest sin is letting the public get a peak under the curtain.

An NSA whistleblower, admitted he compiled a list of people who would be the "worst to spy on" meaning, those people who were in the media and political opponents. That list was then used by another branch to spy on. This should also give you an idea, of how tasks are divided, and everyone is kept in the dark on the big picture. The person compiling the list thought he was doing it to protect the integrity of the system.

So, the BushCo grip is still there, while compromised politicians are in office and they have the dirt on them. It's exactly what Hoover did, and the Bush Crime Family is well acquainted with him and his techniques.

>> When Obama beat out Kucinich during the primaries, I was very disheartened. Kucinich has been speaking truth to power, and not pulling punches since he has been in office. But now, I hope, we are better off with Obama. Trying to be totally above-board, and honest, might not be the best strategy to defeat this pervasive, globalist conspiracy that has taken control of our government.

And I don't mince words about that. The NeoCons are merely one set of tools. It's likely principally banks behind it. And that means it is likely the Rothchilds behind them. It is all about getting corrupt people in office and controlling them. It is all about the Noble Lie. If Obama is facing what I think he is -- and is aware of it. Then all his decisions and even the apparent mistakes are starting to make sense.

It's a good thing that very few people listen to me -- people who are not quite brilliant, think I'm a fool.

William_Shatner said...

Anonymous said...
WS--When you referred to the DC Madam,are you referring to her suicide?


Yes.

She went on a news show, and said; "These guys are going to kill me."

The week she was killed was interesting. That was the week when her "documents" of customers was going to be not under the judges gag order anymore.

>> The D.C. madam is the same issue as the CIA using Homeland Security money to take politicians to the Watergate Hotel and entertain them with prostitutes and poker. Apparently, who was involved wasn't on our "need to know" list, but some bigwigs resigned over it.

>> It's just one of many examples of "carrots and sticks" used to keep the politicians compromised.

William_Shatner said...

Ilithi Dragon said...
WS, the 'liberation through singularity' certainly isn't an inevitability (nothing is), but I think it's a likely route. Barring some massive catastrophe, that allows for a police state,


How about a collapse of the international markets via the banks? What do you think is going on right now?

Watch Bill Moyers, as he talks about an economic crisis "being made to happen." Either these people who caused the November collapse are idiots or they are guilty as hell. I don't think Idiots can become billionaires -- not withstanding inheritance and Forrest Gump.

William_Shatner said...

Anonymous,

Your points about Gates and the Afghan war -- very good ones. It's hard to know ALL that is going on, however. I'd be using those resources and I'd be putting better people in place.

However. Gates might be an "American Uber Alles" super patriot. The kind of guy who will fall on his sword, if it makes America stronger. Such guys can be duped into doing the wrong thing, if they think that getting weapons to a nominal enemy like Iran was "good for America" they'd do it. Right and Wrong are only defined by "for US or against US."

My perspective is; It's good for the people of the USA in the long run, if it is good for people of the world. I don't think that Ends justifies the Means, because you never REACH THE END. And all you ever have is the means. Super patriots signed on to destroy the USSR, by allying with a bunch of crazies in Afghanistan. Where'd that end up? It might have resulted differently, if they cared about helping the Afghans get back on their feet once the soviets collapsed -- but these war mongers never think that way.

What did Obama have Gates do with the military? While on the surface, we have a 4% increase. It looks like we switched from stealth bombers to troop support. What the military is actually doing, is folding the welfare of the troops back into the military budget.

Another "means justifies ends" failure is Pakistan. They have nukes and spread the tech via A Q Khan (but the Bushies were fine with giving our enemies nuke tech to justify their war-mongering, if you listen to whistleblower Siebel Edmunds).

Obama is now sending in missiles, because Al Qaeda is in Pakistan. The Talaban -- is just the largest of something like 146 tribes in Afghanistan -- it is silly to make the biggest group in Afghanistan the enemy.

