Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Trouble with Billionaires

By John Taylor; 2012 Apr 25, 168 BE

On 10-Sep-10, at 12:17 PM, Bishop, Bob wrote:

The Trouble with Billionaires book cover for Sunday Insight, Sept. 12, 2010

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Book Review: The Trouble with Billionaires, by Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks, Viking Inc., Toronto, 2010

Whenever I pick up a book by Linda McQuaig, I cannot put it down until I have read it cover to cover. I find her strangely compelling. She always seems to grasp the essence of what a good journalist should be investigating. This, her latest volume, is even better and more authoritative than usual because she teams up with a law professor and taxation expert, Neil Brooks. Together they take on the self-serving lies that the rich, who are nothing better than the hogs who happen to be closest to the trough, come up with to justify their unfair position in accumulating wealth. It is a joy to see their drivel so effectively refuted in this book.

The wealthy love to delude themselves. They loudly proclaim that they are rich because they deserve to be rich. They repeat this Big Lie so often that lately a great number of gullible but otherwise intelligent people are conceding that they might be right. Maybe innovation, talent and skill were what got them their affluence, and not just the fact that they are just pigs that happen to be standing right next to the slop pail.
In a time when billions of people do not have enough to eat, and billions more do not have the resources to live a decent, productive life, it is important to grasp the enormity of the evil that these few billionaires, the notorious one percent, are perpetrating on the human race. Their lies are so big that they make Hitler's big lie and the mere sixty million murders that he committed seem trivial by comparison.

I will not attempt to review "The Trouble with Billionaires" in the usual way. You can read an excellent review of the book at the Amazon website at:


If you want a taste of the book, there is an excerpt at:


Using a new scanner I just bought, I have OCR'ed the table of contents of Trouble with Billionaires. What I will do then is that instead of a normal book review I will comment on certain chapters of the book in the order written.
Chapter One: Return of the Plutocrats

The book starts off in an unexpected way. It is the most innovative opening for a non-fiction book I've seen in a while. It should win them some kind of a book prize. The problem they address is that most people think of a billionaire as little more than a millionaire spelt with a "b." You have to use nine rather than six zeros to write the digits for "one billion," but that does not convey what a huge number you are dealing with. Here is how they get around that problem.

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Imagine this: you are given one dollar every second.
At that rate, after one minute, you would have sixty dollars. And after twelve days, you would be a millionaire -- something beyond most people's wildest dreams.
But how long would it take to become a billionaire?
Well, at that rate, it would take almost thirty-two years.
Being a billionaire isn't just beyond most people's wildest dreams, it's likely beyond their comprehension.
Another way to grasp the sheer size of billionaires' fortunes is to imagine how long it would take Bill Gates, generally considered the world's richest man, to count his $53 billion. If he counted it at the same rate -- one dollar every second -- and he counted non-stop day and night, he'd have it all tallied up in 1,680 years. Or still another way to look at it: if Bill Gates had started counting his fortune at that rate back in AD 330 -- the year the Roman emperor Constantine had his wife boiled alive and chose Byzantium as the empire's new capital -- he'd just be finishing up now." (p. 1)

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A billion is, then, a rather large sum. Of course, so is a billion people. A billion people living in total, miserable, avoidable indigence. Don't get me started on that wrong. Suffice to say, our descendants will not be saying "oriental tyranny, cruelty and wealth," they will be talking about early twenty-first century billionaires' tyranny, cruelty and conspicuous consumption.

The point is that all this wealth is our common inheritance from the past. These funds were earned and generated not by the wealthy few, but by previous generations of inventors, thinkers and workers. "Innovation," they write, "is accumulated social capital: if most of what we are able to create is inherited from the past, it seems reasonable that any resulting windfall should go back to society." They make this point over and over, and illustrate it with many examples. It is a point that should be drilled into everybody now, but a press that is, not incidentally, owned by billionaires, is not likely do any of that debunking. You have to read books like this one to find it out.

