Paul Krugman and “Equivalences”

In light of the Supreme Court ruling that people with lots of money can spend as much as they want to get the people they want elected, Paul Krugman takes a look at “Equivalencies”:

There are definitely times when it seems that our winner-take-all society is also a whiner-take-all society; it’s really amazing how quick billionaires are to portray themselves as victims because some people say nasty things about them.

One remarkable aspect of this whining is that the nasty things aren’t really all that nasty. Saying that the Koch brothers are using their wealth to promote a political agenda that will make them even wealthier is a substantive claim, not character assassination; it’s not at all the same as, say, suggesting that Hillary Clinton is a murderer. Yet the Kochs and Perkinses act as if this kind of thing were utterly vile, an attack on their liberty.

The other remarkable thing is the instant escalation of hurt feelings into a Godwin’s Law violation. You see, liberals criticize the Kochs; that makes them just like Hitler and Stalin, who murdered their opponents.

But wait, there’s more. What I’ve been hearing from Koch defenders is that people like me have no standing to ridicule billionaires. You see, I sometimes say sarcastic things about the arguments of people who disagree with me, and even question their motives when they say things I consider obviously wrong. And that’s just like comparing such people to Hitler.

The thing is, I don’t think the crybaby thing is an act, put on for strategic purposes. I think it’s real. Billionaires really are feeling vulnerable despite their wealth and power, or perhaps because of it. And the apparatchiks serving the .01 percent are deeply insecure, culturally and intellectually, so that ridicule cuts deep.

It’s kind of sad, really – but also more than a bit scary: When great power goes along with fragile egos, seriously bad things can happen.

The ‘Real Americas,’ all 11 of them

We always hear some politician (on the right) talk about the way things are in “The Real America.”

This map represents “The Real Americas”:

tufts which america map copy

So, according to this map, there are 11 Americas. I’ve lived in six of them. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve lived in the three real “Real Americas”: Yankeedom, New Netherland and Tidewater. That’s where the United States began, that’s where its laws originated and that’s where it expanded from. All the rest are just pretenders to the “Real America” crown.

You can read about all of these Americas in the book, “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America,” or check out this piece in Tufts Magazine, affiliated with Tufts University, located in east Yankeedom.

 

States wrongs: A population dilemma

Proportional representation doesn’t exist in American politics. The makeup of the U.S. Senate makes that obvious.

On a population basis, it doesn’t seem fair that Rhode Island has as many senators as Texas, or Wyoming has as many as California. You could fit the population of Alaska (about 730,000) in San Diego (1.34 million) and still have room to move in the entire population of Wyoming (about 575,000).

So that’s four senators for the two state and ZERO, ZIP, NADA for the city.

An urban planner named Neil Freeman created a map that shows how the U.S. would be drawn if we had representation based on equal population:

equal_pop_maps

So based on this map, I would have been a resident of, among other places, New York, Newark, Canaveral, Washington and Maumee.

According to the Web site Fake is the New Real:

The fundamental problem of the electoral college is that the states of the United States are too disparate in size and influence. The largest state is 66 times as populous as the smallest and has 18 times as many electoral votes. This increases the chance for Electoral College results that don’t match the popular vote.

When the population of a city is bigger than the population of two states, that’s how elections are going to end up.

 

A week’s worth of food: A life and death matter

Photographer Peter Menzel went around the world and visited households to see what a week’s worth of food looked like for the average family. Let’s start here in America.

00175392

Now, using that as a baseline, here’s a week in Italy.

00175422

I don’t think its going out on a limb to say the American diet really sucks. Tons of packaged and processed food. I feel my cholesterol levels rising and my blood pressure rocketing just looking at a U.S. table that’s accentuated by Burger King, Dominos and McDonalds. When I came back to the states after seven years in Europe, the overwhelming portions of fat and grease at the average restaurant literally made me sick. As in throwing up in the toilet sick. The only thing I can handle at a McDonalds these days is the Happy Meal: a cheeseburger, a half portion of fries, a small drink and a small package of apple slices. Can’t forget the toy.

And I’m not surprised when I look up the life expectancy for the two countries. Turns out Italy ranks 10th in the world at 81.95 years, according to the Web site geoba.se.

The United States comes in at No. 53, with an expectancy of 78.62.

Before we go, let’s take a look at a week’s worth of food in one more country: Chad.

00175542

I figure the life expectancy here is going to be pretty bad, and geoba.se confirms that. Life expectancy in Chad is 49.07 years. Dead last at No. 228 on the planet. If I lived in Chad, I would have been dead for the past nine years.

The contrast between the three countries, and what we put in our mouths, should give Americans pause. The U.S. is the richest country in the world, and we’re dying because we eat crap. Chad is the poorest country in the world, and its citizens are dying because they’re starving. This is shameful.

For more photos from around the world, go to this link at Nutrition News. For the life expectancy figures, check out this link at geoba.se.

 

Videogames and gun violence

TMW2013-09-25color

Let’s make this even easier to understand:

video-game-chart-no-trendline

See?If videogames were the cause of people shooting up everyone in sight, The Netherlands, South Korea, Canada and France would blow the U.S. off the charts. But that’s not the case. The difference between us and them is we have lobbying groups dedicated to buying off elected officials so they can put a gun in the hand of every breathing blind person, child and psychopath in the country.

