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    • The Creation Of New Worlds Examined Thru Myth
      Let us speak today of how a new world is created. Let us do so by examining a creation myth: the Norse one.  Here it is, in part. Odin, Vili, and Vé killed the giant Ymir. When Ymir fell, there issued from his wounds such a flood of blood, that all the frost ogres were […]
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The Conflucian policy advice to Hillary Clinton on economics

It’s a bit much for one dragon.

She didn’t ask for my opinion but she’s getting 200 advisors to tell her theirs. The problem she is facing is how to rebalance the country in terms of income inequality without, you know, pissing off the ultra wealthy. I’m not sure it can be done. A little bit of a snit is to be expected in all likelihood. Although, maybe she could have someone from Vox put together one of those cool and groovy graphics that demonstrate that no matter how hard the vanishing middle class works, we will never be able to afford our own yachts. That might bring a tear to the eyes of the 1%. The graphics should show how big a boat you can buy on a lifetime of $32000/year (if you’re lucky enough to get that these days) compared to what Steve Ballmer can buy.

Ok, so what would I recommend? Well, the rich are not going to like this but I’m not really interested in how the rich feel about these things. I’m only interested in bringing back prosperity, income security and innovation to the American middle class. It’s not all about them, except they are behaving like greedy dragons sitting on a giant pile of gold. If they’d just get off the stash we wouldn’t have any problems with the rich. I don’t envy their wealth and don’t want to be like them. I just want to be fairly compensated without feeling like I just got a handout that i didn’t deserve.

What I see as the biggest obstacle to income equality is what I call “exploitative profit mining”. That is the idea that Americans  can be harvested for various wealth through rents, fees and deregulation. I don’t want to feel like a crop anymore. The number one biggest policy initiative that I would propose is to eliminate the incentives to take advantage of everyday Americans simply because there is no one making sure it doesn’t happen. Than means reregulation. I can already hear the screams and howls from the flaming swamp monsters of the ridiculously rich. We can start at Wall Street. Let’s stop rewarding excessive financialization and risk taking. Maybe this would mean that Wall Street bonuses have to be capped at no more than 15% of income. That’s right, give those guys a straight salary. Maybe this would mean you can’t work an analyst to death at 100 hours a week. Go through every industry and increase the compensation to all stakeholders, not just the shareholders. Hire good managers and stop making CEOs co-owners who have an incentive to increase the values of their options at everyone else’s expense. That’s not socialism. That’s fairness.

Speaking of shareholders, I would like to see an alternative to the 401K. Americans should not be forced to gamble their retirement savings at a global casino. It’s immoral to require non-wealthy Americans to do this. Sorry, I’m not into it. I don’t like risk, especially when I’m going to have to live on that money. Plus, the 401K system undermines industries and innovations that create jobs. We have all seen investments gain in value when jobs are eliminated. The work still has to be done but it’s sent overseas or heaped onto the backs of people who are left after the lay off bloodbath. It’s inefficient and it destroys wealth of the middle class. Again, shareholders are not the only people who count. Bring back defined benefit pensions.

Medicare for all. There I said it. It’s ridiculous that anyone in this country has to be at risk of losing everything they’ve worked for all of their lives because cruelty is the flavor of the day on TV and radio. Let’s stop beating people when they’re down. If there are going to be sacrifices, everyone should have to make them, including the people getting rich on hip joint replacements and hospital beds. If you can’t get Medicare for all, at least impost cost controls and uniform fee schedules. Insurance companies shouldn’t have to negotiate different payments for each course of treatment based on how much profit providers think they can reap. Obamacare is not the wonderful panacea it’s been made out to be and it was never supposed to control costs. Let’s stop lying about it.

For god’s sakes, do something about long term unemployment. We’ve been hanging out here for too long. The jobs numbers are not telling the whole story. There are too many part time positions, too many temp positions and salaries are too low. Plus, ageism is rampant. Those of us who have decades to go before we can retire need to live on something. In the meantime, our lives are on hold. We can’t spend money because we don’t have it. That’s a drag on the economy and it depresses the wages of everyone else. People in the sciences especially need help. There’s a blighted generation that needs to be working. Set up some  private-public research labs, pay us a living wage and let’s get on with it already. We’re being wasted out here.

Those are some of my suggestions. I can think of a zillion more. We need to work on infrastructure, especially broadband. We need to gradually free ourselves from fossil fuel. The lefties will make climate change the reason but I’m just as interested in loosening the control of the super rich oil barons on the rest of our lives. Their price manipulations affect everything from mass transit initiatives to food prices. We should be allowed to choose whether we want to be owned by oil. I choose not to.

By the way, I don’t want profit sharing. I want a nice, steady income with a living wage. I’ve seen profit sharing schemes and they’re not serious. They are no substitute for stability. Our corporate overlords have a different value system than average Americans. Some of us do not want to be our own bosses, aren’t particularly turned on by playing capitalist games and just want the sweet relief of a regular paycheck. Recognize this. It’s important. Let’s stop measuring success in terms of how many yachts we can buy. Success can mean many things from discovering a new drug to being the best baker around. It’s not all about money.

I invite other Confucians to chime in here. What would your advice be to Hillary?

Finally, here is a video from one of my favorite straight talking Australians, Jane Caro. Caro has a background in advertising but she has been a popular speaker on education and feminism as well. In this video, Caro speaks about Dangerous Ideas. Her bit on quotas for women on boards and other institutions is brilliant. Not to be missed. So, I would add as a final suggestion to Hillary to institute a Gender Glasses program like they have in Finland. That is a government office that actually gathers cold, hard statistics from workplaces that demonstrate whether there is discrimination that prevents women from succeeding. No more “he said/she said”. If statistics are good enough in sports, they’re good enough to prove sexism in the workplace. Let’s measure everything. This country is way too deferential to men’s needs and ignores the economic impact on women’s lives.