Chapter Two: Why Pornography Is the Only True Free Market

The hog squeals: "Do not tax me because I earned my billions fair and square." The hog wants a totally free market, ignoring the fact that markets are the product of laws, government and taxes. Without that, the one percenters would not be able to squeeze a penny out of the rest of us. The authors make this point by describing the sad case of porn stars. These "sex trade workers" make relatively little money, compared to Hollywood stars, because the police tend to be lax in protecting them from being pirated. Porn is widely copied and distributed for free on the Internet. No matter how talented a porn star may be, he or she does not rake in money hand over fist like a billionaire, protected by intellectual property laws, even ones who are non-talented, who inherit their wealth.

Millionaires and the Crash of 1929

The only time when wealth was concentrated into as few hands as now was just before the Great Depression. Enough said.

Billionaires and the Crash of 2008

Now that billionaires have dismantled the many protections erected after the Great Depression, the Great Recession and its jobless recovery have set upon us. The cause is clear, too much concentration of wealth. When the wealthy get more money, they fritter it away gambling on the stock market. Speculation and gambling have a negative effect on society. When normal people get money, they buy things from productive businesses, which bolsters the general prosperity. They are even known to share wealth with the poor. When billionaires give, they support facilities frequented by the very rich, opera houses, golf courses, etc. Oh, and they also give to political parties so that they will lower taxes even more.

Why Bill Gates Does Not Deserve His Fortune

Bill Gates is the poster boy for billionaires, a self made man. Except that he is not quite the saint that he is made out to be. His sordid story of betraying and stealing an operating system from the guy who actually wrote an innovative OS is told here.

Why Other Billionaires Are Even Less Deserving

Bernard Shaw, who was not unfamiliar with the very rich, said that behind every great fortune there lies a great crime. This is still true, only much, much worse. Sordid stories are told here of gamblers whose rash behaviour resulted in billion dollar payoffs while many other smaller players lost everything are told here.
Hank Aaron and the Myths about Motivation

Hank Aaron in the 1970's broke baseball records while making a relatively modest salary. Current athletes, less so, but they make up for it with their multimillion dollar pay checks, and with their creative substance abuse. Everybody with the slightest claim to talent is cashing in on the greedy myths popularized by the very rich.

Taking the Fun Out of Tax Havens

One of the ways billionaires feather their own nest is by doing all they can to glorify the crime of tax evasion, and the antisocial practice of tax avoidance. In reality, anybody who does either should be ashamed to call themselves a citizen. The story is told here of two terrorists. One, a Muslim from a poor country, the other a wealthy nutball who read too much of the billionaires' propaganda and took it into his head to fly an airplane into an IRS building in Texas, killing one of its tax collectors. The first terrorist is universally condemned by all in the media. The daughter of the second is handed questions from toadying reporters like, "Do you think your father was a hero?"

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This is my favourite chapter, because it not only lays out the problem of tax evasion and tax havens, it points out how ridiculously simple it would be to solve it. It is so easy, you would have to wonder why nobody has done it. After all (this is not in the book), the current president before he was elected pledged to eliminate these so-called "offshore" banks. Yet nothing has been done about it yet. Such is the power of the closest hog to the slop. Anyway, I cannot resist closing by including the solution to these banks whose money laundering enables billionaires, organized crime and other, more small time crooks.

