IBI Watch 4/15/12

15 04 2012

Still Inevitable?  //

The old cliché about unavoidable death and taxes remains true, but it’s a bit  less so for the wealthiest.  The trickle-down theories say that we should just lower the tax rates on everyone – but especially the wealthiest – and – behold – prosperity will leak down onto all of us.  That’s the Milton Friedman way that has become our modus operandi these last 30 years.  This chart shows how that assumption is fantasy.  But you must give credit – this fantasy has further enriched the rich.  Hard to believe, but could that have been the original purpose?!  Here is a more recent piece that features a chart showing the trend line on tax rates for the wealthiest.  And remember that the lowest millionaires’ rate on the chart – 16.6 percent – is still higher than Mitt Romney currently pays.  And if you think the trickle-down scam is going away anytime soon, don’t.  It’s just what friendly, ‘moderate’ Paul Ryan, with the full support of Romney, has in store for us.  Paul Krugman calls out the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And while we are on extremists who pass for moderates, even fiscally prudent populists, how about that rising (helicopter-powered) star governor from New Jersey.  Krugman again calls it right – Christie the Cannibalizer.  As you will see, Governor Christie’s blow for fiscal common sense – canceling the massive Hudson River tunnel project – had more to do with politics than sound policy, and the media tale contained a few not-so- factual facts.  But back to the tax issue specifically – here is a short article explaining top tax rates on top incomes from President Eisenhower to the present.  So what is the connection to Christie the tax-dragon-slaying hero?  Well, it’s damned hard to build, improve and maintain vital infrastructure when we keep cutting taxes.


No One Expects the Douthat Inquisition

As I listened to an interview that Weekend Edition did with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, I could not help but think of the Monty Python spoof of the Spanish Inquisition.  Douthat is the author of a new book – Bad Religion. He wisely decries the hypocrisy of the prosperity gospel – the idea that God wants us to get rich. (Though Al Franken does a much better, and way more hilarious number on that one here)  So what is Douthat pushing?  Just look at the subtitle of the book – ‘How We Became a Nation of Heretics.’  Ah, we need to go back to something like those golden days of the late 40s and 50s, when we were so much more faithfully orthodox.  Right.  Listen for yourself.


Trying to Give Credit

I try to be fair to modern Republicans.  Honest.  I try to give credit where they have accomplished, achieved goals on their own.  There was George W.  I first read that he tried to make a go of it, himself – not capitalizing on his famous name – in the oil business.  Then there was that Harken Energy business.  So you look at his try at baseball team ownership.  But the story behind his ‘leveraged’ windfall paints an entirely different picture.  Entrepreneurship?  I don’t think so.  And now we have Willard Mitt Romney, who wants us to believe he is the consummate successful American venture capitalist – growing the economy through wise investing.  Read about it here, or just watch this short video by Robert Reich, who, as usual, tells the story concisely and visually.


ALEC’s Exit Doors Spinning Fast

The American Legislative Exchange Council is under fire. This modern equivalent of the old smoke-filled room (on a well-plotted, massive scale), has now been exposed.  Major corporations have for years been crafting ‘model’ legislation that is promoted and enacted in state after state across the country. But the legislation has gone well beyond what you’d expect – tax privileges, deregulation – to for-profit prisons and ‘stand-your ground’ laws.  And now that the light of day has entered the dark rooms – all of them – corporate titans don’t like the glare.  Many are leaving, and it is about damned time.


Messing with a Good Thing

Since it’s the 100-year anniversary of that collision of hubris and tragedy – the Titanic’s sinking – it’s a good time to visit with James Cameron, director of the grand movie about the event.  Cameron makes an apt comparison here – we are collectively treating manmade climate chaos in much the same way that White Star Lines treated the iceberg-ridden North Atlantic that fateful April night.  The only difference, of course, is that so much more is now at stake.  Every week, more evidence of current change, and research on the paleoclimate, comes to light.  All this makes warning bells sound ever louder, but who is listening?  More important, who is doing something about it?


I first began reading on global warming during the blistering summer of 1988.  Since then, I have read dozens of books and hundreds of articles.  The wisest of them point to exactly what we are seeing today – fading boundaries between seasons, resulting in increasingly chaotic weather patterns, along with a general warming trend.  For anyone who understands math and statistics, March was simply astounding.  Records smashed through a wide swath of the country, a long-running warm spell that began fooling trees, animals and insects that it was really May or June.  Read about it here – and note that even in a wise update like this we have to read the usual hooey about ‘Short-term weather patterns such as the one that affected the United States are poor indicators of global climate trends, however. Parts of the world, most notably Eastern Europe, experienced below-average to extreme cold temperatures this winter.’  (Translated – ‘Don’t worry, be happy.’)  And anyway, what could be bad about a preternaturally warm day, week, month?!  Plenty.


Here is one of the biggest risks.  As seasonal structure fades, outbreaks of wildly warm weather occur in winter.  Check.  The warmth that lasts for weeks or months coaxes living things – plants, insects, animals – out of their winter state (dormancy, hibernation) into the artificial summer.  Check.  Then, the hammer falls.  What used to be average weather kicks in, wreaking havoc, mostly with plants – the base of the food chain.  Once again, check.  Listen to this story on cattle food – alfalfa – that the crazy March weather messed with.  Not impressed by alfalfa?  How about apples?  And here is the thing to remember – the cold April weather we will soon have in Minnesota is WAY more typical of this time of year than was 80 degrees on St. Patrick’s Day, or an entire month that saw 15,000 local warm weather records broken.


Here is just a little of the latest news.  First, new research links the rising Pacific with our emissions; second, Antarctica’s ice sheet has melted in the distant past, raising sea levels by an ungodly amount.  Yes, that was the distant past, but we are relentlessly creating climate changes that will ultimately produce something like that ancient, inhospitable world.  And we are doing something else to the ocean, besides warming it.  We are turning it steadily to an acid state.


Still need convincing that this is worth your attention and action?  Try this Live Science article that skewers denialism as well as pignorance (pretend ignorance).  And if you want more truth, try this site.  Joe Romm’s Real Climate site is consistently excellent, with many charts, stories and guest bloggers.


What are the remedies, so we know what to do when we get serious?  Building sustainably produced non-fossil fuels.  Also, though this other seems mundane, it is important – growing trees.  Also – try this site.


She’s Baaaaaaaack!

Her district is more conservative than before, thanks to redistricting.  She’s back in Minnesota to campaign for another term of wild theatrics and legislative crusades – like light bulb freedom, voter fraud fraud (i.e. the fraudulent campaign to eliminate virtually nonexistent voter fraud) and anti-gay marriage.  So it is only fair to celebrate the return of Michele Bachmann.  No one can do that like the Onion.


Hope for the Future –Young People, if Boomers Give the Chance

Back in the 1970s, I was naïve enough to believe that world affairs, and particularly these United States, would keep progressing toward a rational course.  And then came Morning in America.  Who knew my generation could be so greedy, short-sighted, self-centered, ideologically blind, faith-based, willfully ignorant . . . ?  But don’t get me going.  If we have not totally destroyed the place by the time it is Millennials’ turn to be the dominant generation, it seems they just might run the show more rationally.  An article like this fills me with hope.  Well, OK, it fills my glass part-way with hope.  And here is more hope.  Those who share my enthusiasm for the eco-friendliest form of travel the bicycle – are becoming a political force.  May the force be with us.



“I can not imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I can not conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” 

-Captain E. J. Smith, R.M.S. Titanic




Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN



Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper




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