Videogames don’t kill people. Guns kill people.

 

Sen. Ted Cruz, Canadian citizen

Tea Party poster boy and right-wing Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz seems to have run into a problem as he considers a bid for the presidency.

He’s a Canadian.

Here’s his birth certificate:

Ted-Cruz-birth-certificate

Now, unlike the birthers, I can read. And I see the line that says “Name of Mother Before Marriage: Eleanor Elizabeth Wilson. Her Birthplace: Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.” That means that Ted Cruz is an American. Just like John McCain, who was born in Panama and ran for president as a Republican, and just like Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, who was born in Mexico and sought the presidential nomination in the 1960s as a Republican.

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership...

The Cuban/Canadian usurper

Oh, and Barack Obama — whose birth certificate says his mother was born in Wichita, Kansas, and who, unlike Ted Cruz, John McCain and George Romney was born in the United States (Yes, birthers. Hawaii is a state.) — is an American.

If I had the brain of a birther, I could riff on Ted Cruz’s birth certificate all day.

He was born in Canada! But his dad is from Cuba and they snuck into America through the Canadian border! Is he one of those “terror babies” Louis Gomert is always talking about?

His father is from Cuba! Did his father work with Fidel Castro? Is he a communist?

This birth certificate doesn’t prove anything. It doesn’t say “Ted” anywhere. Who is this Rafael Edward Cruz? Does he speak English?

What’s a geophysical consultant? Is that some kind of “one-world-government” adviser?

But Ted Cruz is an American. If you’re born to an American woman anywhere in the world, and your birth is registered with the American Embassy, you’re an American. That’s all you need. If you’re born anywhere in the world and your father is an American and married to your mother (no matter her nationality), and your birth is registered with the American Embassy, you’re an American. That’s all you need. If you’re born on American soil, and your parents aren’t American, you’re an American. That’s all you need.

But Ted Cruz is Canadian, as well. If you’re born on Canadian soil, you’re a Canadian. So technically, Ted Cruz could run for the Canadian Parliament.

Isn’t the exploding head of a Tea Party birther a sight to behold?

But we won’t see it (from the Washington Post):

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced Monday evening that he will renounce his Canadian citizenship, less than 24 hours after a newspaper pointed out that the Canadian-born senator likely maintains dual citizenship.

“Now the Dallas Morning News says that I may technically have dual citizenship,” Cruz said in a statement. “Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship. Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a U.S. senator; I believe I should be only an American.”

Now I’ve seen references to “The Manchurian Candidate” as the Ted Cruz story has developed. But the difference there is that Raymond Shaw was born in America to American parents.

Oh, yeah. And Michele Bachmann is Swiss.

Social Class in America

Here’s a film short from 1957 on America’s class structure:

I’m stunned. I thought this would be one of those, “Doesn’t matter what your background is, with hard work and determination, you can achieve greatness.”

Isn’t that the message that’s constantly pounded into our heads? No?!

Back in 1957, the reality was, “doesn’t matter what you do, you were born into a certain class, and you’re always going to stay there.”

That’s totally depressing.

Even more depressing: There are no minorities anywhere in this video. Back then, that meant they didn’t even count and weren’t worth discussing. Oh, yeah. And from what I could see here, women didn’t count either.

I’ve got no love for nostalgia. I don’t think anything in the past was better than things are now. But I do believe in social mobility.

I know plenty of people who’ve come from absolutely nothing and completely tore through class distinctions. In my lifetime, we’ve had at least four U.S. presidents who’ve risen from the bottom of the economic ladder. I can rattle off the names of poor and middle class kids who became successful and are now billionaires.

But there are people who want to go back to the simplicity 1950s. People who want others to stay in their place and not complain. And class divisions are widening now at a faster pace than any other time in my life.

Look at the charts of income distribution. The social structure of ’50s nostalgia is running rampant.

Kids react to the Cheerios ad

This video doesn’t say where the kids are interviewed, but it’s pretty obvious they’re not in the Old Confederacy. I’m guessing New York or California, because:

1) The group is pretty diverse: black, white, Asian and mixed race.
2) The kids really seem oblivious to the fact that people would freak out over the ad.
3) Don’t hear any Southern or Midwestern accents.
4) The responses are all Blue-State Liberal.

A little research shows the Fine brothers (the guys behind this project) were raised and educated in New York City and now live in Los Angeles. (Wow! Who would have guessed that.)

I’d like to say the video is encouraging, but I think the brothers need to get away from the coasts and spend some time in fly-over country (And I don’t mean Denver or Chicago.).

This video puts stars in your eyes. But a visit to the heartland would be more of an eye-opener. Yes, they’ll find kids who will say the same thing everywhere they go, but they’ll also get the chance to question the kids who bring their parents’ prejudices to the conversation.

The end of the world in Australia

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the following announcement:

It’s a promo for a morning radio show. The coverage has been kind of surprising. One commentator said:

It’s hard to imagine the American head-of-state, or just about any other world leader, doing a similar, mock-press-conference, end-of-the-world routine.

Sure, that sounds right. Why would they event think of something like that. Barack Obama didn’t give a press conference when the CDC issued a message on how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. But that doesn’t mean our leaders lack a sense of humor.

Until the Aussie PM slow jams the news, the U.S. is still No. 1.