26 January 2007
12 January 2007
President Bush has less respect for the constitution than any president in living memory: of that, I'm sure. He is probably also overall the least honest. (Nixon lied about everything, but I think this one takes the cake).
10 January 2007
With all due respect, it is one thing to say, 'I recognize
what polls show the public predominantly wants in Iraq, but I believe what I've proposed is what's right, and it's the policy I intend to fight for.'
That I could respect. Disagree with, but respect.
But to claim, as you have done, that the re-election of Mr. Lieberman "proves" that the American people do not favor expeditious extrication of American forces from Iraq is either dishonest or simply ignores reality. Numerous recent polls have shown that a significant majority of Americans want just that, and exit polls in Connecticut showed that only 15 percent... FIFTEEN... favored sending more troops to Iraq. A recent Salt Lake City Observer poll showed that even a majority of Utahns favor orderly withdrawal.
Stand up for what you believe, if you think it's the right thing to do, but don't pretend it's not a minority view. To do so is either dishonest or foolhardy.
08 January 2007
Data recently compiled by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston offers a startling look at just how out of whack executive compensation has become. Some of the Wall Street Christmas bonuses last month were fabulous enough to resurrect an adult’s belief in Santa Claus. Morgan Stanley’s John Mack got stock and options worth in excess of $40 million. Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs did even better — $53.4 million.
According to the center’s director, Andrew Sum, the top five Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley) were expected to award an estimated $36 billion to $44 billion worth of bonuses to their 173,000 employees, an average of between $208,000 and $254,000, “with the bulk of the gains accruing to the top 1,000 or so highest-paid managers.”
Now consider what’s been happening to the bulk of the American population, the ordinary men and women who have to work for a living somewhere below the stratosphere of the top corporate executives. Between 2000 and 2006, labor productivity in the nonfarm sector of the economy rose by an impressive 18 percent. But workers were not paid for that impressive effort. During that period, according to Mr. Sum, the inflation-adjusted weekly wages of workers increased by just 1 percent.
That’s $3.20 a week. As Mr. Sum wryly observed, that won’t even buy you a six-pack of Bud Light. Joe Six-Pack has been downsized. Three bucks ain’t what it used to be.
There are 93 million production and nonsupervisory workers (exclusive of farmworkers) in the U.S. Their combined real annual earnings from 2000 to 2006 rose by $15.4 billion, which is less than half of the combined bonuses awarded by the five Wall Street firms for just one year.
“Just these bonuses — for one year — overwhelmingly exceed all the pay increases received by these workers over the entire six-year period,” said Mr. Sum.
In a development described by Mr. Sum as “quite stark and rather bleak for the economic well-being of the average worker,” the once strong link between productivity gains and real wage increases has been severed. The mystery to me is why workers aren’t more scandalized. If your productivity increases by 18 percent and your pay goes up by 1 percent, you’ve been dealt a hand full of jokers in a game in which jokers aren’t wild.
Workers have received some modest increases in benefits over the past six years, but most of the money from their productivity gains — by far, it’s not even a close call — has gone into profits and the salaries of top executives.
Fairness plays no role in this system. The corporate elite control it, and they have turned it to their ends.
Mr. Sum, a longtime expert on the economic life of the American worker, said he is astonished at the degree to which ordinary workers have been shortchanged over the past several years. “Productivity has been exceptional,” he said. “And for most of my life, the way to get wages up was to be more productive. That’s how our economy was supposed to work.”
The productivity gains in the go-go decades that followed World War II were broadly shared, and the result was a dramatic, sustained increase in the quality of life for most Americans. Nowadays workers have to be more productive just to maintain their economic status quo.
Productivity gains are no longer broadly shared. They’re barely shared at all.
The pervasive unfairness in the way the great wealth of the United States is distributed should be seen for what it is, an insidious disease eating away at the structure of the society and undermining its future. The middle class is hurting, propped up by the wobbly crutches of personal debt. The safety net, not just for the poor, but for the middle class as well, is disappearing. The savings rate has dropped to below zero, and more Americans are filing for bankruptcy than for divorce.
Your pension? Don’t ask.
There’s a reason why the power elite get bent out of shape at the merest mention of a class conflict in the U.S. The fear is that the cringing majority that has taken it on the chin for so long will wise up and begin to fight back.
05 January 2007
I simply fail to understand why so many otherwise reasonably progressive people give John McCain a pass. Here's what he said at the American Enterprise Insitute, a hard-right "think tank," yesterday:
This is contrary to virtually all reported intelligence and news reports for the past three years. Either this man is so deluded in his hawkish mindset, or he's just as much of a fibber as Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. Doesn't much matter which: he's obviously rushing headlong in the opposite direction from the clear desires of the large majority of Americans: to extricate us from this enormous, unproductive mess as soon as possible.
Contrary to popular notions that U.S. troops are getting "caught in the cross-fire" between Sunni and Shia fighters, and are therefore ineffective in ceasing the smoldering civil war, the track record is that when U.S. troops stopping sectarian violence is excellent, where American soldiers have been deployed to areas in turmoil, including Baghdad neighborhoods, the violence has ceased almost immediately.
Similary, the marines in Anbar province report very positive effects in reducing the non-sectarian al qaeda based violence that is the predominant cause of instability there.
Contrast this with Joe Biden's remark in a WaPo interview, also from yesterday:
I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost. They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy -- literally, not figuratively."
04 January 2007
In all of human experience two types of aspiration bear an integrity and nobility beyond all others: the yearning for understanding and spiritual awakening, and the longing to be of service to others, to dispel suffering and bring joy. Modern science, as developed and expressed by the greatest of its exponents, is motivated by both these aspirations. Intellectually and practically it stands, at its best, as a model of freedom and inquiry and ingenuity; and if put into active balance with religion and philosophy, it may well serve us long into the future.
It is possible to integrate one's yearing for truth with one's wish to help others so taht tehy become one's
abiding motivation in solitary and active life. This is achieved through a cultivation of a 'spirit of awakening' [bodhicitta]: the aspiration to attain full awakening in order to be of most effective service to others. This longing may lead one into the deepest states of contemplation as well as the most active ways of service. It implicitly acknowledges the interdependence of self and others and the kinship of all that lives, and is the sole motivation with which one can attain the full spiritual awakening of a Buddha. Just as it is the supreme motivation for spiritual practice, so is it the finest incentive for scientific research. As physics and Buddhism encounter one another in the modern world, it may in this spirit of awakening that they find their deepest affinity and sense of integration.