Archive for the ‘Mental Irrationality’ Category

On Radical Islam and the Taliban

Monday, October 15th, 2012

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. 

~ Nietzsche

There is a strain of Islam loose on our planet which would like to take us back to the 13th century.  Just the other day, some of these fellows shot a 14 year old school girl in the face in an attempted assassination in the Swat Valley area of Afghanistan.  Her crime was advocating that women should have a right to education.

In their most extreme form, Islamic Fundamentalists would impose their religious police on us.  They would reject the equality of men and women.  They would reject the separation of Church and State.  They would reject freedom of speech.  They would reject freedom of religion.  They would reject freedom of assembly and they would reject freedom of the press.  They would force us to dress by their codes.  They believe that they have a right to kill anyone who speaks out against Islam.   Indeed, they think it is Islam’s right to rule the world and many of them think that this will be accomplished by the sword.

I’m not going to mince words here.  They, and those like them, who would impose their faith-based belief systems on the rest of us by force are a cancer among us.

The Taliban are creating terrible havoc in the world today and I, for one, have lost all patience with them.  And I have lost all patience with the multiculturalists who say we should tolerate them and turn the other cheek and hope that they will learn by our example.

The Western World

We in the western industrialized nations have spent centuries clawing our way up and out of a world of made of superstition, violence, disease, slavery, inequality, and religious domination.  At the end of all that, our societies are not by any means perfect but they are vastly better than what went before.

Much of what drove people into a Diaspora from Europe and onto the American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand shores was a deep desire to get away from religious oppression and political domination.

So, here we are now in our comfortable western democratic societies enjoying the benefits of freedom of religion, speech, and assembly.  Here we are enjoying our societies in which women have equality and the vote.

But what are these societies of ours?

Well, these societies we’re enjoying are secular societies which means that they are not exclusively allied to any particular religion.

This point is worth thinking about for those of you who are religious (and I know that most of you are).   We live in peaceful country wherein those of us of different religious persuasions get along well because we live in a secular society in which we are all guaranteed an equal right to practice our faith.

But, unfortunately, in today’s world, some folks make the word ‘secular’ sound like it’s a dirty word.

Next time you hear someone say such a thing, stand back and reflect and ask yourself what that person wants to accomplish.  You’ll find that most of them will be in favor of abandoning secularism in favor of being able to impose whatever their favorite religion is upon the rest of us; to make it into the state religion that we all have to follow.

And isn’t that just another way to take us back to the 13th century?  Didn’t we just come from there not long ago?

Stories from the Islamic World

I started this article by referring to the 14 year old school girl shot in Afghanistan for simply advocating the rights of women to get an education.  I could cite many more stories I have followed over the years from the Islamic world.

Did you know that they perform forced female genital mutilations on young girls in Egypt?  This is done to remove their clitoris to  ensure their chaste behavior.  The idea being that these woman cannot not now feel sexual pleasure and thus will never be tempted to stray.

Did you know that there are honor killings carried out because young women in some countries have the audacity to think that they have the right to decide for themselves who they  want to marry?

Did you know that women in many Islamic counties are required to wear garments that completely cover them?  This is done so that they will not incite lust in men.

And did you know that in many places women have no right to vote, own land, drive a car or even go outside unless accompanied by their husband or a male blood relative?

These things go on in many Islamic counties in the world today.  Countries which are members of the U.N., countries which are geo-political allies of the U.S.   Countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt to name a few.

Someday, these different world views are going to collide; Islam’s and ours. There’s even an academic phrase for this likelihood.  It is, “The Clash of Civilizations”.

If you look up Islam on the web, you will learn that 50 countries have Muslim majorities.  23% of the world’s population is Muslim.   Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity.  And, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

Islam in perspective

But before I go any further, let me point out in fairness that Islam is not all one thing.

There are fundamentalist Muslims and there are progressive Muslims.  There are those who believe in women’s equality and those who don’t.  There are those who are willing to live along side other cultures and belief systems in tolerance and there are those who are not.  There are educated Muslims and there are ignorant ones.  There are many Muslims in the world today that reject the violence of the few such as the Taliban.  There are Islamic countries where women can dress as they like, get an education, drive cars and own property just as people in our countries can.

In the future, I sincerely hope that most of Islam will follow the same path that our western nations did and claw their way out of the darkness and into some semblance of the light to join us here in the 21st century.

We should all hope so because the world is getting smaller decade by decade and we are all being pressed up against each other more and more.

The current pressures and problems in Europe, which has allowed millions of Muslims to immigrate, illustrates these tensions.  And where Europe goes now, we will all eventually follow.

I’m out of tolerance

Personally, I’ve run out of tolerance for the more extreme forms of Islam just as I’ve run out of tolerance for the more extreme forms of Christianity in the U.S.

Those Islamic Imams who call for the overthrow of the evil and corrupt western states and who want to impose their Sharia Law of us are no different to me than those Christian preachers among us who think that the Bible should trump the Constitution and that the U.S. should become officially a Christian State and all the decisions in it should be driven by interpretations of Biblical scripture.

All these folks want to take us back to the 13th century and I thoroughly reject them all.   The freedoms we’ve gained over these last centuries in these secular states are far too valuable to yield to people whose convictions are all faith based and who think that their understandings and beliefs should trump our rights.

