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Home country: USA
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Member since: Mon Apr 28, 2014, 07:28 PM
Number of posts: 13,568

About Me

Counselor, economist and public servant.

Journal Archives

Hi. Just wanted to say that yesterday I took my wife, and my oldest daughter to see

the new Jurassic World.

No spoilers but the movie was good. I recommend it. Nice seeing Durn, Niell and Goldblum together, and it had some other good actors as well. It did have a plot, which is good, and plenty of nonstop action.

Well, had a pretty rotten day today, and here's a short rant.

To paint the backdrop my wife is in hospital after a very painful shoulder surgery, which is staged so she gets to endure another few months of pain until she gets the actual shoulder replacement. So here's the day - Mercury definitely in retrograde.

I started the day by paying bills, which was good. Then I did my usual payday Amazon and King Soopers orders. As part of the Amazon order I got two boxes of plastic trash compactor bags (heavy) and a little box of those Temptations Tuna Treats for the cats. Then, at Kings, among other stuff, I ordered four 32 oz (quart) bottles of half and half.

Logged in to work and was trying to tie up loose ends at work before going to the hospital. There was an ASAP that I had to get done so I'm working on that - it's complicated so I had to concentrate.

In the meantime I get this alert on my King Soopers app that the half and half isn't in stock but we can substitute four 16 oz (pint) bottles for the four quart bottles. Now, I'm ordering a gallon of half and half here, right? 4 quarts = 1 gallon. And, mathematically, since 2 pints = 1 quart, then if I want a gallon in pints, I have to get eight, not four. Right?

But the app doesn't let me. Now I should have known better than to dial into their soul-sucking black hole of customer care, but...sigh...I did. After screaming 'agent! agent! agent! agent!' over and over until the AI said it would connect me with someone, I waited 10 minutes (not bad) on hold before someone answered.

I explained the bit above about my order, and she said let me connect you to the store. So a lady answers at the store, and I told her what I wanted and, well, that's against the corporate rules, because you simply can't add to an order. I explained that since I wanted a gallon of half and half it was immaterial whether that came in eight pints or four quarts, but she just talked over me. Ended up hanging up on me.

Furious, I called the store manager and ended up getting this lady's subordinate. Hey, this just keeps getting better and better, right? So I called the lady back and she said she, just this once, would add four pints to my order. I thanked her, feeling soul-soiled from my own anger.

Then I went to the hospital to see my wife, who was in horrible pain, and the infectuous disease doctor came in to see her while I was there. He said it was unusual not to find infections, and it led him to think she might be suffering from some inflammatory type of arthritis, rather than being infected. When he left, she collapsed in a heap of tears because this doctor had actually, if you read between the lines, told us she hadn't really needed the surgery and if she'd been referred to a rheumatologist first, we might have her horrible, debilitating arthritis under control this very moment.

Now, this HMO, which I will not name, (whoops, just had a fleeting thought about the ruler of Germany who abdicated in 1919), screwed us around for years while her arthritis got worse, and NO ONE, NO ONE thought it might be good to refer her to a rheumatologist? Really?

Her arm was black and blue too because they kept screwing up the IVs. Basically right out of a Stephen King horror novel. Because being sick here in 'Murika really IS the stuff of horror. Did you know that at age 63, when I should be doing better than I ever have financially, I had to take out a loan to pay my financially crippling copay? And cover some dental surgery I needed? Well, this is the lounge, so I won't get started on healthcare.

OK, so I get home, and Amazon delivers the package. One day delivery. Pretty good. Oh, but wait! The person who packed it ALL in the same box - the thin little plastic jar of cat treats with the two heavy boxes of garbage bags - gosh, how can we be surprised if the cat treat container broke and scattered little square tuna stuffed treats all over the bottom of the box. I get that Amazon is probably not that great a place to work, but seems like you'd put the heavy stuff in one box and the light stuff in another.

Finally, to cap it all off, the piece de resistance of the whole thing, is when I got to Kings to pick up the order, the very nice young lady who brought it out to my car for me, told me her boss had them add those four more pints of half and half to the order, and I thanked her.

But.............she was an American kid, because I talked to her - no accent or anything. Just a kid who went to public school here in the 'Murikan 'burbs.

She pronounced 'pints' line you would pin. A short i. Pin - ts. As opposed to pronouncing it like a pine (tree) - p-eye-nts. Think about that while you recoil in mindless horror at what we have done to education system. It should be funded really well, and be so excellent it is the envy of the world.

Well, enough of that. Sorry to rant. Shitty day.

Oh, well. Now I'm gonna watch a little TV.

