Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taxes for Rich Off The Table

Source: TPM/DC
This Tea Party rally in Washington against the earlier Boehner plan is so small you can almost pick out the March Hare. Really!?!  This is the giant movement that has protected the rich from taxes and runs things in the House of Representatives?

To be fair I think most of the rich were too busy celebrating by smoking cigars in tuxedos while drinking champaign with chocolate covered strawberries to be bothered. :)  But honestly, we must assume by this chain of events that the ordinary voter wants debt reduction, thinks this is a good thing to do in the middle of a depression, and wants to pay for it out of his own pocket despite the theft of funds previously by the rich that caused all the trouble. People still want oil companies to get government handouts while their medicare is ransacked. It is astonishing what must be the spirit of the age in the midst of a depression, no less. Fox News alone could not have all that much influence, could they? Well, certainly not in this "rally."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Astoundingly non Fox-Based Thinking

Continuing with my vastly popular chart series (i.e., I like it) here is a chart that is so counter intuitive to Fox News logic (that pretty much prevails everywhere I frequent) that it needs explanation.

This chart shows policy changes and their monetary costs. It shows that the reason the debt is so darn high doesn't have a lot to do with President Obama's policies as a socialist (in Fox News lingo).  You can see that Obama has decreased outlays in defense, so that is a net minus. We still spend money on wars but less so and it is reflected. Other policies have had the effect of increasing the debt. But put side by side you can see that the amount of increase in the outlay by President Obama pales in comparison to his predecessor. I think the eyeopener here is that the tax cut program that basically rewarded the rich might well be enough to entirely pay for Obama's new programs, mostly necessary in response to the Depression. Astounding!

Add the two together (Clinton left us with positive cash flow) and get that huge amount of deficit we have. The only thing slightly misleading that I can see about these graphs is that Bush had 8 years to think up policies to rack up his amount, while Obama has had considerably less time to implement policies by this point. Although the chart projects Obama's current policies out through through 8 years to be equal to Bush's time in office, it can't include the possible new policies that might be down the road (i.e. new wars, melting of the ice caps, etc.)  Yet... look at the graphs. Astounding! Think of all the rhetoric about Obama's out of control spending. It is utter crap. Just a repeal of the tax cut would reap incredible savings. Even if we just repealed the tax cut from the millionaires alone that would no doubt pay for a vast majority of Obama's policy expenditure through to the end of his presidency. Wait, have I heard that somewhere before? I'm kind of surprised that the Medicare drug benefit has so little potential for savings. After all, had the drug companies not written the law we surely would be reaping savings by the truckload when we made fair bids for their drugs, instead of paying their intentionally US only inflated retail price. Yet it is small compared to the newest tax breaks for millionaires. Go figure.

Another shocker, at least it should be to the Fox-Based community, is the non-defence discretionary spending. Again this is an extrapolation forward on the Obama part and probably doesn't include the Public Works Administration program of the future needed as our country sinks further into depression due to a contraction of the money supply now all the rage in congress. :) But look at this. We, of the non Fox-Based community knew Bush was one of the biggest spenders around but, my oh my, in discretionary spending, too? Holy hollyhocks. He placed all these long term spending programs into place and still could not hold down the discretionary bit.

"The true history of my administration will be written 50 years from now, and you and I will not be around to see it." - Bush II
Well, that is if you are over 40 or so and not in good health... or if you can't currently extrapolate a little backwards from the seemingly obvious future, I guess.

Somehow, the "you and I will not be around to see it" kind of smacks of apocryphal thinking. Maybe only historians will be left behind after the rapture and the older ones who remember Bush's remark won't be reading the other's writings due to their ill humor over the end of history itself.

Thursday, July 28, 2011



(Note to Wendy from the last post: it does now say "trillions" on the side.) If I understand this correctly, the idea of notional value is the amount that is controlled by a small payment. So, if I want to "buy insurance" that a certain bond fund will not go broke, I pay a little amount, and the total amount insured is the "notional" value. Some bets cancel out each other, like any good bookie knows. One person bets on one sports team to win and  another bets on the other sports team to win. If those bets are the same, the bookie has no risk and gains the vigorish, or "transaction fee," as the financial institutions would call it. Unfortunately, at the time of the financial crash, there were no numbers to tell us whether bets cancelled each other out. That is, there was no regulation or even accounting of these bets against bonds or "credit default swaps" sold Over the Counter and not on any exchange. (Much of this lack of regulation is thanks to Wendy, probably just shilling for Enron, and of course the Clinton administration officials who wacked down Brooksley Born.)  The other unfortunate aspect of "credit defalt swaps" is that that a bond can be bet against many times and people who have no financial interest in the bond can bet as well.

