Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Berkeley

Socialism for the Rich Illustrated

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Black Oak Books

This is the former site of Black Oak Books, a once thriving book store in North Berkeley. To say it was an anchor store in the neighbourhood would be an understatement, it as an important part of the community and a serious business draw for its local little business district. It thrived till the mid nineties, then business slowed because of competition from the Internet, in particular. Who can blame people, local sales taxes are at 10% now, on Amazon in California they are 0%. It got to the point where they couldn’t make their $16,000 monthly rent, they were unable to renegotiate a lower rent with the landlord, who insisted on getting “market” rates, and it folded about a year ago.

And since then the store has sat there, empty. And I wondered how it could be that the property owner could afford to have the store sitting empty for a year instead of collecting some rent. I mean, that’s nearly $200k a year in lost rent, wouldn’t it make sense for the landlord to agree to a lower than “market rate” rent just to keep some income coming in? How can even a well off person just piss away $200k a year? Easy … he gets to write off the “loss” on his taxes.

This is … insane. And a wonderful example of how the rich in America have perverted the legal and tax codes to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. By allowing the landlord to simply write off his losses because he can’t get a “market rate” renter, society as a whole is screwed. Jobs are lost, commerce is lost, and taxpayers pick up the tab to allow someone who is already very wealthy to pursue a business “strategy” that in anything resembling an actual capitalist free market would be insanely unprofitable.

And this is just one example of how the rich have perverted the laws and tax code of the land to benefit them at the expense of society at large. Very few Americans really understand how serious and terrible this situation is. I mean it’s so serious that the rich have been able to convince most Americans that there is something terribly wrong with taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor, but it’s perfectly OK to tax the poor and give the money to the rich, because of course the rich will invest the money in ways that will “trickle down” to the poor.

Let’s think about this, what happens if one gives money to poor people? Do they squirrel it away in their mattress or deposit it in an offshore bank account? Of course not, they promptly run out and spend it. Creating commerce, jobs, and the whole shebang that makes an economy work. And what happens if one gives money to the rich? They promptly stick in in an offshore account or otherwise do what they can to make sure they keep the money, they most certainly don’t run out and spend it. People get to be rich and continue to be rich by not spending money. I mean, d’oh.

Yet in America we’ve allowed the rich to so control the laws and even the public discourse to the point where millions of Americans think that redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor is somehow evil. Excuse me? For a civilization to have any long term prospects, everyone has to benefit. A civilization where only the rich benefit has no long term prospects, or at least no long term prospects that benefit anyone but the rich. If the upwards transfer of wealth is a sacrament, eventually the wealthy own everything, and the rest of us are slaves.

And sadly this appears to be where America is headed. One giant company town, or worse, one giant plantation where most of us are effectively slaves. In other words, there isn’t going to be any recovery from the current depression, because all the government is doing is bailing out the rich at public expense. Well, unless one regards a job at MacDonald’s and overpriced rental housing as a good thing. The disparity between rich and poor has never been greater in the USA, and legions of Americans are not only defending the status quo, they are clamouring for more of the same. The rich are laughing all the way to the bank.

Sigh. Have a great week everyone.

(The above image as taken by me. Credit and Copyright © Doug Stych. It stretches the imagination that anyone would want to use the image, but they are free to do so for non-commercial purposes if properly attributed and linked to Doug’s Darkworld.)

Written by unitedcats

June 6, 2011 at 5:14 am

Charlie Sheen, dead hostages, protesters on a ledge, more protesters, and other news of the week

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So I’m walking home from work Thursday afternoon, and there are helicopters circling downtown Berkeley. I’m like, what’s up? I turn on the TV news, and yes, protesters have chained themselves onto a ledge on a building on campus. And I suspect the typical response most people would have, is something along the lines of “that’s nuts.” Well, yes, yes it is. So was invading Iraq and Afghanistan,  or thinking that Obama was some sort of liberal saviour, is there a point? My point of course is that even when people’s actions seem nuts, so what, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their actions or cause are nuts. And if a person has even a shred of intellectual honestly, they will examine a situation more deeply even if the first impression is “those people are nuts.” That’s certainly my tendency, unpopular though it may be. And in this situation, there are things to learn.

