24 Nov, 14 > 30 Nov, 14
7 Jul, 14 > 13 Jul, 14
27 Jan, 14 > 2 Feb, 14
13 Jan, 14 > 19 Jan, 14
18 Mar, 13 > 24 Mar, 13
21 Jan, 13 > 27 Jan, 13
23 Jan, 12 > 29 Jan, 12
5 Dec, 11 > 11 Dec, 11
24 Oct, 11 > 30 Oct, 11
17 Oct, 11 > 23 Oct, 11
3 Oct, 11 > 9 Oct, 11
15 Aug, 11 > 21 Aug, 11
28 Mar, 11 > 3 Apr, 11
7 Mar, 11 > 13 Mar, 11
21 Feb, 11 > 27 Feb, 11
17 Jan, 11 > 23 Jan, 11
10 Jan, 11 > 16 Jan, 11
20 Dec, 10 > 26 Dec, 10
13 Dec, 10 > 19 Dec, 10
29 Nov, 10 > 5 Dec, 10
22 Nov, 10 > 28 Nov, 10
15 Nov, 10 > 21 Nov, 10
1 Nov, 10 > 7 Nov, 10
25 Oct, 10 > 31 Oct, 10
18 Oct, 10 > 24 Oct, 10
11 Oct, 10 > 17 Oct, 10
4 Oct, 10 > 10 Oct, 10
27 Sep, 10 > 3 Oct, 10
13 Sep, 10 > 19 Sep, 10
6 Sep, 10 > 12 Sep, 10
30 Aug, 10 > 5 Sep, 10
16 Aug, 10 > 22 Aug, 10
5 Jul, 10 > 11 Jul, 10
24 May, 10 > 30 May, 10
26 Apr, 10 > 2 May, 10
19 Apr, 10 > 25 Apr, 10
29 Mar, 10 > 4 Apr, 10
4 Jan, 10 > 10 Jan, 10
28 Dec, 09 > 3 Jan, 10
23 Nov, 09 > 29 Nov, 09
24 Aug, 09 > 30 Aug, 09
16 Mar, 09 > 22 Mar, 09
2 Feb, 09 > 8 Feb, 09
1 Sep, 08 > 7 Sep, 08
28 Jul, 08 > 3 Aug, 08
9 Jun, 08 > 15 Jun, 08
19 May, 08 > 25 May, 08
12 May, 08 > 18 May, 08
5 May, 08 > 11 May, 08
21 Apr, 08 > 27 Apr, 08
7 Apr, 08 > 13 Apr, 08
17 Mar, 08 > 23 Mar, 08
25 Feb, 08 > 2 Mar, 08
18 Feb, 08 > 24 Feb, 08
11 Feb, 08 > 17 Feb, 08
21 Jan, 08 > 27 Jan, 08
7 Jan, 08 > 13 Jan, 08
31 Dec, 07 > 6 Jan, 08
17 Dec, 07 > 23 Dec, 07
10 Dec, 07 > 16 Dec, 07
12 Nov, 07 > 18 Nov, 07
22 Oct, 07 > 28 Oct, 07
20 Aug, 07 > 26 Aug, 07
23 Jul, 07 > 29 Jul, 07
30 Apr, 07 > 6 May, 07
9 Apr, 07 > 15 Apr, 07
2 Apr, 07 > 8 Apr, 07
26 Mar, 07 > 1 Apr, 07
5 Mar, 07 > 11 Mar, 07
26 Feb, 07 > 4 Mar, 07
12 Feb, 07 > 18 Feb, 07
29 Jan, 07 > 4 Feb, 07
8 Jan, 07 > 14 Jan, 07
30 Oct, 06 > 5 Nov, 06
23 Oct, 06 > 29 Oct, 06
16 Oct, 06 > 22 Oct, 06
9 Oct, 06 > 15 Oct, 06
2 Oct, 06 > 8 Oct, 06
18 Sep, 06 > 24 Sep, 06
28 Aug, 06 > 3 Sep, 06
21 Aug, 06 > 27 Aug, 06
10 Jul, 06 > 16 Jul, 06
26 Jun, 06 > 2 Jul, 06
12 Jun, 06 > 18 Jun, 06
5 Jun, 06 > 11 Jun, 06
29 May, 06 > 4 Jun, 06
15 May, 06 > 21 May, 06
8 May, 06 > 14 May, 06
1 May, 06 > 7 May, 06
10 Apr, 06 > 16 Apr, 06
27 Mar, 06 > 2 Apr, 06
13 Mar, 06 > 19 Mar, 06
6 Mar, 06 > 12 Mar, 06
20 Feb, 06 > 26 Feb, 06
13 Feb, 06 > 19 Feb, 06
6 Feb, 06 > 12 Feb, 06
30 Jan, 06 > 5 Feb, 06
23 Jan, 06 > 29 Jan, 06
9 Jan, 06 > 15 Jan, 06
19 Dec, 05 > 25 Dec, 05
12 Dec, 05 > 18 Dec, 05
21 Nov, 05 > 27 Nov, 05
7 Nov, 05 > 13 Nov, 05
24 Oct, 05 > 30 Oct, 05
17 Oct, 05 > 23 Oct, 05
3 Oct, 05 > 9 Oct, 05
26 Sep, 05 > 2 Oct, 05
12 Sep, 05 > 18 Sep, 05
29 Aug, 05 > 4 Sep, 05
22 Aug, 05 > 28 Aug, 05
15 Aug, 05 > 21 Aug, 05
1 Aug, 05 > 7 Aug, 05
4 Jul, 05 > 10 Jul, 05
27 Jun, 05 > 3 Jul, 05
20 Jun, 05 > 26 Jun, 05
6 Jun, 05 > 12 Jun, 05
30 May, 05 > 5 Jun, 05
23 May, 05 > 29 May, 05
9 May, 05 > 15 May, 05
2 May, 05 > 8 May, 05
25 Apr, 05 > 1 May, 05
18 Apr, 05 > 24 Apr, 05
4 Apr, 05 > 10 Apr, 05
21 Mar, 05 > 27 Mar, 05
14 Mar, 05 > 20 Mar, 05
7 Mar, 05 > 13 Mar, 05
28 Feb, 05 > 6 Mar, 05
21 Feb, 05 > 27 Feb, 05
31 Jan, 05 > 6 Feb, 05
10 Jan, 05 > 16 Jan, 05
3 Jan, 05 > 9 Jan, 05
22 Nov, 04 > 28 Nov, 04
8 Nov, 04 > 14 Nov, 04
25 Oct, 04 > 31 Oct, 04
2 Aug, 04 > 8 Aug, 04
19 Jul, 04 > 25 Jul, 04
21 Jun, 04 > 27 Jun, 04
17 May, 04 > 23 May, 04
29 Mar, 04 > 4 Apr, 04
22 Mar, 04 > 28 Mar, 04
8 Mar, 04 > 14 Mar, 04
23 Feb, 04 > 29 Feb, 04
26 Jan, 04 > 1 Feb, 04
17 Nov, 03 > 23 Nov, 03
10 Nov, 03 > 16 Nov, 03
3 Nov, 03 > 9 Nov, 03
20 Oct, 03 > 26 Oct, 03
22 Sep, 03 > 28 Sep, 03
15 Sep, 03 > 21 Sep, 03
8 Sep, 03 > 14 Sep, 03
4 Aug, 03 > 10 Aug, 03
28 Apr, 03 > 4 May, 03
Friday, April 29, 2005
 Social Security: Bush STILL has it wrong