The REAL reason, Bush went into Afghanistan (at my best guess) was to put in a UNOCAL oil pipeline. A UNOCAL exec is running the country right now, for instance. The pipeline is very strategic, because it means that India will be able to get off of its reliance on Russia for it's natural gas.

Now where does that put Pakistan's government? Only US aide and support allows them to survive a Muslim revolution from within. And only a war footing with India, helps them distract their populace from unrest by having a big bad enemy.

The "dangerous enemy" distraction is played out in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, USA (under Bush), Pakistan, etc., etc.,...

No despot has a dearer friend than a great big bad enemy. If we ignored little Kim and dropped flowers, he'd have to send ten more missiles over Japan to get somebody to threaten him and keep his country stable.

>> So really, now that we have all that investment, does Obama want to throw away a pipeline to India? But how long after that, will Pakistan remain a US ally? Do we want Pakistan as an ally? I don't have a clue to figure out which way to go -- and maybe Obama has the same dilemma. It isn't going to make things worse than the total Cluster F**** that they are now. Letting the strategy die, would put India and Pakistan in Russia's pocket, and destabilize Afghanistan. Bush left no way out with his policies.

Obama is already pushing more to Afghanistan to rebuild -- that's what will help the situation. I'd trade a draw down of bases with countries surrounding Russia, in order to show them good will, and to get their help in Afghanistan. Give them some of the profits (but no control) over the pipeline, so that it won't get blown up every week.

So Gates, while he is a stooge, is a useful stooge as long as you got him on your side. I think this guy follows orders -- no matter how dirty they are.

>> The TARP funds were getting paid anyway by the Fed. Without congressional approval, they were blithely printing up money to hand to the banks. The problem is, our government doesn't control the banks -- after that $5 Billion spent on lobbying, THEY control our government. Do you get what Obama is up against, now?

The TARP funds are just more monopoly money if the banks pull the plug. The value of money, is to keep the economy going -- nothing else. The over one Quadrillion dollars, wrapped up in the Derivative market scheme, means that all money is pretty much worthless. Do you understand what that means?

If the banks don't diffuse the offsetting liabilities and zero them out, then all the participating economies could not be able to value anything overnight. The system whereby we all keep score, is broken, a fraud, bankrupt. Somebody holding all the money, however, is ready to cash out, if they could find enough to buy.

Until Obama can diffuse the Bankster Bomb, he has to let them have their way and pretend to be their friend.

The Republicans didn't approve the TARP, because crashing the economy means getting rid of the bothersome middle class. Economic Feudalism will then take over. Since then, Obama has made a few rule changes to poison the TARP funds. By merely forcing disclosure, it means they can't use them for their real purpose; to buy the suckers out of their bad investments and leave us with the bag, or to buy up another bank, to hide any profits.

Somewhere, the money went. Banks didn't just charge 40% on credit cards, and overleverage on high-return investments and NOT make any money. However, some of the non-insiders got suckered into high-risk investments that right now, cannot be given a value.

The final "battle of the bulge" in the war against the Middle Class is going on right now! Only, nobody is telling us.

If the collapse happens, it must be engineered to APPEAR to happen, via the banks or one of the culprits. The Globalist shills, like Rush, Hannity, Boortz, and other traitors to humanity, are doing their best to prime the public to blame anyone BUT the guilty. That's why they get paid millions each year.

So Obama is playing along, and giving the banks what they want. The rich folks who got suckered in, are complying with the con artists who ripped them off, because, if they keep the secret, nobody will know they are broke, and they can perhaps SELL some of the junk they have that cannot be valued, or they can hope the government bails it out. So, some rich guy is either still a billionaire or he is flat broke, based upon what stooges like Bernanke do. Obama can only have the support of the rich suckers, if he makes them think he will not allow them to become poor. THAT is his only trump card against the Globalists.