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All that is encouraging, but falls considerably short of what's actually needed to stem the extensive use of tax havens and the considerable damage they do to national treasuries.
In fact, the solution is quite simple and easy to implement.
What's needed is not just a promise from tax haven countries to adhere to international standards, but a requirement that all financial institutions, whenever they make a payment to a client, report that payment to the tax authorities of the country where the client resides.
The report would be automatic, in electronic form, and include a unique number to identify the client. That way, all governments around the world would be notified of all payments made to their wealthy citizens, and be able to tax them accordingly -- in the same way that governments receive notification from domestic banks about payments to citizens within the country, and use that information to verify their tax returns.
Such a system could be enforced by an existing body like the World Trade Organization, the Bank of International Settlements, or the United Nations. It would be particularly beneficial to Third World nations, which badly need the money parked overseas and have few resources to track down wealthy drug lords and other rich people determined not to share their resources with their abjectly poor fellow citizens.
Perhaps this scheme sounds too ambitious, but in fact it's no more complex than the international system of passports, which works well and with few compliance problems. Each passport has a unique identification number. Every time a person crosses a border, her number is swiped into a computer, which instantly discloses information about her. Transmitting an electronic record of all payments made by tax haven banks would be no more complicated than that. It turns out that, among the benefits of the computer age are not only video games, but the easy tracking and taxation of the gigantic hidden fortunes of the world's billionaires. (p. 139)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Do women like men who ill treat them?

April-23-12

10:59 AM

 

My daughter took offence to a scene in the film "Zookeeper," which suggests that women who are treated like dirt by a prospective mate tend to respond positively. Here is the reaction comic that she drew in response, which she asked, rather forcefully I might add, that I put up on my blog.

Girls Like Jerks Equals False 

 

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Team - Volas Ni (Song in Esperanto)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

Notes, Personal and on the Master’s first talk

Some Personal Notes on the Centenary

Notes on the Master's First Substantive Talk in America

 

By John Taylor; 09 April 2012

 

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Some Personal Notes

 

I very much wanted to record my voice reading the first address of the Master, which happened a hundred years ago. I was preparing on the computer some illustrations to illuminate the points made in it. That way, I could answer for myself the question, what might an address by the Master look like if it were given today, complete with PowerPoint bullet points? A hair raising question, I know, and it probably is best left by the roadside. Still, it interests me. So far, I had only found that this is much more work than I had thought.  Then, I was struck down by a twenty four hour flu. Barely recovered, both my kids were knocked down by the same bug. They spent a miserable night of vomiting and diarrhea.

 

As I was undergoing my travail, I found myself thinking a comforting thought,

 

"Maybe this session serves a creative purpose. Maybe it will act as a sort of reboot for my life. Maybe what I have not been able to do, my hopes and dreams so long unfulfilled, will be morally possible after this is over."

 

It sounded strange once the agony was over, but I repeated it to my daughter between her trips to the bathroom that night. What else could I say to comfort her? It seemed to have an effect on her spirits. I read some jokes to her, and they lifted her spirits too.

 

That night, my son was having a sleepover with his air cadet corps. In the morning, we got a call that he had been sick all night too. I drove him home. A miserable Easter Sunday morning where nobody even thought of the egg hunt and egg painting that they had been anticipating.

 

I was still enervated by this virus, so we did little else yesterday other than watch old videos.

 

Saturday, though, I was somewhat disoriented but functional. I dropped Thomas off at the Legion for his drill weekend, then wandered in the car over to Dunnville's Shared Harvest Community Farm. There I listened to an impromptu disquisition by its young organic farmer. He should be on YouTube, thought I. We spoke about Hugelkultur, or log gardening, which he has used extensively throughout the farm. He is even making up a sinuous design of garden beds meant to resemble a green snake.

 

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He spoke of the plot by seed corporations to destroy thousands of years of seed genetics by patenting every seed available for sale, then making it illegal to save your own seed. They are so powerful now that they persuaded the Canadian government to refuse entry to a seed expert from India, who had been invited to speak about the now subversive activity of saving your seeds.

 

Then I wandered over to the former arena grounds and attended an outside meeting to discuss future use of this now-vacant land right in the center of Dunnville. Powerful interests, the new cabal of state capitalist parasites who socialize risk and privatize profit, are nuzzling under the skin of city hall. They are trying to persuade politicians to sell them this public land beside our farmer's market so that they can build a condominium complex there.

 

Almost everybody else around here is for turning it into some sort of park or recreation area, perhaps gardens combined with a skateboard park, or, considering that it is on a natural incline, an open stadium for public performances. We talked over several ideas, including a boardwalk to the bridge.