Topic: Commentary
Last night President Bush addressed the nation to promote his Social Security agenda. As could be expected, he still got it all wrong.

The details of Bush's speech and proposal can be found here:

Press Conference of the President

Fact Sheet: Strengthening Social Security For Those In Need

At the heart of his proposal is the use of means testing to ensure that higher income workers receive less of the money back that they put in. This is, basically, how he proposes to make the system solvent.

Specifically he stated:

Secondly, I believe a reform system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty. This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security.

In fact, this does not address the funding challenges faced by the program. Additionally, this turns Social Security into something more like a welfare system. We don't need, or want, a welfare system. Social Security is a social insurance program and it should remain as such.

The proposal obviously comes off as a populist move to try and appeal to many of the lower income workers who have been most skeptical of his privatization agenda.

Turning Social Security into a welfare system will make the system, first of all, less fair, second of all more contentious and more likely to be attacked in the future, and thirdly it avoids dealing with the real underlying problems that are causing the Social Security funding problem. It avoids addressing root causes by adjusting how payouts are made.

I have already written several pieces outlining the root causes of the funding problems with Social Security.

In Getting a grip on Social Security: The flaw in the system, I identified the flaw in how Social Security benefits are calculated.

The central flaw in the Social Security system is that the benefits are calculated using Average Wage Indexing. This is the root flaw in the Social Security system, and no change that does not address this flaw will be successful in solving the budgeting problems for Social Security.

The Social Security system does not tax all wages or all forms of income. It only taxes wages below a certain limit, yet the yearly increase in Social Security benefits is calculated based on the average rise in all wages.

The reason that this is such a significant problem, and what I consider to be the real root cause of the overall problems with Social Security, is that wages for those with the highest incomes have increased dramatically over the past 20 years and there is every indication that this trend will continue.

This means that the high end wages, which are not taxed by the Social Security system, cause the benefit levels to be increased every year at a rate much higher than the rate of increase for the incomes that are taxed by the system.

In other words, payouts are being calculated using a totally different set of numbers than collections are using. It is impossible that this scenario could ever be kept in balance.

The solution is that collections and payouts have to be calculated using the same sets of numbers. This is basic accounting.

Anything that does not correct this problem is simply going to be moving numbers around to try and make secondary adjustments to correct for the use of wrong data. Without addressing the real cause of the problem, the problem, of course, will continue to exist and adjustments will continuously have to be made, and how those adjustments are made may well lead to more problems.

Fixing Social Security is not difficult, there is no crisis. All that needs to be done is some accurate accounting needs to be applied.

I propose several levels of steps that could be taken to strengthen Social Security.

The first level of action is to stop using Average Wage Indexing to calculate benefits changes, and begin using either Median Wage Indexing, or be even more specific and use an indexing method based specifically on the exact rage of incomes that are taxed by the Retirement (OASI) portion of the tax.

The second level of action would be to completely remove the cap on the Disability (DI) portion of the tax. Currently, the portion of the Social Security tax that is used to make payments to people receiving disability payments is capped at the same level that the OASI tax is capped at. This really makes no sense, because disability payments are not directly related to how much the recipient pays into the system anyway. Disability is really a function that should be supported by every member of society, and arguably, it should be supported most by those most able to pay. As it is right now, the burden of caring disabled workers falls most heavily on the poor and middle-class in America, while the wealthly barely contribute anything at all to pay for the disabled. This makes no sense at all of course. Therefore, the cap should be completely removed on the DI tax to at least make it so that everyone pays an equal share to care for the disabled.

The third level of actions that could be taken, would be the removal of the cap on the OASI portion of the Social Security tax as well, accompanied by a small decrease in the overall OASI tax, resulting in a small tax break for those people currently under the cap and a small to moderate tax increase for those above the cap. This would make Social Security a true flat tax.

The third level of action is not necessary to make the system solvent, but the first two steps are. What I have outlined here is a sound and reasonable way to strengthen Social Security and make it solvent, without a need to reduce benefits below current levels, increase taxes, raise the retirement age, or use means testing. It also does not add any increased cost for administration or make the system more complex, which means testing would do.

There is also, of course, no need to use private retirement accounts, and as I have stated in other articles, using private accounts would significantly weaken the system by eliminating the risk pooling that makes Social Security, and all forms of insurance plans, effective.

