Aug 12 2010

Safety – Whose responsibility is it?

Category: corporations,justice,legislation,societyamuzikman @ 8:55 am

This from BBC news:

Ryanair Review Urged After Child Falls From Plane Steps (read the entire story here)

Recently a small child fell from a loading platform while boarding a jet in London.  The good news is that the little 3-year-old is fine,  just a bump on the head.  The bad news is that the airline will probably be sued by the mother and some all-too-eager attorney with visions of pound sterling dancing in his head.  The airline, not wanting any additional bad press will probably settle with the mother out of court for an “undisclosed amount”.  The airline will then probably order some reconfiguration of the boarding ramps to try and prevent a similar incident from occurring. They will then pass along the cost of the ramp retrofits to the consumer by increasing the baggage charge or perhaps initiating the first-ever rental fee on passenger jets for personal flotation devices.

What ever happened to accidents?

Why was this mother trying to handle so much all at once, especially given the multiple offers of assistance airlines give to mothers traveling with small children.  Why did the mother think of handing the smaller child off to the flight attendant only AFTER the little girl fell?  Why do we INSTANTLY assume negligence on the part of the airline?  Why doesn’t the Air Accident Investigation Branch order all parents of toddlers to undergo a review of their plane-boarding procedures?

The answer is at least in part the phalanx of John Edwards-type lawyers all too ready willing and able to go on the attack against the party with the “deep pockets”.  We have heard about how litigious our society has become and for good reason.  As long as these litigators are allowed to roam free with no governors on their behavior (like a loser-pays law or a monetary limit on damages) the queue of lawyers will continue to form everywhere something like this happens.

Another answer is the loss of the concept of personal responsibility in our world.  One need look no further than the body politic to see a very large group of elected and appointed government officials who virtually never take personal responsibility for ANYTHING!  Liars, cheaters, plagiarists, and influence peddlers are the stock -in-trade of congress. Our prisons are full of convicted criminals who are all innocent.  We have fat people who are not responsible for their weight, smokers who are not responsible for lighting up and illegal aliens who are not responsible for being here illegally.  I could go on.  So, why should this mother be responsible for her daughter’s accident?

I am a father.  My wife and I have raised 3 children.  When we got on a plane with our kids we made sure they got on the plane and in their seat.  When we took them to the playground it was our responsibility to see to it they didn’t break their neck.  Have you noticed the changes that have taken place at playgrounds over the last 20 years?  How did any of us who are over 30 ever survive?  The way we are going in another ten years all playgrounds will consist of a pile of pillows with the pillow cases depicting pictures of kids playing on REAL (but illegal) playground equipment.

Sometimes there is negligence on the part of the doctor, or lawyer or business. And when that happens there is a system in place to deal with it.  But sometimes it is not the fault of the party with the deep pockets, the blame lies with the so-called “little-guy”.  And sometimes it’s an accident.  But even to say so invites accusations of callousness and lack of caring and concern.

But I can’t be responsible for having written this.  My mother smoked while she was pregnant with me and she ate food with salt, and there was no warning label on this blog site and my English teacher in college was negligent and ….

Aug 10 2010

Made In America Still Means Something To Me

Category: capitalism,corporationsamuzikman @ 8:55 am

I recently bought a pickup truck.  A full-sized 1968 Ford F100.  It has a manual four-speed transmission, a 360 cubic inch V8 engine and doesn’t get very good gas mileage.  It’s mostly painted with reddish-brown primer, though the original two-tone blue and white can be seen here and there.  The bench seat is covered with duct tape to keep it together.  The cab smells of gasoline and it has wind wings and a manual choke.

I really like this truck.  It is pretty much exactly what I was looking for and after a lot of searching I found something within my meager budget.  Some guys go out and buy sports cars or motorcycles when they hit that so-called mid-life crisis.  Me…I wanted a truck.

Here are some of the reasons I like this truck:

1. It’s a Ford.  The Ford Motor Company is not owned by the Federal Government like Chrysler and GM.  Ford took no bailout money from Obama.  That’s a good enough reason for me to buy a Ford product.

2.  It’s an American-made product, through and through. It was made at a time when Detroit was the center of the auto world, they had pride in what they made because they made good cars and trucks.  (Exhibit A – the 43 year-old Ford truck I am now driving with pride.)

3. The truck is old enough to be exempt from smog inspections, smog certificates and smog equipment.  Sorry if you think I’m killing the planet – I’m not.

