Ted Auch

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Separating Fact From Fiction

Giffords and Judge Roll Would Be Ashamed

In the wake of the horrible and senseless actions in Tucson last weekend I was not surprised but definitely fearful of what the response would be among the political elites. Instead of hearing them say we need to get out into our communities more and spend less time wining and dining lobbyists and the political punditocracy in DC or make a pledge to stop bullshitting us about everything from the country’s long-term fiscal and monetary stability to Peak Oil….WE GET people like Robert Brady a Democratic Pennsylvanian congressman proposing Political Exceptionalism laws. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re Not Your Problem Mr. President!

I have known for quite a while now that the vote I cast for you in November of 2008 – my first ever vote for a member of The Big Two – was one that I would not regret, because I am still a huge admirer of your intellect, but would come to view with a great degree of disappointment and anger. Read the rest of this entry »

When the facts change I…

…change my mind? Wrong! You stay strong and resist waffling even if it means keeping a man wrongly accused of murder - by his own wife - in prison past the 35 years he has already served. Now I know most people wouldn’t choose this path in upholding the law, but one female Republican governor has decided to go rouge and in the name of politics. No no no I am not talking about the Mama Grizzly/hockey mom from Alaska Sarah Palin folks. I am talking about her mirror image in Arizona’s very own Prickly Pear Governor Jan Brewer. There are so many places I could go with the comparisons but most are totally inappropriate and mean spirited, which is what these 2 women appear to revel in along with their brothers and sisters in arms.

Anyway if there is anyone that reads this blog I urge you to call the AZ governor and demand that she abide by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency’s unanimous 5-0 decision to release William Macumber given that the evidence against him is non-existent and another man has emphatically copped to the double murder of a couple outside Scottsdale, AZ that Mr. Macumber’s mean spirited and apparently slightly evil wife framed him for back in 1974. You can’t make this stuff up and on top of her Orwellian passage of the much publicized and downright cruel SB1070 Ms. Brewer has succeeded in topping what appeared to be the ultimate sign of ignorance with this prank.  As P. S. Ruckman Jr., a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Illinois said. “I have been following state clemency for 30 years, and this is easily, easily, the most disturbing. It’s borderline despicable.” Amazing! I must at this point apologize to the great John Maynard Keynes for paraphrasing one of his classic quotes to fit this post and know I must apologize to him for including his name in a post with the former governor of Alaska and current governor of Arizona. It will never happen again! I included this entry in the Education category as an example of what can happen if you never receive any or in the case of Ms. Palin actively seek it…What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. Some men (women) you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

Todays Master of the Obvious

Two stories in the news that are like duh!!!

1. Tanning causes skin cancer? Are you kidding me?

2. The southern legal system is racially asymmetrical.

Do we need to conduct studies and spend tons of money researching the obvious?

Should we make laws to prevent underage tanning booth use or excessive use across the board? OR is this simply a case of caveat emptor.

The question that really needs to be asked is how do the eight southern states studied in #2 compare to the rest of the country? My worry is that they aren’t the outliers those of us in the “liberal north” would hope they are/were. I had a friend I worked with while landscaping in Connecticut when I was a kid named Eddie Brown and he was (is?) a black man from South Carolina. Anyway I remember asking him if racism was worse in the north or the south. He immediately said it was worse in the north, because at least in the south everyone knew where everyone stood. As he said “Our women didn’t sleep with their men and we didn’t sleep with their women.” However, in the north as he pointed out he was put off by the fact that when I or others he worked with asked a customer if we could use their bathroom they said absolutely, but when he asked there was an ever so slight hesitation and even when obliged he was “monitored” as he put it. So, my point is that we rip on the south and deservedly so in many instances, but as we are seeing with the couched criticism of President Obama from all over the country there is latent racism everywhere and it will not be resolved if we continue to pillory the south while not looking in our own bathroom mirrors.

