Can I Sell You Some Kool-Aid?

Bad Kool Aid

Starbucks cups to urge patrons to ‘Come Together’ on fiscal cliff negotiations –

What do you get when you combine Associated Press, Starbucks and the Toronto Star? Answer: poison

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the Washington D.C. area to scribble the words “Come Together” on cups for drink orders on Thursday and Friday. CEO Howard Schultz says the words are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

My online responses to the above linked-to blurb follow:

I Second That Geniewolf 1 of 2
Corporatocracy governments take their marching orders (directly and indirectly) from corporations. That’s the definition of corporatocracy! Talk about Murder By Decree! (a great old Sherlock Holmes movie w Christopher Plummer) And we are talking about murder. In a money system, in which money means life, it’s a serious thing when macho believers in inequality prosper at our expense. We ‘are’…

I Second That Geniewolf 2 of 2
…going over a cliff. It’s as Linda McQuaig explains in “Shooting The Hippo,” When the economy slows, the elation you see in the business press is great, because the rich gain. When the economy is hot, and ‘everyone’ is okay (as ok as they can be in a capitalist world), the grief you see in the business press is enormous. The believers in inequality aren’t interested, either, in a middle ground.

Sickening 1 of 2
Scammy Starbucks. Scammy Toronto Star. It all figures. The gatekeepers running around in the Star would probably delete my post were I to offer links to the numerous articles that tell the facts about the ‘fiscal cliff’ propaganda, so I won’t bother. It’s bad enough that Starbucks has helped to destroy fair trade, just when it was gaining traction with the public. It’s coffee is consistently bad.

Sickening 2 of 2
The Toronto Star (Try commenting here ‘meaningfully’ in one short post) and Starbucks (Try speaking ‘your’ mind baristas) are about as democratic as Stephen Harper, whose idea of governing is to shut everyone up who doesn’t agree with forking out cash to special interests (via tax cuts, military spending, coddling bosses). Class warfare is alive and well, and so loved by those with all the ammo.

* Just Coffee Cooperative’s view of fair trade: JC’s Fair Trade and “2011: A Year In Review”

Are big, powerful special interests corrupting ‘fair trade’ and squashing small, independent and poor farms? Here’s a big clue, taken from a JCC blog post titled “Transitional Coffee”: “Currently the USDA will not even allow “transitional organic” on labels to let consumers know that they are buying a coffee from a farmer attempting to make the change and following good practices. So, there is almost no market for these in-between beans.”

* “In Fiscal Cliff Deal, Don’t Chain Grandma To Smaller Social Security Checks” by Bryce Cover

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

News is out today that a deal to avert the fiscal cliff is nigh. The New York Times is reporting that President Obama’s latest offer, which is close to Speaker Boehner’s dreams and desires, will permanently extend the Bush tax cuts on income below $400,000 and raise them above that bracket. In return, there will be spending cuts. One big component of those cuts is a change in how Social Security benefits are calculated, shifting to using the chained CPI. What sounds like a complex accounting measure will mean a serious benefit reduction for those who are elderly and impoverished. And guess who will get hit hardest? If your guess rhymes with schwomen, you’re correct.

First, what is chained CPI? Currently Social Security benefits are adjusted to account for inflation, but there are many different measures of inflation. If the fiscal cliff deal includes a switch to a chained CPI, it will mean using a measure that tries to take into account human behavior in reaction to price increases—specifically, the substitution for something cheaper if the price of what you normally buy goes up. If provolone costs a fortune, perhaps I’ll switch to Swiss. Unfortunately for the elderly, they buy products that don’t behave much like provolone. As Dean Baker explains, the elderly spend more of their money on health care, which has seen costs far outpace the costs of cheese, and are also generally less likely to be able to make substitutions on what they buy.

I’m not a fan of Ben Stiller’s politics (shilling for Obama is a sin), but… enjoy the video. It tells the truth, humorously.

* “We don’t need a bad “grand bargain”” by Sarita Gupta

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

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There’s a palpable sense of urgency being manufactured inside the beltway to rush lawmakers into striking a budget deal, but a grand bargain is neither inevitable nor necessary.

