Mar 28, 2013

Professional Wrestling and Congress: Mirror Images

The premise of professional wrestling is that for theatrical purposes 'heels' are set against 'heroes' that through conflict play out archetypes that can be traced back to neolithic myths and pagan religions. Though from week to week battles are carried out between the 'heel' and 'hero', some times the hero wins and then some times the heel wins; but the audience can rest assure that good will eventually win out when it counts just as Hercules, Thor, or Susanoo in ancient mythology around the globe takes hits but keeps on coming to eventually win. Ancient mythology had a conclusion, which is where professional wrestling diverges from source material since it can never have an ultimate conclusion.

What does professional wrestling have to do with Congress as the title implies? Well they both rumble for the entertainment of the masses, and they both pretend to be battling as if the end of the world depends on it, and they both are in on the joke that a conclusion is not forthcoming. The difference is the lack of spandex and that they Congressmen free wheeling between heal and hero without regard to the previous "story line." At least professional wrestling has the pay off of some one getting pinned at the end of the hour.

Mythological archetypes performing in front of our eyes on basic cable provides some cultural benefits if one is to follow what Karl Jung or Joseph Campbell has to say; congress does all the rhetorical bluster of pro wrestling combat without any benefit for the audience nor their constituency. What purpose does it serve? It is an intentional distraction; do not mind the man behind the curtain just believe that you congressman is one of the good ones and isn't selling out our country's future for their personal gain when they go into lobbying/corporate strategy.

Mar 27, 2013

For so the Bible told me so...

In Luke 7:1-10 Jesus cured a Centurion's servant-- except the original Greek word used was 'pais' or boy-slave. And contemporaneously Roman Officers would take with them boys that they would sodomize, it is likely that this is what is being referred in the New Testament.

Jesus provided services to homosexuals why is it right for the government to withhold licensing services from homosexuals?

Samaritans in the old testament rejected Yahweh and worshiped a god named Ba'al, so even a person that breaks the first commandment can lead a life that coincides with Jesus' teachings and scriptures' commandment to love your neighbor Luke 10:30–37.

If G-d so loved the world that G-d sacrificed his only son, why wasn't there any exemption of that love? Why if G-d loves the world with homosexuals in it, would you get to believe that hating (or anything short of loving) G-d's fellow creations is welcomed by our Creator?

For every Christian that argues against marriage equality I would ask them to check their Bible again, or also call for the demolition of Red Lobsters across the nation.

But these same pseudo-Christians will make the false claim that United States was founded as a Christian or Judeo-Christian nation. They need to check out the First Amendment's "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" or  Article VI of the Constitution "but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" or Treaty of Tripoli's Article 11 "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." But that would require a wider mind than is displayed.

Mar 26, 2013

"Fair and Balanced" coverage of the Supreme Court...just hours later

Though several hours after oral arguments ended for the Supreme Court hearing the Hollingsworth v. Perry case that may decide the constitutionality of gay marriage bans, Fox News make unusual decisions in their coverage. Initially I flipped between the three 24 news channels, and noticed that CNN & MSNBC covered it live while Fox News continued to cover less immediate stories such as replays of CPAC speeches and Amanda Knox being retried in Italian court. After several hours away from my TV I came back and MSNBC was going over the transcripts of the oral arguments; which made think 'wonder if Fox News ever covered the story at all?' Above is the screen grab of my television with MSNBC in lower right-hand picture-in-picture and Fox News in full screen. After watching Fox News discussed some Jim Carey "rant" against guns, I realized Fox News isn't going to discuss the likelihood that the Supreme Court will not strike down the lower court's decision and upholding Prop 8 ban of same gender marriage. I then checked out what the hullabaloo over Jim Carey, I give you the Funny or Die video that sparked it all below:

Both the video and the twitter posts were from March 24th, two days ago, not particularly breaking news nor was the following story a repeat of the Amanda Knox retrial story. It isn't that Fox News never mentioned the Supreme Court oral arguments but not covering the press conference live is a large failing for any journalistic organization... good thing Fox News is not associated with all aspects of journalism. did post it up as the leading headline story for the day, and accompanied a video that appears to have pended on Supreme Court releasing the audio file of the oral arguments. Fox News used b-roll of opposing sides chanting outside of the Supreme Court but couldn't have the same camera crew pointed their camera towards David Boies and Ted Olson when they came out of the highest court of the land? If the opposing attorney Chris Cooper wanted to avoid the cameras, that doesn't preclude interviewing the two attorneys that had  argued opposing sides for Gore v Bush but now are on the same side.

It appears that Fox News chose not to show anything live, leads me to believe that if they can't edit the footage they are not going to let go on air.

