Brigette Bardot

Brigette Bardot

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Another Reason to Occupy Wall Street

You learn something new every day.  

Unfortunately, these days, it seems like I’m not learning anything that really makes me feel good.  At first, I thought it was me.  But the more I read, the more I learn, the more disillusioned I become, the more I realize it is the world around me and I’m just reacting the way any sane person would.

This excellent article in The Week is a perfect example. 

It turns out that one of the big drivers behind our faltering infrastructure in this country is the deregulation of the banking industry and the total Vegas-esque free-for-all that is the investment sector of the economy.

Because of the disproportionate growth of the financial sector, money is no longer flowing to infrastructure or R & D investment.  In its simplest terms, the Wild West Wall Street investors are looking for short-term profits.  Investment in infrastructure and R & D is a long-term investment in the future.

To quote the article:

The deregulation of the financial sector — promoted by Republican and Democratic administrations — has changed America from an economy focused on sustainable growth toward a free-for-all for the wealthy.
This change is called "financialization." The financial sector has grown to almost 8 percent of GDP, from about 4 percent in Reagan's time. That the financial sector has grown isn't necessarily a problem; what is a problem is that it has grown faster than the rest of the economy. The purpose of the financial sector is to facilitate investment in a wide array of activities — to grease the wheels of the economy, so to speak. If the rest of the economy doesn't grow along with the financial sector, it is not fulfilling that purpose.

So, instead of money flowing to things like building/repairing bridges and roads and sewer systems that create good middle class jobs (which raises the ability of the masses to consume which helps grow the economy), money is being gambled back and forth at the Wall Street craps table where all the money goes back into the pockets of the gamblers. 

Oh, and the occasional hooker.

When you combine that with the historically low taxes on this type of income and the growing wealth and income disparity, cities and states no longer have the cash (or financing) available to keep our roads from crumbling from beneath our feet.

There is more to this story than that, but that is the gist.  Not only did the tax payers have to bail out the “too big to fail” banks, but now they are back to screwing us so that they can make even more profit.

We have to put some common sense back into our economy.  The richest among us should be taxed at a much higher rate, Wall Street needs to be regulated, and investment in infrastructure, in our country's future, should be rewarded.

It seems so simple when I say it out loud, but it doesn't make me feel any better.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Cosmopolitan or Pornography - Which is Exploiting Women?

There was an Internet debate raging last week centered on a young Duke University co-ed who was outed as a porn actress.  It seems she had been flying out to the west coast to shoot hardcore porn scenes as a way to pay for her education.

Much of the discussion focused on whether being a porn actress was empowering or demeaning. Is this young woman demonstrating and exercising her sexual independence or is she willingly participating in an exploitative and damaging activity? 

The whole debate got me thinking about how women are portrayed in mainstream media and how women consume those portrayals. I have never been a fan of the advertorial “women’s” magazines like Cosmopolitan, Style, Vogue etc. I have always believed that they contribute more to the unhappiness of women than pornography ever will. 

Why?  Because they are infinitely more accessible to women, more readily consumed by women and they have an obvious and negative effect on the how women feel about themselves.  Their pages are filled with images of stick figure models and Photoshopped ads that sell a definition of beauty that is unobtainable for nearly all and unhealthy to boot.

That’s right, these magazines that are targeted at women, consumed by women and often times produced by women are stomping on the self-esteem of women. They are setting unhealthy standards that nearly no one can live up to nor should even try. And women are suffering for it.

Past research has shown that women who are regularly exposed to media portraying the ultra-thin, supposedly beautiful ideal are more likely to suffer lower self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and depressive moods.

(For those of you who don’t want to read, here is a short video report on the study.

Ann Taylor ad model before and after photoshopping
And we wonder why young women are cutting themselves, are suffering eating disorders and are lying down in cancer-causing, radiation emitting beds in an effort to feel empowered and beautiful. We wonder why heavier girls are having sex sooner in an effort to feel desired. We wonder why women gulp diet pills that have no proven effectiveness yet sell millions of bottles.  It is, in part, because of these magazines and the advertising that occupies most of their pages.