The bottom line is that benefit increases have to be based on the incomes of the people who are paying into the system.

Posted by at 9:12 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, April 29, 2005 10:16 AM EDT
Friday, April 22, 2005
 Relativism, Communism, Catholicism, and Pope Mania

Topic: Commentary
Yes, we all know that a new Pope has been "elected"; it's been the focus of just about every news agency for the past two weeks. As a result, countless Catholics and theologians have gotten major media airtime, and they have, dutifully, used it to distort and frame philosophical, theological, and historical debates on a number of topics.

The first major topic of discussion in the media was about a sermon by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on "Relativism".

As has been discussed in the media, Relativism is basically the view that morals and norms are relative to the individual or to some other criteria; that they are not innate or universal. This is a view or attitude that has dominated the latter half of the 20th century... now let's just figure out why.

It should really be no surprise that a leader in the Catholic Church would denounce "Relativism", which is also embraced by Post-Modernism. The Catholic Church has always claimed divine knowledge of absolute truth, and had made the claim to absolute truth for the past 1,800 years or so of its existence. Unfortunately for the Catholic Church, it has been proved wrong many times, but apparently many of the "faithful" can overlook these obvious failings.

When we look back at history, what we see is that a large number of the major wars in history were in fact partly wars over "the absolute truth".

Europe's history is littered with these wars. When the Catholic Church was initially established in Rome The Church outlawed all claims of truth that conflicted with theirs. They then set out with military force killing hundreds of thousands of Christians who were of other sects. They outlawed non-canonical gospels, and had them burned. If you were found in possession of a non-cannon gospel you could be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed. This is how they established the "absolute divinely inspired truth".

These practices continued on throughout the Dark and Middle Ages. Scientists, such as Leonardo DiVincie, Copernicus, Galileo, and others were all censured and reprimanded by the Church for challenging their version of "the divine truth". In the end, of course, we have all learned that the Church was wrong, and the scientists were right.

Then The Enlightenment swept Western Civilization the Catholic Church received catastrophic defeats all over Europe, with revolts against its power, loss of property, and major loss of membership. The Catholic Church continued to claim to be the only source of truth in the world despite obvious proof to the contrary, and this was why they had such large losses of membership during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

During The Enlightenment, Humanism and science made major strides in Western Civilization. The biggest lesson that people learned during the Enlightenment was that the truth could be determined by ordinary people. That we could all work, ourselves, to figure out what was true, and the method by which we could determine what was true was science. Of everything that The Enlightenment represented, most of all it represented a democratization of claims to the truth. "Truth" was no longer held in monopoly by the Catholic Church, as it had been in Western Civilization for almost 2,000 years to ill effect. People were now all free to work to determine the truth themselves.

Marxism emerged in Germany at the culmination of the Enlightenment. Marxism, like Catholicism, also denounced "Relativism", and also denounced the spread of many different sects of religions. Marxism, of course, is an atheistic world view, and the view of Marxism is that all truth not only should, but MUST, be established through science. Marxism is both a scientific and moralistic world view, something that has left it open to criticism. The Marxist view, of course, stated that there is exploitation in the world, and that we as human beings have an obligation to end all forms of exploitation, and that religion is one of the major enablers of exploitation because religion serves as a pacifier of people who are in otherwise poor situations. Religions allow people to be exploited in the current world, by promising them eternal paradise after death.

Specifically, Marx stated:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion...

The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world...

The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being...
- Karl Marx 1844

As Marxism emerged as a major world view in the early 20th century, the Catholic Church "declared war" on the ideology. This was not because Marxism promoted liberalism or promoted "Relativism", in fact Marxism promoted the opposite of these things. Marxism was effectively the atheistic equivalent to Catholicism, a world view claiming absolute truth and denouncing all deviations from it. The Marxist view, however, at least put science at the forefront and worked from a basis of demonstratable truths, that could be verified by human beings in the light of science.

The result was that Catholics, and many others who opposed Marxism, embraced Relativism and/or liberalism as a means to undermine the absolutist ideology of Marxism, which was making progress through the embrace of science. There was indeed a global backlash against science throughout the 20th century because of views, associated with Marxism and otherwise, that science was absolutist. And, indeed, science is absolutist, it works to establish absolute verifiable truths as the basis of our knowledge about existence, but everyone can participate in the establishment of truth through science. Truth is not handed down via dictates, it is established by people working together to demonstrate what is true.

By the mid 20th century, however, new dictatorical absolutist world views emerged around the world, and just like the past in Europe, claims to absolute truth fed the fires of war. World War II was largely a war of absolutists, and a war of ideology. The absolutist Nazi regime of Germany was making war on both Liberalism and on the other major absolutist power of the era, Soviet Communism.

The Nazi view was that there was one absolute truth, and that truth was that "Aryans" were the master race, divinely ordained by god, and that Hitler was a divine instrument of god, sent to fulfill a divine mission of cleansing the world of decadence and moral and racial decay. Morality was seen by the Nazis as a property of race, and the Germanic peoples were viewed as the only morally component race.

We can see many examples of the Fascist and Nazi ideology relating to absolutism, and denouncing "Relativism" and Liberalism:

Fascism transcends democracy and liberalism; its regenerative action is based on granite foundations: the idea of hierarchy, of the participation of the whole population in the life of the State, social justice in the equitable distribution of rights and duties, the infusion of public life with moral principles, the affirmation of religious values, the prestige of the family, the ethical interpretation of the ideas of order, authority and liberty. In the light of this transcendence Europe will be able to find its way to enter a new phase of History.
- Asvero Gravelli

...liberalism taught that all people were equal, that there were no value differences between the races, that external differences (e.g., body type, skin color) were unimportant. Each person, regardless of race, might be a hero or a coward, an idealist or a materialist, creative or useless to society, militarily able, scientifically able, artistically gifted. The environment and education were the important elements that made men good and valuable. If one provided the proper environment and freed people from their chains, the peoples would join together to develop their abilities in a unified humanity, and eternal peace would result. Therefore liberalism demanded equality for all, the same opportunities for everyone, in particular the Jews, equality and freedom in the economic sphere, etc.