This is a very thoughtful post. Thank you. Yes, greed is the major evil we all face here

in the end-stage capitalist utopia that is America (and much of the world, though nearly everyone is cheaper than we are in terms of cost of living). I just had a friend get back from vacay in Spain with her cousin, and she said they ate really well - full course meals with drinks, and never paid more than $40 for both of them. Try that here.

Maybe you ought to beef this up a little and make it an OP? We need to be coming back at these greed-heads every time, because they sure do shaft us every time. One more little vignette: I often shop on Amazon, and apparently the affiliated merchant who usually stocks the cat litter I use is temporarily out. So an alternate merchant is selling it for the same prices with $8.99 shipping, and another is selling it for $31 for 40 lbs - it is usually $18.99.

That's how it works. I imagine once the regular merchant gets stock it, the everyday price may well rise. It sure has been true for paper products. I get mine from Sam's now, because Amazon marks them up so ridiculously. You really have to shop.

The other thing is that Amazon used the tax loopholes provided through the giant, bloated, unnecessary 2017 Republican tax cut for billionaires and corporations to pay...wait for this....


in taxes in 2021. They - again apparently - legally 'avoided' paying $5.4 billion. Gosh, that would fund a lot of healthcare, wouldn't it! Maybe if these fucking corporations actually paid their share in taxes, I wouldn't have had to take out a loan for healthcare 'services' this year.

And lastly, Amazon raised its Prime membership over 15% from last year.

So it's one big gouge.

What do I use Amazon? I'm disabled and not able to run all over the place with gas at $4 a gallon to shop in person for stuff, and have to buy almost everything online and have it delivered, including groceries.

Did you know that Kings (Kroger), Safeway, Wal-Mart and others contract with an outfit called Instacart? These drivers, like the Ubers and Lyfts, don't get any benefits, but work on solely a contract basis - when they want. For a big order of say, $250 or $260 (not that big anymore with inflation), they get paid a whopping $15 or $20. Now Instacart has it worked so if you sign up for a yearly membership at $99, there is no delivery fee, which is good, but if you have even a modicum of human decency, you're going to give the shopper at least a $15 tip. Seriously. Because the shoppers who have delivered my groceries are generally working part time at this with another job and are barely making ends meet.

Capitalism makes me want to puke everytime I see the fucking disgusting sausage of 'shareholder profits' being made at the expense of workers, consumers, whole communities and the earth itself.

It would be SO good if we:

1. Actually had the political courage to force changes in corporate charters so profits aren't held above everything else - a stakeholder approach forcing the corporations to hold worker welfare, consumer welfare and the environment as being equal in importance to shareholder profits. Then, perhaps, people wouldn't have to die or go without stuff they desperately need. Like insulin.

2. Raised taxes on corporations so they are paying more than 6.8% of the total tax revenue collected by the federal government while individual taxpayers are footing 86% of the bill. Think about that. A fair ratio would actually be the 35% (corporations) : 45% (individuals) we had ca. 1970. Seriously - HW was right in the way back when to call Reagan's supply side (cut taxes for businesses and they would create so many jobs the payroll taxes would more than make for the corporate shortfall) proposals VOODOO ECONOMICS. It was in 1980, and it SURE is now. Supply side never worked in the past, does not now work, and will never work. It's implementation forces the burden of paying out on all these defense contracts and prison contracts to us, while programs we need are cut, cut, cut. Witness the worm Manchin expressing his 'concern' over reducing the age of Medicare eligibility, and all the disgusting assholes who lie to our faces by telling we 'can't afford' Medicare for all Americans. We sure could if corporations and billionaires paid their fair share of taxes, and we had a tax on trades done by arbitrage 'bots on Wall Street, and we eliminated the payroll tax cap on Social Security. We could goddamned well afford these programs if we had the guts to reform our tax code so it is actually fair and balanced.

So now, folks, we have what we have - the end stage capitalist gouge, a war in Ukraine that is killing thousands and hurting the whole world, claims of supply side disruptions driving everything up even when not justified, and our species facing extinction if we can't learn to control our carbon emissions.

All for the sake of...wait for it...


We might well go extinct because some greedhead billionaires can still line their pockets right up to the time its over.

Wow. That was quite a rant, particularly because of my hypocrisy in shopping at Amazon. But what else are we gonna do. We should all be calling our Senators and Representative every ten minutes on this shit, becaue the only thing we CAN do is get the people who supposedly represent our interests to actually DO that at a policy level.

This is a really good thoughtful post, and I have something personal to support your point.

