THE DEEP IRONY OF THE 99 PERCENT

 

I like the fact that the 99 Percenters are calling attention to the inequities of wealth in America. However, do they realize what an … ahem … INTERESTING position this is when observed through the glass of the world and not just the USA?

“Let’s look at the 1% – on a world scale.  According to the CIA world factbook (and the IMF releases similar numbers), the top 1% of the world’s earners make 34K or more annually (per capita).  The world’s top 1% richest people have total assets (that’s everything you own) valued at a quarter of a million dollars or more.  My guess is that a not-insignificant percentage of my readers fall into the category.

48% of the world’s 1% are Americans.  If you were to reduce this to 100 people (always a useful exercise), according to World Bank Economist Branko Milanovic in his book “The Haves and the Have-Nots”, almost every single one of the people in the 1% would come from the developed world – not a single person from Africa, China, Southeast Asia except Singapore, South America except Brazil, India, Eastern Europe or Russia (obviously there are rich people there, but not enough to be statistically significant).”

Certainly worth thinking about.

See Sharon Astyk’s complete article HERE: http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2012/05/23/so-you-know-you-are-the-1-right/

WHY AMERICA NEEDS TO SAY “I’M SORRY”

Here’s a book: “It was a long time ago and it never happened anyway: Russia and the Communist past”, by David Satter. Very enlightening and relevant. As Mr. Satter points out, Russia suffered through a lot after the Tsars were deposed in 1917, mainly state-sanctioned murder at a monstrous rate, with Stalin as the putative cause. Satter says these people executed by their own countrymen because “They were the victims of political terror that was initiated in order to guarantee the absolute domination of a totalitarian regime.”

Satter goes on at length concerning the ramifications of this great loss of life – many millions, by every measure. But he also discusses the corrosive effect of ignoring this history, which is what the Russian national government, city government, police, and Secret Service are all doing. Even when a big cheese like Putin speaks at a memorial for these long-missing people, it is for the ostensible reason of plausible deniability. Even when the government passes a law that provides for family members to have a right to see historical documents and shed light on the fates of missing loved ones, there are many slippery ways for authority organizations to ignore, refuse, or plead ignorance. Since the Great Terror – the height of Soviet state sanctioned murder – lasted from 1936 to 1938 – the last living people who loved and knew the millions of victims are dying of old age. Still, the old Soviet machine continues to block citizen access to information, with a corrosive effect on Russian society. One Russian psychiatrist said that half the people in Russia suffered from mental illness; the result of the combination of powerlessness, fear, and official denial that are the legacy of this history.

When I hear white people in the United States refuse responsibility for the mayhem their nation visited upon huge numbers of black Africans during slavery because “it wasn’t me who did it,” I think of all those mentally ill Russians. I think about those Russians when American citizens incessantly whine about how Native casinos are raking in the bucks when poor pitiful American businessmen don’t have the same right, and I consider all the millions of Native people our system deliberately starved, killed outright, or kidnapped from their families as children so state-sanctioned schools could try and beat the Indian right out of them. When white guys are allowed to kill unarmed black teenagers because they look out-of-place, and when minority citizens are jailed at a massive rate because supposedly, they are some kind of threat to society, I think about those Russians too.

I have heard many conservative Americans say things like “my country, right or wrong”, or “we can hurt a few people even if they are innocent because the means justify the ends of a more peaceful society.” Yeah, right. Except for the searing of the national soul and the accompanying mental illness. And these same people are the ones who think nobody should apologize for anything – not for the burning of Muslim holy books on military bases, not for the murder in cold blood of Afghani  families by American soldiers, not for burning villagers in their huts in Viet Nam, not for … well, I could go on, but you get the point.

As Mark Twain once said, history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. Unless we are able to face the past – with honesty and courage – America as a nation will never become whole.

 

YOUR BRAIN: SOME INTERESTING FACTS

There have been a series of investigations performed to illuminate human thought processes, and let me tell you, the results are fascinating in their ramifications.

1) The brain consumes something like 1/5 of the energy expended by the body, although accounting only for something between 2 and 5 percent of the body’s mass.The brain is an energy hog.

2) The human brain evolved as a response to environmental conditions. A smart generalist can be successful in adapting to fluctuating circumstances whereas a creature with  specific adaptations and little latitude for change may become extinct in short order. Example: the adaptive generalist white-tailed deer vs. the specific-needs panda. White-tailed deer: there are millions of them, to the point that they have become a pest. Pandas: maybe 2000 total.

3) The human brain uses the very least amount of energy when the owner has made up his or her mind about something. These are called “convictions”, or “beliefs”. The mind is made up, there’s no reason to change, and the brain can rest in its little hammock of relaxation, conserving energy just as it would have had to do back in the cave days to survive the inevitable famine.