We Germans have seen where such doctrines lead. Liberalism tore down the structures that held races and peoples together, releasing the destructive drives. The result was economic chaos that led to millions of unemployed on the one side and the senseless luxury of economic jackals on the other. Liberalism destroyed the people's economic foundations, allowing the triumph of subhumans. They won the leading role in the political parties, the economy, the sciences, arts and press, hollowing out the nation from inside. The equality of all citizens, regardless of race, led to the mixing of Europeans with Jews, Negro, Mongols and so on, resulting in the decay and decline of the Aryan race.
- Nazi Pamphlet 1943

The Government, being resolved to undertake the political and moral purification of our public life, is creating and securing the conditions necessary for a really profound revival of religious life.

The advantages of a personal and political nature that might arise from compromising with atheistic organizations would not outweigh the consequences which would become apparent in the destruction of general moral basic values.
- Adolph Hitler, 1933 Reichstag speech

God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he [Hitler] was sent to us by God to save Germany.
-Hermann Goring

We believe that the Fuhrer is fulfilling a divine mission to German destiny! This belief is beyond challenge.
-Rudolf Hess, speech, 20 June 1934

Thus, after World War II, there was a major global backlash against absolutism. There was a major global movement to simply agree to disagree and to get along. Everyone knew, after World War II, that absolutism and belief in an "absolute truth" was a major factor behind the rise of Fascism and Nazism. Furthermore, after World War II, the only major remaining absolutist power in the world was that of Soviet Communism.

When the war was over, the Soviet Union still existed, and the Soviet Union took on a leading role in the global Communist movement. The 20th century Communist movement was a movement based on absolutism and anti-liberalism, and thus, liberalism, "Relativism", and Post-Modernism all became forces of opposition to both Soviet Communism and Fascism. This is why the post-war period in the 20th century saw such a rise in "Relativism" and Liberalism.

It was seen as better to let everyone "do their own thing" than to continue fighting over "the absolute truth", especially with the development of atomic weapons.

In the United States, what was discovered was that Relativism and Post-Modernism are "good for the economy", at least from the perspective of corporations, who have been quick to sell the idea that "anything goes", and who have been quick to expand the use of target marketing and market segmentation, further embracing and expanding Relativism and Post-Modernism. Apparently, the "Free-Market" favors Relativism.

Indeed this is the case. Regulation of culture and ideology requires market control, both social and economic regulation. This is exactly how the Catholic Church has traditionally operated. Let's not forget that the Catholic Church was a major controlling force in Europe from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire up until, really, the French Revolution, though they had been losing power ever since the Protestant Reformation. (Protestant literally means "protestors" by the way. The "Protest"-ants, were the protestors against the Catholic Church. That's what the movement was, a protest against the central authority of Catholicism.)

Looking at the news today, we see many people discussing the role of the late Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church in opposition to "Communism".

As I have said, however, 20th century "Communism" and Catholicism really share a lot of qualities. In some ways, you could call Soviet Communism, Catholicism without god.

They share almost every quality, except the belief in god. Both Soviet Communism and Catholicism are/were institutions of global unification and control, both are/were anti-democratic, both are/were opposed to poverty and "free markets", both are/were absolutist, and both do/did share a lack of accountability for authority figures.

Can anyone tell me the difference between the College of Cardinals and the Politburo? Yes, I can, the Politburo was more open and more democratic.

The system of election of a new Pope and of a new President of the Soviet Union are almost identical, and the results are remarkably similar as well. The Pope is the single head of a global organization, the largest private property owner in the world by the way, whose dictates come down as edicts that are supposed to be adhered to by all Catholics.

Unlike the head of the Soviet Union, however, the Pope claims to be chosen by god. The claim is that the "Holy Spirit" (which according to the trinity is also god) supposedly selects the Pope. This type of nonsense was done away with hundreds of years ago in every element of Western Society, except the Catholic Church of course. For centuries kings claimed to be chosen by god, and they were then blessed and sanctified by the Pope, who also declared that the kings were chosen by god. Is there nothing more absurd? Then people woke up and realized that they had been lied to and deceived and that these kings and this whole institution was nothing but corruption and exploitation and the kings were overthrown and democracy was instituted. The United States of America led this revolution against Popes and kings, and in favor of self rule. This is why early Americans were very anti-Catholic, because the Catholic Church always was, and still is, anti-democratic.

The Catholic Church is still working its way at regaining influence over governments, and still trying to re-break the walls of separation between church and state, to regain the power that it once had, in the days knows as "The Dark Ages".

As has been said, the Catholic Church is taking the "long view", and this Pope has said that he intends to strengthen the Church's traditional roles and values. Around the turn of the 20th century, Pope Leo XIII repeatedly restated the traditional position of the Church:

It is quite unlawful to demand, defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing or worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Great Encyclical Letters"

They [Catholics] must penetrate wherever possible in the administration of civil affairs... all Catholics should do all in their power to cause the constitution of states, and legislation to be modeled on the principles of the true Church.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Encyclical of Leo XIII"

Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Libertas"

If Pope Benedict XVI wants to declare war on "Relativism", that's fine with me, but if he thinks that he can do so using the claim that the Catholic Church has a monopoly on the truth, which is granted to it divinely by a god, then he certainly has a battle on his hands. The quest for "the truth" is one of the oldest quests in history. Claims of divine knowledge of the truth are also among the oldest in history, and time and time again these claims are shown to be false.

