Gross Inequality All Too “Normal” Under Capitalism…

nWealth inequality in the US: Source: Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze—an Update to 2007,” Levy Economics Institute of Bard College Working Paper No. 589, March 2010, Tables 10 and 11

From Paul Street

What’s ‘not normal’ about inequality of wealth and income under the amoral system of capitalism?

I recently read a call for increased economic equality from an interesting source. The author of the appeal was Bill Gross, Chief Investment Officer and co-founder of the Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO), a $14 billion global capital investment firm headquartered in California.  Forbes lists Gross as the world’s 778th richest billionaire. His net worth is $2.4 billion and he “earns” $200 million a year.  “You could hire 2,000 schoolteachers for that money,” says William  Popejoy, a former financial executive who has been a Pacific Investment Management Co. trustee for more than two decades.

“Not Normal”

In a July 15, 2014 USA TODAY Op Ed titled “Invest in Normalcy for All,” Bill Gross claimed to be bothered by the fact the United States is currently as unequal as it has been any time since the 1920s. He noted with disappointment that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranks the US 31st among 34 nations examined for income equality.  The US is “surpassed only by the likes of Chile and Turkey,” Gross complained.  Gross is disturbed (or claims to be) that US corporations are enjoying record after-tax profits equaling 10% of US gross domestic product (GDP) – “exceeding the levels of the Roaring [19]20s” – while US wages have fallen from 57% of GDP in 1970 to 43% of GDP today.

A struggle to save Europe’s soul from privatization…

From Roarmag

As the EU sells its soul by pushing Greece to privatize its natural and cultural heritage, ordinary citizens are mobilizing to save their common wealth.

When news of the Greek debt crisis first broke in 2010, a number of German tabloids called on the country to pawn its cultural and natural heritage to pay off its debts. “Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks!” ran a headline of the ever tasteless Bild. “And sell the Acropolis too!” With the bailout of May 2010 in the making, the populist editors of the right-wing magazine, apparently oblivious to the historical sensitivities around the German annexation of foreign territories, stubbornly insisted: “We give you cash, you give us Corfu.”

Today, more than four years since the signing of the first memorandum of understanding, it seems that Germany’s nationalist media — along with the European investor class and the oligarchic Greek elite — are finally getting their way. Greece’s subservient government is now pushing hard to open up new frontiers for privatization, with some 77.000 state assets slated for sale, including a host of historic marinas and idyllic islands, a number of ancient palaces, and large stretches of the country’s spectacular and unspoilt coastline.

Sam Harris: Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?


From Sam Harris

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT [Note: This is a verbatim transcript of a spoken podcast. However, I have added notes like this one to clarify controversial points.—SH]

The question I’ve now received in many forms goes something like this: Why is it that you never criticize Israel? Why is it that you never criticize Judaism? Why is it that you always take the side of the Israelis over that of the Palestinians?

Now, this is an incredibly boring and depressing question for a variety of reasons. The first, is that I have criticized both Israel and Judaism. What seems to have upset many people is that I’ve kept some sense of proportion. There are something like 15 million Jews on earth at this moment; there are a hundred times as many Muslims.  I’ve debated rabbis who, when I have assumed that they believe in a God that can hear our prayers, they stop me mid-sentence and say, “Why would you think that I believe in a God who can hear prayers?” So there are rabbis—conservative rabbis—who believe in a God so elastic as to exclude every concrete claim about Him—and therefore, nearly every concrete demand upon human behavior. And there are millions of Jews, literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.

William Edelen: Reflections at Age 92

The Contrary Minister

The poet STANLEY KUNITZ (pictured above) has been my hero and role model from the time I first came into his magical orbit and was exposed to his brilliant thinking. It is no accident that he graduated from Harvard “summa cum laude”. Or that he was TWICE chosen the Poet Laureate of the United States… or Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, or winner of the Pulitzer and Bollingen Prizes, and his Honors would take two more full pages to list. His passion was Horticulture, and from his garden came his inspiration, he said.

My own Bachelor of Science degree is in Horticulture from Oklahoma State University. I think you can understand why this man became my kindred spirit and “role model” over the years.

One of his most famous poems, and one that speaks to my own life, is “THE LAYERS”. When I first read this to my weekly Sunday Symposium, the entire group wanted a copy, so we made over a hundred copies. It is almost mystical to me how the words of this poem are an accurate reflection of my own life.

We Only Get This One Chance… How Will You Make Your Life Extraordinary?…

From Brandon Fibbs

Christian Crock of the Week: What in god’s name are these fundamentalist idiots doing to these poor children?

From Live Leak

Fundamental Christians around the globe are increasingly holding large children’s revivals where they practice a disturbing ritual called “anointing by the holy spirit,” “being slain by the holy spirit,” “catching the holy ghost,” or “falling out.”