The best way to solve America’s debt crisis is to fix our revenue crisis, and we can do that quickly by ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent and creating jobs to get our economy moving again.

Working families cannot afford any more cuts when wages are stagnant and poverty is increasing. Economic growth has been too slow, consumer demand is too weak, and average families are tightening their belts while corporate profits are soaring to historic highs.

By pursuing this bargain, Congress is having the wrong discussion about the wrong policy prescriptions at the wrong time. The truth is that the people hawking a “compromise” are wealthy corporate CEOs hiding behind the “Fix the Debt” campaign. A recent Institute for Policy Studies report found that 63 publicly held companies whose CEOs are pushing these bad deals stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if one of their proposals are approved. It’s time those corporations ante up and pay their fair share.
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* “Fiscal cliff cuts threaten austerity for 50 million Americans already in poverty” by RoseAnn DeMoro

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

Over 20 million Americans live in extreme poverty – with cash incomes as low as $10,000 a year for a family of four…

With all the enormous wealth in our nation, we really can do something about poverty – as well as the overall economic morass that continues to plague not just the unemployed, or those working two or three jobs, and flipping hamburgers in Main Street towns and cities from coast to coast.

Nurses have a solution. Everyone deserves a good job at living wages, guaranteed healthcare for all based on patient need, not on ability to pay, and equal access to quality education. And now, with cuts to social security on the table, and despite the push by some politicians in Washington and many state capitals to enact more austerity programs on already hard-hit communities, there is a simple way to keep anti-poverty programs in place and pay for them.

A modest tax Wall Street on speculation, embodied in HR 6411, authored by Representative Keith Ellison, could generate up to $350bn every year, an amount that could save over 1.7m homes from foreclosure, or finance 9m new jobs at current average wage levels. Or it could fund the food plans of 24m families of four for a year, or lift all 3.8m female-headed households out of poverty for nearly a decade.

* “Fooled Again” by Ted Rall

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

It’s hard to remember now, more than six weeks later, but there was once a time (six long weeks ago) when liberal Democrats who naïvely chose to ignore Obama’s consistently conservative first term, his consistently conservative career in the Senate, and his consistently conservative pre-politics career as a University of Chicago law professor, seriously believed that his reelection would lead to a progressive second term…

Race doesn’t matter. Looks don’t matter. Age doesn’t matter. Style doesn’t matter. Only one thing matters when you’re electing a politician: policy. And the willingness and ability to carry it out. Everything you needed to know about Barack Obama boils down to the fact that he voted nine times out of ten to fund the Iraq war, at the same time that he was giving speech after speech pretending to oppose it. And that was before he won in 2008…

The “fiscal cliff” negotiations have led to another replay of Obama’s 2008 sellout, this one on economic fairness. Throughout the 2012 campaign the president promised to raise taxes on the top 2% of American households, those earning over $250,000 a year. As of November 9th he was still “sticking to his guns,” calling his stance nonnegotiable. On December 17th, however, without the defeated Republicans even having to propose a counteroffer, Obama pulled a classic Democratic negotiating-against-himself maneuver. Not only did he offer House Speaker John Boehner to protect the spectacularly wealthy taxpayers who earn up to $400,000 from a tax hike, he quietly sold out senior citizens by gutting the current system that calculates cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other federal entitlement programs.

* “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks” by Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

This business-driven initiative is using the so-called fiscal cliff as a cover for tax-code changes that would damage our economy.

The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the DebtThe Fix the Debt campaign has raised $60 million and recruited more than 80 CEOs of America’s most powerful corporations to lobby for a debt deal that would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly…

> The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.
> The CEOs backing Fix the Debt personally received a combined total of $41 million in savings last year thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts. The top CEO beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, saved $9.9 million on the Bush tax cuts. The private equity fund leader reaped $215 million in taxable income last year just from vested stock.
> Of the 63 Fix the Debt CEOs at publicly held firms, 24 received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal corporate income taxes. All but six of these firms reported U.S. profits last year.