There is only one way to determine the truth, and that is through scientific demonstration of it. If the Pope wants to combat Relativism, subjectivity and post-modernism, then he is welcome to join the scientific community and embrace science as the means by which every human being on earth can use their own brain and their own ability to demonstrate the difference between fact and fantasy. The scientific community would love nothing more than a rejection of post-modernism and Relativism, and an embrace of the most successful and proven way to understand universal truth: SCIENCE.

Posted by at 10:47 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2005 11:00 AM EDT
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
 National Socialism is thriving in Utah

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
Upon a recent visit to Salt Lake City, Utah I was impressed by the character of the region. I immediately noticed how clean, well organized, and "user friendly" the city was. For those who don't know, Salt Lake City hosted the winter Olympics in 2002, and the citizens took impressive advantage of the opportunity to improve its city and develop many public works.

If you haven't been to Salt Lake City since 2002, then you haven't seen the new city, and much has changed.

Salt Lake City, like the rest of Utah, is heavily influenced by the Mormons and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Utah, of course, was founded by Mormons, and today the state is still 70% Mormon. The Mormons, and Utah, combine an interesting mix of "conservatism", and "progressivism."

Public works are heavily supported in Utah. Of all the states in the nation, Utah has highest percentage of residents served by public transportation. I had the pleasure of using the public transportation system in Salt Lake City myself, UTA Trax, and I found the system to be the best implementation of mass transit I have ever used, and I have used mass transit in Washington DC, St. Louis, Atlanta, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. A significant portion of the down town route is completely free to passengers, with a nominal flat fee of either $1.35 for 2 hours or less than $3.00 for a full day, regardless of where on the system you travel.

The almost silent electric train system is well placed, and able to serve the community superbly. On one side of the system, the train goes from the Brigham Young University down through residential areas, through the heart of the downtown and terminates at the Delta Center Arena, the sports stadium where the Utah Jazz play.

Another branch serves a large residential area. I've been in so many cities that have major parking problems with their sports stadium, and here Salt Lake City has quite easily eliminated the problem, in a seemingly effortless way. There are hundreds of possible parking locations throughout the city and its suburbs. If you want to attend an event at the arena you don't have to face, congestion or high parking fees, and in some cases you can ride to the stadium for free.

It's not just public transportation though, Salt Lake City has many public libraries, which are very modern and well designed. They also have a public sports facility. The facility is left over from the Olympics, but they decided that they wanted to keep it open to the public for free. The city is using profits from the Olympics in a trust fund to maintain the facility.

In the Salt Lake City airport you get free wireless Internet access, and the city is embarking on other publicly funded wireless access projects as well.

In fact, Utah is now engaging in one of the largest public works projects in America since the early days of the New Deal era. The "Utopia Project", as it is called, plans to significantly upgrade the state's Internet infrastructure with fiber optics, making fiber optic Internet access available to virtually all of the state's residence for a fee of about $28 a month. The speeds on this network would be 100 times faster than the current digital cable and DSL technologies used in homes.

There are other aspects to Utah and Salt Lake City as well, however. Utah is 90% White, with Latino and Native American being the two most significant minorities, followed by Asians. As has been stated, the state is also 70% Mormon. Looking around Salt Lake City one also notices a high number of statues of leaders and other people, and at the center of the city is "The Temple", the heart of the LDS organization.

Mormons are fairly highly structured people, and they reject the use of "body or mind altering" substances, including alcohol and caffeine. This makes finding a place to serve coffee in Utah a challenge, and there are no open drinking establishments, they require a private membership. There is also a distinct lack of advertisements in the city as well; the commercialism is very toned down.

The Mormons share many of the communal values of groups such as the Amish and the Quakers, but they have adopted a very pro-education, pro-science and pro-technology attitude as well. Utah society embraces public community and social values, and this results in a system that is very "socialistic" in nature, while also somewhat exclusive and highly constrained by peer pressure and doctrine.

Utah can arguably be called the most socialistic state in America, yet its also one of the most highly religious states in America, with one of the highest rates of church attendance, and the public programs funded by the state are used in ways to compliment private enterprise and business.

I think that the best way to describe the Utah approach would be to call it benevolent National Socialism. The city uses grand architecture and inspiring public artwork, is very clean and orderly, embraces a community lifestyle and spirit, is highly religious, is relatively restrictive socially, and is almost all White.

I found Salt Lake City to be, at the same time, one of the most progressive places in America and one of the most conservative as well. Overall, it made for a very refreshing experience and a nice place to think about how our public and private sectors can work together in America.

Posted by at 10:11 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 3:57 PM EDT
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
 Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq WASN'T Dead Wrong

Topic: Commentary
The public release of the Senate Committee report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq on March 31, is yet another example of both the ability of the Bush administration and its supporters to mislead the public and the way in which the major American media goes right along with them.

The headline statement of the report, which has been repeated ad nauseum by the press, is: "Pre-war Iraqi intelligence 'Dead Wrong'".

News agency after news agency repeated the headline and then went into lengthy discussions about what is wrong with the intelligence community and how it was that the President was so "misled".

CNNs coverage of the story provides a typical example:

Report: Iraq intelligence 'dead wrong'

As CNN states, "[t]he report implicitly absolves the Bush administration of manipulating the intelligence used to launch the 2003 Iraq war, putting the blame for bad intelligence directly on the intelligence community."

This is the crux of the matter. The fact is that the intelligence community did not support the statements that the Bush administration was making regarding Iraq prior to the start of the war. In fact, members of the intelligence community resigned their jobs over the fact that they were so at odds with the case for war that the Bush administration was presenting.

Indeed, the entire reason that I wrote the paper that inspired this website was because I knew that the case for war being presented by the Bush administration prior to the start of the war was bogus.

In fact, a major reason why I wrote This War Is About So Much More was to document my perspective on the war at that time and to document known facts about the case for war at that time.

There were many publicly available news sources prior to the start of the war in Iraq that discussed the fact that many people in the intelligence community were upset with the statements made by the Bush administration, and that many statements made by the Bush administration were false.

