* NEWS FLASH - see my totally refurbished web site (http://www.davidbrin.com) and especially the cool page on EXISTENCE!
* Get your blue civil war Union "kepi" hat... the symbol for this summer and fall... from the Village Hat Shop, by web-order. Tell them I sent you.
(For the version of this blog with links, see http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/)
= Ronnie Rising =
Are you a Republican - or do you know one - who is sincerely fretful about the GOP’s ticket for the coming quadrennial? Well, there's good reason (on many levels.) But it appears there is hope! Or at least a fun wish fantasy, written and published with stunning speed by a master science fiction author, John Barnes. In a quick-topical (and hilarious) shortie-novel that’s set right now! In the few weeks before this year’s Republican National Convention.
RAISE THE GIPPER! is more a sudden piece of performance art than anything else. Staged precisely for a given moment in time, it fits into the tradition of such old-time favorites as The Mouse that Roared and Rally Around the Flag, Boys.
And it gives Republicans their utter wish fantasy, especially after wading through a primary season filled with dismal choices. Picture the scenario -- Ronald Reagan, risen from the dead, tanned-rested-and-ready (hampered only slightly by the lack of a pulse) to lead the GOP to victory!
Think it’s all one-sided? Well, Barnes has some clever fun at the expense of flakey, Gaia worshipping, PC-vegan lefty-liberals, too! It’s a rollicking good time. Try some free sample chapters! (Or get it on Amazon.) And support performance art.
Is it understandable that some Republicans nurse dream-wish fantasies? One is tempted, indeed, to dream up alternatives to the current presumptive nominee -- whose prep-school pranks included the deliberately traumatic bullying of helpless adolescents. Yes, there is forgiveness. But character is generally persistent, unless you see major life reversals that indicate a true change of direction. And in that case, would he not have sought out his victims, later, to make amends? Or shown compassion in his business affairs?
Oh one can sympathize. Raise the Gipper, indeed!
= From the Transparency Front =
As you surf the Web, information is being collected about you. Web tracking is not 100% evil -- personal data can make your browsing more efficient; cookies can help your favorite websites stay in business. But, says Gary Kovacs, it's your right to know what data is being collected about you and how it affects your online life. He unveils a Firefox add-on called Collusion to do just that. It is a prime example of where we need to focus our attention in net-age battles over freedom and privacy. Not in futile efforts to regulate the mighty and police what they can know, but rather in forever-enhancing our power to look back... and thus to hold the mighty accountable.
But shouldn't the light shine both ways? Read a scathing appraisal and denunciation of banking secrecy, of tax havens and the way at least seven trillion dollars vanish from the world’s books. For example: Nothing in offshore havens happens on a small scale. Almost any statistic flunks the red-face test. Consider the British Virgin Islands, home to about 30,000 people and 457,000 companies. In China, it’s said you haven’t made it until you have your own subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands, which holds more assets belonging to Chinese nationals than any foreign location except Hong Kong.
"The secrecy laws in these tax havens are at the root of serious crimes: fraud, money laundering and international terrorism," writes Robert M. Morgenthau in The New York Times.
There’s more money on deposit in the Caymans than in all the banks in New York City combined. Do you hear echoes of The Transparent Society? Or my novel Earth, in which the whole world finally gets fed up and storms the banks to make the records public? No issue is more powerfully important than tracing who uses these infamous dodges.
(Or more germane, when we seek to judge whether a one-time spoiled brat bully has grown up.)
What, then, can be done about all this? Plenty — if we act now. Nobody leaves their money offshore forever. The United States can direct its banks and their foreign subsidiaries not to engage in financial transactions in havens that have no transparency and no disclosure of the true parties of interest in financial transactions.
A bill has been proposed in the United States to prevent the use of shell corporations to hide the true ownership of assets owned here. This legislation would provide a model of openness for other nations to follow. Unfortunately, the legislation is bottled up in our own Congress. This should not be. America needs to set an example of financial accountability and insist that the world follow.
= A Hero of True Market Capitalism Weighs In =
I have long maintained that the left is deeply foolish to make stereotype assumptions about Adam Smith and Capitalism. Smith was the founder of liberalism and one of the chief founders of the Western Enlightenment. His call for open and transparent and fair competition in the marketplace was NOT a call for unbridled power and wealth for a narrow aristocracy of wealth! In fact, Smith despised monopolies and cartels above all, and he called the plutocrat-oligarchs who grabbed power through property the worst enemies of freedom and markets, across 6000 years.
In other words, true capitalism - that is entrepreneurial, open and fair - has been one of the biggest victims of the recent tsunami of banking secrecy and hidden oligarchic influence! If liberals saw this, actually read Smith, and proclaimed themselves the defenders of free markets, they could end an absurd gift they have given to the other side.
And if you are having trouble pegging me somewhere along the hoary and stupid so-called "left-right axis" then good!
Now see a cogent statement by one of the heroes of ground-level, liberation capitalism. Hernando De Soto is the economist whose reforms in Peru vested deeded ownership of the land into the hands of farmers who had lived on and worked their plots for generations, but never had the solid proof that would let them borrow against it and invest in modern methods and start up the road of success. After this vesting process happened, rural Peru experienced a boom of self propelled development that delighted BOTH liberals and libertarians who - at least in that country - finally realized how much they have in common. From The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else:
"For the past fifteen years, the records of Western capitalism have been debased, leaving governments without the facts to spot what needs to be fixed and for businesses to know what their risks are. To regain its vitality, Western capitalism must bring under the rule of law and public memory hundreds of trillions of dollars now swirling mindlessly out of control in the obscure world of financial innovation. That task requires major political leadership." – -- (from The Mystery of Capital)
Yes, you read correctly. Hundreds of trillions. Thom Hartmann has remarked often on the fact that the value (or "value") of derivatives being traded amounts to orders of magnitude higher than the GDP of the planet. But it goes beyond derivatives to de Soto’s area of expertise... ownership of the physical world. The houses, boats, roads, farms, cattle, oil tankers... much of it with masked property trails.
If I could get ONE law passed worldwide, it would be "avow your ownership in something, or else, on January 1st of next year, you simply do not own it."
Think about it. This is totally not-socialist... though some nations might then decide to do some socialist things about it. The key point though is that if all property is known, then people will be more responsible. When an oil tanker runs aground (as one did a decade ago, despoiling the coast of Brittany) you'll be able to find the owners. Drug lords and criminal gangs would instantly lose access to most of their fortunes. And the tax burden will be spread more widely to include those who now cheat. In theory, taxes should go DOWN for all who currently play by the rules. Or stay the same while debt is paid down.
There is no single measure that would do more instant good, while having almost nil effect upon the 99% of us who already say it openly: "I own that."
* (One blog commentator chides me for focusing so on deSoto. "while De Soto has contributed enormously to development economics, his work needs to be combined with those of other economists for best effect.In particular, there's Muhammad Yunus (of Grameen Bank fame) and Amartya Sen, the man who ended famine in India." I respond: all are heroes of good capitalism, and for the left to ignore these folks is almost as the right is, to try to crush them.)
= Political Miscellany
A study of economic mobility in the US by state shows a pattern that will probably be all too familiar to readers of ContraryBrin. All the out-performers except Utah (7 of 8) are blue states. All 9 under-performers are red states. So much for the idea of the liberal elite keeping the masses down and so much for the idea that Republican small government and deregulation creates a culture of opportunity.
Possible link between maternal obesity and low childhood intelligence. Gee wiz... will we ever see a single datum that the denizens of Red America, who proclaim so loudly that they know better how to live and raise kids, are ever right at all, even once? About anything whatsoever?