Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nuevo Feudalism, to coin a phrase.

I started this as a reply to a comment from concerned citizen. It grew from there. This is basically how the elitists, control-freaks, and bullshit artists strive to order society – with their own favored selves near the top of course.

Ok, should I do this from the top down, or the bottom up? Lets take it from the top.

Feudalism: Invisible, unassailable, uber-alpha God on top.

“King of Kings and Lord of Lords” – Handel’s Messiah

No change.

Next tier: Emperors and Kings. Heads of state by alleged divine right. Modern heads of state range from elected (temporary) to dictator (semi-permanent). While not lifetime positions, nor inherited generally speaking, most of these demagogues obtained these positions by some recognized “right”, usually by amassing a large enough, or strong enough power base of followers. Most also hold this position in part by pandering to religious authority to some degree. Most also have the ability to declare war on their neighbors despite legal or constitutional provisions (if any) designed to limit this power. In this way, and in many smaller ways today’s leaders can be observed to be above the law, as were the kings of old. All of these leaders cultivate an inner circle of political cohorts and advisors, paralleling the kings’ courts of old.

Next tier is the Powerful Influence Peddlers. Once reserved for Bishops and Cardinals, this level is now open to anyone who can amass a following, and/or use influence on public opinion to enrich or destroy a public figure. Televangelists and Special Interest Groups make up this group, as well as those controlling traditional religious organizations. Don’t discount the secret and not-so-secret societies either, although conspiracy theorists tend to exaggerate their abilities. This group is all about manipulating the collective consciousness, and extorting preferential treatment on the basis of that ability.

Next we have the Barons, Dukes, and other Landed Gentry. In today’s society, these are the ultra-rich. These are the Majority Stockholders, the Investment Fund Managers, the Private Investors, and others that can control by the manipulation of large sums of money.

Next, the Lesser Gentry. The Earls of old have been replaced in part by Corporate Upper Management, and in part by the Faux Aristocracy. The Corporate Upper Management oversees a fiefdom of employees and managers. As a rule, they are grossly overpaid in proportion to their actual contribution to the running of the business. This is usually a reward for golf course intrigues, and past favors that provide (or did provide) a tactical advantage to the business in the marketplace. The Faux Aristocracy are The Celebrities. Whether athletes or actors, singers or glitterati, these are the folks that have been made incredibly wealthy in proportion to their actual lasting contribution to society. These are the hyped ones. Those that can influence public opinion or fashion because the Heralds of the Press say they can. Almost all of these Celebrities are where they are because they make even more money for someone or something else.

The working face of the Landed Gentry and Lesser Gentry is the Corporate Entity. This fictitious “person” represents an amalgamation of investors and management. It is subject to some specially tailored laws, and exempt from others that apply to real persons. In this way, the corporate entity shields the owners from some liability and responsibility for the actions of the corporation. For better or worse.

The fiefdom of feudalism has been largely replaced by the franchise. Since the 1960s, owner-operators have been steadily replaced by franchisees and hirelings. This is true in the restaurant business, and for department stores, pharmacies, gas stations, funeral homes, condominium and apartment building ownership. Similar consolidations have happened in the areas of public utilities, newspapers, and film and television production.

The Guilds have been replaced by the Unions. Need I say more?

The Tenant Farmer has been replaced by the Working Stiff. What percentage of all the homes in the world are owned by the banks? Title has been largely replaced by debt instruments. Add up the money owed by the average wage earner that goes to pay taxes and service debt, and toss in the unreimbursed mandatory insurance payments. Multiply by 100, divide by the annual salary, and you have the percentage of that persons life and toil that is owned by a third party. When calculating taxes, don’t forget the tax component of fuel, sales tax, and value-added taxes on “luxuries” like restaurant meals and hotel rooms. Actually, it can be even worse. If you “own” a Condo, you share ownership with the land owner. Your Association fees have a profit component, are not optional expenses, and are not negotiable by the individual.

If you live in an industrialized nation, go visit a Third World country, go to a market, and discover what a premium you are paying for food back home. The Food Deployment Industry has largely marginalized or destroyed regional farming and competitive farmer’s markets. The industry is an Oligopsony. This produces a few large “competitors”, some kind of barrier to entry, and prices are largely uniform and non-competitive. This does not imply price fixing. Prices are set by a cost-plus formula that is roughly uniform for all competitors. They charge all the market will bear, and they create the market. Between supermarket chains and restaurant chains, corporate entities have a practical lock on food production and distribution in developed countries. They control competition by controlling the markup on the wholesale portion of the supply chain. All of this overhead is another way that the corporations own, or reabsorb, your wages.