By the time that the war in Iraq was launched, it was already known that the so-called "mobile biological weapons labs" were not real, that Iraq wasn't perusing a nuclear program, that Iraq didn't have drone aircraft capable of doing any harm.

I know this because I documented these facts at the time the war started. On the page The Bush administration has repeatedly lied to support the war, I presented 5 known fallacies presented by the Bush administration, that were known before the war even started. I have links on that page going to sources from prior to the launch of the war, all of which discredit Bush administration statements about Iraq.

I included at the time a statement made on March 19, 2003 from intelligence expert James Bamford, where he said: "There is a predominant belief in the intelligence community that an invasion of Iraq will cause more terrorism than it will prevent. There is also a tremendous amount of embarrassment by intelligence professionals that there have been so many lies out of the administration -- by the president, (Vice President Dick) Cheney and (Secretary of State Colin) Powell -- over Iraq."

Does this sound like an intelligence community that "got it dead wrong"?

No, of course not.

What this report by the Senate Committee would have us believe is that someone like myself, who was a casual student of American foreign policy, of Middle East history, and who studied the issues on the Internet leading up to the war in Iraq, was actually better informed about Iraqi intelligence than the President of the United States and his cabinet.

That's absurd.

I knew that the statements the President were making were either false or unsupported. He and his administration had to have had at least as much information as I did. All of my information came from publicly available sources. This administration had intent to mislead, and it cherry picked intelligence from officials who told the President what he and his administration wanted to hear.

As the report would paint it, the administration was completely unbiased and was led purely by the information that was presented to it from the intelligence community. This is an even bigger outrage and lie than the statement that Saddam Hussein was 6 months away from developing a nuclear bomb!

It is well known, that George Bush, and virtually every member of his cabinet, including the Vice President, had their sites set on invading Iraq before they even set foot into office. Many members of his administration had written or contributed to reports promoting an invasion of Iraq since the mid 1990s. This, again, is was documented by me on this website, here:

Bush team lied about intentions for war from the start

Even more disturbingly, little if any media attention was given to the Iraq on the Record Report issued by Representative Henry Waxman, which was issued on March 16, 2004.

Waxman's report details 237 specific statements made by the Bush administration during the run up to war, and how they were misleading based on information that was publicly known at the time the statements were made.

Another problem with the statement that the intelligence community was "dead wrong" is that the Senate Committee report is based on the October 2002 NIE report, "Iraq's Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction".

The Senate Report absolves the Bush administration of all responsibility because of some statements made in this report, which was prepared specifically for the President, while ignoring the fact that much of the information in this report was contradicted by other sources.

By March 2003, when the war on Iraq was launched, there was no evidence supporting a WMD program in Iraq and many of the claims made in the 2002 NIE report had been refuted by multiple sources, including other government sources, as well as outside sources.

The fact of the matter is that the Bush administration is responsible. There was significant dissent expressed within the intelligence community, and many members of the Bush administration repeatedly made statements that they knew were not fully supported or were not supported at all. The Bush administration had an agenda for war from the start and they made this very clear to the intelligence community and made it clear that the only information that they were interested in seeing was information that supported the case for war. Not only is the Bush administration responsible, which is bad enough, but now they are continuing to pursue this on-going agenda of shifting the blame onto other organizations and institutions, refusing to take the blame for their own actions, and continuing to mislead the American people.

Posted by at 1:47 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, April 6, 2005 7:22 AM EDT
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
 Regarding Politics and Cement Mix with Unintended Consequences

Topic: Commentary
Yesterday NPR ran a story about how lobbyists for domestic cement producers influenced the implementation of a cement tariff against cement coming from Mexico in the early 1990s under George H. W. Bush. This report is a classic example of the fact that it is capitalists who primarily thwart free trade, and that it has been largely the Republican Party over the past 20 years that has been the main opponent to true free trade practices.

You can listen to the program via the NPR website here:

Politics and Cement Mix with Unintended Consequences

Protectionism is a tendency of capitalist, fascist, and national socialist systems. Under all of these systems there either a vested interest and/or an ideology that promotes the favoring of domestic producers over a global economy.

In capitalist systems it is the capitalists themselves who seek to influence the control mechanisms of the government in ways to favor their own private interests. It is the capitalists who seek to manipulate the market in ways to enhance their own market positions.

Capitalists do not want to operate in a free market. A true free market is the least profitable market for a business to be in. Market restrictions and regulations are used to create advantages for some companies or industries over others, and thus it is the capitalists themselves that are the ones who use government in ways to undermine the free market, limiting competition so that they can increase profits.

On the other hand, Marxist economists and Marxist-like economists strongly promote free trade. This is for several different reasons, based on the views of the individual, but for Karl Marx himself, he promoted free trade specifically because he felt that free trade would accelerate the development of the capitalist system to the point that it would undermine itself, because Marx viewed capitalism as inherently unstable.

In his 1848 speech on free trade Marx stated:
But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.

Some Marxist-like economists favor free trade for more constructive reasons however. A major reason to support true free trade is to promote international integration and break down barriers between societies, creating a global community and a global economy where more workers can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

What is important to take away from this is that tariffs are a typically "right-wing" form of government intervention in markets to promote the interests of specific domestic individuals at the expense of the global community and at an expense to consumers. The beneficiaries of tariffs are almost exclusively domestic capitalists, who receive an economic benefit from the use of government force and taxpayer money used to enforce rules that are specifically designed to transfer money to specific individuals or industries at the expense of everyone else.

It is capitalists themselves who manipulate the market through the use of government force, in order to increase profits by limiting competition.

For Marx's discussions on free trade see:

On the Question of Free Trade

Posted by at 8:13 AM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
 The Linguistics of Economic Deception

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
How many times do we hear it: the phrase, "So and so 'earned' X number of dollars last year", or "So and so 'made' X number of dollars"?