They are intentionally making women feel inferior, they are driving down the self-esteem of women because they want to sell more make-up, more clothing, more perfume, more body slimming undergarments to women who are unhappy and depressed.  And they are unhappy and depressed because they are failing to meet the unhealthy standard of beauty that these rags promote.

The World Dictionary definition of “exploit”: to take advantage of (a person, situation, etc), esp. unethically or unjustly for one's own ends

Does pornography exploit or promote the exploitation of women? 

If you answer that question in the affirmative, then I think you must also agree that these mainstream women's magazines and media outlets, and the advertising they run, are exploiting women as well.  The fashion houses and makeup companies that shuttle out these rail-thin waifs and Photoshopped fantasy images are exploiting women.  They are not only preying on their fears and insecurities, they are feeding them.  They are cultivating an illness so that they can sell the snake oil cure.

If that isn’t exploitation, then what is?

Monday, March 03, 2014

Two Words

I hate it when medical societies and other medical not-for-profit organizations use the word "healthcare" in their press releases.  It's "health care", two words if you please.  Check your damn AP Stylebook people!

They really ought to know better, don't you think?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Quick Hits - In the Barn with Pork and Hannah Montana

It’s Hard to Make Bacon when you’re Porking Yourself 

Mega retailer WalMart is porking itself.  They have opposed a hike in the minimum wage but now that the Federal subsidies for low wage/no wage workers are drying up, workers like the ones employed by WalMart can no longer afford to shop…at WalMart.

“On Thursday morning, the retailing giant announced a 21 percent drop in profits in the last three months of the year, which covers the crucial holiday season. Some of the drop had to do with weather -- more than 200 Walmart stores had to close some time over the last few months because of winter storms. However, much of the decline was the result of a pull back by shoppers pinched by recent federal benefits cuts, officials said on an earnings call Thursday

U.S. same store sales dropped 0.4 percent last quarter U.S. CEO Bill Simon said on the call. If the government hadn’t cut food stamp benefits in November, “we believe the quarter would have been flat,” he said.

In other words, the food stamp cuts were so devastating; customers were too poor to shop at Walmart.” Huffington Post 

You know, if the minimum wage was raised to say 10 or 11 bucks-an-hour, don’t you think more of WalMart’s core customers would have enough money to shop at WalMart?

Hannah Montana Ended Up Naked - And Parents are Pissed

Parents aren’t too thrilled with Miley Cyrus.  In fact, some are going so far as to complain to her record label about the racy nature of her most recent concert tour. 
Right now, Miley’s show includes her simulating oral sex on a Bill Clinton lookalike, riding a flying hot dog in a suggestive manner and fake-pleasuring herself on stage.

“Oh, and don’t forget the twerking. She’s still doing that.”  Kansas City Star 
Are these parents just f-ing stupid or do they live under a rock? How can you live in the US and not know that Miley has been slutting it up all over the place.  From the simulated sex/twerking on the Grammys to her naked ride on a wrecking ball in her music video to her latest half topless photo shoot Miley has taken Hannah Montana out the barn for a game of “Skin to Win.”

And Miley hates to lose.

If you don’t want your kids exposed to Miley’s “art”, then don’t buy a ticket.  It isn’t her fault that you plunked down the cash for a show you don’t want your kid to see.  In fact, before you buy a ticket for your kid to go see a concert, or a movie, or a theatrical performance, or anything else, do a little research first. 

It’s called parenting, give it a try sometime. One thing I know for sure - it isn’t Miley’s job to raise your kid.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Big, Fast, Strong, Gay and... Really Smart

Michael Sam is poised to be the first openly gay player in the National Football League.

He isn’t yet.  Right now, he is just a high quality college player waiting to be drafted.

