Monday, January 21, 2013

The American Dream

The American dream — a good life in exchange for hard work — is slowly dying.  Take, for example, poor Phil Mickelson.  He won a couple of million dollars last year playing golf and also received well more than sixty million dollars in endorsements.  For those of you who are unsure of who he is, watch some of the golf tournaments on TV and he is always the one who is complaining about something at the end of the tournament as to why he didn’t win.  Johnny Miller, the acerbic TV announcer, described Mickelson once as being lucky he had a short game because otherwise ‘he’d be selling insurance.’  Now Mickelson is complaining about something else; he claims that his take home pay is now less than thirty million dollars a year and it seems that figure is hardly enough to live on, even though he has been raking in that kind of money for the past ten to fifteen years.  He complains that his taxes are now 62% of his income, a figure that sounds both boastful and exaggerated to make people feel sorry for him, along with his arthritis (how much income does he get for his TV ads for an arthritis drug?).  Phil lives in California and says he may have to move because of the high tax rates.  California collects a state income tax at a maximum marginal tax rate of 10.30%, spread across seven tax brackets. Like the Federal Income Tax, California's income tax allows couples filing jointly to pay a lower overall rate on their combined income with wider tax brackets for joint filers. Inasmuch as the maximum tax rate federally is 39%, the true amount of Mickelson’s taxes is at most 49% of his income, meaning that his after tax take home income is certainly greater than 30 million dollars each year.  Investment income is taxed at the rate of 15% and if Mickelson is paying 62% of his income in taxes, he should get himself another accountant.  If Mickelson has managed to save any of the millions upon millions of dollars he has earned, his net worth probably approaches a half a billion dollars or greater. He likes gambling, and from reliable reports he apparently gambles amounts of money greater each year than 99% of the population makes.  I have advice for you, Phil.  Your incessant whining about taxes is tiresome.  A typical male worker’s income in 2011 ($32,986) was lower than it was in 1968 ($33,880), about 800 times less than what you take home, and he does pay taxes too.  Suck it up.  Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining about it.  You want more money for your family?  Stop gambling.   
Just saying . . .

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Detroit Public Schools in Exile

My blog today consists simply of posting the writing of a person far more qualified than I am to comment on the ongoing state of affairs in what was formally known as the Detroit Public Schools.  Elena Herrada is an elected member  of the current Detroit School Board and over the past year, I have developed a high opinion of this remarkable person for her relentless efforts on behalf of Detroit schoolchildren and the citizens of Detroit.

The Educational Achievement Authority is a violation of Brown v Kansas. Will we stand idly by?

by Elena Herrada on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 10:41pm ·
Dear friends;
I was copied on correspondence tonight between the Michigan Dept of Education director Mike Flannigan and Marianne Maguire, outgoing elected state board of education member. I am one of 11 elected board members of the Detroit Public Schools. The Emergency Manager in Detroit is appointed by the governor, who also set up a parallel district called the "Educational Achievement Authority," which mirrors the "Recovery District" in New Orleans. In every way. Detroit is to Michigan what the 9th Ward is to New Orleans. We did not have a hurricane, so the narrative of failure was created. We have been under state control for 8 of the last ten years and the state has bankruptred our District and then taken us over because we are in financial crisis. The same was recently done to the City Council, which is separate from the Detroit School district. There was a hard push on the part of the philanthropic community and non profits, not the least of which were Southwest Solutions and New Detroit, Inc. which would have profited directly if they succeeded in putting the schools under "mayoral control," which is code for corporate control. That failed because the People stopped "mayoral control." Next, the corporate forces took over the city. School board members remain in place, having been elected by the People. However, the State Attorney General, with our own tax dollars, filed a lawsuit against us for being elected. I am not kidding; no judge wants to take this case, so it has been postponed one time after the next. The judges actually say things like " the law may change, so we need to wait and see what happens." ( Judges Murphy, Gillis and next Berry have postponed hearings while waiting .... )
Although the People of Michigan repealed the Emergency Manager law, the EM has remained in place. The governor simply ignored the will of the voters and instead created another Emergency Manager bill that cannot be repealed.
But the important matter here is the long term consequences of this takeover. A new and separate school district which is state wide but with only Detroit in it so far, is a very inferior school district which many students have no choice but to attend. The students have to attend this failing district because of where they live-- in the areas designated for failure. The students are concerned about their future and some have created a "Social Justice League." They intend to be future plaintiffs and not future prisoners, despite the plans being made for them by people like Governor Snyder and Mike Flannigan, who is said to have assured the white districts that their children would not have to attend the Educational Achievement Authority schools; only students in the Black (and Latino) districts will attend the privatized EAA. No union, no standardized tests, Teach for America in droves, for the poorest and most vulnerable students.
If you believe this is a violation of Brown v Kansas, please contact us to add your voice to this important issue. Thank you for reading this, and please feel free to contact our research task force, full of informed and militant supporters of justice for students in Detroit, Benton Harbor, Flint, Muskegon Heights, Highland Park, and wherever students are being pushed into the School to EAA pipeline.
In faith and solidarity,
Elena Herrada
Detroit Public Schools District 2
In Exile