This is something that we see and hear every day in every discussion about incomes and the economy, but it's a phrase that is dead wrong in expressing the reality of how incomes work.

Just today, while listening to NPR, I heard a report which stated that while the wage-gap is closing in America, "Blacks, women and other minorities still earn less money than whites for doing the same work".

What they really mean to say, however, is that Blacks, women and other minorities receive less money than whites.

If Blacks, etc., are indeed doing equal work and getting less pay, then in fact they are EARNING more than they are receiving, hence the fact that this is a problem.

The use of the terms "earning money" and "making money", are highly deceptive in American economic language. What is really meant is "receiving money". The difference between "making money" and "receiving money", of course, is substantial, and the use of the terms "earn" and "make" are a part of how the American establishment frames the issue of individual compensation.

The reality is that anyone's income is not a measure of how much value they have created, indeed, it is a measure of how much value they have received, and this distinction is critical.

The easiest way to demonstrate this concept is to think about two hourly employees. Both employees are paid $10 an hour to unload equal sized boxed from trucks. Employee A moves 100 boxes during his shift, and Employee B moves 50 boxes.

If they both work the same amount of time they will both be paid the same amount, but can we say that they both "earned" the same amount, or that they both "made" the same amount?

No, they obviously didn't both add the same amount of value to the economy. Employee A did two times as much work, and thus created two times as much value, but both Employee A and Employee B received the same amount of pay.

If you were to hear an account of their day's work in the American media you would be told that the two employees earned $80 a day.

The reality, of course, is that they aren't both earning $80 a day, all that we know is that both are receiving $80 a day.

Now, the fact is that everyone's income, from the most poorly paid person in the world to the person with the highest income in the world, is nothing more than a measure of value reception, not value creation.

The system, so we are told, is supposed to result in individuals receiving compensation equal to their contribution, but the reality is very far from this. In fact, the reality is that the relative relationships between contribution and compensation have become extremely skewed in America, in some cases by orders of magnitude.

Now, I don't have data on hand to back this up, and I suspect that backing this claim up would require a multi-million dollar study conducted by a team of economists and that such a study would be obstructed significantly by the American wealthy, because the fact is that, on the whole, the American wealthy are receiving many times more value than they are creating, and the American middle-class, the American working poor, and most significantly perhaps, the foreign workers who make American products, are all generally making much more than they are receiving.

The use of these terms, earning and making, in framing economic discussion is significant, and that is why all people who wish to speak accurately must take action to reform our language, and reform our usage of these terms. When discussing incomes it is appropriate to use the term "receive", not "earn" or "make".

What are you going to say the next time someone tells you how much someone "made" last year? Tell them, "You mean they received $X, I'm not really sure how much value they actually created."

Posted by at 6:50 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2005 9:25 AM EST
 Down time, delays and changes

Topic: Announcements
As you may or may not have noticed, I have been making structural changes to the website (moving and renaming files), which has also resulted in the resetting of many of the hit counters. I am in the process of making some design changes as well, which will be published over the next couple of weeks. Because of this, and many other issues that have kept me busy, I have not had as much time to write as I would like, but new articles are in the works and will be coming out soon. My site host also recently upgraded the serves, which resulted in several days of down time and poor performance, but hopefully those issues have passed.


Posted by at 6:14 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, March 18, 2005 11:22 AM EST
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
 Why most American Conservatives are really Leftists

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
I just got back from a local, individually owned, sub and pizza shop. It's one of those hole-in-the-wall places that is located in the bad part of town, near all the machine shops and auto mechanics, and it has the best food around. It is old and dingy and covered with photos of local customers and pictures drawn by children. It was packed full of local workers in on their lunch break. I noticed some roofers, an electrician, a female fire fighter, and many others whose professions I couldn't identify.

One would think that this should be a very Leftist crowd, but in fact the impression, as is typical, was the opposite. A few Bush bumper stickers on the cars outside identified at least some of the patrons as self-proclaimed "conservatives", and the nature of the pictures and decoration of the place hinted towards an overall "conservative" leaning as well.

Many of the patrons were obviously regulars, as the workers knew most of them by name.

Then I got to thinking about what it really means to be "conservative".

A lot of people who consider themselves "conservative" are people who "like the way things used to be".

The interesting thing about this is that from an economic perspective American has traditionally been much more Leftist than it is today, especially during any period of time in living memory.

The issue of the economic history of American society is further complicated by the issue of slavery and continued racial injustice, but in order to understand what exactly it is that conservatives are associating with, one has to understand the historical composition of White American society.

Historically, White American society has been very egalitarian, which is to say that Whites in American society have all been relatively equal to each other economically since the 1600s, when compared to any other country in the world.

This relative equality was often accompanied by a dramatic inequality between Whites and other races, such as Black slaves of course, but what Whites remember as the "good ole days", were the days when they and their peers had close social bonds, when everyone in town was fairly equal in terms of property ownership, when all of the stores were locally owned any operated by their neighbors, when the man in the post office knew everyone's name, and when values were widely shared by the community.

What many American "conservatives" are fond of, is the Leftist nature of our American past.

I find it interesting that independently owned businesses around America, like this sub shop, are so heavily admired and supported by "conservatives", who also call themselves "right-wingers" and vote Republican, when it is corporate capitalism that is transforming America and undermining the way of life that they admire.

I find it quite ironic that American politics and American society was dominated by "liberals" and the Democratic Party from the 1930s through the 1970s, and yet, this is the time that many of today's conservatives look back on as "the good ole days".

Posted by at 1:20 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, March 9, 2005 1:25 PM EST
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
 Bankruptcy bill another example of how the rich use government force

Topic: Commentary
Democrats: Bankruptcy bill unfair
Bankruptcy `reforms' are a lopsided measure
Bankruptcy bill doesn't do enough to stop lending abuses

The bankruptcy bill that is currently pending in the Senate is essentially a means by which the credit card industry, and capitalists in general, are perusing greater use of government force to subsidize their industries.