Mar 25, 2013

Supreme Court: Marriage Equality and Guns

Windsor v. United States (lesbian widow after marrying her life partner in Canada owed the IRS over $300,000 in inheritance taxes that if her marriage was recognized wouldn't have owed a dime) oral arguments are scheduled this week to be heard in the Supreme court. What does marriage equality have to do with guns, you may ask. Both depend on full faith and credit clause and opposite interpretations of the same text of of the Constitution. The same thing that avoids inconvenience of having to retake driving tests when you cross state lines, is that the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution and it also allows for the Iron Pipeline from Virginia up I-95 to the Northeast's cities that have strict state gun control laws as opposed to Virginia and other Southern states that have only the Federal lenient gun control laws. So guns and driver's licenses can be go back and forth across state lines, and this relates to marriage due to the fact a couple that is of opposite genders only needs to get married once to have that marriage recognized in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. The couple could even get married abroad in a destination wedding, no matter what country (probably more difficult in Cuba, North Korea, etc) even Canada.

In 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law and the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA is what is going to argued in front the Supreme Court this week. It is as follows:

Section 3. Definition of marriage
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

So married couples have expectations that their marriage is not going to be questioned since a marriage license in one state is accepted in every state, a license to drive a car is accepted every state, a license (or lack of a requirement to have a license) to carry a gun is accepted in every other state. In 2010 District of Columbia vs Heller set forward that Washington DC could not regulate firearms to the degree of an outright ban, but puts into question of other restrictions such as licences to own guns as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, etc currently has. Guns purchased in Virginia do not require licenses and are not registered in any database. Federal Government has been unwilling to bar the transportation of firearms from one jurisdiction to another and leaves it is up to the local municipality to enforce gun legislation. Full faith and credit is provided to the gun owners who cross state lines, but a marriage crossing state lines is too much and can not receive the same full faith and credit. So the guns can't be held to a different standard from state to state, but marriage licences in the limited cases of same gender marriages get can be? Unique treatment from the Federal Government punishing same gender couple for refusing to acknowledge their marriages. That the same conservative justices are going to vote to continue this injustices while telling the Federalist Society the Constitution is not a living document but somehow seems to twist and move to fit their predetermined concept of how the world should work. In one instance, Heller, reinforces that full faith and credit while doubling down that government shouldn't intervene. In the upcoming Windsor case Scalia, Thomas, Alito will certainly make the case that government should discriminate (thereby intervening) when private individuals go and get licenses from a municipality that through legislature or judicial means provides marriages to any 2 consenting adults regardless of gender.

I could be wrong, maybe those conservative justices will follow their statements that Constitution restrains them to make law and that the legislature can't amend the Constitution via statute and surprise me with a unanimous decision striking down DOMA . I won't be holding my breath.

Mar 22, 2013

Advertising 'free will' away

If human free will, is not impregnable nor invincible, could that most independent feature of humanity be removed or diminished to a level of utter irrelevance? If free will could be manipulated and create a illusion that the target's choice is their own when in actuality it was a choice made an exterior entity, then the age old argument of free will vs. predetermination could be answered with the unsatisfactory answer: both. It is not as far fetched to believe that free will is malleable since that is what advertising, marketing, public relations, and political consultant firms are all paid with the fact that choices could be changed en-mass. Edward Bernays pioneered persuasion via mass media, convincing the public to support World War I and that a healthy breakfast should always include some form of pork (bacon, sausage, ham, etc), without knowing the neurological reason for the effectiveness of his persuasion; I could only assume that the psychologists, linguists, neurologists, endocrinologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and a bevy of other lab coats within research & product development of companies manufacturing consumer goods will at some point perfect means of persuasion.

Jeremy Rifkin (RSA animate video embedded above) in his "The Empathetic Civilization" has the optimistic view that with neurology discovering neural mirrors is proof that humans are designed to be empathetic, but ignores that this same fact could be used for nefarious purposes such as creating empathy for brands and companies even if it is impossible for that empathy to be reciprocated. If you are saying that some sort of brainwashing could never be attempted, that no one would have the gall to do so, then you would be surprised to find out that of your grocery store is filled with end results of the primordial of exactly that 'brainwashing'. With artificial mechanical mouths to judge exactly the optimal crunch from potato chips (4 pounds of jaw pressure); chemistry to determine the proper placement of 
 magnesium carbonate within the chemical structure to create a sensation of bliss from a cookie; conjoint analysis done by consumer psychologists to see the combine affect of food coloring, texture, taste, packaging, and an ad nauseam number of other factors to attain the highest level craving (an euphemism for addictive if only psychologically speaking). The oligopoly that provides a vast majority of American calories could even use the captured market to make American society to be more receptive to be swayed, with the intentions that they would be able to make occasional customers converted to heavy users. Not that I am validating the Twinkies defense, but there is scientifically proven relationship of nutrients and general moods along with a hegemony of media that trains our brains to be less contemplative and interactive content that reward rapid response than delaying of gratification, all lead to more persuadable population.