 Republicans have consistently voted against the regulation of derivatives at every step and are now trying to water down the few regulations passed as part of Dodd-Frank. Is this not slightly sad and alarming?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Soothing Words from a Bygone Era

Brooksley Born whom I mentioned earlier had a predecessor at the Community Futures Trading Commission. She was Reagan appointee Wendy Gramm, wife of Phil Gramm. She was later involved in the Enron scandal using her position at the CFTC to make sure Enron wasn't regulated then leaving the CFTC to become a board member at Enron.

"Soothing Words about Derivatives; Futures Regulator Says Risks Have Been Exaggerated"  (American Banker, September 21, 1992)
Futures Regulator Says Risks Have Been Exaggerated

Wendy L. Gramm, chairman of the Community Futures Trading Commission, had some advice for the nervous Nellies of the regulatory world in a speech to the futures industry here last week. She had several words for regulators who would meddle with the derivatives markets. What follows are some excerpts of that address:

Lately, I've been hearing various regulators raise concerns about off-exchange markets and about derivatives generally. The questions they're raising include:

* Are derivative markets too big, too risky, placing the clearing system in jeopardy?

* Are derivatives and their risks simply too esoteric and complex for anyone but a rocket scientist to understand?

* Are the derivative markets underregulated?

First, there is notion that the size of the derivative markets could disrupt the financial system: When people talk about swaps, we often hear figures in trillions of dollars.

But it's important to remember that such dollar amounts refer to the notional principal, which is much greater than the value of the contact -- which in turn is much greater than the actual cash flows per day.

Indeed, cash flows due to swaps are tiny compared with the daily cash flows from trading in foreign exchange -- over half a trillion dollars a day.

It Isn't Brain Surgery 

Second, as to the concern that derivatives are too esoteric, and the perception that derivatives are overcomplicated and too difficult to price: Well, you and I know that the pricing of many derivatives is simple and well understood, indeed, simpler than some cash market instruments.

Moreover, some are making the point that as banks begin to value loan portfolios the way they value derivatives, they're doing a better job of assessing risks.

Finally, the idea that derivatives are unregulated or insufficiently regulated: I frequently have to remind people that the CFTC does regulate exchange-traded commodity futures and options, while the SEC regulates options on equities.

While off-exchange derivatives may not be directly regulated by a governmental agency, the entity offering these instruments or acting as an intermediary for the products is often regulated.

Safeguards Have Evolved

Besides, markets used by sophisticated, informed institutions tend to develop their own system of safeguards and protections.

What about the regulations? What should those issues be -- what really needs to be done from a regulator's perspective?

First, allow innovation. Don't pull up everything green just because it might be a weed. It could grow into a flower.

The challenge for financial regulators is to carry out our mission of ensuring fair and efficient markets without stifling innovation.

Derivatives markets are based on notional principal amounts that are much greater than daily actual cash flows. Cash flows from swaps are much less than flows from foreign exchange trading. Derivatives pricing is simpler than various cash market instruments. Banks are also assessing derivatives risks as they value loan portfolios. In addition, securities firms which offer derivatives are tightly regulated by government agencies.


Soothing words about derivatives; futures regulator says risks have been exaggerated Source: American Banker. 157.182 (Sept. 21, 1992): p6.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Time To Repeal DOMA - Al Franken

[Email from Al Franken]

Dear Friend,

 There’s no good argument against marriage equality. There’s no good argument for the Defense of Marriage Act, one of the most unfair laws passed in my lifetime. And there’s no good argument for leaving it on the books.

 What are we waiting for? The country has evolved -- Americans support the repeal of DOMA. So does President Obama. So does President Clinton, who signed it into law in 1996. So does Bob Barr, the Republican who wrote the darn thing. I say it’s time. It’s time for gay and lesbian Americans to enjoy the same rights as the rest of us. It’s time to toss the bigotry and the fear into the dumpster of embarrassing history where they belong. And you know what? It’s time for progressives like you and me to stop waiting around for someone else to make this country what it ought to be.

It’s time to repeal DOMA. Let’s start right now, you and me. I’ve written a petition to get the ball rolling -- click here to add your name now!

Marrying Franni was the best thing that ever happened to me. And it’s always pained me to know that our country denies that right to millions of gays and lesbians.