The goal behind the so-called bankruptcy bill is to make it harder for people to file for bankruptcy. The claim is that too many people are filing for bankruptcy that have the means to pay back their debts.

First of all, the documentation shows that only an estimated 3% to 4% of those who file for and are granted bankruptcy may be able to have paid back more. Second of all, profits for the credit card industry have gone up by 168% since 1997, clearly showing that the industry is not suffering from the so-called problem.

What this is really about, however, is something much deeper.

The credit card industry is one of the most sophisticated industries in the world. The credit card industry is a leader in personal profiling and data collection on individuals. They have extremely good measures for determining the credit risks of individuals.

This industry has also continually extended credit to more and more risky customers, granting fast and easy credit to almost anyone. What this industry is doing, is asking the government to facilitate their own high risk behavior. Every extension of credit by a lender is a type of gamble. It's a gamble on their part that the individual will pay back the loan with the interest.

What this industry is doing is its going after individuals who they know are very high risks, and then extending them credit and now they are asking for the government to not only condone the activity, but to actually facilitate it.

So, what is this business of credit really all about?

The first thing that we hear about from defenders of the credit card companies, is that people should be responsible for their spending.

Okay, fair enough, but why shouldn't the credit card companies be responsible for their lending? They are taking risks, and they know, VERY WELL, what those risks are. What they want is for the government to enforce a situation that allows them to take even greater risks in order for them to be able to expand their market share. That's what this is really all about. They want government backing of their risk taking.

Now, as to the personal responsibility to consumers. Both the credit card industry, and all industries in general, are increasingly targeting poor consumers, people who they know don't have enough money to responsibly buy the products that they offer. Sony wants to sell more PlayStations, Kenwood wants to sell more car stereos, Tommy Hilfiger wants to sell more cloths. What do they do? They advertise products that cost hundreds of dollars to low income consumers on a relentless basis. But even with that, people still can't buy what they don't have money to buy, and they still will be at least somewhat responsible when the only money they have is in their pockets. So what to do now in order to increase sales, especially with the level of poverty increasing in America?

Extend easy credit to high risk consumers.

You target people who can't afford all the things that are advertised to them, and then you rub "free money" in their face. You keep pounding them with ads every moment of every day, on broadcast television, on the radio, in magazines, and then you give them credit cards, and then, when they buy more than they can afford (big surprise right), then you want to call in the federal government and force these people to work it off.

You put them in a situation that increases the likelihood of them spending more than they normally would without credit, and then, when these people who are one paycheck away from being broke lose their job, or have a car accident, or have a medical emergency, and they can't pay their bills, then you want the federal government to step in and basically make them indentured servants.

Make them pay, make them pay, make them pay.

These people are being repeatedly encouraged by the credit card industry, and by all industry, to be irresponsible spenders, to buy everything they can, to max out their cards, to "live on the edge", to get what they can and "satisfy their wants".

It's not like we have a society that encourages financial responsibility. No, in fact we have the opposite, and it is the capitalists who are the ones that are encouraging financial irresponsibility.

What this bill is about is the ability of private industry to encourage and facilitate financial irresponsibility in order to expand their markets with the support from Uncle Sam to back them up when all of their risk taking and prodding and encouragement of personal financial irresponsibility yields its predictable results.

If this industry were serious about trying to responsibly extend credit to low income consumers, then why don?t they offer things like "needs only" credit cards, that could only be used to buy necessities, such as food, gas, school supplies, and medicines, etc. The financial industry is one of the most sophisticated industries in the world. They could do it if they wanted to, but then, I guess, maybe there just "isn?t a market for that".

Posted by at 6:05 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, March 9, 2005 12:39 PM EST
 How to fix the minimum wage for good

Topic: Commentary
Senate Defeats minimum-wage plans

Afer 7 and a half years without an increase in the minimum-wage, Senator Ted Kennedy proposed a $2.10 increase. This was met with a Republian proposal for a smaller increase that was accompanied with tax breaks and other incentives for businesses, and, of course, both of these ideas were met with opposition and both measures failed.

One of the biggest problems with the minimum-wage, actually, is its irregularity. It's something that impacts business owners that is almostly compeltely impossible to budget for since its adjustment is relatively random and arbitrary. I'm not going to take the time to debate the merits of a national minimum-wage, but rather I'm simply going to propose that minimum-wage adjustments should be set on a perminant schedule.

The minimum-wage should be updated this year, and then it should be set to automatically increase with the rate of inflation on the same date every year. What that would do is make the minimum-wage consistant, and make it easier for industry to budget for it, as well as making them aware that its going to be adjusted, presumably up, every year. In the event of deflation, of course, it would also automatically decline.

Additionally, a specific date should be scheduled to visit the issue of the minimum-wage every year prior to the adjustment date. Legislators could use that meeting to make additional adjustments to the minimum-wage.

For example, if nothing at all is done, then the minimum-wage would automatically increase at a rate equal to last years rate of inflation. Legislators could, however, take action to reduce the rate of increase for that year, to prevent any increase, to actually reduce the minimum-wage, or to propose an additional increase, above the rate of inflation.

Whatever the case is, the change would still take place at the same time every year.

This would keep the minimum-wage automatically updated with inflation, while still allowing law makers to make adjustments if it was deemed important to do so, and it would force law makers to actually TAKE ACTION to reduce the minimum-wage. Right now all that opponents of the minimum-wage have to do is do nothing, while it puts the entire political burden on law makers in favor of increasing the wage to do something. This would put everyone on equal footing and force opponents of the minimum wage to take action and bear the poitical responsibility for that action, as opposed to simply doing nothing and allowing the wage to to be erroded away due to inflation.

Of course this will never actually happen.

For information on the economic impact of minimum wages see:
Minimum Wage and Its Effects on Small Business

Posted by at 12:24 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2005 9:29 AM EST

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