Next tier down is the Outlaws, or Riff-raff. In Feudal society, these were the thieves and poachers. Organized Crime is a hierarchy of its own. The working component of this group serves a valuable purpose to the greater hierarchy. The general fear of robbery and assault justifies the levy of taxes for the purpose of local militias in the role of law enforcement. The law enforcement agencies quickly become a concentration of power and a tool of coercion for the government. On a domestic level, these agencies quickly occupy themselves enforcing laws that have nothing to do with crime per se. They will respond to domestic disputes, loud noises, and hand out speeding and parking tickets. While unable to pursue potential criminals until a crime has been committed, they nonetheless perform many tasks of social engineering that ultimately either raises revenues for the Municipal Government, or protects the interests of the Insurance Companies. On a wider scale, the working criminal gives justification to gun-toting government agencies like the ATF and the DEA. These organizations quickly establish an equilibrium with their opponents. There is no vested interest in large-scale curtailment. If the DEA were to expend the energy and manpower to achieve a victory in the “war” on drugs, there would be both heavy casualties, and heavy layoffs. This is also why, until 9/11, and arguably afterward, the Border Patrol was one of the most grossly under funded agencies in Law Enforcement.

The bottom rung is the Mendicants, or Beggars. I think I have covered their role in modern society well enough in The Globalization of Poverty. In feudal times, they also served as an example of both disenfranchisement, and a group that required the help of the community to survive. One major difference was that back then, they were more often directly subsidized and less often the beneficiary of some fund-raising organization. This also creates a major opportunity for tax evasion, then as now.

Image from here.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Update to the Chambers v. God lawsuit.

This is more fun than an urban legend. Usually, when something this dopey comes along, I just sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s bound to get even more ridiculous before it’s over. The Senator Chambers lawsuit has not failed in that regard. Two well-meaning idiots have come forward in defense of God.

The first one has left a document which “appeared under mysterious circumstances” (read, snuck onto a counter when no one was looking). Quoting the article at the Christian Post:

In the paper, marked "Special Appearance," “God” says Chambers' suit should be thrown out because there was “[n]o proper and sufficient service of summons” by a deputy.

And although He doesn’t issue “terroristic threats,” as the senator had claimed in his lawsuit, “God” wrote that Chambers would receive an “appropriate punishment.”

“He is going to take care of the senator by removing him from office next year,” attorney Bill Gallup told Action 3. The CBS affiliate noted that “’God’ apparently has a sense of humor – term limits keep Chambers from serving another term.”

The paper is alleged to be signed, “God”.

If one accepts the existence of this hypothetical magic being, one must then smoke the whole crack pipe and accept all of the commandments, edicts, pronouncements, etc. that go along with Jehovah-God belief. So if I decide to play along, I guess I’d send the Senator this information:

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" - Matthew 18:20

Just go to any prayer meeting and serve your summons there. According to the bible, your defendant will be there. If “He” doesn’t accept the summons, “He” is in contempt.

The threatened punishment is an empty enough threat to make a plague of frogs look impressive. I don’t think God would make a mistake like that, were God real. That means a person signed God’s name to that piece of paper (surprise!)

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

Taking the name of God as your own is the precise meaning of in vain. This person has violated one of the Ten Commandments. Eternal Damnation! You fail!

On to the second “defense”. Attorney Eric Perkins from Corpus Christi (how appropriate) faxed a response saying,

"Defendant denies that this or any court has jurisdiction ... over Him any more than the court has jurisdiction over the wind or rain, sunlight or darkness," Perkins' response, as reported by AP

This fails on the basis of faulty comparison. Neither wind, rain, sunlight or darkness owns Real Estate throughout the United States. How many times have you heard the expression “House of God”?

Furthermore, under the terms of the Patriot Act, our government does not apparently require jurisdiction to pursue and incarcerate terrorists.

“He that sacrifice unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed” Exodus 22:20

For more examples of violence and the advocating of violence, and that which can be defined as criminal threatening, check here.