Again, on a strictly personal note, there have been several times in my own life where events have forced me to a realization of how wrong I had been. I have heard this kind of thing be called an 'epiphany,' and so suppose I can call it that since the word is defined as a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, or an intuitive grasp of reality, where different pieces of the puzzle fall into place and suddenly you realize the enormity of something.

In the way back when, I was in my twenties during the 1980s, and was a 'Reagan Republican.' I was this because my grandma Max was, and shared screed after screed with me - long tracts in small font designed to gin up fear of the old Soviet Union - the 'commies.' This made me a truly obnoxious college student. I can remember being a horrible thorn in the side of the professor teaching a class called Social Change.

He taught the class from a Marxist perspective, which drove me bananas, and forced me to write my semester paper using a Marxist perspective. Of course, I bent over backwards putting qualifying language in it, because I didn't want anyone to think I was a 'commie' for goodness sake!

When I look back on my behavior in that class, I am truly ashamed because I was an awful bully during class discussions, and it was the very first class this professor had taught, and I drew him into a proverbial pissing contest. Horrible experience, I'm sure, for the rest of the students in the class, and all because of me. I suspect I ruined the class for everyone. Sigh.

Later on, as time passed, I learned things. I was exposed to different ideas by people I respected, and darned if I did not keep remembering things people had said in the class referenced above, things the professor had said, things his guest speakers had said. Since I am a curious individual and a voracious reader, I compiled a list of authors I wanted to read, beginning with the Communist Manifesto. You know, the USSR and Maoist China never reflected what Marx actually said. I ended up doing additional massive research in economics - looking at books on money supply and central banking, and on the doctrine of shareholder primacy - what capitalism really means.

And, of course, Noam Chomsky - I found him difficult reading. I liked Howard Zinn much better, and his book, "A People's History of the United States," literally blew me away. I learned about oligarchs, wedges, manufactured consent, and then read Klein and learned about shock and awe capitalism. We saw that applied here by Brownie in the aftermath of Katrina. The Bushies allowed private sector companies to maximize profits at the expense of the people who had lost everything in the hurricane.

Somewhere along the line I had the epiphany and became the fervent Democrat I am now.

I share this painful memory because I am human. I was wrong, and when I felt the full weight of my former zealotry, I was ashamed. Big time.

For this reason, I cannot support the assertion by many that no Republicans have any sense of shame. All human beings have a sense of shame. Oh, I don't hold out any hope for dirt-bags like Hawley, Cruz, little Marco, Bats**t Boebert, Marjorie 'Traitor' Greene, McCarthy, Cotton, Gohmert and the rest. They are useful idiots that are towing the line for the billionaire parasites, the oligarchs that have so corrupted our Republic.

But - I am an economist, and interact regularly with people in both parties - local elected officials, economic developers, chamber executives, businesspeople, postsecondary educators, and leaders in other community based organizations. Some, I suppose, are sociopaths. In fact a couple of them are, for sure. But not all, by a long shot. Most are basically decent, and DO have a sense of shame.

The problem is they get their 'news' from biased sources such as Fox and talk radio, because Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine way back in 1987, and we have seen the growth of what Rachel Maddow calls the Right Wing Noise Machine. That is truth, and Trumpy took that to a whole new level, and now we have the Kluxers, Nazis, crazy-right Evangelicals and other tin-foil types crawling out from under slimy rocks everywhere.

This is why I harp on forcing changes to corporate charters to get rid of shareholder primacy. On identifying the government's role as providing services where the profit motive is in direct conflict with the interests of the people receiving the service - like healthcare. On why we should consider eliminating the Fed and having the US Government take over central banking. On why we need to beef up voting rights by passing that John Lewis Act. And so on.

Policies affect us, you know. And some of the policies put in place around taxation, courtesy of Reagan and the supply-side people at the Chicago School, have really, really hurt the Republic. They have.

Anyway, I am human. I was wrong. I have a sense of shame. I was ashamed. I changed.

So can nearly every other human being. But it is hard. When you believe something fervently and are confronted with facts to the contrary, it causes massive discomfort.

If we are to save this Republic, we must, it seems, change our minds as a people.

Sorry for the long post. If you have read this far, why, you get a nice gold star!

War is stupid, and Putin is in fact a war criminal. But how does the military industrial complex

feel about it all?

Well, I'll tell you.

If we want the world peace Zelinsky spoke of yesterday morning, then we need to force changes in corporate charters away from shareholder primacy to a stakeholder approach. For those of you who have read my little soapbox on this before, bear with me.

