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Microsoft to buy Nokia phones, patents for $7.2B
A 2013 excerpt of the AP, Spt 3.
Microsoft says it is buying Nokia’s devices and services business, and getting access to the company’s patents, for a total of 5.44 billion euros ($7.2 billion) in an effort to expand its share of the smartphone market. Nokia confirmed the deal in a joint news release.
This is a major step in Microsoft’s push to transform itself from a software maker focused on making operating systems and applications for desktop and laptop computers into a more versatile and nimble company that delivers services on any kind of Internet-connected gadget.
The purchase in an attempt to mount a more formidable challenge to Apple Inc. and Google Inc. as more technological tasks get done on mobile devices instead of personal computers.
The shift is weakening Microsoft, which has dominated the PC software market for the past 30 years, and empowering Apple, the maker of the trend-setting iPhone and iPad, and Google, which gives away the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android.
Nokia, based in Espoo, Finland, and Microsoft have been trying to make inroads in the smartphone market as part of a partnership forged in 2011. But their devices haven’t emerged as a popular alternative to the iPhone or an array of Android-powered devices spearheaded by Samsung Electronics’ smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft is betting it will have a better chance of narrowing the gap if it seizes complete control over how the mobile devices work with its Windows software.
Microsoft hopes to complete the deal early next year. If that timetable pans out, about 32,000 Nokia employees will transfer to Microsoft, which currently has about 99,000 workers.
It will represent the second most expensive acquisition in Microsoft’s 38-year history, ranking behind an $8.5 billion purchase of Internet calling and video conferencing service Skype.
The money to buy Nokia’s smartphones and patents will be drawn from the nearly $70 billion that Microsoft held in overseas accounts as of June 30.
Ed. Notes: So Microsoft seeks total control, rather than cooperation. That means they are a top-down company. Could that be why they lost touch with the market?
All those billions they keep offshore — how is that legal? Not that it’s offshore, out of the grasp of the taxman, but that they don’t have to use the huge profit to pay stockholders huge dividends. Why is cheating shareholders not considered theft?
Further, the value of the patents, not the value of buildings or machines, is the most valuable thing in Nokia. Patents, little pieces of paper that grant monopoly control over some turf in the field of knowledge, and that cost a pittance. Some analysts estimate that patents and copyrights account for 80% of the value of companies listed on Wall Street’s NYSE. But if the value is not in the product but in the monopoly over part of the market, then shouldn’t we raise what we charge for patents and copyrights up to full market value?
This 2013 excerpt of Independent Science News, Oct 30, is by Colin Tudge.
Golden Rice is a flagship for GMOs. Golden Rice is not the answer to the world’s vitamin A problem, rather it is part of the cause. Syngenta’s promotion of it is an exercise in top-down control.
Vitamin A deficiency is now a huge and horrible issue primarily because horticulture has been squeezed out by monocultural big-scale agriculture —- the kind that produces nothing but rice or wheat or maize as far as the eye can see. The best way by far to supply carotene (and thus vitamin A) is by horticulture which traditionally was at the core of all agriculture.
We have been told that GMOs increase yields with lower inputs and have been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be safe. In reality, GMOs do not consistently or even usually yield well under field conditions; they do not necessarily lead to reduction in chemical inputs, and have often led to increases; and there is no worldwide consensus of scientists vouching for their safety.
No GMO food crop has ever solved a problem that really needs solving that could not have been solved by conventional means in the same time and at less cost.
We have been assured that without high tech, industrialized agriculture, we will all starve. Yet the world already produces enough staple food to support 14 billion -– twice the present number. A billion starve because the wrong food is produced in the wrong places by the wrong means by the wrong people -– and once the food is produced, half of it is wasted.
The task is not to increase output, but to produce what we do produce (or even less) by means that are kinder to people, livestock, and wildlife.
The industrial farming that is supposed to be feeding the world in practice provides only 30% of the world’s food. Another 20% comes from fishing, hunting, and people’s back gardens – and the remaining 50% comes from the mostly small, mostly mixed traditional farms that the industrialists and their political assistants tell us are an anachronism; and small mixed farms can be the most productive of all, per unit area. Furthermore, to produce their 30%, the industrial farms gobble up enormous quantities of oil for their industrial chemistry with immense collateral damage, not least to the climate. In contrast traditional farms are low input, and at least when properly managed, need not be damaging at all.