Fast forward to about the 3 minute mark to Jane’s introduction.

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“Those who were made can be unmade”

Enforcing the Quartering Act of 1774

In a news cycle, the report that Brian Williams is taking a brief sabbatical is already old. But what does it mean?

The last time we had a major news anchor step down it was definitely a political move. Dan Rather dared to expose George W. Bush’s service records. I don’t know which was worse: that a trusted name in news who covered in person some of the major news of his era was deposed or that we were subjected to the mind numbingly boring subject of kerning. Count me among the people who believe the records were genuine. His political enemies took him out anyway. That was to meant to be an example to the rest of us. Step over the line and we will finish you.

We all know how hyping misinformation can ruin a person’s reputation. This is what Vince Foster complained about before he committed suicide. But what could be behind this latest attack on the news?

Could it be a warm up to making Hillary Clinton’s campaign a living hell? Hmmm. Interesting possibility. But she’s been through this stuff before and she continues to learn from her experiences. That should trouble the opposition greatly. There’s nothing worse than someone who continually gets whaled on who figures it out. It could still be a rough campaign season if she decides to run but the results might not be as predictable as they were 20 or even 8 years ago.

Could it be something that has happened in the wake of the FCC chairman’s decision to treat the internet as a public utility? I have no idea how Williams’ forced leave would tie into that but telecomm/networks are not happy about that decision, even if we don’t know exactly how it would play out yet. Maybe they’re getting their ducks in a row for some serious push back. MSNBC is (was) seen as slavishly devoted to Obama so who knows.

Following up on that, maybe NBC needs a more compliant anchor going into the 2016 campaign season. You know, someone like Keith Olbermann in 2008 who will sell out his principles in order to push one candidate over another.  Someone without so many annoying scruples. Hmmm, who could it be, who could it be?

Or maybe this is a symptom of a much more serious problem. Maybe the military is getting way too powerful and is indicating its willingness to call the shots. Brian Williams becomes its new poster child. Even mild transgressions will be punished severely.

[Slightly off topic: Although I have seen some grants restored in the wake of the disastrous sequester of 2013, I am still running into people who continue to be laid off or quit academia as a result of losing grant money. In the last month, I met three more  academic scientists, a biochemist, a pharmacologist, and a neuroscientist who are out of work. They all had PhDs and were long time employees of a major university here. The neuroscientist told me that the grants for disease related research he had worked on had been replaced with grants from the DOD for research on traumatic brain injury. If you want to study that, which is important, the grant money is great. If you want to study dementia or some other brain disease, ehhhh, not so much. So, he left. The couple said grants had pretty much dried up for them as well and it seemed to be the primary way their salaries were funded, so they were out. Well, if you’re a conservative legislator, maybe you don’t think medical research is something the government should be doing. That’s something the private sector should be doing. Maybe they missed the memo on translational research. Or maybe all that sciencey stuff reminds them too much of climate research. Traumatic brain injury is more concrete. It’s something they can wrap their heads around, and their constituents at home, who sent a $#*!load of young healthy servicemen to get blown up in Iraq, are demanding it. Who knows? I only speculate. But if you are suffering from schizophrenia or heart disease, well, you’re SOL again. Better to get your noggin scrambled by an IED.]

Anyway, getting back to the military, now that the House and Senate are run by Republicans, I expect the military to get even more of the precious tax revenue that we can’t bring ourselves to spend on other stuff like, oh, I don’t know, student loans, crumbling bridges and school lunches. The defense contractors may see themselves as a previously underprivileged group that now has the total attention of legislators. This is maybe the reason why standing armies were considered problematic once upon a time. If you have them sitting around, all geared up with nothing to do, they’re going to get antsy.

Better not cross them.

Again, just idle speculation…

Update: I rarely read MoDo anymore but her column today is about Brian Williams. She says his tendency to exaggerate was well known among other journalists. He used to do it in private. It may have been doing it on TV that brought him down. The Facebook pushback got too hot.

Oh, please. This is silly. You don’t take out an anchor because people don’t like the way he tells his war stories. Did the US military embed journalists when they went to Iraq or didn’t they?

I’m not buying this very facile explanation. There’s a reason why Williams is getting the boot. We just don’t know what it is yet.

Here’s another post musing on why Williams is about to get the sack. Three possible reasons are cited but the bottom line is that if Williams’ war stories rise to the level of dismissal, there are a whole bunch of anchors and journalists who deserve it as well. Why single out this guy?

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One other thing: TV and cable news are baaaad for you. They can make your brain rot. It’s bad because the audio portion combined with imagery can be crafted in such a way as to provoke a strong emotional response. Emotional responses to important events can short circuit rational responses to those events. They can make you want to start a stupid, money sucking land war in Asia. I don’t watch TV and cable news but I can’t stop anyone else from watching. All I can do it point out that you’re vulnerable to button pushing if you do watch it.

I also don’t listen to NPR anymore either. After it hired Juan Williams and others during the Bush era, I just felt it had drifted too far away from its original mission. This was probably not NPR’s fault but when political appointees started messing around with PBS and NPR funding, erosion of standards was bound to happen. I can’t listen to it now. My ears detect too much change. It’s just sad. As Sinclair Lewis once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

I get my news from written sources and my eyes carefully scan the text for trigger words.