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The 1% and the 99%

28 Aug

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Monkeys reject unequal pay

21 Aug

Greg Mankiw points us to this revealing video from Frans de Waal. This is an excerpt from a longer TED video, also excellent.

Follow the link and check out the video. It’s wonderful,

via Monkeys reject unequal pay.

Isolated and Under-Exposed: Why the Rich Don’t Give – Neighborhoods – The Atlantic Cities

21 Aug

The study looked at tax returns for people with reported earnings of $50,000 or more from the year 2008 – the most recent year for which data was available. The report found that for people earning between $50,000 and $75,000, an average of 7.6 percent of discretionary income was donated to charity. For those earning $200,000 or more, just 4.2 percent of discretionary income was donated.

Turns out lower giving among the rich likely has much more to do with where they live and who they live near.

As this accompanying article from the journal notes, when the rich are highly concentrated in wealthy enclaves, they’re less likely to give as compared with the rich living in more economically diverse neighborhoods. The report found that in neighborhoods where more than 40 percent of taxpayers reported earning $200,000 or more, the average giving was just 2.8 percent of discretionary income.

In other words, concentration of wealth is also isolation from the less fortunate.

via Isolated and Under-Exposed: Why the Rich Don’t Give – Neighborhoods – The Atlantic Cities.

War is Betrayal: The 1% lures the 99% into doing the fighting

16 Jul

The poor embrace the military because every other cul-de-sac in their lives breaks their spirit and their dignity. Pick up Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or James Jones’s From Here to Eternity. Read Henry IV. Turn to the Iliad. The allure of combat is a trap, a ploy, an old, dirty game of deception in which the powerful, who do not go to war, promise a mirage to those who do.

I saw this in my own family. At the age of ten I was given a scholarship to a top New England boarding school. I spent my adolescence in the schizophrenic embrace of the wealthy, on the playing fields and in the dorms and classrooms that condition boys and girls for privilege, and came back to my working-class relations in the depressed former mill towns in Maine. I traveled between two universes: one where everyone got chance after chance after chance, where connections and money and influence almost guaranteed that you would not fail; the other where no one ever got a second try. I learned at an early age that when the poor fall no one picks them up, while the rich stumble and trip their way to the top.

Those I knew in prep school did not seek out the military and were not sought by it. But in the impoverished enclaves of central Maine, where I had relatives living in trailers, nearly everyone was a veteran.

When soldiers return home: Continue reading

Fifty shades of capitalism – Salon.com

15 Jul

Drunk on the intoxicants of wealth and power, Fifty Shades of Grey hints at a sinister cultural shift that is unfolding in its pages before our eyes. The innocent Anastasias will no longer merely have their lifeblood slowly drained by capitalist predators. They’re going to be whipped, humiliated and forced to wear a butt-plug. The vampire in the night has given way to the dominating overlord of a hierarchical, sadomasochistic world in which everybody without money is a helpless submissive.

Welcome to late-stage capitalism.

Invisible Handcuffs

This has been coming for some time. Ever since the Reagan era, from the factory to the office tower, the American workplace has been morphing for many into a tightly-managed torture chamber of exploitation and domination. Bosses strut about making stupid commands. Employees trapped by ridiculous bureaucratic procedures censor themselves for fear of getting a pink slip. Inefficiencies are everywhere. Bad management and draconian policies prop up the system of command and control where the boss is God and the workers are so many expendable units in the great capitalist machine. The iron handmaidens of high unemployment and economic inequality keep the show going….

Much of the evil stems from the fact that free-market economists who still dominate the Ivy League and the policy circles have focused on markets at the expense of those inconvenient encumbrances known as “people.” Their fancy mathematical models make calculations about buying and selling, but they tend to leave out one important thing: production. In other words, they don’t give a hoot about the labor of those who sustain the economy. Their perverted religion may have something to say about unemployment or wages – keeping the former high and the latter low — but the conditions workers face receive nary a footnote.

via Fifty shades of capitalism – Salon.com.

Work Less, Live Better

9 Jul

The single most important thing we can do to reduce our ecological footprint is

Work less
Consume less
Produce less
And live more

Ninety percent of all the junk that we make ends up in land fills just six weeks after it’s been made. We’ve become a world of landfill fillers.

–Conrad Schmidt, Work Less Party

What’s a Community Garden Community?

9 Jul

Two questions, closely related, but not the same:

What’s a community garden?

What’s a garden community?

