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?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

UPDATE: All men have AIDS

UPitt warns us that any man you sleep with could have HIV--not just men who've slept with other
men!  In fact, bisexual men are no more likely to give HIV to their girlfriends than heterosexual men are, despite all the public hoopla regarding MSM (Men Sleeping With Men, this "handy" term coined by the CDC).

"The number of HIV positive men who have sex with both men and women is likely no higher than the number of HIV positive heterosexual men, according to a U.S.-based analysis by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers. The finding challenges a popular assumption that bisexual men are responsible for significant HIV transmission to their female partners."

"The analysis also estimates that there are approximately 1.2 million bisexual men in the U.S., of whom 121,800 are HIV-positive. That estimate aligns with CDC estimates for HIV infection in male heterosexuals and intravenous drug users."

(more from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health)

> So, yes. Maybe now we can end this harmful stereotype that queer men give everyone AIDS, and stop wasting blood donations...?

"“The HIV infection risk that bisexual men pose to their female partners has likely been overstated,” said Dr. Friedman. “However, that doesn’t mean that HIV-prevention campaigns targeting bisexual men and their male and female partners aren’t needed. HIV does exist in the bisexual community, and national, bisexual-specific data collection, research, and HIV prevention and care delivery are necessary to ameliorate this population’s HIV burden.”"

> Really? Why do we need targeted campaigns if all men who sleep with women are equally likely to have HIV?? Did I miss something??  It's not like reminding women that a subset of men are likely to have HIV with these "targeted campaigns" is especially stigmatizing, or anything...