How high quality? The 6-foot-2 and 260 pound Missouri University defensive lineman was a first team All-American, was named the top defensive player in the Southeastern Conference, and teammates named him the team's most valuable player.

That is the kind of resume that gets you drafted.

Now, the NFL isn’t exactly known for being a gay-friendly environment.  Just ask ex-Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe who isn’t gay, but is an outspoken supporter of gay rights.  He has also been very public about the abuse and ire he suffered for speaking out in support of gay marriage. He goes so far as to say that his support of gay rights contributed to his being released by the Vikings and ultimately out of the NFL.

Why would a football player who is hoping to get drafted publicly announce that he was gay? 

Because he wants to get drafted, that’s why.

Michael Sam had already told his teammates that he was gay.  That means that the NFL scouts would know that he was gay.  And in the war rooms on draft day, they could, under the cloak of secrecy, decide not to draft him without anyone knowing that his sexuality was a contributing factor in that decision.

Now the NFL has to make that decision in the light of day. 

Michael Sam will be drafted.  And the team that drafts him will do it knowing that he is gay and knowing that the world knows that his is gay.  If Michael Sam had waited and come out after being drafted, there would be resentment from teammates, from management and from narrow-minded fans who would have claimed he failed to be upfront and honest before being offered a roster slot. His coming out before the draft was the smart move that makes those criticisms moot.

Michael Sam is gay.  He is out.  He is going to be drafted by the NFL.  Slide over and make some room on that bench of honor Jackie Robinson, here is another courageous athlete who is breaking down the barriers built by bigots.

I only hope that the rough road paved by Jackie helps make Michael Sam’s journey just a little bit easier.

Oh, and let’s hope that he doesn’t get drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Middle Class is Dying - And Corporate America Knows

The Republican’s don’t want to admit it, but the middle class is dying.  It is dying the way most things do any more, slowly running down until they just cease to function.

The irony is that the corporate/investor world, a cornerstone of the Republican political base, knows this is happening. They are, in fact, telling the world with their investment dollars that the middle class’s future health is a dim prospect.

According to this New York Times article:

“…new research by the economists Steven Fazzari, of Washington University in St. Louis, and Barry Cynamon, of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, backs up what is already apparent in the marketplace.

In 2012, the top 5 percent of earners were responsible for 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995, the researchers found.

Even more striking, the current recovery has been driven almost entirely by the upper crust… Since 2009, the year the recession ended, inflation-adjusted spending by this top echelon has risen 17 percent, compared with just 1 percent among the bottom 95 percent.

More broadly, about 90 percent of the overall increase in inflation-adjusted consumption between 2009 and 2012 was generated by the top 20 percent of households in terms of income, according to the study, which was sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a research group in New York.”
Investment money flows toward profit.  Why would it not? And the richest among us are buying things, eating at higher end restaurants, they are spending and the rest of us are not so those businesses are expanding while those that target the middle class are shutting their doors. 

In the end, what does this mean?  According to a Facebook post by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:
“As a result: (1) the sinking middle class no longer has enough purchasing power to keep the economy growing and creating sufficient jobs; (2) the shrinking middle isn’t generating enough tax revenue for adequate education, training, safety nets, and family services; while (3) the rich are accumulating more and more political power to reduce their own taxes and get corporate welfare (subsidies, bailouts, tax cuts) for their businesses.”
I think another risk in this inequality of income and wealth is the devastating effect a stock market slide could have on the economy.

Consumers are a primary driver of the economy.  The rich are the only consumers who are expanding their spending.  When the casino that is the stock market turns bearish, and it will, they will reduce their spending and suddenly we are staring at another  recession.

A strong middle class is an imperative for our economy. They produce, they consume, and they mitigate the effects of economic negatives like rising oil prices and housing downturns.  Investing in a strong middle class is a kind of economic insurance against things like the Great Recession.

It is time that the conservatives learn that.  And it is time for the Democrats to walk the walk and start playing hard ball on investing in our county’s future - a vibrant, employed  middle class.