Small, mixed, traditional-style farms are said to be far too expensive because they are labour-intensive. But in fact, about 80% of what people spend on food in supermarkets goes to the middle-men and the banks (who lend the money to set up the system in the first place). So the farmers get only 20%. If those farmers are up to their ears in debt, then a fair slice of that 20% goes to the banks. At most, the farm labour costs account for less than 10% of the total food bill. It’s the 80% we need to get down.
When farmers sell directly to customers they get 100% of the retail price; through farmers’ markets they typically get around 70%; and through local shops at least 30%.
The Monsanto Protection Act allows big agricultural and biotech corporations to ignore food safety regulations and sell genetically engineered foods even after a court order to stop. The Monsanto Protection Act was written anonymously and in secret — and prevents courts from doing their jobs.
US Sens. Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Earl Blumenauer, Kyrsten Sinema, Yes on 522, and the Daily Kos community sponsored a petition to tell Congress to stop the Monsanto Protection Act.
Ed. Notes: You know why corporations are called limiteds in the UK? Because their salient feature is they limit the liability of those responsible for harming others in order to turn a fatter profit. If you repealed such limits or at least made businesses pay a fair and ongoing fee for their corporate charter, then they’d become much better corporate citizens.
At the bottom of the business hierarchy, most farmers toil on land that’s not theirs but owned by absentee investors. The actual farmer has little say over how to farm. To empower farmers you have to spread farmland ownership. A very effective way to do that is to have government recover ground rents. Having to pay land rents makes it pointless to own land you don’t use — the profit goes to the rent. So absentee owners sell out, actual farmers get some farmland, and everybody’s happy (almost).
Happily, this geonomic solution has worked wherever tried.
The US Congress seem to be the only people in America getting as much down time as the medieval peasant. They get 239 days off this year.
This 2013 excerpt of Reuter’s Great Debate, Aug 29, is by Lynn Parramore.
Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. During periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.
When workers fought for the eight-hour workday, they weren’t trying to get something radical and new, but rather to restore what their ancestors had enjoyed before industrial capitalists and the electric lightbulb came on the scene. Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.
As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.
Some blame the American worker for not taking what is her due. But in a period of consistently high unemployment, job insecurity, and weak labor unions, employees may feel no choice but to accept the conditions set by the culture and the individual employer. In a world of “at will” employment, where the work contract can be terminated at any time, it’s not easy to raise objections.
Ironically, this cult of endless toil doesn’t really help the bottom line. Study after study shows that overworking reduces productivity. On the other hand, performance increases after a vacation, and workers come back with restored energy and focus. The longer the vacation, the more relaxed and energized people feel upon returning to the office.
Economic crises give austerity-minded politicians excuses to talk of decreasing time off, increasing the retirement age, and cutting into social insurance programs, and safety nets that were supposed to allow us a fate better than working until we drop. But the Greeks, who face a horrible economy, already work more hours than any other Europeans. In Germany, an economic powerhouse, workers rank second to last in number of hours worked. Despite more time off, German workers are the eighth most productive in Europe, while the long-toiling Greeks rank 24 out of 25 in productivity.
Beyond burnout, vanishing vacations [and expanding workweeks] make our relationships with families and friends suffer. Our health is deteriorating: depression and higher risk of death are among the outcomes for our no-vacation nation.
Ed. Notes: You want a solution to too much (useless) work? You need to get some income that comes from some other source than your work. You need to get paid not for your labor or your capital (your savings / investments). You need an income from your land, or, more precisely, from all the land in your region — sort of like Singapore’s dividend to citizens from its high land values, sort of like Aspen’s assistance to residents for housing from a tiny partial land tax, and sort of like Alaska’s oil dividend to residents. With that extra income, then you could negotiate not just more time off but also higher wages, better conditions, and more say in management. And you’d become more productive too, so then you could take even more time off!
IRS Cracks Down on Breaks Tied to Rich Americans’ Land
This 2013 excerpt of Bloomberg, Nov 5, is by Richard Rubin.
The IRS is challenging a complex and obscure tax break that benefits some of the nation’s wealthiest property owners. Without giving up land, they donate the hard-to-calculate value of a perpetual promise to leave the property undisturbed. For that, they claim a big tax deduction.