 

Notes on the Master's First Substantive Talk in America

What is a Baha'i? What does it take to be an angel?

 

 

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'Abdu'l-Baha leaving a taxicab at Hotel Ansonia, New York 1912  <http://abdulbahawest.blogspot.ca/>

Here is a picture I had never seen before, of the Master near the Ansonia, the hotel He stayed at first in America.

 

"It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and persevering courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a moment, it will not be created for years or even generations." Kahlil Gibran

 

A hundred years ago, Abdu'l-Baha gave his first talks in North America. I have been going over His first couple of addresses in Promulgation. I was struck by the repeated use of the expression "spiritual affinity." The above quote from Kahlil Gibran is the main thing that turned up when I searched. On one hand, Gibran has had a big influence on American spiritual sensibilities over the last century, and the Master may have used the expression to reach that element of society. On the other hand, Gibran had great respect for the Master. Without further research as to when this quote was written, it is impossible to say who influenced whom, since Gibran did meet the Master in New York not long after the "spiritual affinities" talk, the second in Promulgation. I think, though, that a better title for this address might be:

 

"How to Become Angels Arrayed in Divine Virtue"

 

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It is amusing, when reading the Writings, to count up the number of questions asked. I counted almost two hundred questions in the Iqan, for example. In this "angels arrayed in divine virtue" talk, the Master asks twelve questions. No wonder that Socrates and Plato put such emphasis on what they called "dialectic," on back and forth, Q&A, on discussion, when confronting the highest truth. Here is how one of the Master's party, Mahmud, describes this -- or some other early meeting in New York -- he gave at least two that day, in two different believers' homes. He waxes poetic about the feelings that the meeting aroused.

 

 "After leaving the ship the Master went to the Hotel Ansonia. After some tea, He went to the meeting with the friends. And what a wonderful meeting it was! The friends were so full of joy and happiness that it seemed the very walls were immersed in rapture and ecstasy. Because it was so crowded, many had to stand. When the initial excitement abated, the Master gave thanks and gratitude to the Blessed Beauty for His assistance and then spoke about the power and influence of the holy utterances to attract and cement the hearts, unifying the East and West." (Mahmud's Diary, 38)

Here are some of the topic headings I wrote for my reading text of this disquisition.

 

 

Bullet Points for the Master's First Talk in America (first draft)

 

  Unity is our reason for being

  Atomic Affinity; Life itself comes of love among the parts of the body

  Spiritual Affinity; our potential comes of the Kingdom of God

  Death and darkness come of turning the mirror's back to the sun

  God's Prophets came to teach unity in the heart

  Christ's foundation was the oneness of humanity

  The army of Jesus started off unimportant and ignorant but their purity and attraction gave them the victory

  Opposition to Christianity ended in defeat for the rich and powerful

  By Christ's eternal power the obscure became renowned, the prominent were forgotten

  There was a reason for the suffering of Jesus

  The essential teaching of Jesus

  Some answered questions about the civilization vaunting itself in Christ

  Question One

  Question Two

  Example from the news: the invasion of Tripoli by Italy

  Questions Three to Six

  Answer: this is the civilization of antichrist, death and Satan

  The same is true of conflict between believers

  Q&A seven and eight

  Definition of a Christian

  Spiritual susceptibilities are the real fruits of heaven

  Capsule Definition of Baha'i

  Suffering plays the same role in Baha'u'llah's sacrifice

  Questions nine and ten: this unique period in history

  Definition of service to the Cause of God

  Questions Eleven and Twelve; one must know in order to teach the Cause of God

  Susceptibility leads to divine confirmation and virtue. This way, one will become one of the promised angels of heaven

 

 

As might be expected, 'Abdu'l-Baha starts with the basis of His listeners' religious understanding, which at the time was, by and large, a sort of liberal Protestant Christianity mixed into a thousand other notions, from spiritualism to New Thought (now called New Age Thought). He defines what a Christian is, then what a Baha'i is. The latter amounts to the same thing as the former.