So, you are the President of the United States for 3 months, and you have 3 wars, you have a possible banking collapse, you have 18% unemployment and climbing, and, to top it off, most of your politicians have been compromised and are being extorted into compliance by the former administration who caused the problems. THEN, on top of that, a lot of the Rich people who might say; "Hey, we understand we need a middle class to buy our stuff -- please protect the status quo" -- who MIGHT be allies, are not going to help you, or maybe will move against you, if you make a move on the Banks or the Bush extortionists.

It's a wonder Obama can even get Parks and Recreation to comply.

The people who stand against him, have everything to lose; money, reputation, power, and even being tried for war crimes, treason, fraud, murder. So, don't expect that they wouldn't wreck everything to save their own skins. Power and desperation aren't a good mix.

Obama has to get the gun, not pointed at the head of our country, before he can APPEAR to move against these people.

>> But really, it's all funny money now. We only see value in the dollar, because the flow is restricted. WE can buy so many burgers and t-shirts. If Obama spends two or three times more on stimulus spending, than he spends on the Banksters -- it's a wash. Money is relative.

The only REAL thing that backs up the US dollar is our ability to use our military to take what we want. All these governments want to keep the game going, because it's the only game they know. IF the US doesn't consume a lot, the Chinese quit working and start causing problems for them. The status quo is always preferred by people in power -- because it's the only situation where they are in power. That's why all changes, are going to be gradual, no matter how much China may think that their investment in the US is worthless. Their on self interests means that it doesn't really matter if their investments pay off.

Everybody is hoping, they can get out of their sucker deal, and the only way to do that is pretend nothing happened.

tacitus2 said...

Firstly, for my confusion about an annonymous poster a few days back, apologies. The whole real-fake-annonymous thing is confusing. Use a nom de cursor and keep us all oriented.

Secondly, regarding conspiracy theories I can but quote C.S. Lewis on nameless fears:

"To think that the spectre you see is an illusion does not rob him of his terrors; it simply adds the further terror of madness itself-and then on top of that the horrible surmise that those whom the rest call mad have, all along, been the only people who see the world as it really is."

Not a comforting idea.

Tacitus2

Anonymous said...

I agree with tacitus2 that the conspiracy theories forwarded by Fake William Shatner are not credible. The hallmark of the previous administration was its incredible incompetence. It defies belief that these inept clowns could still be masterminding things behind the scene.

Glenn Greenwald has a new article up discussing Obama's embrace of the previous administrations unconstitutional abuses of executive power:
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/04/13/obama/index.html

Greenwald includes quotes from some beltway insiders that tend to support my claim that Obama's primary motive is not a power grab, and not that he's an evil guy, but that he simply doesn't want to rock the boat:

"Howard Fineman was likely correct when he told Olbermann on Tuesday night that Obama is petrified of alienating the permanent intelligence and military establishments in Washington which might be alarmed by any attempt to abandon these vast powers..."

Also "As Slate's Dahlia Lithwick succinctly put it: "by keeping the worst of the Bush administration's secrets hidden, the Obama Justice Department can defer awkward questions about prosecuting the wrongdoers."

This sounds right. The elephant in the room that no one's talking about is that if Obama does open up this can of worms and reveal the full range of unconstitutional crimes of the Bush administration, public pressure for massive prosecutions and full congressional hearings and DOJ inquiries might become irresistible. Unfortunately, that would consume Washington and derail Obama's efforts to revive the economy because everything in D.C. screech to a halt as the biggest political spectacle since Watergate unfolded.

Even allowing the AT&T lawsuits to proceed raises this spectre because any defense attorney worth his salt would subpoena the former president and former vice president and former cabinet officers as witnesses for the defense. AT&T would undoubtedly use the Nuremberg defense, "We were only following orders," and the lawsuit would quickly devolve into a full-blown legal test of the previous administration's claims to unconstitutional powers to erase the fourth amendment. If that legal test found the previous administration guilty of massive law-breaking, public pressure for prosecutions could grow irresistible. Obama understandably doesn't want to get sidetracked into that mess because he views reviving the economy as more important right now.