The conservation easement break is one of hundreds scattered throughout the tax code that members of Congress are reviewing.
Between 2003 and 2006, taxpayers saved an estimated $4 billion through easement donations, about 6 percent of the revenue that the U.S. government will forgo because of the mortgage interest deduction next year alone. The U.S. tax system raised $2.8 trillion last year.
Congress first specifically allowed tax deductions for conservation easements in 1976 and made the rule permanent in 1980.
The Obama administration has made little headway in its effort to push lawmakers to prevent golf courses and air rights above historic buildings from qualifying for the break.
Ed. Notes: The problem with giving someone a little unearned income is then they feel like they deserve a lot more. Then they go too far, even for the usually docile IRS. It must mean that the government debt is worrying even some in the government — if the federal debt gets too big, the even the IRS could lose its source of funding!
A world without an IRS does sound like a better place to live. However, they IRS could become useful if it were to calculate the income that’s not earned by individuals but earned by society, which is all our spending for goods and services never produced by labor or capital, things such as land, oil, the airwaves, ecosystem services, etc.
If people saw how manny trillions they spent as a society for using some land, payments made to a tiny group of absentee owners, speculators, and lenders, then they might finally see such spending as our common wealth, as society’s surplus, as a font to share.
The poor get handouts and the rich get tax loopholes, worth many billions more.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 29, is by Jay Livingston.
About half of all tax “expenditures” [tax breaks or loopholes] go to the top quintile (top 20 percent of income earners). The bottom 80 percent of earners divide the other half. And within that richest quintile, the top one percent receive 15 percent of all tax expenditures (this distribution of tax breaks roughly parallels the distribution of income).
The Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits mostly the poor, “costs” [exempts from the income tax] less than $40 billion. The tab for the low tax on investment income (capital gains and dividends) is more than twice that, and nearly all of that goes to the top quintile. More than two-thirds goes to the richest one percent.
The point? People complain about government payments to the poor, but tax breaks are also payments, though less obviously so, to the rich. And those tax breaks cost the government a lot more money.
Ed. Notes: Some say, to eliminate all this funny business, get rid of all loopholes for everyone and just have a flat income tax rate. That could be a step in the right direction — if all the revenue were to go to war and war debt. Then, when people complain about the tax money taken from them they’d have to, logically, at the same time complain about all the wars their government wages, not necessarily making the country safer but definitely making military contractors and other insiders incredibly rich.
If your income tax payments were to fund only wars (past, present, and future), how would government fund other programs? What programs? Most are not needed. You mean medicare and social security and food stamps? Forget them. Forget them all. Instead, fund a Citizen’s Dividend — a check in the mail paid monthly to the citizenry in general.
Where would government get the money for paying citizens a dividend? For all of our spending for nature, from our mortgages for the land under our homes and from the leases for the oil under our territory, including from the licenses for the airwaves and other mini-monopolies. Government would shift its taxes, fees, and dues to redirect our spending for nature into the public treasury, then back out again as equal dividends.
Government would charge full market value for its deeds and utility franchises and corporate charters and every other privilege it grants, without granting anyone any special rates or loopholes.
Under this policy, people would pay for what they take, not what they make, earn their keep, keep what they earn, and enjoy a share of what already belongs to us all, our common heritage, the worth of Earth in our territory.
Indians don’t get enough credit for their role in making the fall harvest holiday possible — rename it Thankindians — while the poor get too much blame for imposing on others.
This excerpt of European Politics and Policy within the London School of Economics, Nov 15, is by Christian Albrekt Larsen.
Negative portrayals of welfare recipients in the UK press are in contrast to the positive stories which dominate Swedish and Danish mass media.
Stories and pictures presented in the mass media help shape our opinions towards the poor and welfare recipients. Media content influences our perception of who the poor and welfare recipients really are, how they behave, and what should be done to either help or punish them.
The US and the UK are caught in a vicious circle: the combination of higher levels of poverty and a targeted welfare system produces a large amount of negative stories about the poor and welfare recipients. In contrast, Sweden and Denmark seem to be caught in a virtuous circle. There, the combination of lower poverty levels and a universal welfare system reduces the amount of newsworthy negative stories and creates room for positive narratives about the ‘deserving poor’.