 

It is interesting to contrast the definition He gives here of what Baha'i is with how Abdu'l-Baha defined it in the face of some narrow minded missionaries. They, of course, regarded their faith, Christianity, as a rival religion utterly incompatible, as a congregation of deluded sheep led by cynical power mongers. For the Master, Baha'is are leaderless, a "community of cooperative servants." There can be questions among Baha'is, but not the sort of disputation and wrangling over doctrine that has dragged Christians into the dust ever since Athanasius' day.

 

 

QUESTION: "Is there any leader or head in the Baha'i Religion?"

ANSWER: "The Baha'is are a community of cooperative servants, they have no leader. Their only leader is God. They have no ordained ministers or priests. Whosoever hears and believes in the principles of this Cause, it is required of him to convey this Message to others.

The Baha'is have no organized missionary headquarters. Because their cardinal creed is the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, they have no theological wrangles and no metaphysical speculations."

 

(The Era of Independence; An Interview with Abdu'l-Baha What Abdu'l-Baha said to five American Christian Missionaries From the Diary of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, in Star of the West, Vol. 12, p. 13. For the whole interview online, see: http://badiblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/era-of-independence-interview-with.html)

 

 

Another aspect of this talk struck me as I was going over it. Imagine how controversial some of what He says here about the nature of Western Civilisation (the forces of Satan and Antichrist) would have been if He had given it in New York ninety years later!

 

I just read Linda McQuaig's "Its the Crude, Dude!", which describes how the United States invaded Iraq out of pure greed, in order to gain control of its oil fields. This base motive was clear to all, Iran most of all -- hence their present rush to a nuclear defense. But when it happened, all of a sudden no respectable commentator in the press could consider any motive for the invasion other than unselfishly spreading freedom and democracy. Forget oil-free places like Congo and Darfur where government itself, much less democracy, were long ago tossed out the window. The point is that we Americans are unselfishly spending masses of blood and funds to save democracy in Iraq. End of story.

 

Same base, bloody story with Italy's invasion of Tripoli, which Abdu'l-Baha refers to in this address.

 

The general opinion was that Italy, the center of Western Christianity, had to be in the right to invade a defenseless neighbour across the Med. Its victory, right or wrong, was a triumph of the West. Of course, when the Italians later proved not to be such successful imperialists, that opinion was moderated. Today we remember the sinking of the Titanic as the most memorable event of that time, but this war (now known as the prelude to World War One) was what contemporary journalists thought was the most important headline.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

LSA of Haldimand's Monthly Fireside, Next Week


Beyond the Golden Rule
with Joe Woods



Garfield Disher Room, Dunnville Library
8 PM 
Wednesday, 11 April, 2012

Tomaso answers "in his own words."

Our fireside this month will be about "Beyond the Golden Rule." Making up the poster for it, I came across the above answer given by a child, taking the question too literally. Teachers have to watch what they say. Take this answer, which my son gave in a test about the rules of flight and aviation for his Grade Seven class. The mistake the teacher made was to say, "in your own words." Thomas chose to say his words in Esperanto, which only got him a big question mark. The words were "Mi ne scias kio, cxi tio estas." which, translated, means, "I do not know what that is." Later, of course, we looked over the many YouTube videos on that principle and how it works. He had just forgotten what it was.



Monday, April 02, 2012

Come for an open discussion in a small group


Philosopher’sCafé

This month’s topic:
“Is There Hope?” 

Thursday, April 12 
6:30 p.m. in the Library’s meeting room 


Wainfleet Township Public Library 

31909 Park Street, P.O. Box 118 
Wainfleet, ON L0S 1V0 
905-899-1277 www.wainfleetlibrary.ca 

Everyone welcome. Drop in for a lively 
discussion. 

• There is no fee to participate. 
• No formal philosophy training required; 
real life experience desired. 

A second Thursday of the month destination for provocative, insightful discussion around ideas and issues that matter. 


Taste of TED2012