I have been thinking a lot recently about the nature of wealth and what is fair taxation, etc.
I heard Bill O’Reilly talking the other night and accusing Obama of wanting to do wealth redistribution. This got me thinking: “this is something people think of as negative because it means taking something hard-earned from those who have toiled to earn it and giving it to those whose actions have done nothing to make it.”
Then, my thoughts drifted to a few events, one from Policy class and two more recently occurring at family reunions. First of all, the statistic that something like 97 percent of the wealth is controlled by three percent of the population. The others are a game of Risk with my cousins, and a conversation with Mandy about her family.
As we know the divide of the uber-wealthy and the lower classes is growing. The amount of wealth is continuing to be governed by a smaller percentage of the population. This is fact. This is inevitable if you have read much on behavioral economics. I recommend the “logic of Life” as a book to illustrate this point.
This became clear to me as I found myself on side of a losing campaign in Risk, a game I had not played since young. At one point I decided to hole up in Australia, after spreading too thin and being conquered elsewhere. I thought, ” at least I can defend the bottle neck here in the south pacific by putting all my new resources into the defense of the one country blocking my cousin’s way to world domination. The fallacy that I quickly discovered is that if you had captured continents you amassed more armies because you had more resources, same too for just having sheer numbers of already existing armies. In essence, if you already had wealth, you could make so much more. So there is a tipping point there where defeat is inevitable, no matter how great your geographical advantage. I realized that the percentages were about the same as those discussed previously in policy class, my cousin owned about 95 percent of the board and defeat began to unfold at an exponential rate. Continue reading
I am doing Cropwalk this year again for anyone interested in supporting that cause you can write a check to Cropwalk and send it to us at 2028 8th Street, Eau Claire, WI. I have been sick twice this semester already, once with the stomach flu and once with the traditional flu. It’s made it difficult, since this has been a very busy semester so far. Good to hear your classroom visit went well, Jeff. Keep posting poems as you feel they are ready. Or maybe before you feel they are ready…
I recieved this email from a dear freind of mine and rather than forward it I’ve decided to post it.
Everyone needs some odd little cause to support, and this one’s mine.
The National Marrow Donor Program, maintains a database of a whole slew of volunteer marrow donors. As you probably know, finding a match for marrow donation is much trickier than finding a match for blood donation; also, as you probably know, marrow transplants can be lifesavers.
Joining the program is simple. The mail-in kit available online just involves swabbing the insides of your cheeks – they can get all the information they need from that. No blood necessary. If your marrow is a match for someone in need, you can choose to go through the donation process. You can read more about the donation process on the website.
Usually, it costs a significant amount to join the marrow donor program – upwards of $50 – which doesn’t exactly draw in volunteers. Here’s the cool thing, though… for the next two weeks, the NMDP will waive the testing costs for new members. You can get more information on their website. They’ll even mail you the kit – you don’t have to go out of your way to join.
If you’re not interested in joining up, please pass this information along to your friends instead. Sorry for the unsolicited solicitation to join, but this is pretty important to me.
I’ve found this site about a year ago, which most people here probably already know about: www.carbonfund.org
It allows you to calculate the amount of carbon you create in a year, advises on carbon reduction, and allows you to choose what projects you want to put your donation toward when you offset through CarbonFund. It also lists partners in the project, which may be a determining factor when you buy your next computer, bike rack, or CD – another way to offset your footprint. Something worth considering.
Perhaps some of you heard this segment on NPR yesterday morning. I’ve been following the story of the bushmen’s fight for land rights in the Kalahari since early this fall when I read The Healing Land by Rupert Isaacson. I met Rupert, who happens to be an Elgin resident, a few months ago when he came to my book group to talk about his book.
Over many years the government of Botswana has been forcibly removing the bushmen from their traditional lands. The government has cited many reasons, including game preservation, better schools and better health care services. However, the pervading assumption is that the land is sitting on a fortune in diamonds. This week a court in Botswana ruled that this removal is illegal.
I hinted a some weeks ago that I was disillusioned with Amnesty International. This disillusionment stems from Rupert’s frustration with Amnesty’s unwillingness to take on the cause of DeBeers‘s (the diamond trading corporation) activities in the traditional lands of the bushmen. He had unconfirmed suspicions that acceptance of donations from DeBeers may have influenced Amnesty’s sluggishness. After my discussion with Rupert I have come to think that smaller charities working on specific causes may do more good in the world than behemoth groups like Amnesty, UNICEF, etc. These large groups must at some point compromise principle to politics whereas small groups can operate with more agility and focus. Until recently, I was regular contributor to Amnesty but even then I was wondering if I was just paying for more mailers asking for more money.