So, what IS a community garden? I suppose it’s a garden that, in some sense, belongs to a community rather than belonging to a private individual or organization.

In what sense CAN a garden belong to the community? There is the legal sense. This requires that the community form itself into a legally recognized organization and that that organization, in turn, owns the land on which the garden is created. But, legal ownership of the land is not necessary nor sufficient. The land can be donated, and it need not be donated to anyone or any group in particular. It need only be made available.

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Gardens require labor. This IS necessary. Where does that labor come from? Why, from the community. People donate their labor to the garden, creating the beds, planting, weeding, watering, aerating, and harvesting. Where do the fruits go, the vegetables, flowers, herbs, and, yes, fruits? To the community.

And so it is with the Lafayette Community Learning Garden in Jersey City, NJ. While is has been organized out of the Morris Canal Community Development Corporation, MC CDC doesn’t own the land. The land has been donated, if only for a couple of years, by a local developer. Local businesses provided materials, supplies, food and drink on work days, and plants. The community itself has been providing the labor. Some people knew about the garden before ground-breaking and signed up ahead of time. Others pitched in when they saw things happening. Continue reading

Probation Fees Multiply as Companies Profit – NYTimes.com

2 Jul

It’s called kicking the 99% when they’re down.

“With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,” said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. “The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.”

via Probation Fees Multiply as Companies Profit – NYTimes.com.

Truth and Tradition in Disney’s Dumbo

25 Jun

Several years ago I sent a long email to Mike Barrier, the animation historian, about Disney’s Dumbo. I couple days later I noticed that he’d posted it on his website, along with some frame grabs he’d added. I’m now reposting that essay here.

That’s all well and good, you say, but what has THAT got to do with Truth, Tradition, and the American Way?

Everything, I say, well, not everything, but a lot. Which I explain in some detail in the analysis. But I’ll give you a little taste here and now.

In the first place that film reaches deep into American myth and lore: trains, the circus, the value of labor. Yes, the value of labor, in Dumbo. The tent-raising scene is stunning, showing hard-working men. AND animals, because the animals helped raise the tent as well. So we’ve got cross-species solidarity. Further, those workers and animals are skeptical about management, deeply skeptical. Yet management, then as now, is sneaky.

Sneaky sneaky sneaky!

The film depicts managment manipulation of workers to set them at odds with one another. We see scapegoating in action. Poor little Dumbo is made to take the fall for managment greed and stupidity. Let me repeat that: Dumbo is made to take the fall for managment greed and stupidity.

And you know how Dumbo gets out of it? Interspecies solidarity with Timothy Mouse and with a mess of jivometric crows. Those crows teach Dumbo about the importance of groovology. There is nothing so deep and traditional about America as groovology, groovology of all sorts. Why, the first book published in America was a hymnal. What’s hymn singing but Groovology 103?–patty cake is Groovology 101 and double-dutch is Groovology 102.

I’ve gone on enough setting up this thing. Read review, watch the movie, and ask yourself: Could this film be made in American today and now with the 1% lording it over the 99%?

DUMBO MOM AND CHILD

Continue reading

Aaron Swartz: Chris Hayes’ The Twilight of The Elites — Crooked Timber

18 Jun

We thought we would just simply pick out the best and raise them to the top, but once they got there they inevitably used their privilege to entrench themselves and their kids (inequality is, Hayes says, “autocatalytic”). Opening up the elite to more efficient competition didn’t make things more fair, it just legitimated a more intense scramble. The result was an arms race among the elite, pushing all of them to embrace the most unscrupulous forms of cheating and fraud to secure their coveted positions. As competition takes over at the high end, personal worth resolves into exchange value, and the elite power accumulated in one sector can be traded for elite power in another… This creates a unitary elite, detached from the bulk of society, yet at the same time even more insecure…

The result is that our elites are trapped in a bubble, where the usual pointers toward accuracy (unanimity, proximity, good faith) only lead them astray. And their distance from the way the rest of the country really lives makes it impossible for them to do their jobs justly—they just don’t get the necessary feedback. The only cure is to reduce economic inequality, a view that has surprisingly support among the population (clear majorities want to close the deficit by raising taxes on the rich, which is more than can be said for any other plan). And while Hayes is not a fan of heightening the contradictions, it is possible that the next crisis will bring with it the opportunity to win this change.

via Guest Review by Aaron Swartz: Chris Hayes’ The Twilight of The Elites — Crooked Timber.