The paradox of middle-class aspiration

Thanks to Herb Ruhs

[This Guardian article is as cogent an assessment of economic paradox in the US as I have found. The paradox of middle-class aspiration:Is it the enduring myth of the American dream that persuades so many to support tax cuts they will never earn enough to enjoy? -HR]

Is it the enduring myth of the American dream that persuades so many to support tax cuts they will never earn enough to enjoy?

The generally accepted explanation of why many Americans, even those that are poor, are opposed to raising taxes for the rich is the enduring belief in upward social mobility or that they may one day be rich themselves. We still believe America is the land of opportunity. You can be born in the ghetto and rise to super stardom. A welfare recipient from a broken home may become president. But the truth is, for the vast majority of people, these dreams are out of reach and, in fact, the US actually has the lowest social mobility of any industrialised nation.

Is it the enduring myth of the American dream that persuades so many to support tax cuts they will never earn enough to enjoy?

One thing we can thank the Great Recession for is that it has finally drawn attention to the growing inequality in American society. Any study or report you care to look at leads to the same sorry conclusion: the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class are disappearing. These trends have accelerated since 2000, but they have been in place for decades; yet, a large percentage of people who are suffering as a result of the inequality seem to favour, or at least tolerate, the policies that perpetuate it.

Bruce Anderson Sues Supervisor Kendall Smith: Give the taxpayers back their money!

From UDJ

Newspaper editor Bruce Anderson, in his capacity as a taxpayer, took the first step Wednesday toward filing a small-claims lawsuit against Mendocino County for failing to reclaim $3,087 of travel reimbursements overpaid to 4th District Supervisor Kendall Smith.

Anderson, who is editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, filed a claim as an individual against the county seeking to recover the amount on behalf of the county’s taxpayers.

His claim states, “We do not seek to recover any funds ourselves, but we demand the county recover $3,087 (as documented by the Mendocino County grand jury) plus all applicable costs, fees, interest and penalties from Supervisor Smith since the time of her claim.”

Smith allegedly claimed reimbursement for business trips between her Fort Bragg home and Ukiah from January 2005 until November 2006, “when there was no actual travel and when her cost of overnight lodging was little or nothing because she either stayed with friends or in a room which she rented for $100 per month (in Ukiah),” according to a letter District Attorney Meredith Lintott wrote in 2008 to Smith’s former attorney in the matter.

Anderson notes the claim is “preparatory” to seeking an injunction that would require the county to recover the money Mendocino County Auditor-Controller Meredith Ford determined Smith was overpaid, a calculation Ford said she did at the behest of the grand jury.

“Damages are suffered by the citizens of Mendocino County who are deprived of the use of funds wrongfully given to Supervisor Kendall Smith,” Anderson’s claim states

Transition Streets

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Dan Hamburg: Obama Declares Wrong Emergency


It’s often said by supporters of President Obama, with some justification, that too much has been expected of him. Sure he went in with high ideals about moving the country in a more progressive direction, but the reality of money and power in the nation’s capital have rendered him unable-at least in the two years he’s been in office-to achieve the objectives he so glowingly promised.

Contrary to this view of the president’s predicament, we would direct our fellow citizens’ attention to the action taken by the president on September 10. On that day, the White House released the text of a letter sent by Mr. Obama to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi entitled “Letter from the President on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks”.

The O Man (Updated)

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“You Elected Me To Do What Was Right”

“We don’t quit!”


Obama’s speech to Gen44 tonight knocked my socks off. It’s streaming on CSPAN here. If you’ve forgotten why many of you worked your ass off for this guy, and felt hope for the first time in many years, watch it. He deserves criticism when necessary as this blogazine has not shied from at times. But he remains in my judgment the best option this country still has left – and it’s far too easy for the left and far too dangerous for serious conservatives and independents to abandon him now.

What I particularly loved about the speech was his direct attack on the fiscal irresponsibility of the Pledge To America, the $700 billion it means we will have to borrow from China to sustain the unsustainable Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 a year. And what I agreed with was his embrace of government that is lean and efficient, because these are times when the government is necessary to help reverse self-evident decline, mounting fiscal crisis, deeply dangerous enemies, and socially dangerous inequality, exploited at home by ugly demagogues and know-nothing nihilists. Here is his invocation of Lincoln’s core argument about the role of government:

I believe the government should do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves.

