Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Joe the Plumber, Can you be any Dumber?

Joe, I can understand why McCain and Palin are so eager to stoke your fallacy equating the Obama tax plan to socialism; because fallacies, no matter how looney, sway votes... But notice how they handle it? It's a "Joe-said-it" fallacy. They don't want to take responsibility for initiating such a wild misconception but they love it that you did. They're capitalizing on your ignorance Joe. What? You don't see what wrong with what you said? Here, let me break it down for you.

Is Obama's tax plan a form of socialism?

First of all, socialism is defined by the public ownership of production and distribution of goods... Nothing in Obama's tax plan suggests public ownership of anything. If you want to talk about socialism you need to find examples of where the government actually owns the means of production or distribution of goods... The Pentagon for instance, a tax-funded, government agency that controls the distribution of defense-related products. Technically, THAT'S socialism.

Oh, you don't think so? Well, no big surprise there. Despite staunch conservative support for certain government operations that take the form of socialism, the word “socialism” itself is simultaneously promoted by conservative rhetoric as a derogatory term, most frequently used to describe their liberal opponents. This leads many conservatives to the false conclusion that the very socialist features that they actually support can’t possibly be socialist for the simple reason that conservatives hate socialism. It amazes me how that social conditioning actually works.

Look, all the Obama tax plan is suggesting is that the government get more of it's revenue from higher brackets, that's not socialism, that's just taxes. Granted, shifting the tax burden up the brackets does screw with trickle-down capitalism but capitalism is capitalism whether you push the money in through the top or push the money in through the bottom, it's still the same American free-enterprise market. Conservatives have been pushing the tax-burden down the brackets to feed cash into the top for decades. On a fundamental level the strategy is the same, like turning left or right using the same steering wheel, the most dramatic difference being that conservatives tend to borrow more so they can tell their faithful flock that through the magic of "fiscal responsibility" they don't have to pay for their increased government spending... as if the mounting debt won't ever become a problem. And sure enough it did... The big fat lie - "you can get something for nothing" was propagated by the mortgage industry to lure in capital debt AND by the Republican party to lure in political support.

And Joe, Get over yourself, the government isn't there to reward your success like some kind of girl scout club handing out merit badges. The plain simple fact is that government spends money and that money has to come from somewhere. What's that? The government should stop spending money then? Well, that would certainly eliminate the need for taxes. But for all the "opposition" to government spending, conservative politics have only increased government spending. Here's some fiscal responsibility for ya Joe, cut spending first THEN cut taxes. Until then, we have to tax, even if we borrow we still have to pay the debt off with... taxes. So why tax the higher brackets? Well, the higher brackets happen to be where the money is. And don't give me that Rush Limbaugh crap about how unfair it is for the top 50% to pay for 90% of the taxes. Rush used cumulative percentages that hid the fact that it's only the top 5% making more than $130K that actually pay more than a fair share. The rest of that top half actually pays less than their fair share and as for that top 5% they have more than enough wealth to offset the tax burden, something the bottom 90% doesn't have. In fact when you include capital income from capital gains, dividends, interest, and rents, in other words, income generated by wealth, the top 1% actually earns more than 57% of the total, far less than their 34% share of total tax.

They're playing with your head Joe.

And don't EVEN give me that crap that people won't have any incentive to work hard just because higher incomes mean higher taxes. The American dream isn't all about taxes, it's about houses, cars, education for the kids and everything else that goes with higher incomes, even if taxes come with it. Do you see anyone saying they don't want to win the lottery because they would have to pay tax on it? Get real; even half of a hard-earned dollar is better than a handout quarter.

So it's totally not socialism Joe, and it's nothing personal either, so get over yourself, grow up, concentrate on how to offset the cost of a three point tax increase on income over $250K... a worthy business leader would know what to do. It would be the same challenge created by market driven inflation and sudden drops in sales. If you own a successful business you should work smarter not harder and if you can't then you shouldn't buy that business, you'll wind up putting all your employees out of a job and I'm sure when that happens you'll be blaming the government for taxing you too much instead of blaming yourself for not being able to steer a company through economic challenges.

Maybe you just stick to fixing pipes and let someone else with a brain run the business. You'll be better off.
 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vice President ... in Charge?

Last night I couldn’t help but notice how the evening commentaries were ripping up Sarah Palin for misunderstanding the job description of the vice presidential office. In answer to a question by a nine year old boy, Sarah Palin said… “They’re in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes...”
Well, before writing her off as an idiot, let's at least pay attention to Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S.Constitution, which states...

“Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.”

According to the Senate Rules, presiding over the Senate means keeping order, so in one sense, you could say Palin was correct, that the Vice President is "in charge" of the Senate, at least while presiding, but that doesn’t suggest the kind of influence over actual legislation that Palin seemed to be implying. In fact, most Vice Presidents in the past have spent very little time presiding over the Senate, leaving that role to the President pro tempore, who presides over the Senate in absence of the Vice President, or if the Vice President assumes the office of President of the United States. In practice, freshman senators are traditionally assigned to this role in order to learn Senate procedure, which suggests a somewhat inert position. There is only one other constitutionally mandated duty of the Vice President and that is to receive from the states the tally of electoral ballots cast for president and vice president and to open the certificates "in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives," so that the total votes could be counted (Article II, section 1). Once again, there is no actual vote or decision making in this role either, just procedure.

Perhaps...

So while it’s safe to say that our standing laws don’t really give as much power to the Vice President over the senate as Palin may have been suggesting, that doesn’t mean the office won’t develop significant power under direction from the President of the United States, which is another point that Palin brings up constantly. Historically, the role played by the Vice President varies dramatically from one administration to the next and if we look at the current administration we will notice a Vice President that many feel has more influence over the direction of the country than the President himself. Vice President Dick Cheney hasn’t exactly been a passive standby and much of his role as Vice President has been developed as a product of his own character. In fact he has used his constitutional link to the Senate as an effective political weapon...

According to documents released in June of 2007 by a House committee, Cheney made the claim that because he is the president of the Senate, his office is not fully part of the Bush administration, but is also part of the legislative branch, therefore exempting his office from a presidential order regulating federal agencies’ handling of classified national security information. This move effectively blocked the on-site inspection of his office by National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office, who in response said that the Vice President’s failure to demonstrate that his office has proper security safeguards in place could jeopardize the government’s top secrets. At least one of those inspections would have come at a particularly delicate time – when Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and other aides were under criminal investigation for their suspected roles in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Cheney’s executive decision

So standing rules aside, we need to realize that the “flexibility” that Palin keeps talking about in reference to the office of the Vice President could be a significant political factor and as Cheney has already proven, an effective route for diabolical agendas.
 


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Noteworthy:

* Current Post
* Inside the Patriot Act
* Luminosity of a Future City
* Arctic Drilling
* Human Decline
* Wealth Inequality
* Bush Sells Our Forests
* Healthcare and Terrorism
* Chemical Assault
* The Cuban Medical Industry
* The Endless War
* Do the Rich Need Tax Breaks?
* A Collapse of Some Kind
* Guantanimo Bay

* About the Picture
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* About Metaspective



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Books That I am Reading:


The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism


Books That I've Read Lately:


Catcher in the Rye


J.D.Salinger

My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present


Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less


Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative


Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader


Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

TechGnosis
Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down


John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman


John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

Collapse:
How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
T.R.Reid

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

Cuba
A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

1984
George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels


Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.

Consilience


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money


Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".