However, I agree with Glenn Greenwald:

"Whatever else one might say, the rule of law, the Constitution, and core civil liberties are the centerpiece of a healthy and well-functioning government, and nothing justifies an assault on those safeguards. That was the argument most progressives made throughout the Bush presidency, and the more Obama continues on the Bush/Cheney path in this area, the more solid the progressive consensus against his actions becomes."

I don't believe this is just the "progressive" consensus, though. I'm guessing that conservatives like tacitus2 agree that the rule of law is paramount. Even before restoring the American economy, we must restore accountability and limits on executive power in the United States. Otherwise we don't have a president, we have a king.

Anonymous said...

My point actually was that we should be tolerant of conspiracy guys as much as possible. If they are wrong, they have some significant issues. If, and this is unlikely, they are right, we all have some very significant issues.

But to run a big conspiracy in this day and age seems difficult. The risk of info leaks increases exponentially with the number of players and the scope of the conspiracy. Its the classic "long con" scenario, which is always much harder than the superficial graft we do (sometimes) hear about.

This is not to say that I am uncurious about what goes on behind the scenes in DC. I think some really fascinating stories could be written if people had the guts to come forward.

But more incompetence that malevolence in the last admin.

The current crew? Heck, who knows! We bought this president sight unseen thanks to the adoring media. Or do you think it coincidence that Newsweek depicts The One with a glowing halo and puts any and all republicans on the cover in nasty, pore highlighting, starkly lit closeup?

Still, I hope for the best. So far the record is mixed but not a disaster.

Tacitus2

Exam Philippines said...

that's so good!

Anonymous said...

"In truth, the U.S. banking system as a whole is probably insolvent. By that I mean the likely future losses of loans and assets already on balance sheets at U.S. financial institutions, if incurred today, would reveal the system as a whole to lack the necessary regulatory capital to continue functioning under current guidelines. In fact, some prognosticators believe these losses far exceed the entire capital of the U.S. financial system. Witness a recent post by Nouriel Roubini: The RGE Monitor new estimate in January 2009 of peak credit losses (available in a paper for our RGE clients) suggested that total losses on loans made by U.S. financial firms and the fall in the market value of the assets they are holding would be at their peak about $3.6 trillion ($1.6 trillion for loans and $2 trillion for securities). The U.S. banks and broker dealers are exposed to half of this figure, or $1.8 trillion; the rest is borne by other financial institutions in the US and abroad. The capital backing the banks’ assets was last fall only $1.4 trillion, leaving the U.S. banking system some $400 billion in the hole, or close to zero even after the government and private sector recapitalization of such banks and after banks’ provisioning for losses. Thus, another $1.4 trillion would be needed to bring back the capital of banks to the level they had before the crisis; and such massive additional recapitalization is needed to resolve the credit crunch and restore lending to the private sector."Now, obviously, if we were to face up to this situation, there would be no chance of recovery as the capital required to recapitalize the banking system would mean a long and deep downturn well into 2010 and perhaps beyond. This is not politically acceptable as 2010 is an election year. Nor is the nationalization of large financial institutions acceptable to the Obama Administration. Moreover, bailing out banks to the tune of trillions of dollars while the economy is in depression is equally unacceptable to the American electorate. The Obama Administration is keenly aware of this fact."These constraints, some artificial and others very real, leave the Administration with limited options."http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/04/guest-post-fake-recovery.html

This interview with Elizabeth Warren, the chairperson of the TARP oversight committee, tends to confirm that view of the current financial situation. According to her, the TARP bailout is chaotic not because there's some secret conspiracy but because Geithener and Summers don't have a plan. They're improvising desperately in a frantic effort to deal with the insolvency of the American banking system, and they have to work under political constraints to do it.

William_Shatner said...

I really wish I was wrong. My track record so far has been about 90% on conspiracy theories. And I'm only waiting for the facts to come in with 9/11. I say it was an inside job, and apparently, here is CIA asset who says SHE TOLD THEM WHAT THE TARGET WAS. Then she got jailed without trial or lawyer for a couple years.Look. I know it's important to always have some doubt. But I used to be uncannily good at guessing about inventions. MOST of the crazy Ideas I wrote down as a kid are major products today. Now, I've been turning that insight to politics -- and while not as bright as some of the people I read -- I can tell when someone said something that is true. I use as much logic as I can, but maybe I have an instinct as well.