Advertising's does not have an exclusive intended purpose, it is not merely to raise awareness of product or service to persuade patronage, it also provides the carrot to journalists employed by the same media conglomerate or non-profit organization (PBS & NPR receive corporate sponsorship) so that their respective news division shows difference when making editorial decisions. The same oligopoly of manufacturers and food processors for consumers along with retailers are the chief financial backers, through advertising, of the watchdogs of journalism that should be warning those same consumers of ill health effects of long-term use of those products. The 'free' press may trepidatiously refer to concerns about consumer products but would be wary to present any facts that are detrimental to a major advertiser of the parent company since there wouldn't just be loss of revenues from that advertiser but all the other advertisers would be made aware that that particular watchdog "bites the hand that feeds him". This conflict of interests is not limited to news divisions, entertainment divisions of media conglomerates also would not be welcoming of subversive unproven directors, writers, actors and actresses no matter how talented will not be given a chance to share their worldview. While at the same these conglomerates provide opportunities to those that lack any talent but co-opts the correct message (1/2 News Hour was a response to Jon Stewart success in satirizing the consumer culture after a career of being an apolitical stand-up comedian and transformed The Daily Show from a low rated satire of local news)

With the field set, the consumer deluded that the products and services they purchased was result of their own choice, barraged by media that has pseudo-colluded to a culture intended to persuade their audience, a nearly uniformed culture that buttresses the notion of consumption, there are in my humble opinion a significant segment of the population that has their free will diminished and are less able to make their own choices. It is technically possible to increase the power of persuasion of advertising along with other means and the research is on a track that will further increase that capability. It is likely that the limits of the research may come short of eliminating free will for all of humanity, but a little over a hundred years ago most people were adamant that humans could never fly through the air.

Mar 21, 2013

Good retirement if you can get it!

Recently it has been reported that SEC head Mary Jo White will be receiving lifetime retirement payments of $42,000 a month or $500,000 a year from her most immediate private sector employer Debevoise & Plimpton LLP a law firm that defends some the biggest Wall Street banks from SEC prosecutions. Though I am disgusted by the obvious conflict of interest, I actually want to bring attention to how very generous this retirement is structured compared to vital public servants pensions.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP retirement fund is entirely unfunded, which means if the law firm has a fiscal quarter in the red Mary Jo White won't get 3 payments or $128,000 (don't cry for Ms. White since in a bizarre attempt to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest, she requested that she get paid upfront for the 4 years that she would be the top prosecutor of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP's clients). The retirement payments are pending on the continuation of the profitability of the firm due to the retirement plan is not pre-funded and is not a participant of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) a Federal program that is the pension equivalent to the FDIC and deposit accounts within retail banks. Well Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a private company and is free to structure their compensation however they want, I would prefer that they didn't compensate exactly the person in charge of enforcement of laws that affect their clients, but c'est la vie.

Now compare and contrast with the retirement fund for your local mail carrier: with passage of HR 6407 December 20th, 2006 that restructured the USPS's pension fund and retiree healthcare so that it would be future funded for 75 years. Unlike every other department of the federal government; unlike every private company with a future funded pension regulated by PBGC; unlike the retirement plan of the SEC head-- USPS has to plan and pay for the retirement of their current and future employees some of whom have yet to be born, not to mention worked a day for the entirely postage dependent Postal Service. What is the benefit to extending out the self sufficient service's liabilities a couple of generations into the future? What happens when the USPS permanently closes up shop (an unfathomable circumstance for our founder fathers whom assumed the postal service was essential service for our government)?

The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 was the legislation that broke asunder the fiscal relationship between Federal Government and the United States Postal Service, no longer would the USPS be reliant on the tax payer to provide a government service. Self sufficiency was adequate enough for 36 years, other than a destruction of a public good, what possible rationale could be given for the 2006 reform that passed in a lame duck congress (a month and a half after Democrats took back both House & Senate)? If it was so necessary to reform the pension of the US Postal Service then why wasn't the same reform implemented in the Pension Protection Act Of 2006 that was signed August 17th 2006 a mere four months and three days prior to signing of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act?