In 1919, the Dodge Brothers, who were shareholders in Ford Motor Company sued Henry Ford on the basis that raising the wages of his factory workers to the point where they could afford to buy the cars they produced deprived them of profits to which they were 'entitled' as shareholders. They WON that suit in a Michigan Supreme Court ruling and the doctrine of Shareholder Primacy was born.

It has hardened since then, to the point where 'the market' rewards CEOS who engage in sociopathic behavior. We often get called 'snowflakes' when we say our system holds profits over people, but this is a true statement. Profit is king, and people are nothing. Every. Single. Time.

Think - if you are CEO of a publicly held company, the first thing you're going to do is bust the union. Then, you will drive wages and benefits down, and steal the pension fund if you can. You will compromise on worker safety and cut costs at the expense of good working conditions.

You will downsize the packaging of your products and charge the same amount. If people are hurt by your product sometimes, you will decide, based on shareholder profits, if it is more 'cost effective' to just pay the claims of the people who are maimed or killed from your product, versus recalling the product and fixing the problem. Seriously. Most of you can cite at least several examples of this behavior off the top of your heads.

And the environment? LOL. You will foul it whenever you can get away with it, and if you get caught, or screw up in some other way, you will run to the 'gummint' for a bailout at the expense of taxpayers, but you'll pocket any and all profits. You won't pay any taxes, either, if you can find loopholes. Corporations only pay in 6.8% of the government's tax revenue, while individual taxpayers foot 86% of the bill. This is how you want it.

Finally, you will fund campaigns for as many Republican legislators as you can, because what could be a better investment in keeping this policy just the way you like it? You will also 'earn' millions per year because of a tax loophole that allows corporations to deduct much of your 'compensation.'


And until we force changes to corporate charters to a stakeholder approach that holds workers, consumers and the environment on an equal footing with shareholders, we will continue to have the problems we do. And the corruption we have.

I know this is an esoteric point, or so you may think. You may believe the average 'Murikan cannot understand such a complicated thing, and that's just what the oligarchs want you to continue thinking.

I say this because we have a military industrial complex (MIC) that is driven VERY MUCH by shareholder profits, with patriotism a distant second place. This MIC will NEVER, EVER allow the UN to have the power it should have, or allow Zelinsky's world peace organization to form. It would, after all, be BAD for PROFITS.

Biden should not be blamed for higher gas prices. It is an error to conflate Biden's policies

on Russian oil with the rise in prices at the pump and here's why:

I'd like to respectfully remind everyone that profits are up generally in the oil industry, and that they are using the war as an excuse to gouge us at the pump because they can - they are driven by the doctrine of shareholder primacy - profits over people, rather than by any patriotism or even decency.

To put the ban in perspective, the US imported around 700,000 barrels a day from Russia. In 2021, the United States consumed an average of about 19.78 million barrels of petroleum per day. So we imported around 3.5% of our oil from Russia.

According to the US Department of Energy, in 2021, the United States imported about 8.47 million barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum from 73 countries. Petroleum includes crude oil, hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGLs), refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels. Crude oil imports of about 6.11 million b/d accounted for about 72% of U.S. total gross petroleum imports in 2021, and non-crude oil petroleum accounted for about 28% of U.S. total gross petroleum imports.

In 2021, the United States exported about 8.63 million b/d of petroleum to 176 countries and 4 U.S. territories. Crude oil exports of about 2.98 million b/d accounted for 35% of total U.S. gross petroleum exports in 2021. The resulting total net petroleum imports (imports minus exports) were about -0.16 million b/d in 2021, which means that the United States was a net petroleum exporter of 0.16 million b/d in 2021.

The top five source countries of U.S. gross petroleum imports in 2021 were Canada, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Colombia.

Here's who we export oil to:
The top five destination countries of U.S. total petroleum exports by export volume and percentage share of U.S. total petroleum exports in 2021 were:

Mexico—1.16 million b/d—13%
Canada—0.84 million b/d—10%
India—0.62 million b/d—7%
China—0.59 million b/d—7%
South Korea—0.56 million b/d—6%

Now here's the thing I cannot stress enough: The oil companies are governed by the doctrine that shareholder profits are king, and must be held above the interests of workers, consumers and even the environment. Period. They are out for profits. There is absolutely no patriotism there.

So for anyone to say that Biden's policies have driven prices up at the pump is a gross error. The market is far too complicated for such a statement to be true. This really is a price gouge. Nothing more. It is just sick that the media will for the most part conflate Biden's policies with price rises at the pump. Gas has been going up for months and has contributed a lot to the high inflation we're already seeing.

Fortune reports that Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and Total have all returned to profitability in this year's fourth-quarter earnings—in fact, reporting the biggest profits they've seen in eight years.