Long Lost Brothers In Arms

I just read an article at Project Syndicate by Heizo Takenaka former Minister of Economics, Minister of Financial Reform, and Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications under former LDP Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi; of Japan. Who cares you may ask? And you would be right for asking that….BUT the reason we should care is that if you replaced Japanese people and places with US people and places this article would read like a John Boehner or Mitch McConnell manifesto replete with the privatization, deregulation, reduced government spending, and lower taxes (See Friedman, M) mantra of these 2 esteemed leaders of the Republican party. This would be awesome and totally worth considering if it weren’t for 1 conveniently downplayed FACT….Mr. Takenaka’s party - prior to the current DPJ government that can’t get out of its own way with respect to broken promises - had had complete autonomy in Japan for the better part of 50 years. Likewise Messrs. Boehner and McConnell along with a moderate agenda going back to Gerald Ford have been running the show since the early seventies. Okay I know there was a brief hiccup by the name of Jimmy Carter, who decided the American people needed to hear certain truths that would prove hard to swallow. Well we canned his ass the next chance we got! The point is that these Monday morning quarterbacks are incapable of acknowledging their participation in the games to which they refer. Until they do this their rhetoric and bombastic critiques of current and future regimes will - in my humble but certain opinion - be comedic at best and counterproductive to the point of being obstructionist at worst. Do the current folks in office in Japan and the US and the soon to be Green administration in Columbia have problems? Sure lots of them and their growing by the day, but to say that the trouble a/o irresponsibility starts with them, while simultaneously ignoring their own malfeasance is the reason why I just can’t imagine why anyone would give such biased and myopic voices any type of local or global platform. Enough with the sectarian rhetoric!

Beware Québécoise!

So it appears that Arizona successfully decoupled its laws from those of advanced society when Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into Law SB 1070 last Friday whose “…aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants.” The criteria police officers will use rely on something the law calls “reasonable suspicion”, which is about as big an umbrella category is you will find anywhere. Anyone with dark skin (THAT MEANS YOU JOHN BOEHNER!) will be forced to carry with them wherever they go documentation speaking to the validity of their residence in the United States. I find it amazing that the very same folks that pushed this bill out of one side of their mouth are on the other side accusing Barack Obama of being a Fascist. This DoubleSpeak is right out of George Orwell’s opus “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and is the type of rhetoric that has slowly but steadily been percolating up from right-wing hate groups since President Obama’s election. It is even creeping – overtly and covertly – into national politics with Pat Bertroche (R) vying for the 3rd District Congressional primary seat in Iowa noting that “I actually support microchipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I microchip an illegal?” That’s very True Pat why don’t we just make a minor incision in everyone with dark skin, implant a microchip, and send them on their merry way. That makes complete sense and it doesn’t sound prima facie like it violates anyone’s human rights!

This uptick dovetails into The Southern Poverty Law Center’s documentation of mushrooming phenomena in their latest report “Rage on the Right”, which quantified a 244% increase in the number of “Patriot’ groups, from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. This came at the same time as racist hate groups rose from an all-time high of 926 to 932 in 2009 and “nativist extremist” groups – vigilante organizations that go beyond advocating strict immigration policy and actually confront or harass suspected immigrants – grew from 173 to 309 (+80%) between 2008 and 2009.

This type of trend does not speak well for border states writ large. If Vermonters think that this type of sentiment will not rear its ugly head here with respect to Canadians in general and Québécoise specifically we’re fooling ourselves. The recent legal battle between the Rainsville’s of Franklin County and The Department of Homeland Security is in my opinion the opening salvo in a nascent fortification and potentially militarization of our border with Québéc. Janet Napolitano & Co. feel it is imperative that we fortify a crossing that experiences 2.5 cars an hour or 21,900 per year. If you consider that the monies allotted to this project amount to $5 million that averages out to $228 per car or with respect to the Rainville’s about 4.9 acres we’re talking about $1.02 million per acre. Either way you cut it I am sure Governor Douglas or his successor could find markedly more important things to do with this “stimulus”. For anyone interested in reading more about the Rainville matter I would refer you to Secretary Napolitano’s letter to Senator Leahy on March 10 of this year.

