August 7th, 2010

  • ja_va

A brief history of times, or how did we all get here?

We all know that the country is in recession. In fact, it is one of the deepest recessions in US history.
We all know that the current recession was caused by real estate crisis. The words "subprime mortgages" are familiar to the general public. What general public seem to have a very vague understanding of, though, is how we have gotten into this mess. Let me try to clear it out:

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Cutting state pensions and fairness.

Pensions are a huge cost for many states a despite the fact that these are biding legal contracts in some cases cuts have already been made. This, naturally has unions up in arms.  To protect the more vulnerable workers (when cuts happen they have a tendency to harm those who can least afford it most since  those people have less political power) I propose a federal cap on potential cuts to state pensions. Something like 12% each state can cut up to this much but no more. The cuts would be to the total value of the pension and it can only happen once in the next 9 years.

This would let states shed some of the financial burden, while making the changes finite for retirees and state workers. Part of the problem is it is very scary when it seems like the cuts might have no end. Like you could lose everything. This measure along with higher taxes can make states solvent. I think higher taxes are a must-- Everyone tends to support cuts and taxes that will hurt someone else, but when it comes to paying our own fare share we duck responsibility. I will not support a pension cut unless it comes with a commensurate tax increase.

Lastly, financial organizations who have sold states complex bond deals with huge fees and no upside should only be able to collect HALF of those fees. The profits from these things are obscene and it is clear that the bankers have been less than honest about the risk to states. Like the rest of us, banks can take a hit to help us return to solvency.

A modest Proposal

I would suggest that anecdotal experiences be accepted into discussions rather than dismissed out of hand.

Given: Lies danged lies and statistics (not to mention charts and graphs) are put forth frequently to prove points; only to be countered by other lies, danged lies and statistics (not to mention more charts and graphs) that prove the opposite.

Given: That most pundits and "experts" are really only giving their anecdotal experiences, even if gathered from a wider range.

Given: That most of us when receiving "facts" we don't agree with demand sources, mostly so we can say: "well of course THEY say that.


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Australian Religious Leaders Who Support Same-Sex Marriage

So given that the weekly/fortnightly topic is "Morality, Ethics, Religion & the Family", I thought I'd mention some political activity I've been doing in the past week and will continue to do so next week.

After work I've been going through the laborious task of finding clergy and religious celebrants who support same-sex marriage and encouraging them to agree to a statement that states that the current Federal government legislation is an act of religious discrimination. Because if same-sex unions are allowed - as they are - with all the equivalent rights as marriage then the only thing that is missing is marriage itself. Why not? Because that's considered a particular domain of religion. And there seems to be an unwritten rule in Australian politics that religious leaders are all theocratically-inclined conservatives. I hope, through an informal group called the Victorian Secular Lobby, to break that assumption.

Calling for registered celebrants and clergy I now have several Unitarian-Universalists, several from the Uniting Church (that's an Australian oddity - a combination of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists), a Baptist, a Hindu and coming real soon, some clerks and celebrants from the Religious Society of Friends (i.e. Quakers). I should add there's an election coming up and a 'National Day of Action' for same-sex marriage rights.

So this is my pitch on morality, ethics, religion and the family. Morality to me means establishing principles of interaction; treating others like you would like to be treated by others. Ethics to me involves the contextual application of morals, and in this case finding religious support for same-sex marriage. Religion, well, that's the situation. And family? Well, I guess I have a liberal view of that; to me it can mean households...

Rare Depression Era color photographs

Bayou Bourbeau plantation, a FSA cooperative, Natchitoches, La. (1940)

Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico. (1940)

School children singing, Pie Town, New Mexico.

These rare color photos from the Great Depression were compiled by the Farm Services Administration from 1939 and 1944, and were recently gathered by the Denver Post's excellent photo blog. All told, there are some 1,600 pictures which are now available online thanks to the Library of Congress. The photos, which depict small town life, industry and recreational activities during the Great Depression included in a 2006 exhibit "Bound for Glory: America in Color."

Big thanks to retrofire for bringing the link to my attention before it hit the more mainstream media portals. The photos are beautiful and a fascinating glimpse into American history I think. While Steven Spielberg was researching Private Ryan, he noted how different looking Americans are now compared to just WW2, and the difficulty he had in recapturing that era with actors. That's something I certainly noticed looking at these, But anyway, I thought the community would enjoy these as much as I did ;)
Wanna bettaworld

Should Obama apologise?

Well, here is the link.

How do bloggers here feel about this?

I think Obama is within his rights to say that the deaths of so many innocent cildren in the two cities was a tragedy. But the dropping of the bomb did shorten the war and bring peace.
he probably won't - because it would put his hosts in a bad position , and the worst thing you can do to people out there is make them 'lose face'.

Even so, he should phrase it in such a way as to make it clear that Japan could and should take responsibility for what happened at Pearl Harbour.

It should acknowledge that the attack was launched without sufficient warning of it's intentions , and indeed, hoped to knock out the American carriers stationed there as part of it's oeverall strategy.

He may also like to point out that one allied soldier died for every sleeper laid on the Burmah Railway in the infamous and illegal POW camps that the Japanese ran in order to build it. The Japanese may also like to apolgise for that at well.

Oh, and I am sure the Chinese would like to hear an apology for the orgy of massacre and rape that the Japanese Imperial Army committed at Nanking.
The 'comfort women' from Korea and elsewhere should also be remembered, and receive some sort of apology and recompense for what they suffered as well, I reckon.

However, I don't see Obama taking a tough line, either at home or abroad, on any of these issues. There is nothing to stop the British ambassador to Japan stepping up to the mike and sticking it to the hypocritical, whiney, Japanese public, with a personal message from our PM - but I don't think that will happen either. We only get presidents and premiers like that in the movies.

The Japanese make the best cameras, the best mopeds and the cheapest gadgets in the world. Therefore they will never be asked to account for their vile atrocities commited in the past.
Not even diplomatically.