Friday, August 29, 2008

How Black Do You Need To Be, To Be Black?

Tonight, on his TV show, Bill Moyer's referred to Barack Obama as 'black candidate of mixed heritage'. Why a black candidate? Why not a 'white' candidate of mixed heritage? True, Obama exhibits some discernible some 'black' features; but why do we have to call him 'black'? How about this way of looking at things: Tiger Woods is a mixed heritage Thai golfer. Barack Obama is a racially mixed heritage presidential candidate.

In truth, isn't the appellation of Obama as being a 'black' candidate a racist remark in the first place, hearkening back to the days when anybody with even a little black blood in him/her was categorized as irretrievable and totally black?

(There is a great and delicious irony, by the way, in the fact that most African -Americans want to co-opt this half-white man as a black. Oh well, we all want to co-opt winners!)

Let's face it, we are almost all these days of mixed heritage. I'm a Turk mixed with German and English, and predominantly white with some 'black' blood running through me. (After all, Turkey sits at the crossroads of Asian, Africa and Europe; and I didn't get to be olive-skinned by being 'pure' white.) If Obama's black, so am I. The differences between all of us, including the 'progressive' Bill Moeyers, is just a matter of percentages.

Where is the cut-off? So I'll know how to categorize me and my Granddaughter; whose father by the way is Latin American. Such a conundrum.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Of Tax Increases and Luck

The Democrats want to tax the wealthy. The wealthy scream that a dsproportional tax rate increase is unfair. They earned their money, they state; they worked hard and smart. Why should they pay a higher percentage than anyone else? Also, they darkly warn, a tax rate will kill their incentives: "...we (as a group) won't work as hard. Tax us at unfair levels and you as a society will lose the benefit of our highly talented energy."

How about this solution: let's NOT tax the rich for any of their money gains made from great ideas or hard work. Just for the proportion of their benefits that accrued from luck.

Even the rich (I hope) have to admit that there is a lot of luck involved in their success: such as being born in a wealthy country, or from smart parents, or genetically endowed extra IQ brainpower and perhaps a multi-tasking personality, from social contacts made early in life, or general universal karmic luck...

So...let's truly level the playing field; let's try to quantify the value of personal luck in all people's success; and, just like golfers entering a match who aren't as good as other golfers entering the match start with a handicap, let's tax people only to the proportion that luck--more than good ideas or hard work--contributes to success. Or the reverse is possible: we might even subsidize the unlucky to the amount that their status in socio-economic life is more dependent on bad luck that hard work or great ideas.

A truly democratic idea, no? Luck is taxed. All else gets a free ride.

You think the rich would scream at that proposition?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sub-Prime Aftershock

Whose fault is the 'Sub-Prime' loan disaster?

The big banks and their investor class who bought into a clever Ponzi scheme: they were told by derivative formulators that if you greedily invest into enough bundles (slices and dices) of bad mortgages...and leverage it all on'll turn into a good investment.

The wall street broker/trader who sliced and diced the mortgage bundle in the first place (and got great commissions/fees), graded the bundles in "A to F" packages, and promised their buyers that they were all getting the "A" slices.

The smaller banks who knew they were making/hustling bad loans in the first place, but they figured/knew they could pass them on in toto for mortgage bankers to buy.

The unqualified borrowers who thought (dreamed? schemed?) they could get something for nothing: loans on bigger/better/first homes at monthly payments they could ill afford.

The working class who built the homes in bubble tracts and wonder why they were laid off when the bubble burst.

The citizenry for electing officials who pushed since 1980 for deregulation of financial institutions.

So what's to be done?

This being a democracy, we fight over who's most responsible as a basis of who pays the most for the mistake.

Guess who will win/lose that argument? Democracy is of the people, by the people, and for the people, right?...good times and bad? The 'buck for fucking up', Mr. and Ms. Citizen, stops here. Start writing your (tax) checks.

Sadness results from unfulfilled passion.

"Luck is the residual of good planning."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Life is a random walk through other people's cow pastures.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Chore of Meanness

My granddaughter wanted me to be mean to her tonight. (We had watched in the past two days Cinderella with the nasty Step-mother and The Wizard of Oz with the Wicked Witch.) I said: "I can't be mean to you. I don't know how."

She was frustrated. "Be mean to me, Grandpa!"

I was equally adamant: "I don't know how!"

She put her hands on her hips and said, instructively: "If you don't succeed at first, try, try again!"

Friday, August 01, 2008

Through the Eyes of a Cynic

Spirituality is humankind's vain attempt to transcend the physical world.