Sunday, September 30, 2012

The psychopaths on welfare.

I have never understood why corporations want to shirk tax burdens. They receive a disproportional level of benefit from the types of systems that taxation creates. Systems like social security have the direct effect of lowering long term retirement expenditures for a business that employs american workers. How do you calculate how much infrastructure benefit (like roads and bridges) american businesses rely on for shipping their good or allowing their employees to commute.

Police and firemen protect private property on ground level and trade agreements protect business interests internationally. Municipal water and waste treatment systems are expanded to accommodate the expansion of private enterprise, from manufacturing to office parks. The US Navy maintains eleven carrier groups in international waters at all times to protect american shipping interests. We have paid billions of dollars as tax payers to fund clean up after ecological disasters from irresponsible mining or oil extraction operations.

Yet despite all we have done, as tax payers, to support business, all they seem interested in is bringing down the quality and safety of the products and services they provide to extract a little more profit. They have wormed their way into the pockets of OUR representatives in local, state and national offices, with the single minded interest of expanding their profit margins. This takes different forms, it can be: direct subsidies, deregulation, tax loop holes, or even favoritism in the competition for government contracts.

Often this places the people we have elected in juxtaposition with our interests. Take for example deregulation in the banking industry. You would have thought that the lessons we learned as a nation during the first great depression that it is important that banks keep separate the books they keep for in house lending and the money they make available to stock market trading. If a bank lends someone money to buy a house, that deal should be between you and the bank, not you the bank and your cousin's retirement fund. If they stand to profit from the interest they charge you for the mortgage, then they should solely face the risk.

Instead of working in good faith with in the intent of regulation, most major corporations expend a great deal of energy pushing the limits of the letter of the law to get away with as much as they can. This comes at a great cost to everyone. Those of us who rely on ecosystem services (read ALL OF US) and are faithful law abiding citizens, are now out voiced and out classed by an out of control juggernaut with a strangle hold on the system intended to protect us.

The psychopaths are tightening their grips on our way of life, from the food we eat to the zeros at the end of our pay check. Worst part is, we are paying them to do it.

As always I welcome your comments and suggestions, I will not omit or edit any of them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Oil, the driver of avarice.

There are many who are content to allow the future of our nation, and to an extent, our home planet to be controlled and manipulated by those who have gained status as the wealthy heads of business. Allowing a disproportionate share of political clout to fall in the hands of only those are capable of affording it by shrugging to "the system as it is". This apathy is not only helpful to those who desire power for selfish ends it is necessary.

The apathy rampant, especially in younger generations, is carefully crafted by those who seek to shape public opinion. They infect educational systems with bloated bureaucracies and pollute entertainment media with propaganda to create a false sense of monolithic permanency. This is plain and obvious in the lens of history, when carefully observing the homogenizing effects these two systems have had on society.

When considering domestic energy policy, the most powerful lobby group in the game is fighting to keep america dependent on oil. We subsidize an industry that has put more shareholders on Forbe's lists than any other. We have even sacrificed the lives of countless soldiers to protect the interests of these nakedly greedy thieves. Yet they betray the national interest by chafing at tax burdens despite their dependence on the services (like the eleven carrier groups deployed by the navy to protect shipping interests).

It cannot be said that they grew malignant over time, they started out as a cancer on the body of the public. In 1914, the reason Royal Dutch/Shell group expanded into the american market was defensive. Standard Oil was more than willing to hike domestic prices to off set losses in the European market as it attempted to out compete The Group. They have no loyalty to any nation or consumer market yet today they wield more political influence than any domestic citizen organization.

We need to get our country back. We must purge the political influence of those who will turn on our national security in a heartbeat if the margin of profit was right. Media propagandists are traitors to our nation. The apathetic are traitors to our nation. Those who seek tax loop holes despite demanding services are traitors to out nation. Those who would stand idle as our political system is bought and sold openly are traitors to our nation. It is time to take a stand.

As always I encourage your comments and will not omit or edit any of them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The invisible hand of the market.

"If the only tool in your tool box is a hammer, then every problem you encounter better be a nail!" I would like to start out by saying I am NOT anti-corporatism. I think for some applications, the corporate model should be applied because of the efficiency of scale it provides. Some systems do benefit from top down control in ways that can act to benefit consumers. It is when that model is applied outside of its useful range that it becomes by magnitudes more harmful than beneficial.