 Over the years, those of us who support marriage equality have had to put up with a series of nonsensical arguments from those who support marriage discrimination. And, one by one, their ridiculous objections have been proven wrong.

 Same-sex marriage doesn’t hurt straight couples. It doesn’t hurt kids who grow up in loving same-sex families. It doesn’t hurt anyone. DOMA, on the other hand, is an ugly stain on our country. And every day we don’t repeal it is another day we’re making millions of Americans second-class citizens.
Let’s make today the day -- sign my petition to repeal DOMA and let’s get this done already.

 I think we can do this, and I think we can do it now. But we can only do it if we convince decision-makers in the Obama administration and Congress that we won’t shut up until this gets done.

 So let’s show them how many of us are prepared to fight for this -- right now. Sign my petition and tell Washington it’s time to repeal DOMA.
 This is going to be a tough fight. But it’s a matter of simple fairness. We’re right. And we can win. Are you ready to fight alongside me?

 Thanks,  [Al's Signature]


Michael: Wow, I'm so proud of Al Franken! This is no doubt not a burning issue in his state and he will probably receive some backlash AND he of course won by a razor thin margin. This is the kind of Senator that we all need! One who actually does things not to be reelected but because they are the right thing to do.

All the political posturing over the U.S. debt limit should help us realize that electing good people should be our goal. People who's only aim is getting relected IS our problem.
The repeal of DOMA is an issue to me for various reasons, not the least of which is that Wanda was the best thing that ever happened to me and the deeper committment of marriage was fundamental to the happier, more productive, and more meaningful life I now lead. Let's make marriage equal.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Post 101: Same Sex Couples and Al Franken, My Senator :)

I think I have stated before that I helped two campaigns last presidential election cycle, Al Franken, then Barack Obama. I watched and listened to Al Franken's political show and when he decided to run, even though he was not running in my state, I was quick to show my support in the form of money. Keep in mind, I have almost never given money to campaigns before. However, this time around I decided that since my vote down here in the deep south had basically never helped anyone get elected, I would vote with my pocketbook. My monetary vote would count for the first time on the national scene since I could remember. Then Barack Obama became available and I was with him before the first primary, with money. I actually got to vote for the soon to be President AND the all important 60th Senatorial vote for the Democratic Caucus. How exciting. Since then, Senator Franken has lost that 60th vote position but... the following clip shows just what I wanted from my congressman. The effective use of sarcasm in this clip shows the possibilities of having intelligent people with true oratorical skills to help us all understand. Franken's subtle humor is much much more effective in Congress. On this auspicious occasion of my 101st post, I proudly give you... Al Franken:

Channeling Sigmund

Those were certainly creative days for subtle innuendo.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Post #100

Robert Reich:

Did the world get so easy to understand just recently, or I have missed this all my life like everyone else seems to be missing it now?

Anyway, thanks to my friend Ike for this link to an awesome article.

Aimlessness Everywhere

My 99th post!

And let's look back. I'm still skirting around reading politics as best I can. It's the stress thing. I have not been reading much about the "big deal" compromise that is likely to happen and actually attempt to balance the budget (is it?) in the midst of the Bank Deregulation Depression. I guess it is only me that sees this as odd. I hope this "big deal" doesn't become the "New Deal in Reverse."  Picture the next election cycle as the Republicans possibly take more power and presumably finally start pumping the then needed money into the perilous economy (from where? borrowed money, or money from seniors and the poor?) in the form of.... tax cuts, maybe? Then we can get on with our struggling detiorating lives and the rich can let go and spend their money in ways that "trickle down." Who knows? We have been in uncharted territory for a while. There, that is the best I can make things out, and the real world appears as aimless as I ever was. :)  Other than read this article: I can do little else but ponder the vague aimlessness.

Life is just not the same in this brave new world that contains this much evidence for proving the evil what we all knew is the evil.

From Great Britain.

Doing a search, in celebration of my 99th post, for "aimless blog" on Google Images I found all three of my newest blog title graphics listed on the first page!

I love this graphic from the titular group:

Just awesome in it's imagery!

And finally there was this graphic which I also love:

(from this blog

Can I steal it, oh please? Maybe they won't notice. They blog in English but live in Sweden which is truely aimless. And their graphic is so much better than mine and their blog name is just "Aimless" which, had I thought of it, would have been far better for mine. Darn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh, The Irony

"Murdoch 'humbled and ashamed', but accepts no personal responsibility" - newspaper headline.