Ed. Notes: When the poor get something for nothing, the right is enraged while the left is OK with it. When the rich get something for nothing, the left is enraged while the right is indifferent. If only both would rally together to get rid of welfare for both the needy and the greedy.
What could replace government handouts to insiders on one (heavily laden) hand and to the underclass on the other (tight-fisted) hand? A Citizen’s Dividend. Pay the citizenry in general an equal amount, no matter their station in life. That would eliminate both the stigma hurting the downtrodden and the favoritism uplifting the well-connected.
What would fund the Dividend? A dividend, by definition, is a share of a surplus. What is our social surplus, our common wealth? It’s all of our spending for all the nature we use. It’s part of mortgages, part of resource leases, indeed it’s part of the price of every good consisting of raw material and every service delivered on some location — all goods and services. We could redirect this spending into the public treasury by levying taxes, dues, fees, and the like, and then back out again to everyone as periodic dividend check in everyone’s (e)mail. We’d all probably feel thankful eventho’ a fair share of society’s organic surplus is our basic right.
This 2013 of Common Dreams, Aug 28, is by Norman Solomon.
Every president who wants to launch another war can’t abide whistleblowers. They might interfere with the careful omissions, distortions, and outright lies of war propaganda, which requires that truth be held in a kind of preventative detention.
Obama has overseen more prosecutions of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined—- while also subjecting journalists to ramped-up surveillance and threats, whether grabbing the call records of 20 telephone lines of the Associated Press or pushing to imprison New York Times reporter James Risen for not revealing a source.
The vengeful treatment of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, the all-out effort to grab Edward Snowden, and less-publicized prosecutions such as the vendetta against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake are all part of a government strategy that aims to shut down unauthorized pipelines of information to journalists —- thence to the public. When secret information is blocked, all that’s left is the official story.
From the false Tonkin Gulf narrative in 1964 that boosted the Vietnam War to the fabricated baby-incubators-in-Kuwait tale in 1990 that helped launch the Gulf War to the reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction early in this century, countless deaths and unfathomable suffering have resulted from the failure of potential whistleblowers to step forward in a timely and forthright way —- and the failure of journalists to challenge falsehoods in high government places.
The key problems, as usual, revolve around undue deference to authority —- obedience in the interests of expediency —- resulting in a huge loss of lives and a tremendous waste of resources that should be going to sustain human life instead of destroying it.
As a practical matter, real journalism can’t function without whistleblowers. Democracy can’t function without real journalism. And we can’t stop the warfare state without democracy. In the long run, the struggles for peace and democracy are one and the same.
Ed. Notes: Yet we can’t have either peace or democracy unless we win economic justice. The elite have no reason to respect you, not as long as they can syphon off our common wealth and everyone keeps silent about it. That surplus, it’s something society in general generates and can’t help but do so. That flow of funds belongs to all of us, not just those who loom over everyone else. It’s all of society’s spending for land and natural resources, all the things that didn’t require anyone’s labor or capital to come into existence. None of us made harbors or oil, all of us need them, and population in general create their value. Once we wake up to that, and share what already belongs to us all, then we will have closed the income and wealth gaps, have toppled the elite, and their drives to various wars will be no more.
Verizon’s $725 million loan shows Farm Credit reform is needed.
This 2013 excerpt of USA Today, Nov 14, is by Jeff Plagge, president of Northwest Financial Corp, chairman of the American Bankers Association. This article first appeared in The Des Moines Register.
The federal Farm Credit System was created nearly 100 years ago at a time when affordable bank loans for farmers were hard to find. Today is a $250 billion financial institution; if it were a bank, it would be the ninth-largest in the country. Not only is its funding subsidized by government sponsorship, it also receives very generous tax breaks — all while competing directly with banks and other lenders that do not share these advantages.
It also makes loans to whomever it wants -— such as those buying land for recreational purposes: developers of golf courses and luxury residential neighborhoods.
Recently it loaned $725 million to Verizon Communications. The Farm Credit System joined with 45 banks from around the world to help Verizon purchase the 45% of Verizon Wireless it does not already own from British telecom giant Vodafone.