In my opinion, two things limit the range of applications where the corporate model can be applied. One is the way in which consumer choice can be inherently protected. The second, is the purpose of the system being studied.

Despite the charter of any company, the end goal of any business is to make money. It is the single driving force behind the vast majority of boardroom decisions. It all comes down to money. When consumer choice is not protected and a good or service is compulsory, health care for example, regulation must be tightly maintained to prevent the decision making process to allow services to sink to lowest common denominator. Decisions that are detrimental to the public good become "necessary to the bottom line". That puts those profiting from the system exactly at odds with the interests of the consumer. This is one of the most strikingly obvious examples of where the corporate model is entirely incompetent.

Another question that should have been asked before allowing the private sector to apply a corporate model is "What is the purpose and role of this system?". Education for example is a way for a country to invest in its own future. Education is the only thing keeping any nation from slipping back into the dark ages. This is not something that pays off with forth quarter dividends. It is altruistic, it leads to greater personal investment by individuals who a part of a nation. It prevents the kind of desperation that spikes crime rates and lifts people from the need of social welfare safety nets. Again, constraining a system intended for public good to become profitable places the system at odds with the consumers.

Today, this highly successful model from the competitive private sector is being applied to systems where no competition exists. It is leaching into governance where its essentially psychopathic nature will eventually become the single greatest threat to our national security. The model of corporatism has proven to struggle under regulation and will do everything it can to shirk its control. If individual businesses can not be trusted to act in the best interest of important yet unprofitable components like environmental protection, how can we trust them to strive for the best for our nation?

The answer is, we cannot.

As always, I welcome you comments and will not edit or omit any.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Tool Kit of the Informed Consumer.

Almost everyone in America has access to a powerful tool. Access to information has become practically ubiquitous. The cell phone in your pocket probably has more computing power then every computer created up until I was15 years old combined. This power, if used properly can change the world in real and meaningful ways, if you are up to the challenge.

I posit this, decide on a month, or a week or even a year (if you are the competitive type) and research every purchasing decision. Make a little time in the evening, and look at the business practices of every label in your fridge and pantry. If you shop at a corporate store this will probably be easy, you will find that most of the products you consume come from only a handful of sources. When I say business practices I am referring to the entire vertically integrated system, from raw material extraction, through domestic labor practices to get it onto your shelf.

When you are spending money on a product, it sends a message to the provider. That message is "I agree with your business practices." Every dollar you spend is a vote, the only vote that truly matters in the system created by industry today (including the political). The single best way to have your voice heard today is by abstaining from supporting evil.

Would you still feel comfortable wearing a diamond ring if you knew that the very rock on your finger cost the lives of a man's family? Would the shirt you wear still warm you if you knew a child was chained to a loom to create the fabric? How would the meat you eat taste knowing that tracts of rain forest had to be cleared for that steer to be grazed? A lot of this information will be hidden from you, for obvious marketing reasons. So if a part of the supply chain is left out of an explanation then you might be best off erring on the side of caution.

For me personally, I value environmental issues above all else (not that I think labor issues are unimportant). So I would rather do without, than to allow some corporate entity to sacrifice my moral ideals without my knowledge or consent. If they can't account for it, I'm not going to buy it. Don't give in to the social pressure that is generated by advertising. Just because everyone else is dumb enough to be manipulated in that way does not mean you have be as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Consumption: Entrenched Complacency.

I grew up without a television. Mostly because of the live-aboard lifestyle but also because my parents thought it was a bad influence. As much as it made me a social outlier, in the long run I am glad they did. But looking from the outside of American society is very strange. The things many people value as "needs" generally seem foreign to me. I missed out on the acculturation of consumerism.

Two of the most striking trends I have noticed, I have dubbed "disposable purchases" and "pointless consumption". Disposable purchases relates to the decline of quality of goods available for purchase and the mentality of throwing away an item after some arbitrary useful life. Pointless consumption is more about impulse buying or making purchases; less on some specific identified need and then researching if a product exists to fill that need, and more on finding purposes for items purchased.