Fox News' O'Reilly on the budget battle now taking place in congress in congress: "This is the war that is raging throughout America. It is between conservatives, who emphasize personal responsibility and achievement, against liberals, who say the government must take from the wealthy and give to the poor."  Examples of "personal responsibility" as a meme are not hard to find, of course. The double irony (besides Rupert's personal stand on personal responsibility) is that the wealthy often inherited their money, pay less taxes these days ( pass it on to their children, fund elections and lobbiest with it, etc. and the poor are personally responsible for where they are. I agree that the rich have been much more effective than the poor in influencing the government and making money work for them. The poor must take personal responsibility for this.... I guess.

"Rupert Murdoch has sacrificed the News of the World" - newspaper headline. Wasn't "news" sacrificed earlier than this?

Rupert Murdoch: "I Would Trust" Les Hinton "With My Life"   (Les Hinton resigned from News Corp. a few days earlier."

"Media mogul Rupert Murdoch told UK lawmakers investigating the phone-hacking scandal that 'this is the most humble day of my life.' " - newspaper story.  I always thought "I am the most humble man here" was a joke.

"AUSTRALIAN investors have given Rupert Murdoch's appearance before a UK parliamentary inquiry the thumbs up and pushed News Corporation shares higher for a second straight day."  - newspaper report.  Now isn't Murdoch Australian and rich and his friends and buddies who support him the same? However, what more effective way could we have of rating Murdoch's performance with a thumb's up. They are like Rex Reed buying tickets to boost sales of  "Myra Breckinridge."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Everyone Else's Personal Responsibilities are Still in Effect

"I do not accept ultimate responsibility."  - Rupert Murdoch

Seriously, I'm not trying to keep up with the news cycle. I listen to BBC World service though and I do also listen to CNBC in my car. Yet it is a ruckus. The investors in Rupert Murdoch's empire must be a bit worried. I avoid politics now but...  did I just hear that after the Head of Scotland Yard had to retire, now the Head of Anti-Terrorism at Scotland yard also had to resign over the scandal. To me it should give one pause to think a newspaper has possibly been blackmailing such an important official. What dirt do they have on these guys? Were these officials bribed or threatened or coerced or what? Were they just to look the other way, I guess? Or provide the spying equipment...? Who knows? It just seems to me that Jimmy, Lois Lane, and Clark Kent wouldn't be handling such a big job without Perry White being in the know. You get my drift?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Greed and Content

"Examine the record of history, recollect what has happened within the circle of your own experience, consider with attention what has been the conduct of almost all the great unfortunate, either in private or in public life, whom you may have either read of, or heard of, or remember; and you will find that the misfortunes of by far the greater part of them have arisen from their not knowing when they were well, when it was proper fro them to sit still and be contented."  - Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Saturday, July 9, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different

The chart below shows clearly that we are losing the battle. Even with all the money we have had to pump into this thing, the future looks bleak, that is if you believe the future should have an employed working class. This chart shows the growth in the number of days that the average jobless person remains unemployed. It is an exponentially rising figure. The average time a person stays out of work is now 280 days (double the worst that it has previously been) and the trend is almost a vertical line upward. *

To be amiable, I have decided to rename what I have been terming "The Bush Depression." This is serious stuff and politicians have definitely shown us that party affiliation and the politics of getting re-elected are not getting things done. The deregulation that caused our problem goes back a number of years and includes idiots from both parties. Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder if our pride is getting in the way of just fixing the problem with national bankruptcy (default on our debt) and the restructuring of our debt, paying less than we owe with a promise that we don't do it again. People would suffer incredibly in the short term but at least the future for our children might be brighter if we all came to terms with the depth of the problem that not paying our taxes has entailed. The "tax cuts" would be seen for what they are, the seriousness of the job problem would become popular wisdom, and the pressure would be on the people who caused our mess (unlike the fantasy world that the banks still enjoy.) It looks to me that nothing short of a revolutionary event will actually move us in the right direction.

We are in a whole new world that historical terms are incapable of expressing. Just like the invention of the term "stagflation" was created to describe the cicumstances of the day, we need new words. Until then, I think the term "depression" is more appropriate as a descriptive term for our current situation because of the way we have perceived "recessions" previously, as blips in an otherwise healthy economy. But again, this is not a business cycle but a structural problem that has roots that rival the precursors of the "Great Depression."

This extrordinary chart shows the various recessions we have been in since WWII, or the time when the "Great Depression" (also not a cyclical event) ended. Percentage of job loss is used as the measuring stick. Job loss is important to the lower and middle class, but not as important to, say, the executives at the banks who caused the mess. They took home their hundreds of millions regardless of job performance. In the wake of their hubris,  the staggering number of people who are jobless coincidentally lost their jobs regardless of job performance as well.