I think God’s assets should be frozen until we sort this all out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nebraska Senator sues God

“A Nebraska senator sues God, alleging that the almighty made terrorist threats, and caused numerous natural disasters.” – WMUR TV

I’m giving $45,000:1 odds that God is a no-show. $1,000 says that the judge does not have the guts to find HIM in contempt. Any takers?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Globalization of Poverty

Poverty has always been found anywhere there is civilization. What do I mean by globalization? I’m talking about using the working poor of one country as a bargaining point in salary negotiations world-wide.

For the sake of this discussion, I am going to differentiate between four broad categories of financially poor people. There are the disenfranchised, those without opportunity for one reason or another. These are the people who, for reasons of mental illness, lack of nearby resources and/or education, unstable government, etc., have no ability or opportunity to work. The next two subcategories comprise the Working Poor. Some of the Working poor are so far below the poverty line that they have no ability to support themselves, or to have any real discretionary income. This group requires some form of aid to supplement their income to the level of a basic living wage. The mechanisms are different in Capitalistic and Communistic societies, but the end result is the same: assisted living, medical, food. The rest of the Working Poor are making it on their own. They might not have enough discretionary income to buy everything they want, but the basic needs are covered, and with careful planning, mentoring, and cooperation, their children will have an opportunity at a better life than that of their parents. The last category of poor people are the self-sufficient. This is a broad group, ranging from those that live off the land in tribal fashion to those that live in a way that employs direct barter, and therefore have little need of money.

In a hierarchical system, each successive tier requires a lower tier to support it. There is something of a “carrot and stick” relationship that exists between the levels, and there is an element of mutual support, so the pyramid analogy is not completely accurate. The carrot that flows from the top down can be in the form of opportunity, like contracts, or salaried employment opportunities, or lower down the pyramid, charity. The stick is the example of the less-fortunate lower tiers. In order for a higher tier to exploit the one below, there has to be a successively lower tier to provide consequences of non-compliance. This is the real, non-altruistic reason behind some of those charity drives out there. We are coerced into supporting people who, as Sam Kinnison pointed out, live in non-viable places. Charitable support insures that they will breed another generation of needy individuals. The coercion is framed as a requirement to help those less fortunate because somehow, we should feel guilty for being more fortunate. Perhaps that is true in a way, if we pay our dues into a corrupt system that created this inequity in the first place. Ask yourself this: why can’t we send them U-Hauls instead of food as Sam Kinnison suggested? What corrupt mutual admiration society of governments and socially manufactured prejudices exist to prevent these people from leaving the hell-holes they are in? Hats off to Spain, by the way (/sarcasm). Nobody said this stuff was easy. The reaction of the Spanish Government and the EU to these asylum-seekers is both predictable and expected, as is the reaction of the US to Central and South American refugees. Why is that?

The United States has experienced outsourcing of unskilled, semi-skilled, and manufacturing jobs, first to Mexico, then to China. At home, some jobs have been depressed below the poverty line. Independent home and office cleaners, janitorial staff, and landscapers to name a few, have been replaced or “outsourced” to corporate firms. These companies hire untrained, and in some cases unreported workers at low wages and without benefits. These jobs are part-time, and advertised as “second jobs”, because they will not support an individual, let alone a family. The corporations that field such workers attempt to replace quality with quantity and speed. Everything sinks to the minimum acceptable level, including salaries. These are the “jobs no one wants”, because they are no longer compensated adequately for the workers’ time. Enter the “undocumented foreigner”. He can leave his family back home in squalor, live in barracks conditions with his peers, and still send enough money back home to make this lifestyle more attractive than slowly starving to death. Same pattern holds true in the case of factory workers in developing countries. In this way, for developed countries like the US, the lowest levels on the prosperity pyramid, those that have been all but wiped out domestically, go from being strict charity cases, or someone else’s problem, to being the ultimate exploitable bargaining chip in management’s arsenal against organized labor.

What happens when the Chinese workers develop the demand for luxury goods and disposable income? Well, then there’s the underdeveloped countries of Africa. Just as a farmer will keep one field fallow to increase its future production, the poor nations of Africa are being “kept” in an undeveloped state. Used goods, especially clothing, are being dumped there at an astonishing rate by scam charity organizations like Planet Aid. Local industry cannot compete. These countries are being kept undeveloped until the corporate powers-that-be are damned good and ready to exploit them. Every pyramid needs a bottom.

Next week: The Story of the Buffalo

Image from Related story here.

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