Disposable purchasing is one of the worst problems we face as a society in my opinion. Often the products we buy generate more waste in the manufacturing process than the weight of the item itself. Settling for a lesser quality item that cannot either be repaired if it loses functionality or has a predetermined half-life straight out of the box, is agreeing to be apart of the business model of waste and environmental degradation. From paper plates, and single use plastics at one end of the spectrum to cars and computers at the other, the idea of a product being useful only once or only for a few years is beyond insulting to the natural environment that so graciously provides us with so much.

Pointless consumption is even more evil. In other posts I have written about the way marketeers (knowingly or not) violate your will through advertising to instill an urge to consume. (See "Television has ruined America".) If you have ever purchased something that you only used for a week afterward and then sat for months or years in personal space before becoming part of a donation to a second hand store or yard sale you have been the victim of this manipulation. If you have ever purchased a product that you "did know you needed" and felt remorse afterward, you have been victimized through subliminal influence directly to your pocketbook.

There are ways to fight back though; making shopping lists at home and sticking to them, researching products at home before purchasing them, "steeping" purchases by walking away from them in the store and coming back after several days if you still think that particular product would improve your life, seeking second hand options first, and lastly but most importantly ask you self if the business practices of a company are really worth supporting.

Buying one pair of shoes for $200 dollars that will last 10 years, is still cheaper than buying 10 pair of $25 dollar shoes that only last a year. Don't be manipulated by "seasonal fashion" that is nothing more than a blatant construct by companies to extort regular purchases out of you by playing off insecurities and vanity. Second hand products are often of higher quality than anything purchased new, partly because manufacturing standards has declined in recent years, but mostly because anything that has survived the consumer market once intact will most likely still retain its function for you. You have to take control of your life and your finances, because if you don't there is thousands of marketers out there who will gladly take it over for you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Echo's of the past.

I am sitting on my college campus as I write this. The campus its self was entirely unfamiliar to me a year ago. I had to carry around a map so I would not get lost, I also had to bring directions anytime I left campus to go into the local town because I didn't know it very well either. Now this all seems very pedestrian but the odd thing is, I spent quite a bit of my childhood in this area. I was born no more than forty miles away, and traveled to a race track within walking distance for more weekends than I can count during my adolescence.

Today as I sit and write this, I can hear the fast un-muffled cars pacing the world famous turns of this challenging track. Like ghosts of my past. During my youth I was involved with racing and loved the thrill of high performance cars. The amazing designs, augmented by experienced hands and pushed to the limits of physics by talent. Not only did I have some hands-on experience as a family member relied on me as apart of the pit crew, but I was also afforded opportunities to learn from masters of the art of driving.

Then one day I grew up. Simple as that. I realized that day that the fuel being burnt was not unlimited. Worse yet; working in that industry as a general service tech, I was exposing my self on a daily basis to several harsh carcinogens. Compounding my personal misgivings, was the fact that the industry I had chosen as a career was perpetuating a monumental environmental catastrophe. Of course it is disingenuous for me to give the impression this all came to me at once. It took years for me to come to grips with the reality of the situation.

I got a lucky break. I was struggling to transition from being a general service tech in the auto industry into being a motorcycle tech when I had my truck broken into and more than ten thousand dollars worth of tools stolen. At first it was very difficult. Sleepless nights or violent dreams seemed my only options for months.

Then one day it hit me. I got a call from a psudo-friend. The kind of person who only calls when they want something. His car was running funny and asked me over for a beer. When I relayed that I would love to come over for a beer but I couldn't help with his car because I didn't have the tools necessary to fix his problem, our friendship ended quite abruptly. That day I realized that I was no longer trapped in a system that I didn't like any longer. That was the day I claimed my freedom.

Today I devote my self to preventing the very environmental issues I once perpetuated. I still love cars and going fast, but not at the expense of air quality or contributing to global climate change. We need austerity, but not the fiscal kind enforced on the poor by the wealthy elite. We need resource consumption austerity. It must be universal, with everyone from all walks of life limiting the wanton consumption that plagues "civilized" countries. America can be leaders in this paradigm shift. If not for the citizens of today, but for the Americans of tomorrow.