But I shouldn't digress, this is important. Job loss is the problem that appears to be the most salient visceral factor. On the chart we can see that previous recessions pretty much stemmed the job loss problem at about 11 months from the worst moment of the recession. This is how we viewed recessions, as cyclical blips. Take a look at the recessions on the chart that went beyond 11 months. It isn't a coincidence that the two most recent recessions before now (those of 1990 and 2001) are the ones that caused the greatest job disruption. Why? It was becoming a structural problem. We know about the exporting of jobs to other countries. We know about outsourcing. We know about the trade deficit. We know about the decline of our manufacturing base. There are lots of things we know. How bad is this? Look at the "recession" we are now in. Look at the results we can now see on this chart. The time between when the job loss began and when it ended is only rivaled by our most recent recession (2001). But the difference in the current recession in terms of depth is just stupefying. Until someone comes up with a new term for these "recessions" and base that term on the criteria of job loss and not on the traditional benchmark of growth of GDP, I will use the word "depression" and you should, too. The current definitions are purely oriented on statistics that now matter to the rich, not the average jobless person.

The cause of the problem was quite obviously the profit incentive of banks that knew no bounds under a government over which they had such vast influence. In the end, they had unimaginable power to expand the money they had outstanding and at risk, unencumbered by reserve limits in the specialized unregulated esoterica they were dealing in. And they chose to sell off the risk to others. The amount of risk they still held themselves would eventually be covered by the TARP plan. All the players we know to be at fault, like the ratings companies, just skated through, untouched.  Who wasn't untouched? People with pensions, expected pensions, and people who just found themselves suddenly out of a job.

Terminology-wise, what is needed is a phrase that is not too harsh, but describes the event in terms of the people, not GDP. The Bank Deregulation Depression is my best shot. After all there have actually been votes in the House of Representatives to reduce the little re-regulation we managed to sneak by the largest lobbying group in history, those of the investment industry. They don't seem to be the least concerned about job loss in their proposed legislation. Indeed, a convincing case could be made that their focus on cutting government way too early in the recession is a major part of the reason the job market is so anemic. The blame needs to be securely fixed with the evildoers, the idealistic simple minded deregulating politicians and authorities, plus, of course, the banks, doing only what came naturally - using every method at their disposal to increase profits for executives otherwise known as shareholders. Meanwhile the depth of the problem should relate to the suffering of the people wearing out their shoes beating the pavement for jobs and not on the restored portfolios of the well heeled.
*Remember the argument that tax cuts would pay for themselves? Why isn't the same logic used when we have all these people collecting unemployment? Shouldn't jobs programs pay for themselves in the same odd way?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Class War

As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening, as I usually do, to CNBC radio. I have taken to doing this habitually mainly because I have been focusing so much on understanding the economic underpinnings of the financial tragedy. I actually find the geeky patter soothing because it puts my mind on the fairly meaningless ups and downs of different market numbers and companies that I mostly know very little about. It is like doing a difficult crossword puzzle. You guess a word here and there, get a little better, and maybe in years to come you may be able to entirely complete one of the puzzles.

This morning I was listening to someone (I never know who is talking. Actually, that's part of the puzzle since CNBC Radio is just the soundtrack of the television broadcast.) Her statement was so extraordinarily enlightening that I wrote it down word for word. I have only one tool on my Sirius radio to help me and that is the ability to rewind. The discussion in which this quote occurred was about how strange it was that President Obama should have criticized the rich and those people with the corporate jets, or something like that. What President Obama actually said is not really in question. From experience I assume it was something somewhat enlightening and I guess I also make the assumption that if it was critical of the financial community in any way, it would be discussed in a fairly biased way in this forum. No problem. It is a crossword puzzle. Here is the quote I wrote down:
"Part of the problem is that if you want to start taking a look at raising taxes you can go after the millionaires and the billionaires as he [President Obama] said and the odds are you are going to see higher taxes on that rate [higher tax bracket] but if you want to raise the tax base you really have to go where the people are and that's a lower number [lower bracket]."  [bracketed words: mine]
Reading this in black and white I can see that the odd thing is that I must have gotten very good at the crossword puzzle game, because I understood this very clearly on the first go round. :) That's why, startled, I pushed rewind. :)  Let's call this lady "Maria" because in my mind's eye it is always Maria Bartiroma who is talking when I hear women on CNBC Radio. These folks at CNBC have to compete with the short skirted leggy women on Fox News and probably Fox Business News (I haven't seen that one yet). *