The offices of Rupert’s group, The Indigenous Land Rights Fund, are housed in his laptop, cell phone and all his contacts throughout the Kalahari. It would seem that this week at least, the little guys won one.
For those of you who want an update, I received my first response to my letters to my two Congressman and my eight reps. from Ron Kind (democrat in house). It was a form letter, emphasizing that Kind voted for both intitiatives that the White House has passed regarding Sudan and Chad conflicts. The second boasted 242.4 million in relief assistance. And while that may seem a significant amount, the white house in its second term had commited 38 billion to the “war on terror”, most of which has been focused on Iraq. (This was taken from the Department of Defense website). I just feel so helpless about stuff like this.
I am sending this letter to both of my senators and all eight of my representatives. Feel free to use my letter for your own purposes, or make your own. Both of my senators are Jewish; so I am assuming the word genocide means somehting to them. I am also sending it to my very own President of the United States.
To: The Honorable Russ Feingold
506 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4904
Dear Senator Feingold,
This letter is written to plead that you and other United States representatives pay attention to what is happening in Darfur, Sudan. I, a voting citizen in a swing state, implore you to take some action, whatever action you can, to prevent the genocide occurring as we speak. How many more hundreds of thousands must be killed before we act? President Bush himself has described the situation as genocide. I am horrified, outraged, and flabbergasted that our country has remained neutral in action on this heinous situation. “You can look at it this way: back in 1944, the Germans didn’t want anybody coming in and seeing their death camps. Today in Sudan, the government doesn’t want anybody coming in and seeing what amount to death villages.” *
Please let us use our resources where we can make a true moral stand against murder and injustice. Can we not send more aid to these areas? Can we not more fiercely condemn these behaviors? Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton both recognize Rwanda as their crowning failure. Will we stand by and do nothing, again? Is it true that we have resisted sending a U.N. Peacekeeping force because we have received information on Osama Bin Laden from leaders in Sudan? “It’s been a very good deal for the government of Sudan to give little tidbits of information about suspects around the world in order to blunt United States outrage over what’s happening in Darfur,” Prendergast says. *
First, I challenge you as a respectable acting member of the government of the United States to respond to me with a letter entailing actions you are taking to prevent the slaughter taking place in Sudan and answer my questions. Are we turning our backs on Africa and Sudan because we have no financial interests there? Secondly, I challenge you to send me information on how I can make a tangible difference.
Here are some websites. One allows you to send an email to Bush and Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the U.N. (for just a bit longer before that South Korean guy, I forget his name takes over). Who knows what good it will do, but it can’t harm. You can edit the message if you don’t like some of the provisions. I got these from the CBS website. The article I referred to earlier is featured if you type in Darfur as a search. I visited all the sites but WorldVision is the only one I know intimately. It is a very upstanding organization.
Support Darfur, Make a Difference Today
Support the people of Darfur, Sudan today. You can help save lives in Darfur where 400,000 people have already died and over 2 million displaced. Please donate now. http://www.supportdarfur.com
I recently saw an interview on Sixty Minutes in which an American doctor (working in Darfur, Sudan) accused the Bush administration of refusing to send in intervention forces because they were receiving information on Osama Bin Laden from the men in power. Osama apparently visited the current president to recruit men. When a German doctor was asked what he wanted to say to Americans watching, he said something like (paraphrased), “I have seen men gang rape women, while killing their children in front of them, mutilate and chop up men, and throw body parts into drinking water sources so that it is certain that no one can live there for years. What do you think I should say to my fellow Westerners? History will judge them harshly. They can not continue to lie and say, “We just didn’t know.”
For those of you who have seen the film Hotel Rwanda, this is that all over and maybe worse. I find it ironic that while Bush claims to be such a Christian, he has left Christians in Africa to be butchered — sandwiched between African Resistance movements and Islamist militias. The truth is that we likely wouldn’t even need to use military force, but merely just put some pressure on these people. We’re too busy trying to deal with the nuclear can of worms that we opened and can’t close. We need new methods of negotiation and diplomacy other than intimidation and violence. Every lunatic on the map wants a bomb now, because we then have to recognize the threat that they pose. Did we learn nothing from our bomb shelters in the 70s and 80s?
If anyone has additional information on Sudan, I welcome it. I have a few articles that I copied from my free NY Times emails, if anyone wants to read them. As I said the Sixty Minutes interview aired last Sunday night. I am considering writing a letter to my Congressman in outrage, but I have my cynical doubts as to what difference it may make. Also, I am just slightly into a book by Gene Sharp called the Politics of Nonviolent Action and I already would suggest it to any of you.