By The Numbers

numbersPLAYLIST
In The Hall of The Mountain King – Hugo Montenegro and His Orchestra
Sénégal Fast Food – Amadou & Mariam
Meditations – Charles Mingus Sextet/Eric Dolphy
Smile – Madeleine Peyroux
Le Mal De Vivre – Barbara
Sunday In Richmond – Danny Cohen
Non Photo-Blue – Pinback
Businessmen – Carla Bley
Guitar Solo 5 – Neil Young
Happiest Guy in the World – The Cheesies
The Struggle – Minutemen
No One Does It Like You – Department of Eagles
Caterpillar Playground – The Nurses
The Group Who Couldn’t Say – Grandaddy
Roots And The Ruins – Karate
Sentinel-Restructure (Nobel Prize Mix) – Mike Oldfield
I Wish I Was Bob Dylan – Bleubird
Earl Sweatshirt – Chum
In an Ice Palace – The Music Tapes
Stuff is Way – They Might Be Giants
the Deep End – Mike Garlington
Swamp Root – Harmonica Frank
Banking on a Myth – Andrew Bird

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-23: By the Numbers by The Stranger on Mixcloud

The news coming from Cyprus is but the latest in the class warfare being waged in seemingly every nation, at every level by the powerful moneymen. What you need to know can be boiled down to this: The victims are expected to pay restitution to the wrongdoers. There is no penalty for being wrong or wrongdoing if you’re part of the global financial elite. What happens in Cyprus does not stay in Cyprus, can and is happening here.

The decision to hit ordinary people’s savings violates norms, expectations, and values that have guided Western democracies for thousands of years.

But demonstrators resist despite poverty, unemployment, even suicides.

Some 1,500 Greek demonstrators non-affiliated with political parties mobilized through social media. The demonstration ended when police shot tear gas at protesters—a police tactic also used during the anti-austerity demonstrations in Athens when the debt crisis began in late 2009.

Earlier this month, three people in central Greece killed themselves on the same day, and analysts said there is a correlation between the rising rates and three years of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that have pushed many people into poverty.

In light of all this, important questions emerge. Like, what good is democracy coupled with capitalism? Or more accurately, what good is this unrepresentative, bribed version of democracy with this bizarre, bastardized form of capitalism?

Joshua Holland makes some great points about the unwillingness or inability of a majority of Americans to participate in their democracy.

In 2011, Newsweek asked 1,000 Americans to take the standard U.S. Citizenship test, and 38 percent of them failed. One in three couldn’t name the vice-president.

Psychologists David Dunning of Cornell and Justin Kruger of NYU conducted a series of experiments showing that incompetent people vastly overrate their own abilities. “For people at the bottom who are really doing badly — those in the bottom 10th or 15th percentile — they think their work falls in the 60th or 55th percentile, so, above average,”

Republicans overestimate their constituents’ rightward tilt by an average of 20 percentage points, which is “roughly the difference in partisanship between California and Alabama,” the scholars wrote

Catherine Rampell of the New York Times penned a series of posts showing how confused Americans are about the nation’s income distribution and their place in it. “Americans all seem to think they’re ‘middle class,’” she wrote, “even those in the top 5 percent of all earners. As a result they frequently misunderstand what political mantras like ‘let’s tax the rich’ really mean.”

The latest example is evident in a recent Gallup study, which found that 6 percent of Americans in households earning over $250,000 a year think their taxes are “too low.” Of that same group, 26 percent said their taxes were “about right,” and a whopping 67 percent said their taxes were “too high.” And yet when this same group of high earners was asked whether “upper-income people” paid their fair share in taxes, 30 percent said “upper-income people” paid too little, 30 percent said it was a “fair share,” and 38 percent said it was too much. An income of $250,000 per year put them in the top 4 percent of American households – “upper income” by any reasonable estimate.

A 2011 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF), Harvard economist Michael Norton and Dan Ariely, a psychologist at Duke, took a look at Americans’ perceptions of how wealth is stratified in this country and what an “ideal” distribution of wealth might look like.

They found that “respondents vastly underestimated the actual level of wealth inequality in the United States, believing that the wealthiest quintile held about 59% of the wealth when the actual number is closer to 84%.”

Perhaps more tellingly, “respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution, reporting a desire for the top quintile to own just 32% of the wealth.”

Other fun numbers about what Americans believe:

Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns. Thirty-six percent believe in UFOs. A whopping 24 percent believe dinosaurs and man hung out together. Eighteen percent still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. Nearly 30 percent believe cloud computing involves actual clouds. 18 percent, to this very day, believe the president is a Muslim. Forty-five percent of Americans believe in angels. Roughly 48 percent – Republicans and Democrats alike – believe in some form of creationism.

This is serious stuff. We need more rationality in those irrational numbers. How else can we expect to battle the lunacy and lies among our elites. Those who believe it is not “serious” (i.e. politically viable) to talk entertain anything other than austere, conservative talking points. This has the chilling effect, of course, of steering us off the path to recovery, hell, even sustainability, and paints any marginally progressive solutions as frivolous and “unserious” with their rhetoric.