Here’s some Canadian voices expressing dismay at the continuing deficit terrorism that captured governments and soulless politicians bring to us:

* “Why Tax Cuts Make Us Weak” by Murray Dobbin

The following is an excerpt from the above linked-to article:

So here we go again, another round of huge tax cuts as the country continues down the road to a neo-con dystopia. Over the next five years the revenue that pays for the things Canadians say they want will drop by $60 billion. There are cuts to the GST, to personal income taxes and corporate taxes — with the latter dropping by 2012 to 15 per cent (from 21 per cent today), an outrageous corporate giveaway, giving us third world status in the “attract investment” race to the bottom.

It is the continuation of a 20 years process of diminishing the country — a conscious plan implemented by three prime ministers from both the Liberal and Conservative parties…

It’s not hard to list the things we could now be enjoying as a country had those cuts not been made, especially taking into account the annual revenue we would have: a national child care program, a national pharmacare program, a home care program, social housing, radical cuts in tuition fees, and the elimination of this country’s staggering infrastructure deficit, estimated to be between $60 billion and $120 billion.

Why business needs taxes

Of course, the conservative voter would say, this is a mostly a left-wing wish list. But look more closely at what could be done with these surpluses and with a return to tax levels of the fairly recent past. Take the infrastructure deficit: the crumbling of our municipal services like sewer and water, our roads and bridges, and our ports. Spending on these things is hardly a left-wing fantasy. It is business which depends on these things at least as much as ordinary citizens and communities…

The role of corporate tax cuts in spurring investment has always been exaggerated by big business. Surveys of CEOs over many years have shown that the income tax rate usually plays a secondary role in investment decisions. The more important issues include the cost of borrowing, availability of trained workers, energy costs, the reliability of transportation infrastructure, access to markets, and land costs. The issue of income tax is only important if you actually make an income…

Truly ‘competitive’ nations

Will yet more tax cuts make us more “competitive” as Finance Minister Flaherty said in his economic update? If the figures of the World Economic Forum — the most elitist international forum on the planet — are to be believed, more tax cuts will actually have the reverse effect. In 1999, the year before Paul Martin introduced his huge tax cuts, Canada was 5th in the competitiveness sweepstakes. After seven years of tax cuts we are in 16th place. Who beats us? Amongst others, the Nordic countries, which collect half their GDP in taxes each year. Nine of the 15 countries ahead of us have higher taxes.

This draconian slashing has nothing to do with competitiveness. It is ideology run amok. It is no secret that Stephen Harper has a visceral contempt for what Canada became after the Second World War. But he can’t get rid of government directly so his plan is to gradually starve it to death. The relentless attack on the tax base creates the useful crisis corporate governments need to justify cutting social programs, environmental protection and other social riles of government. Keep cutting taxes and revenue and eventually you get deficits.

The continuing savaging of government revenue is the throwing down of the gauntlet by the right to all those who support activist, social democratic government.

Linda McQuaig wrote “Shooting The Hippo – Death By Deficit And Other Canadian Myths.” The following is an excerpt from that book:

“Interestingly, excessive inequality used to be a concern even among conservatives. The late U.S. economist Henry C. Simons, a founder of the well-known “Chicago school” of conservative thought, was a strong believer in the free enterprise system, but he argued that it generated far too much inequality. “Surely there is something unlovely, to modern as against medieval minds, about marked inequality,” wrote Simons. “[R]eduction of inequality is per se immensely important.” Thus, despite his conservative credentials, Simons strongly advocated a progressive tax system – a position rarely found these days in the ranks of economists.

“If cutting social programs is likely to hit lower income groups hardest, it would seem to be an inappropriate strategy for deficit reduction. The strategy becomes particularly inappropriate when we recall that social programs have not been the cause of our deficit problems. As we have seen, responsibility for the deficit lies more with the Bank of Canada and its tight-money policies, which have been highly favourable to members of the financial community and generally punitive to workers, who have suffered from the resulting recessions. For us to now take a big chunk out of social programs seems to be punishing a group that is not only innocent of the charges levelled against it, but has already, in effect, been punished.