Let me step aside here, as I did with the Muslims, and strongly assert that the vast majority of Christians and Christian preachers are not radical fundamentalists bent on replacing the secular state and the Constitution and establishing a Christian state.   Most Christians are steeped in tolerance and want to live and let live. They are the salt of the earth and the very bedrock of our western nations and they are not the people I am talking about here.

If you think I’m wrong by including Christians in with my complaints, you should consider some of the Christian movements afoot in the U.S. now like Joel’s Army.

And as to the pointy end of the stick of Islamic Fundamentalism; the Taliban?

Frankly, my friends, I’ve lost all patience with them and their shooting of 14 year-old girls and I’d advocate a scorched earth policy on them where ever their shadow falls.

– – – – – – – – –

 – This article was updated on 18 Oct 2012 to reflect that nothing I say here should be seen as reflecting on the vast majority of Christians or Muslims.  The vast majority are tolerance and quite willing to live and let live.   I am only speaking in this article of those who would impose their faith-based belief systems on the rest of us by force.  – dennis

– Private critique by David D. – much appreciated.

The new face of how corporations dominate governments

Monday, October 15th, 2012

...that's the way you do on the M. T. V.

I’ve been watching developments with the proposed Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) between the United States, New Zealand, Brunei, Australia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico and Malaysia.  Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines have also expressed interest in joining.

The TPP negotiations have been largely held in private so people here in New Zealand have only a small idea of what our government is putting out on the table as negotiating chips.  The same is apparently true in the U.S. and and I would strongly suspect it is also true in the other negotiating countries.

Trouble in America

In the U.S., various groups are speaking out against the TPP.

In May 2012, a group of 30 legal scholars, critical of the Office of the United States Trade Representative‘s “biased and closed” TPP negotiation process and proposed intellectual property-related provisions, publicly called upon Ambassador Kirk to uphold democratic ideals by reversing the “dialing back” of stakeholder participation and to release negotiating texts for public scrutiny.

On May 23, 2012, United States Senator Ron Wyden introduced S. 3225, proposed legislation that would require the Office of the United States Trade Representative to disclose its TPP documents to all members of Congress.  Senator Wyden said,

“The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations—like HalliburtonChevronPHRMAComcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America—are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement. […] More than two months after receiving the proper security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details of the proposals that USTR is advancing. We hear that the process by which TPP is being negotiated has been a model of transparency. I disagree with that statement”.

Let’s get that straight.  HalliburtonChevronPHRMAComcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America can all see the current texts of the negotiations – and we cannot?

Trouble in New Zealand

 

At a public forum on 6 July 2011, legal experts in New Zealand presented their concerns that the agreement could undermine law regarding Maori culturegenetic modification, copyright, and remove the subsidized medicine New Zealanders have access to through Pharmac.

More about this in a moment.

The Investor-state arbitration provisions

But perhaps the most worrying of the potential problems are the Investor-state arbitration provisions of the TPP that have been revealed from leaked documents.   This is from the Wikipedia article on the TPP:

The leaked draft treaty also caused a stir among anti-globalization groups that are opposed to investor-state arbitration, which permits foreign investors to bring claims directly against states before panels of trade arbitrators if they perceive public policy or legislative actions have expropriated their property or treated their investment (defined broadly enough to include most forms of intellectual property) “unfairly”. Those groups and other critics of the investment protection regime argue that traditional investment treaty standards are incompatible with environmental law, human rights protection, and public welfare regulation, meaning that TPP will be used to force states to lower standards for e.g. environmental and workers protection – or be sued for damages. As a worst case scenario, investor-state arbitration gives transnational corporations powers to trump the sovereign powers of nations and states and hold back important policy developments related to sustainability and a clean energy future. The Australian government and its negotiators have stated that they will not be agreeing to investor state dispute settlement provisions that give greater rights to foreign than domestic businesses in the TPP.

So, what’s the worry?

Well, just considering the Investor-state arbitration provisions, one can see that if New Zealand enters into these agreements and then later NZ, for example, wants to legislate that cigarette packages have to be plain with no advertisements and with bold warnings about the health risk, then the tobacco companies in the U.S. could sue us for damages under these provisions.

They would say that our new legislation undercut their profits from selling cigarettes and thus we’d hurt their financial interests.  Does that sound like something any country should open itself to?

Governments should be free to make whatever legislation they see fit for the betterment of their own people.  That’s what being a sovereign nations is all about, really.

In this proposed situation, government decisions would be checked by their possible economic consequences on the economic interests of foreign corporations.

Canada puts its willy in the Wringer

Canada

Canada has signed a new agreement that comes into effect at the end of October.  It’s called The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA).   It seems to be a model of what not to do to me.

In one instance, it prevents Canada from doing anything that will infringe on Chinese profits from the  Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.   These limitations will continue for 31 years.

In an article from the Vancouver Sun it says:

“This treaty, in effect, will pre-empt important elements of the debate of the Northern Gateway pipeline and may frustrate in a very significant way the ability of the current BC government or any future government—if the NDP were to win in spring—from stopping that pipeline or bargaining a better deal for BC,” said Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Law professor who specializes in international investment law.

