Joseph Stiglitz has some shocking numbers:
Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe – or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country for which there are data. This is one of the reasons that America has the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries – and its gap with the rest has been widening. In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1% of US income earners captured 93% of the income growth. Other inequality indicators – like wealth, health, and life expectancy – are as bad or even worse. The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom.
This is troubling, but not merely for a sense of mathematical equality or even gut level justice. This is bad news because income disparity hurts people in predictable and demonstrable ways.
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone sharply questions the integrity of the stock market:
Virtually every week now we see stories like this that hint at a kind of two-tiered market system – in which most of the real action takes place inside an unregulated black-box network of connected insiders who don’t disclose their relationships or their interests, while everyone else, i.e. the regular suckers, live in the more tightly-policed world of prospectuses and quarterly reporting and so on. . . . Sooner or later, people are going to clue into the fact that one or two big banks, acting in concert with a choice assortment of unscrupulous “preferred investors,” can at least temporarily prop up or topple just about anything they want, from Greece to Bear Stearns to Lehman Brothers.
Jay Michaelson delivers some inconvenient news to those who claim that marriage has always meant one man committed to one woman:
Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)
But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!
I would add that even in modern times, “marriage” means serial monogamy–being committed for life to one special person, until you get tired of that person and then move on to being committed to a different person forever.
I’ve never used marijuana. I’m not promoting the use of marijuana, or alcohol intoxication, or the use of prescription drugs to get high. On the other hand, I know that many people do these things. In my opinion, it is not for me to tell other folks how to run their lives, as long as A) they are not minors and B) these activities don’t seriously interfere with their duties to their family or work. How is it that getting high on alcohol or prescription drugs (or runner’s high and other natural ways to get high) are OK, yet smoking a joint will cause you to end up in jail and give you a noteworthy criminal record? Yes, if you are arrested on your own property for the crime of trying to escape stress or pain, you can be marched through the same criminal justice system as those who steal cars, those who rape, and those who commit arson.
With that in mind consider the following statistics regarding marijuana usage from Huffpo:
While Obama’s term began with great promise for drug policy reformers, in the past two years it has been difficult to distinguish Obama’s drug policies from those of his White House predecessors. Although President Obama has acknowledged that legalization is “an entirely legitimate topic for debate” — the first time a sitting president has made such a statement — his administration has made a string of increasingly disappointing moves over the last year. Half of all U.S. drug arrests are for marijuana — more than 850,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana in 2010 alone, 88 percent for mere possession.
Please note carefully that 850,000 is more people than the entire state of South Dakota. America has massively dysfunctional priorities, and it’s time to think of a better way to handle urges people to get high. I would propose that we handle marijuana like we handle alcohol. Regulate it and tax it. When people whine that others are getting high illegally, I’m inclined to tell them to shut the hell up, because they are probably getting high on something (most likely alcohol or prescription drugs). And perhaps they are getting high on their feelings of moral superiority and the the excitement they get when they support laws that invade the private lives of their neighbors.
The above Huffpo article makes the legitimate point that Barack Obama would not be President if the harsh marijuana crackdown he is supporting had been applied to the young Barry Obama smoking a joint. How many otherwise law-abiding people are thrown into the criminal justice system because of the sin of wanting to feel some pleasure or some escape from the stress of the crazy world, or some relief from serious chronic pain?
Matt Taibbi, post Facebook IPO:
Wall Street is increasingly turning into a giant favor-and-front-running factory, where the big banks and broker-dealers that channel vast streams of crucial non-public information (about the markets generally and their clients specifically) are also trading for their own accounts, and sharing information with a select group of “preferred investors,” who in turn help the TBTF banks move markets in this or that desired direction by jumping on or off various pigpiles at the right times.
Sooner or later, people are going to clue into the fact that one or two big banks, acting in concert with a choice assortment of unscrupulous “preferred investors,” can at least temporarily prop up or topple just about anything they want, from Greece to Bear Stearns to Lehman Brothers. And if you can move markets and bet on them at the same time, it’s impossible to not make tons of money, which incidentally is made at everyone else’s expense. So we should always be on the lookout for any evidence that that sort of coordinated, non-disclosed activity is taking place.