I don't really care if it's guys here I respect, or an army of morons -- I am NOT changing what I think based upon other people's ability to accept it. There isn't much in the media today, that is insightful or 50% true -- so why do you guys think the tall tales we get are any better than the theories we might deduce? Don't go hunting Big Foot, but don't throw out the most plausible and inconvenient truths.

****

Anonymous said...
I agree with tacitus2 that the conspiracy theories forwarded by Fake William Shatner are not credible. The hallmark of the previous administration was its incredible incompetence. It defies belief that these inept clowns could still be masterminding things behind the scene.

BushCo is so incompetent, that during the Katrina disaster, they negotiated with Governor Blanko for complete control over the National Guard. The Buses, meant for the emergency evacuation, were sold to and leased back from a private company, that due to costs savings, FEMA cut it too short to actually get the buses into service.

Amazingly, these incompetent people, coordinated a few dozen different radio and TV shows, to get the message out that the locals respond to "FEDERAL DISASTERS." The debate was over whether the mayor of the town was incompetent, or New Orleans poor folks were just stupid. The typical discussion for Economic Royalists.

While we were laughing at George Bush, strumming a guitar and being on vacation, while New Orleans was under water. They were pushing through a straight up fascist into the Supreme Court. A guy who was holding a picket sign at the 2000 Florida election results center and helping to shut down the recount.

While ice trucks from FEMA, couldn't find New Orleans for 3 months, the Bushies were closing down 144 public schools. Apparently, they had never imagined that the levies would break, but they had plans drawn up for how to start the gentrification process, should such a horrible situation occur.

While we were aghast at FEMA's incompetence, and anger grew as people were stuck in the Stadium. A little-known Funeral Company out of Texas was bagging up thousands of the dead. All those "missing people" -- well, we can't have a body count in Iraq, we can't have one in the USA.

And they were so incompetent on the rebuilding, and acquiring trailers laced with formaldehyde, that thousands of people lost their homes, or gave up and left. Meanwhile, Haliburton got a cost-plus contract to send expensive consultants to repair the damage. Which they hired from Mexico for less than minimum wage or in some cases, just refused to pay and said; "sue us." Due to their incompetence, locals didn't get jobs and stimulate the economy.

>> IN Iraq, they were so incompetent, they let the soldiers go home with their weapons. Meanwhile, they imported labor to rebuild the infrastructure and didn't provide jobs -- what a bunch of dummies, right? Then they split the government along religious factions, and left weapons depots filled and merely padlocked. $9 Billion in money earmarked for the new government was lost, without receipts. What a bunch of dummies, right?

Did anyone go to jail for any of that? Who is the real sucker here.

>> Let's go back to the First Gulf War. Remember James Baker said he made a mistake, in letting his secretary tell Saddam that the US had no policy about Iraq invading Kuwait. Boy, that sure was a big boo-boo. The week after the invasion (for Kuwait's slant-drilling into Iraqi oil fields), the Ambassador's daughter does an oscar winning performance talking about the Iraqis throwing babies out of incubators. Riveting stuff -- especially since she was never there. In fact, the Kuwaitis were so off guard by the surprise attack, that none of the royalty was in the country. The darn Iraqis destroyed the fledgling Democratic movement in that country. It was good luck for the royalty, but they have a burden to bear -- they must protect everyone from the big bad Iraq, and that means they have to crack down on Democracy -- sorry folks.

>> I thought I was talking to intelligent people here. Bush is just a figure head who signs his name -- he doesn't have to even be awake in his meetings. The consortium of NeoCon interests behind him, however, have been dedicated and calculating since at least when Reagan got into office. Do you notice what happened to our Constitution, civil rights and habeas corpus? Did you notice a lot of money went missing after huge profit taking on Wall Street? Did you notice Bush and Cheney going to jail after their war crimes? Well, I didn't notice that last part.