Van Harten noted that arbitrators in foreign investment agreement disputes will most likely judge in favour of Chinese investors in cases where the host country attempts to impose new or updated regulations that may interfere with the investor’s bottom line.

“If this treaty comes into effect, and there’s any Chinese ownership whatsoever in assets related to this pipeline—minority ownership, ownership we generally don’t know about—then Canada will be exposed to lawsuits under this treaty, because the BC government will be discriminating against a Chinese investor, which is prohibited by the treaty.” 

The treaty will protect investors’ rights for 31 years as of November 1.

Some sense?

I can see that corporations who make significant international investments in infrastructure will want to control things to protect their investments and to guarantee their profits.   These are corporations, after all, so such behaviors should be expected without question.

But why would sovereign governments want to sign negotiations that will limit their ability to make laws that are in the best interests of their own peoples?

Could it be (gasp) money?

Who’s making the deals – who are they?

When I first started considering all of this, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that anyone negotiating on behalf of a sovereign government could possibly think treaties like this would be a good idea.

Then the light turned on when I thought about who our negotiators are.

Who is it these days who have risen so high in national governments that they have a seat at the table where such negotiations are done?

Business people, my friends, usually it is business people.

Trans Pacific Partnership

Here in New Zealand, we are led by John Key in a conservative government which is very business-friendly.

Canada is currently led by the Harper government of which we could very much say the same.

And the United States, as I’ve asserted for some time, has basically been captured by, and is largely under the control of, corporations and their minions; the business people.

Do you begin to see?

So, John Key is a major businessman here in New Zealand.  A millionaire who has made his money through business.

So, if he leads a negotiating team to the TPP negotiations that is willing to put our subsidized pharmaceuticals (PHARMAC) on the table as a negotiating chip, then he’s put something out there that the other side (big Pharma in the U.S.) would like.  And that’s free access to our NZ markets where they can sell us our pharmaceuticals for the same outrageous prices they sell them to the U.S. public for.

Unequal contest

John Key

In exchange, John Key, and the other business types he’s allied with here in New Zealand, will get access to new offshore markets through the TPP where they can sell the sorts of things they like to do business in.

In the end, by negotiating away something that belongs to all of us in New Zealand (PHARMAC), they will reap huge personal profits.

Now, they will say that some of that new money they will make will ‘trickle-down‘ into the pockets of other New Zealanders and that we will all be better off for it in the end.

Yeah right!   It’s been a long time since I’ve believed in ‘trickle-down’ anything other than political bullshit.   Trickle-down is just a conscience-saving mental ploy of the rich to try to make their profiting at our expense more palatable.

The new face of how corporations dominate governments

Is through international free trade agreements.  Watch for it – coming to nation like yours soon.

Just a sign of the times

Friday, October 12th, 2012

“The United States is printing money – quantitative easing it is called – because its interest rates are almost zero and still the economy is not growing. It’s the last chance corral. They can’t drop their interest rates much more.”

An explanation of the New Zealand medical system

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

– I wrote this piece to explain to Americans how differently the New Zealand medical system works from the one Americans are familiar with.

– Dennis
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

http://www.skyvalleychronicle.com/BREAKING-NEWS/DOCTOR-DOCTOR-MISTER-MD-BR-I-Can-you-tell-me-what-s-ailin-me-I-1070455

Politics: Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Written by Bill McKibben for Rolling Stone Magazine

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.
Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.
More – search for the title line with Google…

Crisis forces dismal science to get real

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

– Just a few days ago, I wrote about an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch section.   This article, acknowledged what I think is a deep and unavoidable truth about the world.  And that is that all our economies are based on models that insist on indefinite growth for the model to succeed.

– And, I said, any eight year-old knows that you cannot go on creating more and more stuff on a stage of finte size.  Common sense tells you the stagewill fill up and you will come to the end-game.

– So here we have an article about an ongoing deep angst in the world of economists about how their models are failing to predict the ups and downs of the world’s economy.   Hand wringing and questions about the deep assumptions being taught at the various schools of economics abound.

– And not one WORD about the most fundamental issue of all.   That ALL their models depend on indefinite growth to succeed and that this is just impossible.   Give me strength!

– Dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

As economics teachers struggle to make sense of a post-crisis world, they may have an unlikely army of helpers: ants.

In September 2008, the same month that Lehman Brothers collapsed, the Argentinian ants became the unwitting stars of a German television show that set out to illustrate collective efficiency. To the frustration of the show’s producers, the insects ended up showing how easily rational expectations can go awry.

The ants – Linepithema humile – had a choice between a long route and a short one to get to a pile of food. In theory, their chemical communication and millions of years of evolution should have led them to work out the short route.

They chose the long one, and most kept using it even though some had found the shorter path. “The Germans were furious,” said economics professor Alan Kirman, whose neuroscientist friend and colleague Guy Theraulaz ran the experiments in the south of France.

Kirman, professor emeritus at Aix Marseille University and France’s Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, has started to use the footage in a talk he gives about modern economic thinking. The insects were far from efficient, he said, but reached their goal in the end.

“I think the economy is a lot like that.”

There lies a hint of the revolution that is building at the heart of academic economics, particularly in Europe.

As the euro zone crisis deepens, economists in France, Germany and Italy have been forced to turn away from classroom theories and look at the real world – from insects to financial markets, from banks to brain scans – to better understand what’s going on.