4) Sometimes, though, people have to think. That’s why they evolved that big-ass brain in the first place, but they are still programmed to conserve energy. If a person has to think about his-her beliefs, and then decides to CHANGE those beliefs, that process requires significantly more energy routed through the brain to accomplish. So if the cave-guy is looking at a bush with something kind of different behind it, he could comfortably stay established in his belief that it is a rock behind that bush. But if he uses more energy and changes his belief to the idea that there is a saber-tooth tiger behind that bush, the expenditure may save his life.

5) The most energy consumed by the brain occurs when the owner has to suspend the process of belief/non-belief, and wait for more information to come in. When new information arrives, the brain sorts through all of it on its way to a conclusion. Very energy-intensive, and actually kind of a luxury that our original cave-people didn’t have, what with fending off starvation and hiding from predators and all that. If those people expended lots of energy thinking about things, it could push them right over the mortality edge.

So the baseline for human comfort is simple, straightforward belief in something. No thinking required, just comfy, non-demanding belief. Actually having to change our minds about something is way less comfortable, because it requires lots more energy. And to suspend belief and wait for information, and then weigh and assign that information – far, far more energy-intensive, and something to be avoided when possible because you might really need those kilocalories in the near future.

Okay think about it. Use that big-ass brain to suss this out. See all those people in front of their TV sets? Lots of energy saved there. Judging from their really wide rear ends, probably more than enough. Take a look at a local Tea Party get-together. Big old people, lots of signs with serious spelling errors, not a lot of analysis going on, just rock-ribbed conviction. More energy saved.

Couple years back some scientists mounted another study. It was simple. They took two different movie reviews and presented them both to the test subjects. The subjects were asked to read the two reviews, then answer these questions: Which movie would you rather see? Why? Synthesis and analysis at the most basic level possible. And guess what? Most people couldn’t do it! Analysis and synthesis were too friggin’ difficult! No wonder we have people parading around claiming they know the truth of the 2nd Amendment when they can’t even figure out which movie they want to see. No wonder there are folks who claim an unerring interpretation of the Constitution when they can’t even drum up the energy to make a comparison. Like cave people, they just sit there, happy and peaceful and exerting no effort to either understand the world or better it.

This is the America of the 21st century. And it is pathetic.

 

THE FINE ART OF LYING

Generally, if a lie is going to be successful, it has to be somewhere in the realm of reality. However, there is an exception to this rule, which is what one particular American political party ascribes to. That is, tell a lie that is so whopping, so enormous, so hugely and overarchingly false, that everybody kind of stands there for a moment with their jaws dropping open, which delays a logical response. And then, because of the delay, it takes a little time to mount a defense, which then makes the defenders look like they are – defending. As any elementary school teacher knows, it is the first story that sticks in the parent’s mind, so if you can get to the phone before the kid does, the truth has a chance to register in Mom’s mind before the kid can weave a web of half-truths to protect himself. So basically, if you are a really shameless liar, you can put everyone else on the perpetual defensive and make them squirm EVEN IF THEY ARE TELLING THE TRUTH AND YOU ARE NOT!

Here’s a pretty famous lie generated by America’s ever-trusty Right Wing: “The Clintons trashed the White House when they left!” Lie. Huge, fat, ridiculously unbelievable lie, and so easily disproved. Yet it got a ton of traction.

Here’s another one: “Obama was born in Kenya!” Sorry – very stupid lie that has been disproved by any number of investigations, but with nutbags like Orly Taitz leading the charge on this one, it still circulates amongst the ignorant who will believe only those allegations that fit their preconceived set of beliefs.

How about “We have to maintain military spending to keep us SAFE!” Well, the U.S. spends SIX TIMES more than the REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED on defense. How much money does it take to make you feel good about your chances?

And here’s my all time favorite: “Let’s vote for Romney so we can maintain Reagan-Bush-era economic policies because they WORKED SO WELL!” Great scalded cats, look around you at the debris of America. Students in debt up to their eyeballs and unable to find jobs. Flat wages since Reagan, unless you’re an extremely rich person, and then your income has had a very healthy growth rate indeed. Services cut, roads rotting, education turned into a data-assembly process, the elderly and children dumped in the “on-your-own” bin.

How stupid are some Americans? Stupid enough to believe whatever ridiculous story comes down the pike, so long as it feeds into a certain America-freedom-apple-pie plot line. Stupid enough to ignore the reality standing right there, slapping us upside our ignorant heads. And stupid enough to buy whatever the latest right-wing BS might be.