Needless to say we are seeing a growing sense of paranoia and misguided attempts at securing 1,969 miles (3,169 km) of Mexican- and 5,525 miles (8,891 km) of Canada-US borderland. We should work hard here in Vermont to insure that the 90 mile border we share with Québéc never even faintly resembles what those in Arizona are trying to construct. After all it is not immigrants, illegal or otherwise, forcing US-based multinationals to outsource thousands of jobs under the guise of globalized capitalism. How about a little more job protectionism and a little less racism cloaked in pseudo-patriotism.

An Asymmetrical Gini In The Bottle

Ever heard of the Gini Coefficient? Yeah I thought not who has and frankly who cares? Well in reading Stephen Roach’s “Stephen Roach on the Next Asia: Opportunities and Challenges for a New Globalization” I came across this measure of income dispersion within and across economies of all shapes and sizes. When I went to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics looking for a historical record of US Gini coefficients I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see a very disturbing trend developing.

First let me note that the Gini Coefficient is a decimal between Zero and One (The Grey Between Binary!), with One being absolute inequality (i.e. The Rich Have Everything) and Zero being completely equitable distribution of income across any given economy.

What I saw when I plotted the Bureau of Labor’s data was a sharply upward trending slope from left (1967) to the present (2007). At the current trend we will have a Gini Coefficient of 0.537 in 2025, 0.652 in 2075, 0.767 in 2125, and 0.939 in 2200. That is unless the world ends. OR H1N1 kills us all. This should disturb those on the left and the right equally, because believe you me the folks benefiting from this trajectory have no religion or aspirations for any type of greener planet, rather they are driven by Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction and really big yachts. This points towards a New America, which when we think about income equality or meritocracy we see that it is becoming more and more a Zero Sum Game or what what 18th/19th Century British economist David Ricardo called Comparative Advantage (See Below). Although in this instance we are talking about intra-country or -region income disparities.

Comparative Advantage (According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics): When one nation’s opportunity cost of producing an item is less than another nation’s opportunity cost of producing that item. A good or service with which a nation has the largest absolute advantage (or smallest absolute disadvantage) is the item for which they have a comparative advantage.

I think that this trend and the data it describes to are two more examples of why across-the-board capitalism does not work. Do aspects of capitalism work? OF COURSE no one (not least of which me!!) is saying differently, but to assume that any “-ISM” in its entirety is suitable for an entire country or across the board is foolish, arrogant, dangerous, and short-sighted. BEWARE OF THE -ISM PEOPLE!!!

gini

Lets briefly put this trend and Gini in some perspective. First it is worth noting where the US sits globally with respect to Gini. As you can see below we (US in Red) are somewhere in the middle of the 153 global average of 0.409±0.103. Some of the esteemed nations with a more equitable distribution of wealth include Russia, Myanmar (That’s Right Myanmar!), Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. Our neighbors on the Gini scale include Irag, Petro States like Iran and Nigeria, not exactly paragons of freedom. Given the projections I calculated above we will join nations like Zimbabwe (Hint: You know the nation with inflation >1 quadrillion %) by 2025, systemically corrupt nations like Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, and Namibia in 2075, AND…..Drumroll Please…………..We will be off the current distribution by 2125 at a Gini of 0.767. Not bad huh? So with all the huffing and puffing from the right about our dept and deficit climbing as a % of GDP I think it is worth paying credence to this much maligned index, given its current value and projected trend. Sure we need to consume less and save more, but the fact is that many in this country are under the impression that “Compared with people in other rich countries, Americans tend to accept relatively high levels of income inequality because they believe they may move up over time. The evidence is that America does offer opportunity; but not nearly as much as its citizens believe.”

gini1

So the final point that many on the way- and intermediate-right, along with countless centrists and Efficient-Market Hypothesis ideologues make is that this type of asymmetrical wealth distribution is a product of and promoter of competition. The idea that a rising tide lifts all boats with respect to consumption, investment, government spending, and export-import (ie GDP = C+I+G+(Exp-Imp)). However, if we look at GDP as a function of the Gini Index across the aforementioned 153 nations we see ZERO RELATIONSHIP! Let me say that again there is no relationship between an increasing Gini (ie, Rich Getting Richer!) and GDP growth. So, what are we to make of this? Well the answer is that The Great Decoupling with respect to income inequality has spread geographically and will prove insidious and along with an increasing redistribution of water rights another reason why bottom-up “concern” should and will grow. We’re not talking about astroturf revolution, but rather empirical and well-thought out multi-angle reform.

gini2


No Hopey Changey!