So here is this financial type (giving her full credit for her credentials despite her probable nice looks) telling me that when it comes to taxes you "have to go where the people are." That is, aggregate numbers of people are more important than aggregate amounts of money. Let's just assume that Maria knows that the top 1 percent of the population gets 24% of the income. Let's assume she also knows that the top 20% earn about half of all the income. Of all the financial assets in the USA, the top 20% of the people own 80% of the assets with the bottom 80% of us dividing the other 20% of the pie, and it's Maria's job to know these kinds of things. While we're at it, let's assume that the 9 or 10 percent or so unemployment rate doesn't include too many of these precious few pie gluttons and that Maria knows this as well. Let's assume she knows there are 6 unemployed Americans for every job that is available. Let's assume she understands the extreme levels of underemployment, house foreclosures and personal debt. Let's give her proper credit for being knowledgeable.

What I want to know is how does Maria choose her investments?  "Let's see, to make the most money, I want to invest heavily in the companies that make the least money. That will be a winning strategy. The more poor burdened companies I have in my portfolio, including the unproductive and bankrupt ones, the more I will maximize my income!" I'm not sure Maria actually does this with her investments. But when it comes to collecting taxes...whoa, now, that is a different story.

"Maria" goes on:

"You've got to broaden the entire base and that's what we've heard from a lot of people who don't come down as a Democrat or a Republican."

Really, now... you're saying, Maria, that many people think we should not tax the rich more but tax everyone more. I haven't heard that much but I'll take your word for it. After all, you do work for a financial network and the many people you know are probably all fairly well-to-do and stuff and... Maria!!! That's it. We've solved the problem. What it is that you and the "lot of people" who are in your circle probably all have in common is... you haven't lost your houses or jobs. The many people you know probably didn't have their pensions whacked. The many people you know, while losing some money on the stock market, probably still have wonderful cars and houses and dinners.You are so right Maria, it has nothing to do with politics.....but everything to do with class.

And, when I hear the words "broaden the entire base" I don't really think first of tax revenues which usually come from a wide variety of sources including corporations. I think I hear that term  more commonly used in elections. "Maria," have you heard the term "class war" from any of your buds? That phrase, as in "Let's not turn this into a... class war," will be all the rage soon. I'll bet it will be a phrase you hear over and over this election season, from your kind of people...I'd put money on it.

*Yes I know I was being sexist. But, Maria, you deserve it. Your absolute disrespect of the common man stereotypes him/her as being much the same as your kind of people. The common man might be fooled come election time into being as unknowledeable as you pretend, but he/she could never be quite as ironically unknowledgeable as you maintain the appearance of being.

"Common man" statistics from  and and

Sea of Time

Just as hard as it to imagine a moral philosopher like Adam Smith would envision a drug pusher to be good for society, it is hard to imagine Capitalism without a democratic system of informed and enlightened citizens voting to curb the corrupting nature of seeking profits as the only moral guideline to make the world a better place. Putting Cocaine in Coca-Cola was eventually followed by legislation that forbade this practice forcing a legitimate company (only seeking to allow the "invisible hand" to guide its way) to replace Cocaine with an extra additive of Caffeine to make its product hopefully just as addictive and successful. Caffeine too was controversial because it was added to the product and not natural to the product's original ingredients of  extracts from coca leaves and the cola nut. Legislation was argued for by some of the citizenry that products adding Caffeine like a drug should not be allowed unlike beverages like tea and coffee in which Caffeine was naturally occurring in the ingredients. Caffeine, while having less harmful effects on the body had quite a checkered history of its own being given to slaves, factory and dock workers to invigorate them to work harder. Unfortunately the effects of Caffeine were thought to have emboldened slaves to rebel and driven workers to sins of the flesh and other unsavory behaviors. Coca-Cola carefully managed this public relations problem and now we are free to "buy the world a Coke and keep it company." Freedom from regulation has both good and bad aspects. The "invisible hand" left to it's own devices apparently doesn't move to slap down abuses as quickly as a democracy of the informed public would like.

*When I saw the first and second public performance of the "Love" show in Las Vegas, as the audience filtered into the rather awe inspiring otherworldly theatre built especially for the show, the orchestral music from Yellow Submarine played in the background. This must have been the original vision for the entrance to the theatre but later this was replaced by early and more recognizable Beatles' songs.This change was probably made to appeal to a more general audience and to help solidify the production's 60's music appeal which is more universally enjoyed.