An increasing number of teachers argue that the textbooks, some by experts who didn’t see the crisis coming, are divorced from reality, inconsistent, dull, and, in a crisis that has gripped the globe for more than four years, even dangerous.

“A crisis is a wonderful opportunity in some sense,” said Kirman. “If it weren’t for the fact that millions of people are suffering as a result, what better time to be an economist, because now you can see what’s going wrong with our theory.”

– More…

 

Myth of Perpetual Growth is killing America

Monday, June 25th, 2012

– This article is from no less than the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch.  

– Amazing, isn’t it, that any eight year old could tell you what the problem is with assuming that things can get bigger and bigger when they only have a fixed amount of space to grow in.  

– But, it has taken the mavens of Wall Street until now to smell the coffee.

– Dennis

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Commentary: Everything you know about economics is wrong

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Yes, everything you know about economics is wrong. Dead wrong. Everything. The conclusions of economists are based on a fiction that distorts everything else. As a result economics is as real as one of the summer blockbusters like “Battleship,” “The Avenger” or “Prometheus.”

The difference is that the economic profession is a genuine threat, not entertainment. Economics dogma is on track to destroy the world with a misleading ideology.

Why? Because all economics is based on the absurd Myth of Perpetual Growth. Yes, all theories and business plans based on growth are mythological.

Economists are master illusionists who rely on a set of fictions, fantasies and forecasts that emanate from a core magical mantra of Perpetual Growth that goes untested year after year.

And yet it’s used to manipulate the public into a set of policies and decisions that are leading the American and the world economy down a path of unsustainable globalization and GDP growth assumptions that will self-destruct the planet.

– More…

NZ Asset Sales Policy Began On Wall Street

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

 

– I love my new country but I do believe that New Zealanders can be naive.   Perhaps it is because of their long isolation.   But the stuff John Key, our current conservative PM, is trying to implement here is the same stuff that the Chicago Boys have tried around the world with repeatedly disastrous consequences.   

– And I’m reading that it will likely pass 61 to 60.   Isn’t it utterly amazing that not one of those 61 people will change their vote when the majority of New Zealanders clearly do NOT want asset sales.   One can only hope that the voters remember the transgressions of the 61 later at the polls.

– Read this analysis – it will curl your hair.

– Dennis

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The Key government’s asset sales agenda is derived from the Washington Consensus – a set of Wall Street-driven policies that were pronounced dead after the global financial meltdown in 2008.[1] The New Zealand government, however, remains loyal to this failed ideology.

Why? The obvious link is Prime Minister John Key – a former investment banker for Merrill Lynch, the world’s largest brokerage failure.

In most other countries, state asset sales have become a last resort on the road to poverty and ruin, but for the Key government, asset sales are “business as usual.” [2]

So what’s really behind asset sales?
All wealth extraction is facilitated by international and national economic policies, coupled with the private banking system, which together deliver benefits to the financial elite by transferring wealth upward within and between nations.

 The state asset sales policy is just one of several reforms under the Washington Consensus, a set of monetary and economic policies designed to allow: the privatization of public resources and utilities, the removal of barriers to foreign investment and ownership, the sale of state assets, trade liberalization, deregulation, the lowering of business taxes, and cuts to public services.[3]

These “free market” reforms are collectively termed neoliberalism.[4] Simply, they provide big business with improved legal access to markets and assets worldwide.

The Key government’s asset sales agenda fits obediently into this ideology ? the same ideology that ushered in financial deregulation, record bank bailouts, and the Second Great Depression.[5]

Governments in New Zealand have succumbed to the neoliberal movement since 1987, when the first round of asset sales began, as a Reagan-Thatcher-Douglas experiment.

Under these policies since the 1980s, New Zealanders have experienced almost the greatest increase in income inequality in the OECD.[6]

The deep roots of neoliberalism 
Modern liberalism dates back to the end of World War II, when the Bretton Woods agreement formed the IMF and the World Bank, establishing the US dollar as a de facto world reserve currency, and installing policies aimed at stabilizing the world monetary system. Free private capital flows between countries were restricted because it was believed that international financiers had caused the Great Depression.[7]

For the next three decades, Western governments were characterized by liberal, socially democratic policies that sought to safeguard national economies by keeping trade in balance. The world achieved exceptional economic prosperity during this era known as “The Glorious Thirty” years.[8]

But by the 1970s, corporations began to exhaust the spending power of the “consumer society” as total debt increased under the mathematical bias of fractional reserve banking, exacerbated by the Vietnam War.

Policymakers were faced with a choice between more intervention to protect local economies and social justice, or a more liberal business agenda – neo (new) liberalism. Wall Street interests mobilized to advance a host of “business first” policies that became the Washington Consensus, and the euphoria for deregulation ultimately placed Wall Street beyond the reach of democratic public accountability.

Rising poverty and debt for the majority
Multinational corporations proliferated and expanded, outsourcing cheap foreign labour, extracting oil and other mineral wealth, leveraging weaker economies and favourable exchange rates to monopolise global markets, often assisted by IMF and World Bank development loans.