It is intimidating, physically coercive, deeply stressful, and emotionally manipulative. Children are under tremendous pressure to cooperate, to mimic the adults’ bizarre behaviors, and to avoid being judged unworthy, disappointing, or worse, under satan’s spell.

The older children and teens are under great peer pressure to fit in. The youngest simply don’t understand they’re supposed to fall over. Their purity and honesty shines through.

Dear Believer: Why do you believe?…

From Brandon Fibbs

“Dear Believer, have you ever stopped to consider why you believe what you believe? Have you ever thought about why you chose the religion you chose?…”

Will Parrish: Willits Bypass Timeline


“Each solitary story belongs to a larger story.” — Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones

In Willits, many people have not taken kindly to the California Department of Transportation’s asphalt imperialism, which entails spreading more than 140,000 dump truck loads of fill in Little Lake Valley, building bridges, disturbing creeks, killing fish, covering up wetlands, cutting down riparian forests, removing roughly 2,000 oak trees, taking away farm land. It is likely that even more overall harm will be done by a politically stilted mitigation plan that centers on excavating wetlands soils in the name of creating wetlands.

Opposition continues to the present. Some of the more persistent protectors of Little Lake Valley continue to attempt to downsize the project’s northern interchange — arguably its most destructive feature. Now that the US Army Corps of Engineers has lifted its suspension of the project, thanks to pressure from Willits Bypass supporters such as Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, though, it appears highly unlikely that any aspect of the project’s design will be changed.

Many people have criticized Bypass opponents for failing to speak up prior to construction. But the opposition to the Willits Bypass has persisted for more than 20 years. What follows is a timeline that emphasizes opposition to the project prior to January 2013, when direct action against the project kicked off.

Todd Walton: Heaven and Hell

Little Sparrow Nolan WinklerLittle Sparrow Nolan Winkler

Under The Table Books

(This short story from Buddha In A Teacup appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser July 2014)

On their way to a matinee of the San Francisco Ballet, Roger and Susan must stand for the entire journey in a crowded subway car. They are wearing heavy coats on this chilly November day, though inside the slow moving train it is a veritable sauna—the air conditioning having failed.

Susan is twenty-six, a fetching brunette, and Roger is forty-nine, a strikingly beautiful former ballet dancer turned fashion designer. They have known each other for exactly one year, Susan and her two young children having moved from homelessness into the collective household where Roger and his lover Paul have been mainstays for more than a decade.

Paul and Roger were friendly and cordial with Susan for the first few months after she moved in, but they did not become close friends with her until they undertook their annual production of the community musical and Susan became their indefatigable assistant—Paul directing, Roger the choreographer and costume designer.

The Inventor of the High Five…


From Priceonomics

The high five is ubiquitous. It’s a gesture that permeates every social environment — the workplace, the bar, the middle school kickball field — and it seems to be appropriate in almost any situation. Your friend got married? High five. You chugged an entire liter of IPA? High five. You just re-enacted, word-for-word, the opening sequence of A Clockwork Orange? High five! Since its inception, the hand-slapping maneuver has taken on multiple iterations and has never fallen out of style.

But tracing the origins of the high five reveals a riveting, heroic, dark story that seems to be everything the joyous gesture is not.

Death On All Sides…

sA member of the Free Syrian Army sits on a sofa in Deir al-Zor, Syria (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)

From Adbusters

Forgotten and encircled in Syria, Brandon Gray reports from a refugee camp in Northern Syria.

The refugee camp of 20,000, mostly children, on the Syrian side of the Turkish border north of Aleppo faces death on all sides. There is a grinding lack of humanitarian aid, a ruthless Assad regime offensive led by elite troops from Iran pushing a wave of new refugees toward the camp, and fundamentalist Islamic State fighters advancing towards them from the East with Russian T-72 tanks and American humvees captured from defeated Iraqi military units.

If the Islamic State captures the area, “they will cut my head [off]” says Yusuf, a young rebel fighter and media activist fresh from fighting them 40 km to the east of the camp. He had already lost eight friends and fellow fighters in Aleppo when their unit became encircled seven months ago by the Islamic State, then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He escaped death only by a “miracle.” Now they have tanks, humvees, artillery, heavy machine guns — “they have everything” — and have captured Yusuf’s home town of al Bab, right next to Aleppo city. “They have come to conquer our country. To make an Islamic State, a Caliphate.” Since speaking with Yusuf, the Islamic State has launched attacks within Aleppo itself, killing several rebels.

Drone Warfare: Who is dying in Afghanistan’s 1,000-plus drone strikes?

dCrewmen from 39 Squadron, Royal Air Force, pilot a Reaper over Afghanistan (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

From Bureau of Investigative Journalism

On the afternoon of September 7 last year, a truck made its way along a remote road in Watapur, a region in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. A local farmer, Miya Jan, heard a buzzing overhead, and looked up to see a drone above him, he told the Los Angeles Times. Minutes later, he heard an explosion.