Maybe this - along with the celebrity fortunes lathered on her from the liberal media - is why Sarah Palin jumped ship! Or maybe it is Ms. Rouge’s (I mean Rogue’s) new Don’t Call It A Reality Show….Reality Show!

deptgdp_states

Disparity Rises

There is alot of talk right now about Tea Party Revolution and Socialism via the Obama administration. However, the thing that these people that are not seeing is that most of what is happening is being inflicted on them via both parties in concert with the banks, health care industry, and the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). I used to be very skeptical of the socialist ideologues and remain skeptical of those that invest all their emotional and intellectual capital in one school of thought or religion for that matter. Such philosophies remove the individual’s personal responsibility. They also allow themselves to be easily manipulated through advertising. The fact is that when you look at two long-term sets of data - income disparity and the MIC - you see the true problem AND to those that blame Obama as a fascist or whatever I say a trend does not 9 months or 1 adminstration make. This guy is clearly overwhelmed but based on the data I will present he is facing an inertia whose depth and scope is quite daunting.

As you can see from the figure to the right when plotting the returns on 10 of the largest military industrial contractors it is clear that they are rapidly overtaking this country’s production sector.

mib-vs-dow

What we are seeing is that those firms with a long-term presence on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) have done quite well for themselves from the 94,171% increase in share price of General Dynamics since it’s initial offering in January of 1977. The MIC giants Boeing and United Technologies have since their share prices increase by 21,788 and 18,633%, respectively. Interestingly two new players in the MIC industry KBR a spin-off of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and DynCorp a leading competitor of Blackwater (now called Xe Services LLC) have declined by 105 and 119% since their arrival on the DJIA in 2006. In summary the MIB has on averaged gained 15,448% relative to the 823% increase on the DJIA.

mib-vs-dow_ratio

So, while the economy suffers and jobs are lost at the rate of 250-750,000 per month in the last 2.5 years the MIB is operating at a profit ratio of 15:1 relative to the DJIA. This type of ratio would usually raise red flags, but since these companies are True Patriots their profligacy is viewed as an inevitable result of the War on Terror and the Spread of Democracy. I wonder if these companies are also Too Big To Fail?

The other contention is that Obama is a looking to redistribute wealth at the expense of most Americans. Hand in hand with this argument is the idea that all citizens have access to the American Dream. Well if you look at data from the Census Bureau you will see that redistribution is absolutely happening but it is occurring in the opposite direction. Two correlated trends are quite evident from the data:

1. Every year the Upper 5% of this country increases it’s average income by $2,049, while the income of the lower 2 Quartiles increases by $93-164. This seems unfair yet the common concern amongst those that are benefiting the least is accruing enough wealth to realign themselves with those that benefit the most form the Efficient Capitalist Market. However, those that benefit the most are doing their darndest to insure that they and only they benefit from this increasing disparity.

income-disparity-actual

They are doing this by promoting war in the hopes of keeping this country divided and invoking patriotism as a means to encourage those with nothing to fight for those with everything.

2. The data also demonstrates that the share of this country’s income allocated to the Top 5 Percent has risen from 43% in 1965 to 50% in 2008. If this trend continues this sector of society will account for 60% of this country’s wealth by 2050.

income-disparity-actual1

Another Reason I Am Not A Democrat!

The amazingly phony nature of the tribute to Ted Kennedy in the media and New England writ large. If you or I had been in his position we would be in jail for Chappaquiddick. I wonder how Mary Jo Kopechne’s family feels about the ‘Lion of the Senate? I can only guess their opinion of the man is diametrically opposed to that presented by the talking heads on network television and unfortunately my beloved NPR.

Also his family’s opposition to Cape Wind is indicative of the phony liberalism of the New England I love so much? We proselytize on our Green Soap Box, but as soon as we are asked to do more than talk and actually do we hide behind our NIMBY bullshit! Kennedy and his kind are the neoliberals Naomi Klein so effectively and efficiently exposed.