Monday, March 30, 2009

Black Gold: Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

I've been a proponent of fair trade for a while now. It's good to see such a well made documentary that explains some of the reasons why...

Black Gold:
 

WBT Redneck Caller: CigaretteTax

Continuing from the last post...

The next comment, which by now didn’t surprise me at all, was his complaint about taxes on cigarettes. Can you say “RED-NECK”? The D J's inbred response (no more surprising on any conservative talk show) was a general gripe about “sin taxes” being a way to control people... Oh, oh... hang on everyone, we have a conspiracy theory afoot... Jesus, no wonder this is a red state, people get fed all day long with these gripe wads of stupidity. If I thought it would make a difference I would have called these retards up myself to explain a few things. First of all, you get what you pay for and that applies to government as much as anything else and you can't reasonably expect to pay for a decent government without taxes – it doesn't matter how left or right the government is, the rule remains the same. The only real difference between Democrats and Republicans on this matter is that Democrats have the balls to raise taxes to pay upfront for their expenses while the Republicans prefer to fund their expenses by quietly borrowing money against future taxes so that “for now” they can maintain their “anti-tax” illusion despite the fact that the interest incurred on the debt means that it's going to take even more taxes to pay off Republicans expenses, dollar for dollar, than it does to pay for expenses incurred by Democrats.

Anyway, understanding that the government that provides law and order, education, infrastructure, defense and everything else we take for granted has to be payed for with taxes, the next question is where to get the taxes from. Personally, if given a choice of taking the money from the budgets that feed families or from the pockets of people who can afford cigarettes I prefer the later. So-called “sin tax” isn't a way to control what people do, it's a way to minimize the cost of government on budgets allocated for basic needs. People need food, they don’t need cigarettes and that makes the sale of cigarettes a logical and morally sound source for government revenue. If a government wanted to stop you from smoking they wouldn't make their revenue dependent on you doing it. Duh.... If the government actually wanted you to stop doing something they would simply make it illegal, such as the laws against smoking pot, or gay marriage or the push to make abortion illegal, all of these by the way, being conservative campaigns, as are almost every other push to control what people do.
 

WBT Redneck Caller: Black Sense of Privilege

The other day I discovered a true example of genuine southern redneck stupidity when I tuned into WBT in Charlotte on the AM band. They were broadcasting a talk show on which the host and a caller shared some ridiculous perspectives on black people and cigarette tax that's just too good not to post on my blog. Since the two topics are not really related to each other I'll post each discussion on separate entries.

The caller was a 65 year old man who first commented on how “the other day” he was standing in a long line at the grocery store and an “African-American” woman pushed her way to the front and set her things down expecting to just cut in front of the line and that when the woman behind her said something, she turned around and said “you got a problem with it?”. I wasn’t sure where the caller was going with this story until the DJ piped in and asked if he was implying that the woman’s attitude stemmed from a sense of privilege because the president is black. At that point I turned the volume up, there’s no way anyone can support such a ridiculous accusation and if that’s where the caller was going then I wanted to hear the DJ set him straight. I thought for certain, he was going to remind the caller that sometimes people are just rude and it’s silly to connect that with Obama’s presidency, but he didn’t. I was shocked.

The caller just said that there seems to be more of that kind of attitude now. Amazingly, that WAS his point! And the DJ simply reinforced the accusation by summarizing that this black sense of privilege is just ridiculous. I couldn’t believe my ears! Maybe having come from California I’m not accustomed to the backward quirks that I keep hearing about in the south. Is there enough ignorance and stupidly among the black folks here to generate a prevailing sense of privilege because the president is black? I don’t really know for sure but my bet is that the black woman who pushed her way to the front of the line was simply a rude person and that the color of her skin, or the color of the president’s skin has absolutely nothing to do with it. But is there enough ignorance and stupidity here among the white conservatives to support such prejudice on public radio? Well, apparently there is, WBT just proved it beyond the shadow of any doubt. All that’s left is to wonder where it comes from. My bet is that the caller is some old-school good ‘ol boy who’s all bent out of shape because we have a black president and the DJ didn’t have the decency to question this accusation on public radio because he is just as prejudiced as the caller is.

 


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Noteworthy:

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

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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".