Why should taxpayers be subsidizing loans to a Dow 30 company with $116 billion in 2012 revenues? It will not fund construction of any rural wireless infrastructure; it merely funds a corporate buyout. Verizon is not a rural telephone cooperative; it is a stockholder-owned corporation.
Should the government continue to sponsor an enterprise as large and unfocused as today’s Farm Credit System?
Ed. Notes: The author, being a banker, has an axe to grind, since public lenders take business away from private lenders. That aside, the bigger issue is: these deals are the main business of government and always have been: to serve business. The out-of-pocket expense to the taxpayer (as a direct subsidy to the FCS) might not be so huge, but that’s not the point. The point is, the loans are to the biggies, not the littles. Government involvement in a business does not lower its prices to the public; that’s not even touched. And competition — which should lower prices and raise service — is not increased. No, it’s just another example of the role government plays in the real world as handmaiden to big business.
If you want it to stop, you have to stop letting politicians spend all your public revenue and must start spending it yourselves. That is, limit the government’s discretionary power of the purse to defending our rights; use the bulk of public revenue to fund a dividend to the citizenry in general.
Where would government get the money? From taxes, fees, dues, and leases on lands, resources, airwaves, and monopoly privileges like Verizon’s utility franchise. Charge the Verizons of the world full value for loans and guarantees; don’t give them such favors at little or no cost. Run government like a business in the most basic sense of the phrase.
This 2013 excerpt of the Huffington Post, Aug 28, is by Shahien Nasiripour.
Regulators overseeing the nation’s largest financial institutions are distrustful of their bosses, afraid to speak out, and feeling isolated, according to a confidential survey this year of Federal Reserve employees.
The shaky morale is a legacy of Alan Greenspan’s 19-year term as Fed chairman. From 1987 to 2006, the Greenspan Fed pushed for a hands-off approach by regulators, who then found themselves blamed for the financial crisis that led to the most punishing economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Most say that top leaders are failing the organization, in part by not communicating honestly, and that employees are in the wrong jobs, or are poorly managed.
Even in a bureaucracy traditionally rife with turf wars and secrecy, the Fed stands out among banking regulators for its low marks on key issues such as trust and collaboration, according to comparable survey results from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Nearly a dozen current and former Washington-based Fed employees corroborated the Fed survey results, some by offering personal examples of Fed regulators who had been marginalized after challenging senior leaders or pushed out over apparent personality conflicts. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.
Ed. Notes: Bigger picture: Should a society’s currency be run by a bureaucracy, never mind how well meaning (or not)? Could currency be handled by community trading groups operating on consensus? Could the role of government (which the Fed is not actually a part of) be simply to set standards that currencies would have to meet to become legal tender? We decentralize credit cards; why not decentralize the creation of credit?
This 2013 excerpt of The Guardian, Nov 11, is by Richard Orange.
Prison numbers in Sweden, which have been falling by around 1% a year since 2004, dropped by 6% between 2011 and 2012 and are expected to do the same again both this year and next year.
Sweden has experienced such a sharp fall in the number of prison admissions in the past two years that it has decided to close down four prisons and a remand centre.
Partial explanation for the sudden drop in admissions may be:
Sweden’s focus on rehabilitating prisoners may have played a part.
Swedish courts have given more lenient sentences for drug offences following a ruling of the country’s supreme court in 2011.
A recent shift in policy towards probationary sanctions instead of short prison sentences for minor thefts, drugs offences, and violent crimes.
In 2012, there were 4,852 people in prison in Sweden, out of a population of 9.5 million. Sweden ranked 112th for its prison population.
The US has a prison population of 2,239,751, equivalent to 716 people per 100,000. China ranks second with 1,640,000 people behind bars, or 121 people per 100,000, while Russia’s inmates are 681,600, amounting to 475 individuals per 100,000.
Air board will start monitoring pollution next to SoCal freeways. Similar steps will occur in more than 100 big cities across the country.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Aug 25, is by Tony Barboza.
Air quality regulators will begin monitoring pollution levels near major Southern California traffic corridors next year, for the first time providing data important to nearly 1 million Southern Californians who are at greater risk of respiratory illness because they live within 300 feet of a freeway.
Scientists have linked air pollution from traffic to a long list of health problems, including asthma, heart disease, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Children living near busy freeways have higher asthma rates and reduced lung function.