It is a continual push for free market austerity for the masses, and free market coddling for the economic elite; defined cost retirement benefits or 401ks is the norm for masses, and defined benefits or golden parachutes is the expected for the corporate titans; individuals who have little or no control over their golden years are told by the dynastic wealthy that should take investing in their own hands while at the same time cashing guaranteed retirement checks. Retirement policies should be standard and fair across the socioeconomic strata, with the goal to avoid what Thomas Paine described:

"It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in what are called civilised countries, for daily bread"
Rights of Man by Thomas Paine

H.R. 6407 (109th): Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

Mary Jo White’s Latest Conflict of Interest

The Pension Protection Act Of 2006

Mar 20, 2013

Libertarian Pardox: How the free market will lead to a One World Corporation

Two ideals for most libertarians are in direct conflict with each other. The free market without government intrusion is the ideal economic environment; the sovereignty of the nation-state (specifically the United States sans military adventurism) is supreme and should be without intervention of foreign government or any semblance of  a One World Government.

Free enterprise being motivated purely by profit, and the stock market seeking out perpetual growth to out pace the rest of the market, without outside regulation of government and other disinterested entities monopolies and oligopolies are the  inevitable result. As the corporations grow too large for consumers to counteract monopolistic tendencies for their patronage choices to exert the 'invisible hand' of the market and assert reforms on the these economic Leviathans, competitors will either be acquired by or collude with the biggest enterprises of their particular market. Along with the horizontal monopoly (or effective monopoly among the few colluding competitors) for the sake of efficiency vertical monopolies would be sought out due to profit motives and demands for higher returns on investment. The current trajectory of the economy is veering towards a more globalized one, if this continues while there is an absence of government intervention then there is nothing to prevent a One World Corporation dominating every aspect of economic life.

I can hear my conservative-libertarian friends bellowing "No! That would never happen because the market is self correcting and the government only gets in the way." The profit motive does not have any incentive for either self-restraint nor delaying gratification, so whatever action or transaction that can be profited in this fiscal quarter and avoid liability or risk to the next fiscal quarter if it couldn't be avoided in perpetuity, leaving nothing off limits. But what of the individual moral compass that make the decisions for the corporations, won't they show restraint? With the free market and amplification of person-hood through incorporation accountability and responsibility are diffused beyond any individual.

For example the in the recent economic downturn that had provided incentives to initiate mortgages regardless of the outcome (mortgages brokers), to provide liar-loans (Countrywide Mortgages), securitized risky loans (Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, Salmon Brothers), then create markets to be traded (Goldman Sachs, Bank Of America, Citibank, etc), have the securities fraudulently rated providing false sense of stability to the typical investor (S&P, Moodys, Fitch), securitized risky mortgages with intention of losing value (Magnetar Capital), the risky financial transactions all insured to further diffuse accountability (AIG).

How would less regulation have prevented the credit crisis of 2008? How would an unrestricted pursuit of profit been different in the prior five (5) years of the crisis? If the self regulating market was hindered in it's course correction by say, the Federal Reserve, why would the for-profit private banks that ostensibly run the Fed also be the biggest barrier to a self regulating market? Removal of the Federal Reserve as Ron Paul and his acolytes would propose wouldn't be a reasonable cure-all unless one were to ignore economic history prior to 1913 and the raison d'ĂȘtre for the Fed: the Panic of 1907, where the American stock market lost 50% of value within a year. At the time of the Panic there was no means to insert liquidity into the economy so Teddy Roosevelt's had to accept J.P. Morgan's acquisition of Tennessee Coal, Iron, & Rail Company into his already monopolistic U.S. Steel Corporation in order for J.P. Morgan's to infuse liquidity into the market. J.P. Morgan was then given wide latitude when the Federal Reserve was formed and the reason why the Federal Reserve today is remains a tool of the private market rather than answering to people's representatives in the government.

The libertarian movement, in an bizarre attempt to achieve their goals, only target the public sector and do not speak ill of the private sector letting loose the golem that is corporations as if they could do no wrong and would never be destructive to the long term of the economy for short term gains. Of last year's Libertarian Party platform plank 2.6 (curiously named Monopolies and Corporations) concludes that corporations should be freely able to form and regulated by the free market alone, no mention other than the title of monopolies. Without government intervention there is no means to restrain monopolies occurring, and from the libertarian perspective that governing via free market is an inalienable from human freedom then there it should be a universal form of government for the entire planet. How could the free market prevent the monopolies of each country's economy from merging? If the free market is seeking out the most profitable (allegedly the most efficient) means and with the removal of redundancies of multiple competitors the most profitable and the only logical conclusion without government intervention is a one world corporation.

The libertarians fearful of a One World Government with command economy devoid of individual freedom holds up an ideal that would lead to a One World Corporation with an corporate aristocracy that will be the sole source of all employment and consumer products imposing their will without any repercussions other than outright rebellion against the free-market overlords. This has been an argument for moderation and a mixed economy, rather than the extremism that free-marketeers put forward. Extremism on either end and those that are proponents of extreme economic philosophy and ideology should be castigated and shunned at all costs.