Globalization is defended as a strategy to boost Gross National Product (GDP) and therefore investment in jobs. But in reality, free trade strengthens capital bargaining relative to labour, so that people who derive most of their income from returns on capital (the rich) gain, while people who earn most of their income from labour (the majority) lose.[9]

The outcomes of neoliberal policies have been similar everywhere in the world. Deregulated markets have benefitted the local educated elite who work with the corporations, while the majority of people have experienced a decline in living standards, with a permanent widening of the gap between the rich and poor.[10] [11]

Neoliberalism has been catastrophic. It has accelerated sovereign debt, collapsed the financial sector, and it has caused the highest ever level of global unemployment, described recently by the International Labour Organization as a worldwide crisis.[12]

Meanwhile, the corporations and the international banking aristocracy have amassed enormous unproductive wealth via their trickle-up incomes.

“Free trade” unlocks foreign assets
The post-World War II version of free trade promoted “fair trade” and often achieved a healthy balance of payments. But the Washington Consensus threw caution to the wind, allowing big business to dominate government policy, making deficits routine.

Free trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have virtually destroyed US-based manufacturing, leaving Main Street America with a service sector economy.[13]

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) signals yet another secretive free trade deal intended to free-up access to foreign assets. The TPPA could render New Zealand government decisions subject to rulings by international tribunals, in the defence of investors from the negotiating countries of Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Australia, Peru, Vietnam and the United States. This is how “free trade” agreements pave the way for the extraction of wealth ? by the erosion of economic sovereignty.

The Key government’s privatisation agenda is well advanced, with various private public partnerships (PPPs) already being developed. This neoliberal doctrine includes the privatization of prisons, schools, water resources, and all infrastructure.

Ultimately on offer is $5-20 trillion[14] in Crown mineral wealth, including gold, coal, lignite, phosphate, iron sand, oil, natural gas, and more, all under the fourth lowest royalty and taxation regime in the world[15] – a paltry 1% of the production value.[16]

“Mixed ownership model” is destined to fail
The Key government plans to sell 49% of four state owned energy companies – Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis, and Solid Energy, and a further 23% of Air New Zealand. It is claimed that $5–7 billion can be “freed up” to reduce debt.[17]

What really betrays these asset sales as an ideologically-based policy is the maths. Financial analyst Brent Sheather has calculated that the assets are earning a higher income than the cost of borrowing.

Currently, the cost of borrowing is 4% for ten years, so the cost of $6 billion would be $240 million. The forecast dividends of the four SOE energy companies average $449 million over the next five years, 49% of which is $220 million. Add $20 million for selling 23% of Air New Zealand and the lost dividends average $240 million a year.[18]

Now, add the sales related costs estimated at 3% or $180 million, plus the expected improved performance from substantial recent capital investment, and there is no way for New Zealand taxpayers to come out ahead.

As the Green’s co-leader Russel Norman has said:
“We have seen this before. Like our energy SOEs, Telecom had invested significant amounts of capital in building a modern telecommunications network in the years before privatisation. In the years following Telecom’s privatisation, dividend streams for its new private owners doubled, then tripled within six years. History now seems to be repeating itself with our energy SOEs. National has allowed the taxpayer to build up the asset, only to then on-sell it to the benefit of others.” [19]

The initial public offerings (IPOs) will be snapped up and passed on to larger offshore players, who with only a combined holding of 25% will enjoy foreign-owned status under the Overseas Investment Act (2005),[20] with ample influence at 49% to sway policy. So expect higher power prices.

Over the longer term, asset inflation will provide a mega windfall for shareholders.

In 1999, the NZ Herald reported that: ‘Over the past 12 years 40 state-owned commercial assets have been sold, realising $19.1 billion. As at August 31, 1999 these assets had an estimated value of $35.7 billion, $16.6 billion above their original sale price. … The privatisation programme has been a huge windfall for overseas investors. Just over 79 per cent, or $13.1 billion, of the increase in value has gone to offshore interests.’ [21] [22]

No political party can beat debt under our monetary system
New Zealand’s government debt is presently modest compared to private debt. In the short-term, tax reforms that enable a fairer redistribution of income would slow the deepening tide of all New Zealand debt ? if only the Key government would allow this.

But in our post-peak oil world, without cheap oil to fuel high productivity, sovereign debt in New Zealand ? as elsewhere, will inevitably force austerity measures consistent with the Washington Consensus. The past failure of these policies will be ignored, because ultimately there is simply no other option under the debt-based system.

Under fractional reserve banking the rate of growth of debt must be higher than the rate of growth of income to avoid collapse. In aggregate, debt grows exponentially until it cannot be repaid. [23] [24]The world is literally attempting to engage productive overdrive in a hopeless struggle to satisfy unproductive debt servicing.

Almost half of the average earned income is already siphoned off via direct or indirect hidden interest, and in government debt taxes.[25] In sum, almost half of humanity’s productive effort is to serve useless debt, instead of solve the world’s problems.

The pressure to leverage fiscal advantage from assets, of all kinds, comes directly from the ruling power – the international banking elite. No political party can entirely avoid asset extraction under the fractional reserve system. Governments can adjust the debt hand-brake, but the foreign bankers are in the driving seat.

The world is sliding toward zero and eventually negative growth. Sovereign debt can only speed up. New Zealand will join the economic train-wreck down the track.

The only escape route is a public medium of exchange that is debt-free.[26] Every sovereign nation can issue its own currency without debt or interest, but nearly all governments align with the international bankers to extort the “common wealth.”

