Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

Politics & Culture: “Will my HMO cover this?”

The last couple days I haven’t been able to put down Jill Bolte Taylor’s new book, My Stroke of Insight. The book is an autobiography written by a bright young Harvard-trained brain scientist who experiences a congenitally-based stroke at age 37. In her book, she describes in detail how she experienced each moment as her brain flooded with blood and she slowly lost most of her cognitive abilities. As she descended into a child-like state, she remembers:

“I felt a nagging obligation to contact my doctor. It was obvious that I would need emergency treatment that would probably be very expensive, and what a sad commentary that even in this disjointed mentality, i knew enought to be worried that my HMO might not cover my costs in the event that I went to the wrong health center for care. “

It made me both incredibly sad and angry to read this. Even though this book is clearly about this woman’s journey to recovery, I found it shocking that a bright young neuroscientist, who was clearly not lazy and contributing tremendously to society, had to worry about her health insurance coverage during such an incoherent and vulnerable state!

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July 28, 2011

Politics & Music: “What About Us”

Politics are slowly moving into song lyrics, as artists wrestle with the chaotic and seemingly imbalanced world that they find themselves in and attempt to put words and sounds to common emotions and experiences. The Montreal-based band Handsome Furs recently released their newest record Sound Kapital, including the wonderful “what about us.” Here are the opening lyrics:

There are an army of thieves, who have everything they need

But what about us, what about us

There are thousands to feed, so hard to believe

But what about us, what about us

Because it’s time after time, that we are stuck behind the line

What about us, what about us

And that woman in defeat, is forced into the street

So what about us, what about us

In a recent interview with Stereogum, Scott Coffey of the Handsome Furs (and an actor who appeared in Mullhulland Drive) answers some questions about this song:

STEREOGUM: Where did you shoot the clip?

SC: It was all shot in Portland, Oregon in the cold and rain. But that’s good for nipple boners.

STEREOGUM: What’s the video’s overall concept? It’s suggestive, but mysterious. Is the plot specific to “What About Us” or the album as a whole?

SC: I love this record. There is an amazing haunting and yearning quality to all the Handsome Furs songs, but they’re hopeful and full of heart at the same time. Dan Boeckner’s voice, to me, is full of mourn and yearning for freedom. So I was thinking about the entire record a lot when I was making the video. This song seemed to really sum up the themes of the record. Now what do we do in a ruined world? We can fuck and dance, but what do we do when we’re all danced and fucked out? Hold onto each other! Maybe that’s how we can start to save ourselves. I’m not a hippie, I swear. But I think the record is dripping in empathy and questioning freedom and feeling … and I hope I captured some of that in the video. I wanted it to feel narrative but work with the logic of a dream.

Watch the video “What About Us” :

July 26, 2011

Pew Study: Minorities Suffer Most with Wealth Gap at Record High

Based on government data from 2009, the non-partisan Pew Research Center found that, on average, white families were 20 times more wealthy than black families and 18 times more wealthy than Hispanic families.

in the 25 years that the the government has been releasing this data, the numbers have never looked this bad. The Pew Research Center found that the housing market bubble burst in 2006 was the largest contributor to wealth loss for minorities.

As government attempts to reduce social safety nets that benefit those who have lost the most during this recession, we should remember who caused this economic collapse in the first place. It sure wasn’t caused by the families who have lost everything and are likely to lose more – it was caused by selfish, disconnected and entitled Wall Street sh*ts who are now richer than ever (and probably laughing at how easy it is to buy our support and our political candidates).

I keep wondering how much longer we will continue to take this. The income and wealth gaps aren’t going to get more fair on their own. Remember that you have a voice, a vote, and an email account to message your representatives.

Read more about the pew study here.

July 25, 2011

Words of Wisdom

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” -Abraham Lincoln

July 25, 2011

Thom Hartmann and Josh Holland Expose the ‘Rich=Job Creator’ Lie

If the ‘rich are our job creators’ theory ascribed by conservatives were accurate, then we should be seeing the creation of millions of jobs.

Regulations and taxes are at historic lows and the top 1% earners are making more in comparison to the average family than they were before the beginning of the Great Depression.  Add this to the fact that corporations are also sitting on $2 trillion in wealth and one begins to wonder ‘Well, job creators now have a massive influx of capital, why am I not getting job interviews?’.   Well, the specifics can be complicated (like automation and globalization stripping us of our mid-skilled positions), but the answer really is not.  The reason why this massive influx of capital isn’t helping to grow jobs is because, quite simply, they don’t have the customers.  The primary cause and symptom of our rickety economy, depressed aggregate demand, has not been sufficiently addressed.  And now, with nearly every political entity buying into the “OMG!  WE MUST FIX THE DEBT NOW” narrative and agreeing that we need to cut domestic entitlement spending, aggregate demand appears set to get worse before it gets any better.