Here's a nice link to an editorial from Earth Justice that tells you that the oil companies already have a bunch of unused leases (because drilling costs money) on federal land. They are only trying to get the government to use our tax dollars to help fund them. It's the capitalist way - pocket profits and pass all the costs you can on to taxpayers. Corporate socialism at its best: https://earthjustice.org/from-the-experts/2022-march/the-oil-industrys-dishonest-effort-to-wring-profits-from-pain.

Fighting Disinformation Can Feel Like a Lost Cause. It Isn't.


This is a really provocative editorial. Worth the read. Here is a quick excerpt:

Over the past five years, Finland has become one of the world’s leaders in disinformation education. High school students there are given a series of political topics and asked to compile lists of stories and commentary from across the internet. They’re then tasked with investigating the veracity of claims. In some schools, even elementary school students are given a “tool kit” that provides them with ways to spot dubious information online.

When I read this, I thought, "What a great idea! We should do that here in the US."

But we don't. The article continues:

In my last newsletter about disinformation, I wrote about a study by the Stanford History Education Group that showed that American high school students were failing basic media literacy and disinformation-spotting tests. Today, I want to dive a bit deeper into the results, which were largely divided by class and race.

So there you have it.

As always, one must ask the pointed queston cui bono? Who benefits from keeping us in ignorance?

Oil Industry Uses Ukraine Invasion to Push for More Drilling

Source: New York Times

Russian troops hadn’t yet begun their full-on assault on Ukraine late Wednesday when the rallying cry came from the American oil and gas industry.

“As crisis looms in Ukraine, U.S. energy leadership is more important than ever,” the American Petroleum Institute, the powerful industry lobby group, wrote on Twitter with a photo that read: “Let’s unleash American energy. Protect our energy security.”

The crux of the industry’s argument is that any effort to restrain drilling in America makes a world already reeling from high oil prices more dependent on oil and gas from Russia, a rival and belligerent fossil fuel superpower.

The industry’s demands have focused on reversing steps the Biden administration has taken to start reining in the production of fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/climate/ukraine-oil-lobby-biden-drilling.html

The problem, of course, is that the oil industry cares far more about unleashing higher profits than it does 'unleashing American energy.'

It is the way of capitalism, I know. But if we really cared about 'American energy security,' we'd be focused more on solar, wind and other renewables.

And, we'd be working together to ensure even more workers could work remotely to further reduce our carbon footprint...

It is my hope that Democratic Party movers and shakers will read my post on this thread.

Yes, American corporate culture is poisonous. It is. We are born, we go to a school to learn enough to be 'workers,' then we are sentenced to work for 50 years. After which we get a pension called Social Security that barely pays the bills and keeps us in grinding poverty. We have Medicare, but it is massively confusing to the point where you have to get a book or lawyer up to even understand it, and it has holes that could bankrupt you. WHY???

Now, we are told that we 'can't afford' to expand Social Security and Medicare, but we CAN afford trillions on forever wars and frivolous tax cuts weighted toward benefitting billionaires.

So...where IS our healthcare? Where are the subsidies for childcare so our kids and grandkids don't have to spend an arm and a leg on childcare just so they can work? Where is our dental care? Vision? And where are the defined benefit pensions? Why are corporations allowed to cut our hours so they don't have to give us benefits? Why is pay so low for the workers while CEOs earn in the millions? Why is that?

If government is a service, and we individual taxpayers pay in 86% of the tax revenue, WHY don't those we elect enact laws that materially benefit us? This IS a government of, by and for the people. Isn't it????

Our whole corporate culture, because the shareholder is king, and profits are ALWAYS counted as being more important than people, is a system of slavery - wage slavery.

And now, as workers are voting with their feet, and winning the battle, swinging the pendulum back just a tiny bit to their benefit, we are threatened with a war with Russia - a war that offers at best a Pyrrhic victory for us, and will likely result in bringing down the republic. We are split with one whole political party not in support of democracy, and they will NOT have Biden's back. Millions of Fox 'news' viewers are actually rootin' for Putin, you know?

If we end up in a war in the middle of a pandemic the Republicans have made sure isn't gonna end anytime soon, because they don't want to take no vaccine or wear no masks, 'cause their free-dumb, you know, then we are truly fucked. We working class stiffs will end up sucking wind, BUT THE OLIGARCHS WILL DO JUST FINE.



So, yeah, right now I'm not feeling too good about these fucks. And you might not like 'the squad,' but AOC is goddamned right when she says that every billionaire is a failure in policy. That is NO SHIT.
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