Archive for ‘Culture’

December 1, 2011

1% Hide That They Are Richer Than Ever

Even though the housing market bubble burst in 2008, the apartments and homes of the super rich have done nothing but gone up in worth!

However, they try to hide their spending behavior by pretending to downsize. Read more about this at the Daily Beast!

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November 27, 2011

Protests in Egypt & Hypocrisy at Home

As federal police agencies coordinate aggressive national responses to Occupy protestors, it is interesting to remember what Obama and Hillary Clinton had to say about the uprisings in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries not too long ago.

We attack regimes for brutally cracking down on protestors, while we do the same here at home.

Watch this VIDEO!

November 4, 2011

The Root of our Problems

A common misconception of the Occupy movement, one that has been repeated within the national media ad nauseam, is that they don’t have any specific demands. Well, anyone with a reasonable amount of knowledge about the movement knows that this assertion is patently false. A central message emerges from amongst the crowds and signs of Zuccotti Park: the elimination of the rampant corporate influence and corruption found within our political sphere. As well it should be.

If you think about it, nearly all of our woes as a country appear to be symptoms of this larger problem. Our massive amount of defense spending? Consider how much we spend on private contractors, like the now-defunct Blackwater. Our faulty health care industry? Consider the millions in political donations made by health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations. The financial crisis, of which Main Street has yet to emerge, and the subsequent watered-down attempt at reform known as Dodd-Frank? Consider the millions in political donations made by major financial institutions (of which some of that was our own money that we used to keep them from collapsing). Our increasing prison population and our persistence in maintaining a failed war on drugs? Consider privately-owned penal systems. Income inequality? Well, you get the idea.

And that’s not to mention the apparent revolving-door employment policy between lobbying organizations and public office.

These are just a few of the systemic issues plaguing us as citizens and the list goes on and on. So, what do we do about it?

A great idea, which has been circulating on the internet for some time, would be to pass a constitutional amendment banning corporate campaign contributions. Realistically, this is extremely difficult to do (there’s a reason why we only have 27 amendments) and it is rife with a few pragmatic concerns, although these could be easily addressed.

For example, limiting or banning corporate contributions would have no affect on lobbying practices. Lobbying, itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, there are many lobbying groups that address our concerns. The problem is that they have no where near as much money as corporate special interest groups. A solution to this, aside from eliminating lobbying all together, would be to regulate lobbying practices and spending.

Another concern would be that such an amendment would not prevent the super-rich from donating much more than your average American. We already have a annual caps on individual donations to campaigns ($2,500 for federal, $5,000 for local and state) as well as to parties and committees ($30,800 for federal, $10,000 for local and state), but they are woefully inefficient at democratizing our campaign process. Considering that the average American family makes around $50,000 a year, there is no way they could contribute anywhere near as much as a person that makes over a million a year. Thus a good argument could be made for the public financing of campaigns.

These are but a few possible solutions we should be considering as we move forward. These will be hard battles, considering how entrenched corruption is within our system, but they will be necessary battles. We are the David to their Goliath, and our sling is armed and ready.

October 18, 2011

Listen to Us!

Politicians and talking heads keep asking things like “what does the Occupy movement stand for, ” or “what do they want?” And I think that they may be missing a main point.

We, the majority of Americans, want nothing more than to be listened to over the screaming voices of hard cash. And we don’t just want to be listened to in a superficial and condescending kind of way – we want our voices to be taken seriously. Politicians say that they love the American middle class, but do they really?

Capitol Hill is making sure that the middle class takes hit after hit, as the super rich enjoy soaring profits with little or no societal responsibilities.  It appears that the middle class is no longer being represented, as politicians turn to the desires of ridiculously wealthy donors.

Yet, Washington and the media appear surprised by the sound of our voices, as if we are annoying pests buzzing too close to their ears. They expect us to have one message, or a few main demands, so that they can swat us away again and go on with their business looking after the interests of the super-rich. I think many politicians still believe that the Occupy movement will eventually just quiet down and go away.

I don’t doubt that demands will eventually be verbalized, but right now our message is simply our voice.

October 18, 2011

When Education is a Privilege

The unemployment rate for people without college degrees is around 14.5%, and over 20% for the younger generations. This is largely the result of globalization and automation. So, people get college degrees to keep from falling behind. And as a nation, we want our citizens to be as educated as possible, as this increases our globally competitiveness and ultimately increases our GDP.

Thus, we want to promote education and make it as available as possible to capable people. Problem is, the average yearly tuition has been increasing 4x faster than real wages. So now we are at the untenable position where a single year’s tuition is, on average, around $14,000. Considering that the average american family makes slightly under $50,000 a year, most students will have to rely on loans. Loans that cannot be discharged due to hardship or through bankruptcy, mind you.

This leads us to the near-trillion dollar student loan debt and graduates entering the work force already saddled with a debt that is more and more frequently becoming larger than your average mortgage. Many people are required to pay over $1,000 a month, if they’re lucky enough to have a job. This results in people putting off buying a house, or starting a family, or starting a business, and renders them entirely dependent on the job(s) they’re lucky enough to get.

This is not to ignore the fact that many businesses have realized how much recent grads want work in their field, resulting in extended unpaid or underpaid internships and externships. This practice is actually not far off from full-fledged indentured servitude.