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand issues less than 2% of the nation’s money debt-free,[27] serving the global central banking cartel, not ordinary Kiwis.

Selling public assets amounts to economic suicide
The European Central Bank (ECB) is clearly demonstrating how economic sovereignty can be wrested from countries through debt peonage.

The world on its present course cannot avoid fuel shortages, debt-deflation, fiscal austerity, increasing poverty, political and environmental conflicts over energy and essential commodities, unprecedented global protests against Wall Street financial injustice, political and legal challenges for full reserve monetary reform, climate and humanitarian disasters, further revolution and war.

We are facing the perfect economic storm, in which sacrificing long-term high performing income would guarantee poverty for the majority. Selling public assets amounts to economic suicide.

Most New Zealanders don’t realize that their country, and their future, is being sold.

________________________________________

[1] Anthony Painter. (2009, April 10). The Washington Consensus Is Dead. The Guardian., Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/apr/09/obama-g20-nato-foreign-policy

[2] Mixed Ownership Monitoring Unit(2011, December 15). Mixed Owner Model For Crown Companies. Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit , 1 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, New Zealand.
http://www.comu.govt.nz/publications/information-releases/mixed-ownership-model/

[3] John Williamson. (2004, September 24-25). A Short History of the Washington Consensus.
http://www.iie.com/publications/papers/williamson0904-2.pdf

[4] Neoliberalism. Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

[5] Steve Keen. (2011, December 3). We’re Already In The Second Great Depression, We Just Don’t Realize It Yet.
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-12-03/markets/30471134_1_second-great-depression-hope-new-jobs

[6] OCED. (2011, December 5). Governments must tackle record gap between rich and poor, says OECD.
http://www.oecd.org/document/40/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_49166760_1_1_1_1,00.html
‘The gap between rich and poor in OECD countries has reached its highest level for over 30 years, and governments must act quickly to tackle inequality, according to a new OECD report. “Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising” finds that the average income of the richest 10% is now about nine times that of the poorest 10 % across the OECD.’

[7] Jan A. Kregal. (2003, April). The Perils of Globalization: Structural, Cyclical and Systemic Causes of Unemployment
http://www.cfeps.org/pubs/sp-pdf/SP13-Jan.pdf
‘In the view of US Secretary of the Treasury Morganthau the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions was to keep the control of the international financial system out of the hands of international financiers who were considered to have caused the Great Depression. Keynes agreed that free private international capital flows were incompatible with a stable international financial system and this similarity of views produced a post-war system in which it was presumed that there would be virtually no private international capital flows.’

[8] Embedded Liberalism. The Glorious Thirty years. Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
‘The period of government interventionism in the 1950s and 1960s was characterized by exceptional economic prosperity, as economic growth was generally high, was contained, and economic distribution was comparatively equalized. This era is known as les Trente Glorieuses (“The Glorious Thirty [years]”) or “Golden Age”, a reference to many countries having experienced particularly high levels of prosperity between (roughly) World War II and 1973.’

[9] Ian Fletcher. (2011). Free Trade Doesn’t Work, Why the Theory of Comparative Advantage is Wrong.
http://www.worldfinancialreview.com/?p=866
‘As a result, people who draw most of their income from returns on capital (the rich) gain, while people who get most of their income from labor (the rest) lose.’

[10] Richard C. Cook. (2007, June 2). Monetary Causes of the Immigration Crisis. The “Washington Consensus” has wrecked their economies. Global Research.
http://www.globalresearch.ca/PrintArticle.php?articleId=5862
‘The conditions also include a shift of indigenous economies to the production of export commodities, away from local self-sustaining agriculture and small business. This typically results in a mass exodus from rural areas to urban slums and causes poverty, unemployment, and crime. These financial programs benefit the local educated elite who work with the Western agencies and global corporations but cause a deep and permanent stratification among social classes.’

[11] OCED. (2011, December 5). Governments must tackle record gap between rich and poor, says OECD.
http://www.oecd.org/document/40/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_49166760_1_1_1_1,00.html

[12] ILO. (2011). Global Employment Trends 2011. International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland.
http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/@publ/documents/publication/wcms_150440.pdf

[13] Robert E. Scott. (2011, May 3). Heading South: US-Mexico Trade And Job Displacement After NAFTA. Economic Policy Institute, 1333 H Street NW, Suite 300 East Tower, Washington DC 20005, USA, www epi.org.
http://www.epi.org/page/-/BriefingPaper308.pdf

[14] Dr. Don Elder. (2010, September 21). CEO, Solid Energy. Day 2 presentation at the 2010 New Zealand Petroleum Conference, Skycity Convention Centre, Auckland, during which Dr Elder has been quoted as stating that New Zealand has NZ$ 5-20 trillion in Crown minerals.
http://www.nzpam.govt.nz/cms/pdf-library/petroleum-conferences-1/2010-nzpc-speaker-presentations/Don%20Elder.pdf
[15] IPENZ, authorship withheld. (2011, December). Realizing Our Hidden Treasure: Responsible Mineral and Petroleum Extraction. The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Inc., PO Box 12 241, Wellington 6144, New Zealand.
http://www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz/media_comm/documents/IPENZMineralsandPetroleumFinalDec2011.pdf

[16] Taxation & Royalties for Mining Companies. New Zealand Mineral Industry Association. PO Box 24315, Wellington 6142, New Zealand.
http://www.minerals.co.nz/html/main_topics/overview/taxation_royalties.html
‘The Ministry of Commerce has recently imposed a royalty on minerals owned by the Crown. The royalty is the greater of 1% ad valorem (value of production) or 5% of accounting profits.’