Paul Rosenberg at Al-Jazeera describes the damaging effects of rational problem-solving ceasing to be “serious”:

The culprit here, however, is not just GOP extremism – which is, after all,  wildly unpopular – but rather the morally feckless elite centrists who enable them by obscuring what they’re up to

[S]eriousness can refer both to the merits of an initiative or to its political viability. So  scrapping the minimum wage in favor of a Guaranteed Basic Income isn’t a serious proposal, since obviously it stands zero chance of passing Congress.  the  fallacy of equivocation, in which one word is used with two different meanings for “Serious”.

“Nothing is better than eternal salvation. A ham sandwich is better than nothing. Therefore, a ham sandwich is better than eternal salvation”

If some sort of action is eventually necessary (as it is with budget issues, and most other governmental questions as well), then the unreasonable side – which by definition cares less (perhaps not at all) about real-world consequences – has an increasing advantage the longer that the issue remains unresolved, thus further motivating them to remain unreasonable. If they start at 50 percent (equal blame), things only get better for them over time, as the blame burdern remains constant, but the cost pressure to do something rises much more accurately on the reasonable side.

A classic example of this second bias against reasonable alternatives is the Progressive Caucus’s repeated offerings ( 2011, 2012) of a budget that would balance in ten years – unlike Ryan’s – provide pro-growth investments for the future, preserve popular welfare state programmes, and include a diverse mix of tax increases that still leave tax burderns well below historic highs. The Progressive Caucus budgets have been routinely ignored, despite having significant support

This is why the President and Democrats are putting social security and Medicare on the bargaining table. This is why they repetitively betray their negotiating position before they even begin. This is why they still refuse to raise taxes on the rich or close tax loopholes.

We are the richest nation in the history of the world — richer now than we’ve ever been. But an increasing share of that wealth is held by a smaller and smaller share of the population, who have, in effect, bribed legislators to reduce their taxes and provide loopholes so they pay even less.

The budget deficit “crisis” has been manufactured by them to distract our attention from this overriding fact, and to pit the rest of us against each other for a smaller and smaller share of what remains. Democrats should not conspire.

Inequality is spiraling out of control. The United States already has a poverty rate among the elderly of 24 percent. Why are we even discussing increasing that?

This is exactly what Noam Chomsky writes about when addressing that question of capitalism, or as he puts it, “really existing capitalism.” Can our democracy survive? Can civilization survive?

The system is highly monopolized – In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply.

Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.

Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.

These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.

Because, as it turns out, the wealthy and super-wealthy are very different than you or me.

According to a new study by the think-tank Demos ( PDF), , authored by David Callahan and J. Mijin Cha, the affluent tend to hold a different vision of a just society than the public at large, and it is that vision which tops the political agenda in Washington and in state houses across the country.

“Wealthy interests are keenly focused on concerns not shared by the rest of the American public, like keeping taxes low on capital gains, and often oppose policies that would foster upward mobility among low-income citizens, such as raising the minimum wage.”

And yet we know, and the Demos report notes, “the affluent… have greater influence over public policy.”

This is why they would rather structure the law to dodge paying taxes. Why they go offshore. And why they still expect Uncle Sam to benefit them with the military, blockades, resources, procurement of oil, Navy protection of shipping lanes, safeguarding of copyrights, provide bailouts and corporate financing, and keep the highways open for business.

Bill Moyers thinks we should just tax those politicians who turn lobbyist, a large and ever-growing bunch, with nefarious organizations like ALEC around. And with so many of them outright lying about the debt and deficit to distract us and further their regime(s), he may be onto something.

Finally, even John Boehner confessed that “we do not have an immediate debt crisis” on ABC’s “This Week”.

So of course, we aren’t having a sober and measured discussion about such pragmatic solutions. Instead, the national conversation about the budget is dominated by debt demagogues with ulterior motives.

Thom Hartmann reminds us that this is ‘economic terrorism‘, and its no way to run a country:

The last time the GOP played political games with the debt limit, economic growth slowed in our nation, and citizens and businesses alike faced increased borrowing costs.  According to Boehner, Republicans plan to wage economic terrorism again, unless the President agrees to cut spending dollar-for-dollar with the debt ceiling increase.

This is dangerous for them, as voters are increasingly seeing the GOP as “scary”, “narrow-minded”, and “out of touch.” A party of “stuffy old men.” But this is more dangerous for the country, and what it is, is a class war.

Don’t expect Obama to save you. In many ways, he’s worse than Bush. In some ways, he’s worse than Nixon. I urge you all to dissent, even if it does mean you’ll end up on the new COINTELPRO lists.

The key is to not fall victim to their lies. But don’t become some conspiracy nut yourself. There are plenty of evil-doers and deeds to focus on without inventing imaginary ones. Your saving grace will be your cool head and reason. Examine the claims, and look at the facts.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-23: By the Numbers by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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