Scott Fruin, a professor of preventive medicine at USC, believes the EPA’s action is long overdue.
The new monitoring is likely to have broad implications. If, as expected, the new data show higher pollution levels, local officials should reduce emissions and curtail residential development near freeways.
Ed. Notes: Defending rights, such as our right to a healthy environment, that’s what government should do, even if belatedly. Government probably would’ve been doing its duty all along if not so beholden to moneyed developers and other corporations. If people want government on their side, they must have money on their side. We must stop letting society’s surplus collect in just a few pockets and share it among us all instead.
This 2013 excerpt of Inequality, Nov 8, is by Salvatore Babones.
According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real US gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an annualized rate of 2.8% in the third quarter of 2013, which covered July through September. For comparison, the long-term trend rate in US GDP growth is about 2% per year. If the overall structure of the economy remains the same, then higher GDP means more income for everyone.
Corporate revenues may be increasing slowly, but corporate profits are exploding. So are executive salaries and bonuses.
After-tax disposable income has been rising at a rate of around 4.5% this year, or about 3.5% after adjusting for inflation. Yet the income of the typical person has not increased at all for several years. In fact, real median income is still more than 7% below 2007 levels.
The economy is bigger than it was in 2007, but it’s a different economy. All of America’s economic growth for forty years has gone to an elite minority.
The economy isn’t to generate profit. The purpose of the economy is to serve the people. It’s time to consider a different kind of economy. One that works for everyone.
Ed. Notes: Reformers tend to make their goal of reform harder for themselves. Instead of slamming profit, they should demand that everyone get some.
Economies can’t help but churn out a surplus. It’s all of a society’s spending for the land and resources it uses. Such spending is a surplus because nobody has to be rewarded for producing nature since none of us did. People only need to be paid for providing their labor and capital, inputs they did provide.
The value of land, generated by society’s demand for the land, is ideal for sharing, for making into our common wealth. We could all pay Land Dues into the public treasury and get rent shares — a Citizen’s Dividend — back. Sort of like what Alaska does with some oil revenue and Singapore with some location value. Since site value rises with economic growth, then a rising GDP would , at last, lift all boats.
Want to Win a Political Debate? Try Making a Weaker Argument — the new social science behind why you’re never able to convince friends or foes to even consider things from your side.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 23, is by Eric Horowitz.
There could be an entire book of syndicated newspaper columns that discuss “motivated reasoning” —- the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms your existing beliefs. But research on human motivation also hints at a simpler and somewhat startling reason for the lack of flip-flopping: Nobody makes the type of arguments that are likely to change minds.
The arguments people make are those that appear the strongest to themselves and the people who already agree with them. But such arguments tend to be meaningless to people who disagree.
It starts with the universal desire to protect against threats to your self-image or self-worth. People are driven to view themselves in a positive light, and they will interpret information and take action in ways that preserve that view. The need to maintain self-worth is one reason we attribute our failures to external factors (bad luck), but our success to internal factors (skill.)
The arguments that are most threatening to opponents are viewed as the strongest and cited most often — yet rejected.
Because political beliefs are connected to deeply held values, information about politics can be very threatening to your self-image. If you’re wrong about an important policy, what else might you be wrong about? And if you’re wrong about a bunch of things, you’re obviously not as smart or as good or as worthwhile a person as you previously believed. These are painful thoughts, and so we evaluate information in ways that will help us to avoid them.
Self-affirmation —- a mental exercise that increases feelings of self-worth —- makes people more willing to accept threatening information. The idea is that by raising or “affirming” your self-worth, you can then encounter things that lower your self-worth without a net decrease. The affirmation and the threat effectively cancel each other out, and a positive image is maintained.
An argument that is objectively weaker is more likely to be below the threat threshold that leads to automatic rejection. It might actually be considered.
Why is pro sports constantly jamming military fervor down our throats? Their claims are wrong in more ways than one. Stop Thanking the Troops for Me: No, They Don’t Protect Our Freedoms!
This 2013 excerpt of Alternet, Nov 11, by Justin Doolittle of Salon.
What is problematic is that this nonexistent connection between “freedom” and the military continues to be perpetuated as an uncontroversial truism, and is met with no resistance within the confines of the mainstream.