[17] Mixed Ownership Monitoring Unit(2011, December 15). Mixed Owner Model For Crown Companies. Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit,1 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, New Zealand.
http://www.comu.govt.nz/publications/information-releases/mixed-ownership-model/

[18] Gordon Campbell. (2011, November 24). Gordon Campbell: financial analysts jump ship on asset sales.
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1111/S00215/gordon-campbell-financial-analysts-jump-ship-on-asset-sales.htm

[19] Dr Russel Norman. (2011, November 23). National Set To Repeat Telecom Privatisation Mistake.
http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/national-set-repeat-telecom-privatisation-mistake/5/108571

[20] Overseas Investment Act (2005). Section 7 (1). ‘…or they are 25% (or more) owned or controlled by an overseas person or persons.’ Parliamentary Counsel Office., PO Box 18070, Wellington 6160, New Zealand.
http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2005/0082/latest/DLM356881.html

[21] Bryan Gaynor, NZ Herald. (1999, October 2). Analysis: Filling Foreigner’s Pockets. The New Zealand Herald, PO Box 32, Auckland, New Zealand.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=15142

[22] The Treasury. (1999, September 30). Income from State Asset Sales. Historical information on the sale price and background to New Zealand Government asset sales as at 30 September 1999. The Treasury, Level 5 (Reception), 1 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, NEW ZEALAND.
http://www.treasury.govt.nz/government/assets/saleshistory

[23] Michael Hudson. (2004, January 24). The Mathematical Economics of Compound Rates of Interest: A Four-Thousand Year Overview Part I.
http://michael-hudson.com/2004/01/the-mathematical-economics-of-compound-rates-of-interest-a-four-thousand-year-overview-part-i/
‘Orthodox academic models rarely acknowledge the problems posed by the exponential growth of debt overhead. Such models typically make government policies appear unnecessary to cope with this problem, by focusing on the kind of world that might exist if the financial overgrowth of savings and debts did not double every decade or so, having multiplied again and again over the past century. It thus has been left mainly to non-mainstream writers to address the structural problems created by an accumulation of interest-bearing debt.’

[24] Debt Grows Exponentially. (2010, October 30). The Elephant In The Room: Debt Grows Exponentially, While Economies Only Grow In An S-Curve. Washington’s Blog.
The Elephant In The Room: Debt Grows Exponentially, While Economies Only Grow In An S-Curve
‘Hudson says that – in every country and throughout history – debt always grows exponentially, while the economy always grows as an S-curve. Moreover, Hudson says that the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians knew that debts had to be periodically forgiven, because the amount of debts will always surpass the size of the real economy. … One thing is for sure. The exponential growth of debt is a structural problem which – unless directly addressed – will swallow all economies which try to ignore it.’

[25] Margrit Kennedy. (1995). Interest and Inflation Free Money. Creating an exchange medium that works for everybody and protects the earth. Published by Seva International, ISBN 0-9643025-0-0.
http://kennedy-bibliothek.info/data/bibo/media/GeldbuchEnglisch.pdf
‘On an average we pay about 50% capital costs in the prices of our goods and services. Therefore, if we could abolish interest and replace it with another mechanism to keep money in circulation, most of us could either be twice as rich or work half of the time to keep the same standard of living we have now.’ (Other estimates are 40-45%.)

[26] Positive Money NZ. A campaign for Full Reserve Banking, based on similar campaigns in the UK and USA.
http://www.positivemoney.org.nz/

[27] Deirdre Kent. (2011, November). Money For Nothing. New Zealand Investor.
http://most0010122.e-xpert.co.nz/includes/download.aspx?ID=118572

 

– To the original article…

– Research thanks to Kierin  M.

 

Top (American) CEO pay equals 3,489 years for typical worker

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

WASHINGTON — David Simon of Simon Property received a pay package worth more than $137 million for last year, and the typical CEO took home $9.6 million, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Here are some ways to think about just how much money those salaries represent.

Simon’s $137 million is almost entirely in stock awards that could eventually be worth $132 million. The company said it wanted to make sure Simon wasn’t lured to another company.

HOW LONG IT TAKES OTHERS TO MAKE THAT MUCH: A minimum wage worker — paid $7.25 per hour, as some workers at Simon malls are — would have to work one month shy of 9,096 years to make what Simon made last year. A person making the national median salary, $39,312 by AP calculations, would have to work 3,489 years.

BY THE HOUR: Assuming Simon worked a 60-hour week, his pay was $43,963.64 per hour, or $732.73 per minute. To put that in perspective, the minimum-wage worker would have to labor for nearly three years to make what Simon earns in an hour. The average U.S. worker makes slightly less in one year than Simon makes in an hour.