Then this passage where he soared like he hasn’t since the campaign:

I believe in a country that rewards hard work and responsibility, a country where we look after one other, a country that says I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, I’m going to give a hand up, join hands with folks and try to lift all of us up so we all have a better future, not just some – but all of us. That’s what I believe.

I do too. I do not believe for a second that the GOP of Palin and Boehner and Beck and DeMint represents anything but more debt, more war, more social division and more denial about the deeply serious problems this country faces and the profound dangers that are metastasizing in the world. I have no love for the Democrats but I do fervently believe that this president’s record is far better than many now fashionably claim, that his inheritance was beyond awful, and I am not giving up on this president’s immense task now, and neither, in my judgment, should any of those who voted for him in 2008.

Know hope; and fight the cynicism and nihilism that is increasingly the alternative.

Ben and Jerry’s admits ice-cream with a liberal conscience not ‘all natural’


Unilever’s premium brand abandons claim after US food health watchdog notes use of unnatural ingredients such as corn syrup

[OMG! Stabbed in the heart! -DS]

Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, have had a difficult relationship with Unilever. Cohen said when the firm was bought by the multinational it was ‘just about the worst day of my life’.

The carefully cultivated socially liberal image of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has suffered a knock with a decision by the Vermont-based manufacturer to stop calling its food “all natural” following pressure from a watchdog that questioned whether ingredients such as partially hydrogenated soya bean oil fitted the billing.

Book Review: An Investigation into the World’s Most Hated Company


Once upon a time, a chemical company in St. Louis discovered that normal limits did not apply to it. Whether its products sickened an entire town in the Midwest or poisoned villagers in Southeast Asia, things seemed to break its way. Regulators seemed reluctant to regulate, and judges delivered stupefying decisions with straight faces.

Microsoft’s monopolistic behavior resulted in trial conviction, and heavy penalties. Top executives of Archer Daniels Midland went to prison for price-fixing. Meanwhile the corporation with the sweet Spanish name went on a global tear, flooding the American food supply with dubious genetics, seeding government agencies with sympathizers, intimidating opponents, buying the loyalty of scientists, and transforming the rural landscape in country after country, always for the worse. Only the European Union, resisted it with some success. Only one of its major projects, transgenic wheat, was blocked decisively.

Nutrition: Can something as simple as sea minerals be more effective than all the high-tech drugs and vaccines?


Newspapers, magazines and electronic media outlets all over the world recently announced a break-through vaccine that will hopefully protect women against breast cancer.

The following report — from CBS — is typical of what was said by numerous sources: “In the current study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated — half with a vaccine containing the antigen and half with a vaccine that did not contain the antigen. None of the mice vaccinated with the antigen developed breast cancer, while all the other mice did.”

Dr. Vincent Tuohy, Ph.D., the principal investigator on the project to create the vaccine, sums up the impact: “We believe this vaccine will some day be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines prevent polio and measles in children. If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental.”

Transition Culture: Solving For Pattern

Transtion Culture

My years as a teacher taught me that if one person asks a question, even if they think they are “missing something obvious”, chances are that many others are wondering the same thing.  This is probably an opportune moment in the rolling out of this patterns approach to stop and take stock as to whether everyone is still with me here!  This was triggered by an email I received yesterday from Kate Clark:

“As a member of a Transition initiating group (Transition Whatcom) and a huge proponent of Transition, I have a lot of respect for your work. However, I am finding the term and concept of “Pattern language” to be very vague and frustrating.  I keep trying to make sense of it, as if I can find a ‘pattern’ in the language (repeat first sentence once, second sentence three times, then first sentence twice, then repeat the whole pattern five times?)!  Can you send me a single sentence description of pattern language? Where is the pattern? What is the language- do you mean permaculture terminology?  Sorry if I’m being dense. I’m a communications specialist, and finding this one to be so vague that I feel I must be missing something obvious. I have NO idea how to explain this to anyone else, as a result”.