All in all, our current system is set up so that an intelligent and capable American, who happen to be poor, cannot be properly educated to lead our nation in technology, science and innovation.

 


October 16, 2011

Day 30: Occupy Times Square

Ten to twenty thousand Americans showed up yesterday to Occupy Times Square, in support of the Global Day of Action on Saturday October 15th. Separated into smaller areas by barricades, protesters spread from 34th street to 47th street on the west side of Manhattan. In Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, thousands of cities and hundreds of countries joined in protest on Saturday.

We were at 42nd street and Broadway, surrounded by people of all ages, from all different backgrounds. Most protesters were well-dressed, sometimes in suits and office wear, and the youngest and oldest protesters included a baby who was several months old and a couple in their 80’s. The crowd looked like our middle class.  It was clear that not everyone was a  hippie or college student, and they were ready to be taken seriously.

NBC New York reports that 90 people were arrested surrounding the International Day of Action. The police were quite intimidating, driving rows of police vans ready for arrests down 42 street with their sirens going. Police brought in horses (very dangerous in highly crowded areas) and had helicopters circling above us. Luckily we were in a spot that was not bothered much by the police, but saw and heard others arrested in the distance. The crowd would yell, “the world is watching.” Earlier in the afternoon, reports and video footage was released of 2 dozen arrests inside a Citibank. When several protesters attempted  to simultaneously close their accounts, the bank locked them inside until the police arrived and promptly arrested the protesting customers (who knows on what charge).

Protesters were energized by the previous day’s victory over continued occupation of Zuccotti Park , even though city officials and police attempted to clear the area for “cleaning.” The afternoon’s atmosphere at Times Square was very positive, besides the fear spread by the police. The crowd chanted, “we are the 99 percent” and “the people united, will never be defeated,” “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” and my personal favorite, “All day, all week, Occupy Wall Street.”

Awesome Shepard Fairey’s protest poster for Occupy Times Square:

October 15, 2011

A Global Uprising ~ Worldwide Solidarity

 

 

 

Today, the world is joining Occupy Wall Street in protest. 3,000 people are demonstrating in London, and riots broke out in Rome. Protests have spread to countries across the globe including South Africa, Canada, Portugal, Germany, Australia, Japan, India, South Korea and the Philippines. Cities include Berlin, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Manila, Stockholm, Sydney, Melbourne, Sarajevo and New Delhi.  Occupy Wall Street has declared October 15th as the International Day of Action, and it looks like that is exactly what is happening.

The Fault Line will join the many events scheduled by OWS today to show our support for this worldwide uprising. Human need, not corporate greed.

October 10, 2011

Alan Grayson Schools PJ O’Rourke

The level of condescension on the panel is disgusting, but Grayson cuts through it and receives a standing ovation.

October 9, 2011

Study: Income Inequality Slows Economic Growth

A new study published in the current issue of Finance & Development, the quarterly magazine of the International Monetary Fund, reported that income inequality was found to be a central component of a slowing economy. Income inequality is the gap between those making the most and least in a nation, which has gotten unusually large in the United States over the last 30 years. Below is a table with the recent ratios of CEO vs average worker pay for several countries.  Most economists suggest that a ratio around 20:1 is ideal for a prosperous economy.

The recent study compared six major economic factors across the world’s economies and found that income inequality was the largest contributor to a slow economy, finding a strong association between equally distributed income (and by equally distributed we mean a ratio around 20:1 instead of 475:1, not socialism) and economic growth.

Corporate and political figures often claim that fixing the US economy depends on lowering government debt, signing new free trade deals and attracting new foreign investments, however, this study finds that the most influential factor is income inequality.

Berg and coauthor Jonathan Ostry were mostly interested in how to sustain economic growth, rather than sparking it. “Getting growth going is not that difficult; it’s keeping it going that is hard,” Berg explains. As we ourselves have seen, the bailouts and stimulus saved us from more severe economic conditions, but have done little to sustain growth. Instead, the numbers indicate that moving toward a fair CEO-vs-average-worker income ratio will provide us a way out of this recession.

Mother Jones included these tables from the study:

Andrew Berg & Jonathan Ostry
Andrew Berg & Jonathan Ostry
October 8, 2011

Occupy Dallas Stands Out

Occupy Dallas is kinda kickin’ butt right now!! Though their numbers are (still) low, the police have recognized themselves as part of the 99% and have been extremely accommodating and supportive of the occupiers. Because the Dallas police have been so helpful, organizers have been able to provide amenities for its protesters such as “Occuplay” daycare for kids, free legal assistance from a constitutional lawyer, wifi, and even portable stone ovens. Everyone is coming together realizing that they’ve all been screwed, together. Police officers, just like teachers, students, and 99% of the country have been equally affected by Wall Street and corporate political control, and in Dallas the police decided to be part of the impending change.  We are all realizing how important it is that we participate in our own governance. We are also learning to what extent 99% of the people have actually been silenced and removed from the political process. Occupy Dallas sets a good example for peaceful Occupy protests and police departments everywhere.

Read more about the supportive Dallas police at Gather.com, and Occupy Dallas protester amenities at the Occupy Dallas Facebook page.

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