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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Crony Capitalism or Political Bribery

Excerpt from James A. Michener's The Source: Twilight of an Empire
Kaimakam Tabari had one simple rule of administration, and it was understood by all his subjects: In Tobariyeh positively everythingw was for sale. If an Arab youth was summoned for military service it was obvious that there was no possiblility for escape; but if his father paid the kamakam enough, he could escape.... For the issuance of the simplest government paper, an established scale of bribes was in force, and in either the civil court of the qadi or the religious court of the mufti, any decision that was wanted could be had by the paying of the proper baksheesh to the kaimakam....
As a result of this constant drain on the people of Tubariyeh, there was no money left for schools, or sewers, or water supply, or a jail in which a human being could survive. There were no hospitals, no adequate policing, no fire fighting, and no roads.

Is America devolving to a country of corruption and bribery? Do our elected officials charge for every service required like in 1880 Palestine?
We have a different form of baksheesh, more modern and sophisticated: Election campaign warchests. Every representative who is elected either to the national or state legislatures spends 18 months out of the 24 months in office raising the money for re-election. Is it any wonder the Republicans openly disdain the masses who contribute little and fight only for the wealthy and corporations who contribute much? Or that the Democrats talk about helping the middle class, but accomplish so little? Elections have become a way of circulating all that campaign money into a closed set. Corporations give the money to the politicians who then give it to advertising agencies who buy time and space from the media. The corporations who give the money own the agencies and media outlets where the money goes so just like water it gets boiled, evaporates and rains back down. Little of all this money reaches the masses who are brainwashed into buying the political product sold to them.
Since Ronald Reagan became president and forty years of trickle down economics many of the signs Michener mentions showing the cost of corruption are prevalent.
  • Our public schools are being starved of qualified teachers, proper rooms and materials for learning so political cronies can make a fortune coming up with standarized tests that prove absolutely nothing about the state of learning in America. Private schools are not held to this testing standard, but when their test scores are compared with public schools they show little to no improvement. Paul Krugman told Bill Moyers in an interview that replacing the hundreds of thousands of teaching positions lost since 2008 would add an extra 200 billion dollars to the economy which would help out with housing, automobile sales, retail sales, insurance premiums, and increased tax revenue across the economic spectrum. I really wish our politicians would fight as hard about closing schools as they do about closing military bases. The same economic principle applies.
  • Amost all cities are faced with aging sewer systems and waste disposal plants that contaminate our shorelines, our underwater aquifers, land and are repaired only when they break. Add to this polluted air from factories, lakes and rivers from fertilizer runoff, fracking for oil and natural gas and chemical discharges and toxic waste in land fills we are truly soiling our own long term nest for short term profits. The polluting corporations can bribe scientists to refute all claims that they are doing harm or export the toxins to third world countries so their populations are poisoned as well as buy the votes they need to keep sane regulations being placed on them. 
  • Privatized prisons are filled with non-violent offenders mostly on marijuana charges in substandard facilities that are poorly staffed due to low wages with little training. The corporations pay the baksheesh to the congress critters and rake in the money with little accountability.
  • The most fought over issue for fifty years is health care and even after the passing of the Affordable Health Care Act in the next twenty years the ever growing poor population (due to austerity measures by the government) millions will die due to lack of being able to get proper medical care until it is too late. Who cares about the millions of people finally getting health care and are not denied because of a pre-existing condition, but horrors of all horrors insurers will have to pay for birth control, the morning after pill and abortions. Employers who pay for this insurance are appalled that their employees want to control thier own bodies without permission.
  • It's a no brainer that when the economy goes down and there are few jobs crime rises. So at a time of more criminals; states, towns and cities facing budget problems are laying off police and fire fighters. Neighborhoods are forced to pay extra for fire protection and if a homeowner doesn't pay then the fire fighters stand by and watch it burn down. Baksheesh in action. The entire criminal justice system is swamped because all the money is being siphoned into the profits of private security firms and prisons. Maybe city hall should open up a line for bank robbers. Walk up, hand in a note demanding money, get arrested, plead guilty to the judge sitting next to the clerk and police officer, get sentenced to prison so you don't have to sleep under a bridge in sub-zero temperatures. Isn't that the way corporations like to make everyting an assembly line? Maybe if we create enough prisoners from our surplus population there will be enough money in transporting them to the moon to work as slave laborers extracting minerals for the corporations to invest in such a transportation system. After all there are no more places on earth to set up penal colonies.
  • When America's corporations paid taxes instead getting subsidies, and all citizens paid taxes, not just those who make less than a hundred grand a year, and thanks to the GI Bill college was affordable, the schools that are crumbling today were built, the sewer systems that are breaking were dug, the interstate highway system was stretched all across the continent and this led to high employment, a growing middle class, and the highest standard of living in world history with a small prison population. Schools could afford athletics from elementary through high school with large bands to play and perform at games. Teachers taught their curriculum, not how to take a test with high graduation rates. We were able to pay for the space race, Vietnam war, and create Medicare and Medicaid plus food stamps from the taxes raised from this standard of living. In the last forty years of regressive instead of progressive taxation, deregulation of industry, and outsourcing of employment that produces goods instead of services everything we built is falling apart and crumblind like our roads and highways. What good will all the new fancy cars with fantastic sound systems, hybrid engines, and all the other fancy gadgets imaginable be if the drivers are stalled in traffic because a sewer line burst, roads are being patched intead of repaired ruining suspension systems or you're forced to drive a hundred miles our of your way because a bridge collapsed between Dallas and Denver? Is a toll road from Brownsville, Tx to Minneapolis where every driver has to throw money into a booth every twenty or thirty miles really better than maitaining I-35?
  • Was life ideal, no, before Title IX there was little opportunity for women in athletics outside of cheerleading and pep squads; little was done for the handicapped or mentally impaired; inner city was just as crime ridden and the schools suffered not to mention the problems of segregation and racism but the burst of prosperity led to correcting those problems even if they haven't been eradicated. The future I grew up in was a hell of a lot better than the future my children and grandchildren face today with a shrinking middle class and a policital system sucking all the money out of the economy to enrich .01% of the population. Would it be so hard for the Walton family to take a smaller cut from the profits of Wal-Mart and Sam's club so the employees could make enough money to not need food stamps, medicaid, and be able to rent a two bedroom apartment and buy a decent used car? Not to pick on just the Waltons as the same could be said of almost all international food and retail stores.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Good Reads for the New Year


Looking for a good read this new year. Here's a couple of e-books for only a buck each at Amazon, I-books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords

And don't forget my science fiction novel also only a buck.