COMPARED WITH AMERICA’S CEO: Simon makes about 342 times the $400,000 annual salary of President Barack Obama. In fact, if you add the salaries of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court justices, all the members of the Senate and House of Representatives and all 50 governors, it is less than $110 million, so Simon makes well more than government’s top 600 leaders. In the past 100 years, U.S. taxpayers have paid a total of $80.6 million, adjusted for inflation, to presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Obama.

The median CEO salary of $9.587 million:

HOW LONG IT TAKES OTHERS TO MAKE THAT MUCH: A minimum wage worker would have to work 636 years to make that much. A person making the national average salary would have to work 244 years to make the median CEO salary.

BY THE HOUR: If you assume the CEO works a 60-hour week, the pay comes to $3,072.84 per hour, or $51.21 per minute. To put that in perspective, the minimum wage worker would have to labor more than 10 weeks to make what the median CEO earns in an hour. It would take the average U.S. worker nearly a month to make what the average CEO makes in an hour.

COMPARED WITH AMERICA’S CEO: The CEO who made the median salary took in 12 times the total $789,674 in gross income that President Obama reported last year. But it is less than half the $20.9 million in income that presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney reported in his tax filing.

– To the original article…

 

An Open Letter to the World

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

– Sad news from Canada where the conservative Harper government is decimating science.

– Dennis 

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Dear Everyone,

My name is Naomi. I am Canadian. I worked for Environment Canada, our federal environmental department, for several years before our current Conservative leadership (under Stephen Harper) began decimating environmentalism in Canada. I, along with thousands and thousands of federal science employees lost any hope of future work. Their attitude towards the environment is ‘screw research that contradicts the economic growth, particularly of the oil sands’. They have openly and officially denigrated anyone that supports the environment and opposes big-money oil profit as ‘radicals’ (http://tinyurl.com/7wwf8dp).

Every day in Canada, new information about their vendetta on science and the environment becomes quietly public and keeps piling up. I have been privy to much first-hand information still because I retain friendships with my ex-colleagues (though my blood pressure hates me for it).

While I was working there, scientists were effectively muzzled from speaking to the media without prior confirmation with Harper’s media team (http://tinyurl.com/7bnsqp4) – usually denied, and when allowed, totally controlled. Scientists were threatened with job loss if they said anything in an interview that was not exactly what the media team had told them to say. This happened in 2008. The public didn’t find out for years.

During one of my contracts, I was manager of a large, public database set. Contact information for all database managers was available for anyone. I knew what was going on with the information and could answer questions immediately and personally. During this time, I noticed that a media team from Quebec started asking me “What would I say” to certain questions. I answered unwittingly. After a certain period of time, I noticed that all contact information had been removed from the internet –eliminating the opportunity for a citizen to inquire directly about these public data sets without contacting the media team. The Conservatives effectively removed another board from the bridge between science and the public, and I had inadvertently helped.

Since then, the Conservative government has been laying off thousands and thousands of full-fledged scientists that have been performing research for decades (http://tinyurl.com/8xtkaro), shutting down entire divisions and radically decimating environmental protection and stewardship in a matter of a couple years.

I am afraid for my country. Canada is the second largest land mass in the world – though our population is small, you can be sure that when a country that encompasses 7% of the world’s land mass, and has the largest coastline in the world says “screw it” to environmental protection, there will be massive global repercussions.

The Conservative leadership have admitted to shutting down environmental research groups on climate change because “they didn’t like the results” (http://tinyurl.com/7kpqk7d), are decimating the Species at Risk Act (our national equivalent of the IUCN Red list), are decimating habitat protection for fisheries, are getting rid of one of the most important water research facilities in the world (Experimental Lakes Area – has been operational since 1968, and allows for long-term ecosystem studies [http://tinyurl.com/cdygbdk] ), are getting rid of almost all scientists that study contaminants in the environment, have backed out of the Kyoto protocol – and the list goes on and on and on.

Entire divisions of scientific research are being eliminated. Our land, our animals, our plants, our environment are losing all the protection that has been building for decades – a contradictory stance to the rest of the world. (Please see their proposed omni-bill that basically tells the environment to go screw itself, while also being presented in an undemocratic fashion that limits debate on any of the 70+ changes [http://tinyurl.com/89ys2nf]).

David Schindler, a professor from the University of Alberta (and founder of ELA) quoted. “I think we have a government that considers science an inconvenience.”

I am writing this to implore every single person to please – look into this subject, and help us, help ourselves. Contact your MP, the Fisheries minister, Stephen Harper, anyone, everyone. I can’t sit by and just post rants on my Facebook page anymore. Share this letter, discuss, anything. Canada is an important nation environmentally, and our leadership doesn’t give a fig for science or the environment. But we do. This Conservative minority leadership was voted in on a thin string in the lowest voter election turnout in recent history, but thanks to our ridiculous voting laws, have 100% full power to do whatever they want. And in the name of short-term monetary oil profit, they have realized that science and the environments is a threat to their goals, and are doing everything possible to eliminate both.

We are depressed, and frustrated, and mad, and need all the help we can get to protect the value of science and our environment. In the age of globalization, intentional stone-age evilness is going to affect everyone. We share our waters, air, and cycles with all of you. Science IS a candle in the dark, and we cannot let greed extinguish that flame. What happens in Canada – will happen everywhere.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

A Canadian that cares about science and the environment

– To the original post over on uncloaked