This is the topic of discussion between Thom Harmann and Josh Holland.

July 17, 2011

35,217 Years

35,217 years is how long an average American family would have to work to earn 1 year’s pay of a top 10 Hedge Fund Manager. Let me repeat that: An average American family (earning around $50,000 a year) would have to work over 35,000 years to earn what a Hedge Fund Manager earns in 1 singular little year (on average around $1,753,000,000), raking in almost a million dollars an hour.

The Highest Income Celebrities, CEO and  Hedge Fund Managers (2010)
 
Top Ten                             Average                         Average American                                         Yearly Income            family would have to work:
                                                           
Hedge Fund managers                        $1,753,000,000                      35,217 years
Movie directors/producers                 $126,000,000                        2,531 years
Top celebrities all fields                        $119,800,000                        2,407 years
Pop musicians                                            $87,200,000                        1,752 years
Non-financial CEOs                                  $47,100,000                           946 years
Athletes                                                        $44,600,000                          896 years
Movie stars                                                 $42,600,000                          856 years
Authors                                                        $26,900,000                          402 years
Lawyers                                                      $20,000,000                          402 years
Bank/Insurance CEOs                             $16,600,000                           333 years
 
Median Family Income (2009)                     $49,777                                  1 year
Read more here, and here.
 
 
July 8, 2011

The People vs. Corporations

Our political system is breaking. This has become the age of corporatized politics. The United States used to stand for democracy and equality and Americans were proud of their ideals. We believed in taking care of everyone, and building strong communities. Now, however, class warfare is breaking loose.

AlterNet recently described the problem clearly:

Many of us feel the President can and should do much more to rein in Wall Street, create jobs, and defend Medicare and Social Security. But any likely opponent would probably be far worse. Politicians in this post-Citizens United world are either limited by corporate power or prostituted to it. So we must work around, as well as within, the electoral system. That means getting the truth out, speaking for the majority’s viewpoint, and outlining the real choices we face. That’s especially hard when almost everyone in Washington is pushing austerity over jobs and growth (no matter how many Nobel Prize-winning economists tell them they’re wrong), and when media empires mislead us about our situation and its causes. So we must wage a war for the mind – a war against corporate think tanks and TV talking heads who tell us our problems arise from self-indulgence and those in need, not corporate malfeasance and runaway greed. 

And no one has rescued the middle class yet. The Founders believed in common purpose. George Washington’s goal was “protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.” Now, an American life is equated with his or her bank account, and an American’s well-being is only worth protecting if he or she is filthy rich. Aristocratic control has already reached the US Supreme Court, too. Another example is that on Monday, June 27th 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of more corporate influence on elections – making it even more difficult for a candidate to win without business funding.

Read more about this here.

We see freedoms of the people disappearing every day, as the increasing corporate profits require constantly more protection.  Take the story below, a woman who was gang-raped by 7 Halliburton employees had “signed away” her right to sue. 

Access to justice – like access to elected office, let alone a pundit’s perch – is becoming a perk just for the rich and powerful. Take the young woman now testifying in court in Texas. Jamie Leigh Jones claims she was drugged and gang-raped while working for military contractor KBR in Iraq (at the time, a division of Halliburton). Jones, now 26, was on her fourth day in post in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was assaulted by seven contractors and held captive, under armed guard by two KBR police, in a shipping container. When the criminal courts failed to act, her lawyers filed a civil suit, only to be met with Halliburton’s response that all her claims were to be decided in arbitration – because she’d signed away her rights to bring the company to court when she signed her employment contract. As Leigh testified before Congress, in October 2009, “I had signed away my right to a jury trial at the age of 20 and without the advice of counsel.” It was a matter of sign or resign. “I had no idea that the clause was part of the contract, what the clause actually meant,” testified Jones. You’ve probably done the very same thing without even knowing it. When it comes to consumer claims, mandatory arbitration is the new normal. According to research by Public Citizen and others, corporations are inserting “forced arbitration” clauses into the fine print of contracts for work, for cell phone service, for credit cards, even nursing home contracts, requiring clients to give up their right to sue if they are harmed. Arbitration is a no-judge, no-jury, no-appeal world, where arbitrators are (often by contract) selected by the company and all decisions are private – and final.  

Yes, that is the America we live in today. Gone is the balance of power in our political system, and opportunity for all. The power of the people is slowly bleeding out. 

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