Reaching the site, he realised the mangled vehicle belonged to his cousin. Among the bodies, he recognised his brother and his brother’s family. “There were pieces of my family all over the road,” he told the newspaper. “I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.”

Substitute Teacher Fired for His Music Video Mocking Religion Finally Gets Some Justice…

Last year, I posted a delightfully funny video about two parents teaching their daughter about different religions, only to have her respond with “That doesn’t make sense!” to all of them:

That video was made by guitarist Jonathan Hurley and actress Whitney Avalon (who played the parents) and they even won an award for it last month. Yay! Happy ending, right?

Turns out that wasn’t the case for Hurley.

‘Witch Hunt': Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate…

From AlterNet

As Gaza body toll mounts, NBC executives crack down on criticism of Israel.

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal’s on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage of Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip has brought media suppression of the Israel-Palestine debate into sharp focus. Punished for her act of dissent with the cancellation of all future appearances and the termination of her contract, Jebreal spoke to me about what prompted her to speak out and why MSNBC was presenting such a distorted view of the crisis.

“I couldn’t stay silent after seeing the amount of airtime given to Israeli politicians versus Palestinians,” Jebreal told me. “They say we are balanced but their idea of balance is 90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians. This kind of media is what leads to the failing policies that we see in Gaza.”

Gene Logsdon: Old (Farm) Wives’ Tales

The Contrary Farmer

We are down to only three hens at the moment, thanks to foxes or coyotes exacting their yearly tribute, but we are still getting two eggs every day. One of the two recently was a small, yolkless egg. “Old wives” told me when I was a child that such an egg signals the end of a hen’s laying season until she molts and starts up again. But since that yolkless little egg, we have continued to  get two normal-size ones every day. One might argue, in defense of old wives’ tales, that the third hen started laying the minute she noticed that one of others had laid a small egg. But if something that outlandish could be true then, according to another old wives’ tale, that first egg she laid should have had a little dried blood smeared on the shell which was not the case.

There’s another mystery involved. I asked my sister, the one closest to me in age, if she had heard about this last egg-first egg morsel of folklore and she said no. How could she not have heard what I heard since we grew up together. Perhaps her memory is dimming quicker than mine, although I would not dare say that in her presence. So I ask all of you: have you heard this folklore? Did I just dream it up?

Welcome to Utopia…

From Australian Magazine

On a remote Island, a rich former executive and his wife wait for the world to end. They want others to join — but it’s a one-way trip…

Three reasons why the world can’t end: my wife and daughters. Things I won’t miss: eight-character passwords, four-digit pins and leaf-blowers; life’s merry-go-round of small victories, the carrot-and-stick mystery of existence and “down, down, prices are down”.

A bullying moonlit ocean wave slams the wall of my cabin, our 14m ­catamaran dips into a trough and a blue ink line slashes across my notepad. We are nine hours’ hard night sail from the new world.

I sleep and dream of drowning. Before dawn I emerge above deck to find Steve Quinto at the ship’s wheel, where I left him last night. Steve is a rich American businessman. He once owned an international airline, pioneered low-cost travel across the United States. Steve believes the world I know is in the second phase of certain self-destruction. “So you’ve found your way to us,” he says. He nods to the horizon. Cloud and fog seem to shift at his command and the untouched, impenetrable west coast forest mountains of the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, rise out of the Pacific like monsters made of moss and vine.

Beyond those mountains is Steve’s utopia, an 800ha living ark that he has spent the past eight of his 79 years creating, investing his life’s fortune in the shipment of 300 tonnes of materials from around the world to the very edge of human existence. Paradise. Salvation. A new world for when the old one dies. He calls it Edenhope. Eden would have sufficed. “Soon you will meet Ona,” Steve says. Ona is a girl. Ona is a beginning…

Complete story with videos here

Reasonable Doubt…

From The Automatic Earth

Presumed innocent. Innocent until proven guilty. Reasonable doubt. How long ago it seems that these principles guided our societies. Perhaps there are a few courts in the heartland left that still live up to them, but the aftermath of 9/11 certainly erased them from the overall American conscience. Some animals are more equal than others, said Orwell in Animal Farm.

Guantanamo Bay showed that some people are far less equal than others, and laws that apply to everyone else don’t apply to them. That, somewhat ironically, is probably the case at the other end, the upper echelons of society, as well, judging from the – lack of – numbers of persecuted bankers.

War Zones…


From James Howard Kunstler

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summed it up the other day when he said, “We use our rockets to protect our women and children; they [Hamas] use their women and children to protect their rockets.”

Some time ago, the Left adopted the Palestinians as their pet oppressed minority group so there is nothing that Israel might do that will be okay with them, except to commit suicide, that is, cease to exist — which is the stated policy of Hamas. Every time Israel refuses the suggestion that it cease to exist, the Left becomes inflamed. They cannot imagine why Israel would prefer to fight for its existence than to roll over and die.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,535 other followers