The corollary to the claim that our freedom exists only at the pleasure of the military, of course, is that the same military can revoke said freedom if it so desires.
One implication of this myth is that people feel they owe boundless gratitude to the military as an institution and all the men and women who serve in it.
This approach blurs the lines between patriotism and support for the military.
It reduces sincere dissent on these matters of such tremendous consequence to our culture and our politics to nothingness. It makes us, free citizens of a constitutional society, meek and excessively obeisant.
The troops allowing us to “live free” is hardly a fringe belief. It reflects many decades of highly effective propaganda that has convinced generations of people that there is virtually nothing for which we should not thank the troops. The ability to “get away from our world, and whatever’s going on in our world” and talk about football — whom are we to thank for this? The troops! There is seemingly no limit to the scope of human activity that many of us sincerely believe would not be possible were it not for the military’s selflessness.
We need not thank the troops for every breath we take. When we do, we reduce our entire existence as free people to something that only exists at the whim of the U.S. military, and suffocate critical thought about the military and what it’s actually doing in the world.
Ed. Notes: Americans are not citizens so much as they are taxpayers, a mass market, and a pro-war mob. We Americans need to feel more self-esteem. We need to see how illogical it is to, one hand, praise the military going around killing poor foreigners all over the planet while, on the other hand, slamming politicians who send soldiers into these wars, who enrich military contractors and other corporate welfare cheats, and who keep cancerously expanding taxes and government.
One main reason to demand a Citizen’s Dividend is not that it will be won soon or easily but that even making the demand shows Americans what self-esteem looks like.
The biggest ongoing disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of.
This 2013 excerpt of Daily Kos, Aug 22, is by Jen Hayden.
What happened in Bayou Corne, as near as anyone can tell, is that one of the salt caverns Texas Brine hollowed out —- a mine dubbed Oxy3 —- collapsed. The sinkhole initially spanned about an acre. Today it covers more than 24 acres and is an estimated 750 feet deep.
It subsists on a diet of swamp life and cypress trees, which it occasionally swallows whole. It celebrated its first birthday recently, and like most one-year-olds, it is both growing and prone to uncontrollable burps, in which a noxious brew of crude oil and rotten debris bubbles to the surface.
But the biggest danger is invisible; the collapse unlocked tens of millions of cubic feet of explosive gases, which have seeped into the aquifer and wafted up to the community. The town blames the regulators. The regulators blame Texas Brine. Texas Brine blames someone else.
a neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heri-tage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a divi-dend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jeffer-son suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
an economic policy based on the earth’s natural patterns. Eco-systems self-regulate by using feedback loops to keep balance. Can economies do likewise? Why don’t they now produce efficiently and distribute fairly? The answers lie in the money we spend on the earth we use. To attain people/planet harmony, that financial flow from sites and resources must visit each of us. Our agent, government, must collect this natural rent via fees and disburse the collected revenue via dividends. And, it must forgo taxes on homes and earnings, and quit subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. As our steward, government must also collect Ecology Security Deposits, require Restoration Insurance, and auction off the occasional Emissions Permit. And that’s about it – were nature our model.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.
more transformation than reform; it’s a step ahead. Harvard economics students this year did petition to change the curriculum, in the wake of the English who caught the dissension from across The Channel. French reformers, who fault conventional economics for conjuring mathematical models of little empirical relevance and being closed to critical and reflective thought, reject this “autism” – or detachment from reality – and dub their offering “post-autistic economics”. Not a bad name, but again, academics define themselves by what they’re not, not by what they are, unlike geonomists. We track rent – the money we spend on the nature we use – and watch it pull all the other economic indicators in its wake. We see economies as part and parcel of the ecosystem, similarly following natural patterns and able to self-regulate more so than allowed, once we quit distorting prices. To align people and planet, we’d replace taxes and subsidies with recovering and sharing rents.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!