I’d bet that a lot of those obstructionists in Marin County are wishing they could rewind the clock.
But after spending years and millions of dollars, Mr. Lucas abruptly canceled plans recently for the third, and most likely last, major [studio] expansion, citing community opposition. An emotional statement posted online said Lucasfilm would build instead in a place “that sees us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire.”
If the announcement took Marin by surprise, it was nothing compared with what came next. Mr. Lucas said he would sell the land to a developer to bring “low income housing” here.
I’d bet about 10% of people go utterly ballistic about their property. I’ve seen it in my own neighborhood, where a contingent of people stepped forward about 15 years ago to prevent a low-key art fair on my street. You couldn’t believe all of the hyperbole and all the venom. The opponents were worried that people would be walking on the sidewalks in front of their houses during the fair, if you can believe that one. Well, the fair went on, and it continues to this day on an annual basis. I’ve thought a lot about the “sacred” since reading Jonathan Haidt’s thoughts on it (I’ll post on it soon). The basic idea is that once some declares something (e.g., their home) to be sacred, there is no negotiation allowed, and anyone who tries to cross them is evil. The bottom line is that otherwise reasonable people become crazy.
George Lucas apparently had enough of it and decided to let some ordinary folks move into Marin. Talk about inhumane punishment: forcing rich folks to live nearby modest-income Americans . . .
Does the bible prohibit gay marriage, or are conservative Christians again up to their favorite trick, cherry-picking? The following excerpt from The Miami Herald suggests that cherries are being picked in earnest.
[Matthew] Vines is a Christian, a 22-year-old Harvard undergrad raised in a conservative evangelical church in Kansas. He is also gay and says he grew up being taught that the Bible condemns his sexual orientation. He took two years off from school to research and study whether or not that assertion is true. The result is The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality. It’s a video. . . Vines’ speech is a masterwork of scriptural exegesis and a marvel of patient logic, slicing and dicing with surgical precision the claim that homophobia is God ordained. So effective is the video that after viewing it, Sandra Delemares a Christian blogger from the United Kingdom who had, for years, spoken in staunch opposition to same sex marriage, wrote that it “revolutionised” her thinking.
Vines points out, for instance, that the frequently quoted condemnation (homosexuality is an “abomination”) from the Old Testament lawbook of Leviticus has no application to Christians, who are bound by the teachings of the New Testament. He explains that St. Paul’s admonitions about the “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” stem from modern mis-translations of ancient Greek terminology.
With that as an introduction, here is the video featuring Matthew Vines:
This is an impressive presentation. At the 16 minute mark, Matthew begins to examine the six bible passages that supposedly condemn homosexuality. None of them survive his scrutiny.
Today, an attorney with whom I work told me I absolutely needed to drop what I was doing in order to listen to a 19-year old man giving a statement to the Iowa legislature. Under consideration was a constitutional amendment that would reverse the landmark case of Varnum v Brien. I looked up Zach Wahls on Youtube and watched his incredible speech.
My friend then told me that Zach also happened to be in town, at Left Bank Books, 5 blocks away from my law office. I walked over, arriving in time to hear Zach ending his prepared remarks, and opening the floor to questions. One of the main points he made is that people react badly to households of two gay parents because they have a “fear of the unknown.”
I’ve been thinking about the Missouri “Don’t Say Gay” legislation (HB2051) since it hit public awareness. I’ve lived in Missouri most of my life, I am used to seeing legislative discussions that make my head hurt, but this one hit me harder than most.
I realize that this bill, like much legislation around the country, is a fearful reaction to the many advances that gay folk are making. It is more accepted to be gay now than 20 years ago. Gay people are often portrayed on TV shows, in books and movies and the storyline is no longer about being gay. The dramatic value of homosexuality has dipped in popularity. Being gay is less taboo, and for some people that is the last straw. This legislation feels like a last ditch effort from the folks petrified and disgusted by homosexuals to protect themselves through the guise of protecting the children. But from what?