“Let’s look more closely at all this in an attempt to follow where the money is going. We’ll start with the contention that the tight-money policy has been disproportionately beneficial to the rich. A study prepared in the economics department of Dalhousie University found that the Bank of Canada’s fight against inflation in the eighties resulted in “a significant transfer of wealth from the less wealthy to more wealthy households, from the young to the old, from females to males, from singles to the married.” The study only covered the years to 1987. The following years, as we know, saw a much tougher anti-inflation campaign and, therefore, probably a continuation of this trend towards greater inequality.

“Certainly, as we saw in Chapter Three, the benefits of higher interest rates have been heavily skewed to the more affluent. It is sometimes argued that it is hard to measure who benefits from higher interest rates, because much interest income ends up held by pension plans. While this is true, it is unlikely that this substantially changes the pattern of inequality. To begin with, when high interest rates generate a surplus in pension plans, the benefits are frequently (and perfectly legally) taken out of the plan by the employer. Furthermore, the wealthy tend to have much better pension plans than the less wealthy. This is certainly the case with private plans and RRSPs, but it is also the case with employee pension plans. More than half the workforce is not even covered by these workplace plans, and those who are tend to be in the higher ranks of the employed – executives, on-staff professionals, teachers, bureaucrats and higher-paid blue collar workers. On the other hand, low-wage, non-unionized jobs rarely provide pension plans. And as we slip even lower down the income scale – to welfare recipients and homeless people – we are even less likely to encounter anything in the way of a pension plan.

“Yet the flip side of high interest rates, as we have seen, is a squeeze on employment. Here we encounter the same regressive pattern: increases in unemployment hit low-income earners harder than those with larger incomes. The largest increases in unemployment during the recession of the early nineties in Ontario, for instance, took place among blue-collar, poorly educated men. Across Canada, the unemployment rate among those with only a grade-school education was in almost every province at least double the rate [as that experienced by] university graduates. So a tight-money policy reinforces inequality in two ways – its high interest rates disproportinately reward the rich, and the resulting unemployment disproprtionately punishes the poor.

“But, probably most significantly, the tight-money policy threatens equality by driving up the deficit. The response to this deficit growth has not been to impose extra taxes on those who have benefited from the high [real] interest rates; on the contrary, the response has been to cut social programs. Yet, as the [rightwing] Fraser Institute’s data demonstrate, social programs are far more important to those in the bottom half of society, and cutting social programs inevitably hits these people harder. Thus, tight-money policies, having already reinforced a pattern of inequality, deliver another cruel blow to lower-income people by reducing the support programs that are so important in their lives.

“Of course, we get little sense of all this in the endless commentary [in major media] on the need for spending cuts. Instead, social programs are presented as being like a worthless old shoe, worn and outdated and of little use any more…” – pages 271-273

Here’s a much shorter excerpt from another Canadian author, namely Tony Clarke. His book is titled “Silent Coup – The Big Business Takeover Of Canada.”:

“Perhaps the greatest hoax promoted by the media in recent years has been the notion that Canada’s debt woes were caused by overspending on social programs. Not only did the media propagate this myth, but they almost totally ignored the real causes disclosed by non-business studies (including Statistics Canada), such as the Bank of Canada’s persistently high interest rate policies and the massive drain on public revenues due to lower corporate tax rates and high unemployment.” – page 129

Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes, Anthony Quayle (left) as Sir Charles Warren, John Gielgud as Prime Minister Lord Salisbury and Geoffrey Russell as Home Secretary Henry Matthews (right)

Murder By Decree is a great flick (if you can ignore the awful, in my opinion, soundtrack). It’s mostly the facts about ‘the’ Ripper, using the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes to present them! Freemasons love it! They just pretend not to. Anything – a ‘compass and square’ symbol on a gravestone or on a license plate or on a ring – that gets them attention is okay.

From “The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia,” the following:

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Murder by Decree is a British/Canadian movie, written by John Hopkins and directed by Bob Clark, produced by AVCO Embassy Pictures, released on 1 february 1979 in USA, starring Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes and James Mason as Dr. Watson. 124 min.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on the trail of Jack the Ripper. Their investigation will lead them to the Royal family, the British government and free-masonery. The screenplay is inspired by the Stephen Knight’s pastiche: Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution.
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