not a panacea, but like John Muir said, “pull on any one thing, and find it connected to everything else.” Recall last month’s earthquake in El Salvador. We felt it and its formidable after-shocks in Nicaragua. Immediately afterwards, my host nation, one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, sent aid to its Central American neighbor. The Nica newspapers carried photos of the devastation. They showed that the cliff sides that crumbled had had homes built on them while the cliffs left pristine withstood the shock. Could monopoly of good, safe, flat land be pushing people to build on risky, unstable cliffs? If so, that’s just one more good reason to break up land monopoly. What works to break up land monopoly, history shows, is for society to collect the annual rental value of the underlying sites and resources. That’d spur owners to use level land efficiently, so no one would be excluded, forced to resort to cliffs. To prevent another man-induced landslide is yet another reason to spread geonomics.
a way to have everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Last summer’s expansive forest fires shed light on growing class resentment in the West. Old loggers and ranchers rankled at the new urgency to stamp out the blazes that threatened the recent Aspenesque settlers. The newcomers expected working class firemen to make protecting their expensive homes top priority. (Chr Sci Mntr, Spt 7) The tinder for this envy? Rich people moving in bid up the price of land, making it hard to afford by people on the margin. The fault really lies with our system of privatizing land value. If this rising value were collected by land dues and shared by rent dividends – the essence of geonomic policy – who’d complain? The more people move in, the higher the land value, and the fatter the dividend paid to residents. Then people on the margin might go out of their way to invite rich outsiders in.
of interest to Dave Lakhani, President Bold Approach (Mar 8) and Matt Ozga (Jan 29): “I write for the Washington Square News, the student run newspaper out of New York University. Geonomics seems like it has great significance, especially in this area. When was geonomics developed, and by whom?”
About 1982 I began. Two years later, Chilean Dr Manfred Max-Neef offered the term geonomics for Earth-friendly economics. In the mid-80s, a millionaire founded a Geonomics Institute on Middlebury College campus in Vermont re global trade. In the 1990s, CNBC cablecast a show, Geonomics, on world trade as it benefits world traders. My version of geonomics draws heavily from the American Henry George who wrote Progress & Poverty (1879) and won the mayoralty of New York but was denied his victory by Tammany Hall (1886). He in turn got lots from Brits David Ricardo, Adam Smith, and the French physiocrats of the 1700s. My version differs by focusing not on taxation but on the flow of rents for sites, resources, sinks, and government-granted privileges. Forgoing these trillions, we instead tax and subsidize, making waste cheap and sustainability expensive. To quit distorting price, replace taxes with “land dues” and replace subsidies with a Citizens Dividend.
Matt: “This idea of sharing rents sounds, if not explicitly socialist, at least at odds with some capitalist values (only the strong survive & prosper, etc). Is it fair to say that geonomics has some basis in socialist theory?”
A closer descriptor would be Christian. Beyond ethics into praxis, Alaska shares oil rent with residents, and they’re more libertarian than socialist. While individuals provide labor and capital, no one provides land while society generates its value. Rent is not private property but public property. Sharing Rent is predistribution, sharing it before an elite or state has a chance to get and misspend it, like a public REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) paying dividends to its stakeholders – a perfectly capitalist model. What we should leave untaxed are our sales, salaries, and structures, things we do produce.
about the money we spend on the nature we use. It flows torrentially yet invisibly, often submerged in the price of housing, food, fuel, and everything else. Flowing from the many to the few, natural rent distorts prices and rewards unjust and unsustainable choices. Redirected via dues and dividends to flow from each to all, “rent” payments would level the playing field and empower neighbors to shrink their workweek and expand their horizons. Modeled on nature’s feedback loops, earlier proposals to redirect rent found favor with Paine, Tolstoy, and Einstein. Wherever tried, to the degree tried, redirecting rent worked. One of today’s versions, the green tax shift, spreads out of Europe. Another, the Property Tax Shift, activists can win at the local level, building a world that works right for everyone.
a way to have everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Last summer’s expansive forest fires shed light on growing class resentment in the West. Old log-gers and ranchers rankled at the new urgency to stamp out the blazes that threatened the recent Aspenesque settlers. The newcomers expected working class firemen to make protecting their expensive homes top priority. (Chr Sci Mntr, Spt 7) The tinder for this envy? Rich people moving in bid up the price of land, making it hard to afford by people on the margin. The fault really lies with our system of privatizing land value. If this rising value were collected by land dues and shared by rent dividends – the essence of geonomic policy – who’d complain? The more people move in, the higher the land value, and the fatter the dividend paid to residents. Then people on the margin might go out of their way to invite rich outsiders in.