First of all, their cause. Not debatable unless one is a government shill or an idiot. The UC system is a system of public universities. In the 1970s it was affordable to all. Now only families with money can send their kids here, it’s on par with private universities. That’s a huge change over just a few decades, and the situation is worsening. While I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, there’s definitely something wrong with the picture. And it should also be noted that the university is run almost like a principality, we’re talking top down. And it’s more and more run for the benefit of its corporate sponsors, not the students. Lastly, the campus police especially have a very adversarial relationship with protesters. If they’d chained themselves together on the ground, the police would have just maced them. I mean, the police used pepper spray on the crowd that gathered below the protesters for God’s sake.

Moving right along, fierce fighting continues in Libya. Frankly, Qaddafi is crazy. Even if by some chance he manages to re-conquer his own country, he will be both an international and a domestic pariah. A horrible situation, and I can only hope that someone puts some bullets in him soon, many of his own people have already deserted him, he must be living in almost paranoid isolation surrounded by foreign bodyguards. The USA continues to embarrass itself by pretending it has some role to play in this situation. No, we don’t, almost anything the USA did would almost certainly make things worse. Baghdad was our Empire’s high water mark; corruption, waste, deficit spending, incompetence, and imperial overreach have pretty much put the USA on a death spiral. Lashing out with our military isn’t going to help. On the plus side, Bob Gates, one of the architects of the Iraq War, has been a voice of reason in Washington. So there’s at least some hope that cooler heads will prevail.

In Germany, someone opened fire on a bus full of US air force personnel, killing two. This was immediately labelled “Islamic terrorism.” Sigh. We blow up people on a daily basis throughout the Muslim world, many of them women and children, and none of them in a legally declared war. That’s OK, but someone attacks a busload of American soldiers and it’s terrorism? No, it’s blowback. Muslims didn’t run around attacking Americans until we started invading Muslim countries. It’s sadly ironic that the shooter in this case came from Kosovo. Kosovo was the very first lucky recipient of post USSR American “humane intervention.” Yes, and Kosovo is  not in the news today because it’s now a land of democracy, peace, and plenty? Wrong. It’s a bloody embarrassment, a narco-terrorist state in the middle of Europe.  In any event the shooter appears to have acted alone, but when one creates failed states, it breeds people like this.

Then there’s the pirate thing. Somali pirates killed four Americans they were holding for ransom. Americans though captured and killed the pirates in a rescue attempt. Americans good, pirates bad? No, Americans stupid, pirates bad. First of all, these Americans were religious extremists who deliberately left their convoy and sailed into dangerous waters,  no doubt thinking that God would protect them. Well, God left the job up to the navy, which botched it big time. The pirate leader and one of his men came to negotiate, the captain of the navy ship didn’t like his style and imprisoned him. When their leader didn’t return, the pirates shot their hostages. Don’t get me wrong, the pirates are thugs and deserved what they got. However, frankly, if Americans go into war zones of their own free will, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to protect them from their own stupidity. And the Somali pirates almost never kill their hostages, in fact their hostages are usually treated quite well. So I’m sorry, but if this is how the navy is going to handle the pirate situation off Somalia, I’m not impressed. The only thing that will stop the pirates is if we let the Somalis form their own government. Alas, the US government, like some giant Wagnerian Juggernaut, just keeps moving mindlessly forward apparently unable to even consider the idea that it may be time to change course.

It should also be noted that huge protests are underway in Iraq, another lucky recipient of our humanitarian urges. Turns out they want real democracy there now too, not the corrupt satrap government the USA saddled them with. It will certainly be interesting to see where that goes, and whether it will make the news in the USA at all. And speaking of protesters, the Berkeley protesters came down after about eight hours when the University agreed to hold a town hall style meeting with students. Probably an empty gesture on the part of the university, but still, a happy ending.

Have a great weekend everyone.

PS: I’m about halfway through “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond. I recommend it, will be writing about some of the examples it presents, and hope to hear what other readers think.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. And, um, both the sentiment and Charlie Sheen are historically important. My opinion of the man has gone up frankly, I don’t think Britney Spears every expressed anything similar when she had her spot in the sun. Credit and copyright: Demand Media, Inc. And I apologize if anyone takes offence at characterizing the dead hostages as religious extremists, but I take a dim view of missionaries in general. To be a missionary, one has to be steeped in a belief that one’s own religion and culture is superior. That spells patronizing and racist to me.)