I guess these guys are a bunch of idiots. They lined their pockets. Destroyed the middle class. And got away scott free. Wow! If they were smarter, they'd probably be broke and in prison. We accept collateral damage in war, but if a politicians makes a mistake that costs billions of dollars and thousands of lives -- no biggy, Right?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “In politics there are no accidents. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
Now, if you want an example of really dumb people. Here are folks who probably couldn't hold down a job if they weren't working for a think tank; http://www.midnight-emissary.com/article_political_alchemy.html
I don't think I even want to try to track even a paragraph for accuracy at Snopes.com. THAT is what we are up against -- and THAT is where we find the stupid. Bush and Glenn Beck just know their dumb a$$ audience very well.

>> I am not some damn cute oddity, a conspiracy theorist, or someone who needs your recognition. I am doing you a courtesy in thinking that you have enough of a clue to figure out what I'm saying. I do not CHOOSE to think of tin-foil-hat ideas in order to intrigue and shock people.

We are in a war right now. Only 99% of us don't know it (well, at least in the USA). The outcome of the next few years may decide the next 100 years.

I won't give up hope, that a dozen here will have a clue. So that's why I post. I don't post for the crumbs of fools. History is made by the people who are aware of it before it is written.

If you don't think there are conspiracies ALL THE TIME, then you don't read history. Why do you think people spend a half million to be part of a Country Club?

William_Shatner said...

Obama's support of Bush's crimes makes me think there are 3 alternatives at work here;
1) Obama is a corporatist stooge (we are doomed).
2) Obama is going to use these powers at some point to undo the damage (good move).
3) Obama is demanding "sovereign" status for a Democratic president, and asking the mostly fascist supreme court to try and choke on that. Either they rule against the assumption of powers -- meaning they find Bush's excesses unconstitutional. OR, they make Obama an Emperor.

>> Obama worries me and makes me more excited every day. He could be a really smart guy, who knows how these people can be defeated. If he is against us, he is ten times smarter than Bush, and he is as smooth as Bill Clinton. WE will be herded into our doom without a glance backwards.

But I get the feeling this is a good guy. I don't think you can fake certain insights, and raise such great daughters, and be someone like Bush or Cheney. All these NeoCons can spout is thug philosophies because while they may be intelligent, they don't understand compassion and the greater good, any more than a dog understands Algebra.

Tony Fisk said...

Obama is also pushing a few important but subtle initiatives he doesn't actually need to do if scenario #1 is operating (Increasing border patrols? Pushing science and other curious traits?) . Whether or not he can achieve anything is still being decided.

I happily listen to conspiracy theories because
1. like Wilde and his diary, one should always have something sensational to read, and
2. it might all be true sometimes! (file under 'risk management')

However, I always try and keep
Occam's razor handy to peel away the fatty bits: keep it simple, stupid!

So, Bush &co were:

#1 evil genii intent on pillaging the union. I feel that true evil genii would be able to figure out which side of their bread was buttered, and *not* pillage the union! Good parasites and all that. Then again, it's possible that something has happened to social structures that has made psychopaths a little more destructive.#2 evil egotists intent on pillaging the union.
More believable. The trouble is, cheats don't tend to collaborate#3 bright morons (ie, ones whose ego exceeded their considerable IQ), who thought they could run the show, but who actually couldn't run a pub in a brewery, and ended up drinking themselves under the table.
Most probable.. harking back to the recent little foray into the war on drugs, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the underlying issue is to do with compulsive-obsessive disorders, whether they be triggered by drink, drugs, food, one-armed bandits, superior indignation, power... choose your poison.The fact remains, though: somehow these bananas managed to organise themselves sufficiently to get themselves elected. Maybe, one day, we'll figure out how. Hopefully, soon!

comonon: a condition where the patient confuses a commercial banker with a cheeping pokemon.