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Aha, I’ve Got It!

Shortly after I woke up this morning, I started thinking that the last year was a major win for me.  Over the past year, scientific evidence revealed that two major habits of mine, coffee and dark chocolate, were no longer vices to be avoided but are, in fact, healthy; a win-win situation if there ever was one.  But this morning, I hit the trifecta.  As reported in the New York Times, a “study by Katherine M. Flegal and her associates at the C.D.C. and the National Institutes of Health, found that all adults categorized as overweight and most of those categorized as obese have a lower mortality risk than so-called normal-weight individuals. If the government were to redefine normal weight as one that doesn’t increase the risk of death, then about 130 million of the 165 million American adults currently categorized as overweight and obese would be re-categorized as normal weight instead.  To put some flesh on these statistical bones, the study found a 6 percent decrease in mortality risk among people classified as overweight and a 5 percent decrease in people classified as Grade 1 obese, the lowest level (most of the obese fall in this category). This means that average-height women — 5 feet 4 inches — who weigh between 108 and 145 pounds have a higher mortality risk than average-height women who weigh between 146 and 203 pounds. For average-height men — 5 feet 10 inches — those who weigh between 129 and 174 pounds have a higher mortality risk than those who weigh between 175 and 243 pounds.”

Wow.  As I read these words, I stand up from my computer and strut to the closest mirror where I proudly examine the girth of my abdomen while I take my first complete breath in years without a conscious attempt to hold my stomach in.  My substance, my soul, my essence is changed overnight from a sniveling, struggling, overweight, old (putting aside the baldness for a moment) guy to a higher level.  Will my body shape now become the new standard for all those skinny types around me to worship?  Am I destined for Hollywood where millions of theater-goers will flock to the silver screen to admire and scream as my portliness (forgetting still the baldness) as I create a new standard for action figures, i.e. walking rather than running?

Such good news, this trifecta.  I pause in my reverie of the moment to briefly reflect what caused our society to make such a big deal about weight in the first place.  Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in an editorial in this mornings NYTimes writes  “categorizing at least 130 million Americans — and hundreds of millions in the rest of the world — as people in need of “treatment” for their  [overweight] “condition” serves the economic interests of, among others, the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry and large pharmaceutical companies, which have invested a great deal of money in winning the good will of those who will determine the regulatory fate of the next generation of diet drugs.”

Gee,  there others who also realize that big Pharma, in feeding the beast of corporate profits, will say and do just about anything to sell stuff to “treat” conditions that we didn’t even know need treating; e.g., Viagra and Cialis (ED) and Rogaine and Propecia (baldness).

Just saying.