Written by unitedcats

March 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Crime, Propaganda, Terrorism, War, World

Tagged with ,

The Voynich Manuscript, Shady Kilograms, Shyster Budgets, Shameful Foreign Policy, and Storms in Berkeley

with 3 comments

So much for the good Berkeley weather. We’ve had torrential rain. Hail. Lightning. Wind. More rain. The cats wanted to go out this morning and when I held the door open, the wind blew them right back inside. They wisely decided they had some sleep to catch up on and didn’t want to go outside after all. I on the other hand had to venture out into the rain, climb on roofs, deal with sump pumps and clogged downspouts, and just in general get soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone. It’s people like me who keep homes dry and warm.

Moving along, in no particular order, thoughts on some of this week’s news. Obama presented his budget for the next year. Pure unadulterated Obama, by which I mean pure politics was his only concern. He left entitlements and the military completely alone, so our out of control spending continues apace. Borrowing and spending I might add, the national debt is reaching record levels. All he did was go through the discretionary spending and make cuts that wouldn’t cost him much of anything politically so he can claim he’s making cuts, with no thought to the damage or long term consequences of any of the cuts. Yeah, that’s leadership.

Demonstrations continue throughout the Middle East. Who knows how any of this will turn out, but I continue to be heartened. The USA’s response in particular has been so disastrously hypocritical, patronizing, and self-serving that it can only add to anti-American sentiment in the region. And the sooner they tell us to go home and mind our on business, the better. There are no US strategic interests in the region, unless protecting corporate profits is a strategic interest.  Hint: It’s not. “What’s good for GM is good for America” is a lie. Granted I expect the USA will make the whole situation worse by trying to protect our interests in the short term, that’s pretty much the history of US policy in the region. Seeing Clinton crowing about how medieval monarchs are our “good friends and allies” was a particularly disgusting sight, this is why I rarely watch the news anymore.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there’s been a discovery about the Voynich Manuscript. I mean, how many blogs keep their readers updated on Voynich Manuscript news? The Voynich Manuscript is one of the world’s most puzzling manuscripts, filled with mysterious hand written text and illustrations that no one has ever convincingly deciphered. Yet the text does appear to be a real language, or at least shares many of the properties of a real language. It was suggested a few years ago that using the mathematical tools available at the time the manuscript originated (in the early 15th century) it would have been possible to create a “fake” text such as that used in the Voynich Manuscript. That’s always been the best guess as to what the manuscript is, a hoax intended to be sold to some gullible person as a magical or alchemical tome. The recent discovery is that the manuscript has been carbon dated, and turns out it’s as much as a century older than anyone thought, predating the Gutenberg Bible even. What does this mean? It means the mystery is a bit deeper, and some of the theories about who may have created it are now less credible. I dunno, maybe it was written on old paper at the time. I’ll keep following this real historical and scientific mystery.

And lastly, the official kilogram has been found wanting. Most measures are defined by physical constants (well, accept for one backwards country that is still using a system of weights and measures based on the length of the King’s nose, but I digress,) but the kilogram is based on, well, a bar of platinum that’s been sitting in a  vault in France for over a century. Why is the kilogram still based on an object in a  vault? Because scientists haven’t figured out anything better yet.

So what’s the problem? “The” kilogram was recently removed from the vault and weighed, and it weighs 50 micrograms less than it should. That’s not much, less than the weight of an ant, but it is puzzling. Its also a problem. By law the weight of this bar of platinum is a kilogram and the standard against which all other kilograms are to be calibrated with. I think this means that technically, everything on the planet that is weighed in kilograms, not to mention the weight of the Earth itself,  and every device that weighs kilograms … is incorrect and has to be changed. Yeesh, like a y2k we didn’t see coming. Now what?

Have a great weekend everyone!

(The above image is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law. It was written centuries ago by a unknown author, so I think I’m pretty safe claiming  that no one holds the copyright. It’s a page from the Voynich Manuscript, click on it to see the full size version. The text appears to have been written fluidly, as if it was being written by someone familiar and comfortable with the language. Again, a maddeningly elaborate hoax, or the real deal?)



Written by unitedcats

February 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm