Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Protest that Actually Helped People

Last January, low-income residents of San Francisco were REALLY MAD at the Google buses using their bus stops. Why? They viewed these buses as symbols of gentrification and displacement in a city where the rapid growth of the tech sector has driven up their rent. And Google wasn't paying anyone  anything to use the bus stops, but they were getting in the way of their regular buses, causing delays and overcrowding at the bus stops.  Imagine, seeing your own public transit cutback due to budget cuts, while some dude in a suit takes your spot in the bus shelter to wait for his fancy-pants Google shuttle that you can't even ride.

So, angry protestors began blocking the tech company's buses from leaving the stops. Google employees got so disturbed, some of them even called this a hate crime.

But, these protests actually produced a REAL BENEFIT:

On January 21, 2014, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (also known as MUNI)  imposed a fee of $1 per day for each public stop used by a private company. This fee was expected to raise $1.5 million a year and was the
largest the agency could impose without a vote from San Francisco residents! Then in February, Google donated $6.8 million to the transit agency to provide free public transit for low-income children in San Francisco.

It's interesting that both the local government and Google here were influenced by the protestors, unlike other protests we've seen in the past, who get ignored or even fined.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Invisible Hand of Oligarchy

The Invisible Hand in the USA might as well mean "invisible influence of money on our political reps."  Especially when you consider that most corporate spending on elections here is secret information.

Sometimes though, you can see how the money affects the outcome of political process.  When a policy gets passes that the majority of the public disagrees with, you can bet it's that "Invisible Hand of Elite Interest" at work:

Consider the Merchant's House Museum in New York City. This historical museum, a historical preservation society, and thousands of neighborhood residents don't want another "drab on so many levels" hotel to be built in their neighborhood. The hotel construction is guaranteed to damage the neighboring museum and put it out of service for 1 year or more, and require repairs costing $1 million+.  We know this because the same thing happened in the 1980s with another for-profit construction project.

Yet the government body responsible, the NYC "Landmarks Preservation Commission," voted 6-1 to approve the construction with NO guarantees or compensation to the Merchant House museum. So the hotel makes a huge profit at the cost of the neighborhood identity, education, and culture. And the museum might be out of business forever.

The Invisible Hand is said to maximize value and opportunity because market forces guide resources to be used in the most efficient manner. But who's opportunity is being maximized here?  Not the local community, that's for sure.

US exposed as fake democracy

Well, I'm not sure I'll have much to make fun of here anymore.  Princeton researchers have exposed the US government for the sham it is, publishing a report that says,"The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite."

They supported it with tons of academic stats, like "Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

And nightmarish numbers like, USA elites get their policies enacted 18% to 45% of the time, even when the majority of Americans disagree with them. So this small percent can make a law happen even if 85% of the country is against it.  So much for "one man, one vote."

Now that everyone knows our masses are ruled by the monied elites, how can I be ironic about US "Democracy?"

Well, this article was only published by the BBC, so perhaps most Americans still don't know.  So maybe Liberal Propaganda will still have a market after all!

Thanks, American Oligarchy & your carefully-controlled media!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Japan Returns Lost Cash Post-Earthquake

Gawker recently bragged that Japanese people have been notably selfless after their earthquake distaster, returning over (the equivalent of) $70 MILLION dollars in cash to it's rightful owners.  By cutting open safes that washed up on shore, turning in lost wallets & purses found in the rubble to the police, ect.

One commenter complained that praising the Japanese for this altruism is romanticizing and racist:

But ColdBloodedSerialCommenter seems to have missed the point.  In Japan, savings are more commonly stored in cash AND their population is less desperate and less impoverished than the USA, as he admitted when he said "is it especially remarkable for people to return lost property in a ... economically developed nation with universal education, robust law enforcement, and extensive social support structures?"  Because yea, that sounds nothing like the USA to me.  While technically we do have public schools and law enforcement, are school quality is hardly consistent across neighborhoods and a free high school degree is not enough to get a good job, most ppl have to pay for higher education if they want a salaried job.  And don't even get me started on law enforcement...

In America, people would never turn in large quantities of cash like this.  Our law enforcement SEIZES cash when it's found, more often than not, and holds it as "Evidence," never returning it to anyone.  And the average person would the money too if they found it, not turn it in to the authorities (because the authorities would just keep the cash anyway.) 

So yea, it's not romanticization to point out that Japan is vastly different.  And maybe it's partially BECAUSE they don't have the desperation and corruption that USA does...we don't really HAVE universal education,  healthcare or a good standard of living.  And we have a high amount of corruption in government and law enforcement.  See how these things make a difference when a crisis hits.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Government of the Year: Nordic Social Democracy

Ironically, capitalism works best when accompanied by a little socialism.

The Nordic Model (developed by Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland & Denmark) consists of  "a universalist welfare state which is aimed specifically at enhancing individual autonomy, promoting social mobility and ensuring the universal provision of basic human rights, as well as for stabilizing the economy." And for some reason, when you give people all that freedom and safety, they are able to be reliable, informed consumers, and keep your market strong.

It really works. This year, The Economist declared that the Nordic countries are probably the best-governed in the world. Their report shows that the happiest nations of the world are concentrated in Northern Europe, with Denmark topping the list. Nordics beat out other countries on real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.

And when less than 91% of the population isn't happy with their economic climate, they consider it news:

(Unlike America, where we think only 1% is happy with our economy.  And Congress has an approval rating of only 11% .)

Nordic democracies lift up their poor, redistribute a lot of money through taxes, and therefore everyone gets a living wage no matter what their employer pays them.  If you live in the country, you help support everyone in the country.

Meanwhile, Americans hate their poor so much, that we want to make it illegal to even FEED homeless people in public. Across 50 different cities!

But we're still the land of opportunity, right?