4. It’s got character, not because it has Bluetooth, GPS or a DVD player, but because it’s still around.

5. My dad would love it if he were here to see it and a lot of my relatives back in Georgia would be proud.

(Disclaimer: No. I am not going to start listening to country music.  No I am not going to begin wearing cowboy boots or a cowboy hat. No I am not going to begin chewing tobacco. No, I have not had a sudden recent interest in rodeos. No I am not a redneck…yet)

Mar 08 2010

Big Business is not in the Republicans’ pocket; its hands are in YOUR pocket, if you pay taxes… and everyone does, one way or another

At Townhall, Jonah Goldberg points out that big business supported Obama 2 to 1 against McCain, because it hoped to cash in at taxpayer expense:

It’s worth remembering that Obama was the preferred candidate of Wall Street, and the industry gave to Democrats by a 2-1 margin at the beginning of last year. The top business donor to Democrats in 2008 was Goldman Sachs, and nearly 75 cents out of every dollar of Goldman’s political donations from 2006 to 2008 went to Democrats. Few can gainsay the investment, given how well Goldman Sachs has done under the Obama administration.

It’s not just Wall Street. Obama led in fundraising from most big business sectors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Aside from the desire to back the winner, and the cultural liberalness of East and West Coast plutocrats, why did Obama get so much support from precisely the constituency he demonizes?

Because it was good business. A host of big corporations bet that the much-vaunted Obama era would materialize. For instance, nearly 30 major corporations and environmental groups invested in Obama’s promise to force the American economy into a new cap-and-trade system via the United States Climate Action Partnership (CAP).

Whatever the benefits of such a scheme for the economy and environment as a whole, these corporations, led by General Electric, were looking simply to cash in on government policies. GE, which makes many wind, solar and nuclear doodads that would be profitable under “cap-and-trade,” was poised to make billions if Obama succeeded in seizing control of the “carbon economy.” GE is still protecting its bet, but after the failure in Copenhagen, the “climategate” scandals and perhaps most significantly, that implosion of Obama’s new progressive era, several heavyweights — Caterpillar, BP and ConocoPhillips — have pulled out of CAP, with rumors that more will follow. There are similar rumblings of discontent within the ranks of PhRMA, the trade association for the pharmaceutical industry, which had cut an $80 billion deal with the White House last year for its support of ObamaCare, only to see the whole thing unravel.

The lesson here is fairly simple: Big business is not “right wing,” it’s vampiric. It will pursue any opportunity to make a big profit at little risk. Getting in bed with politicians is increasingly the safest investment for these “crony capitalists.” But only if the politicians can actually deliver. The political failures of the Obama White House have translated into business failures for firms more eager to make money off taxpayers instead of consumers.

That’s good news. The bad news will be if the Republicans once again opt to be the cheap dates of big business. For years, the GOP defended big business in the spirit of free enterprise while businesses never showed much interest in the principle themselves. Now that their bet on the Democrats has crapped out, it’d be nice if they stopped trying to game the system and focused instead on satisfying the consumer.

Go back and read the title of this post. Then read this, to which I’ve linked before.  Ignore the reviews, pro and con, and just take it on its own terms… and see if you can refute the history.  I think you can’t.

There hasn’t been a “free market” in the USA for sometime.  The government’s power to tax and regulate, and to give tax breaks and regulatory exceptions, is the reason there is so much lobbying in the Beltway.  It could not have been otherwise, once corporate taxes got high, and the regulation of business became one of the chief functions of government.  The merry-go-round career path of government “service” to lobbyist, and often back to government “service,” is the biggest indicator of this.  The essential role of a lobbyist in the modern world is to figure out who should get the money that the lobbyist’s principals have to donate.

When big business couldn’t count on government to help it get captive markets, and to restrain competitors, it had to compete for consumers on the basis of price and quality.  That’s why Rockefeller kept cutting the price of kerosene in the 19th century, not exactly an act of violence against the consumers of the day.

It’s unfortunate that so many people still believe that we live in a “free market” economy and that “the market” is the cause for so much economic woe today.  But we have had a “mixed economy” that often crossed the line into “crony capitalism” or just plain “state capitalism” (especially in time of war), for over a century.  The government is by far the most responsible for our current economic mess.  The lobbyists of big business (the johns) wouldn’t have any place to spend their money if politicians weren’t pimping themselves out.  Those lobbyists are often the ones who write campaign finance law and regulations.

It’s simple.  If big business didn’t think it was going to get something out of it, why would it donate so much money to politicians?  And more particularly, why did it give so much to Obama?

Let’s hope that if the Republicans do get some power back, they don’t blow it this time.

Sep 25 2008

Heroes & Villains

Category: Congress,corporations,corruption,economyamuzikman @ 6:29 pm

From our earliest childhood we are confronted by the epic struggle between the forces of good and evil.   We see it in literature, in sports, on stage and screen.  It is a subject with apparently endless possibilities.  This conflict between two opposing forces is frequently illustrated through fictitious characters who personify those forces and who engage in frequent battles for supremacy.  Countless myths and stories are told of heroes vs villains, evil witches and fairy God-mothers, the cowboy in the white hat vs. the one with a black hat.  For every Luke Skywalker there must be a Darth Vader, Batman has the Joker and the Dodgers have the Giants (sorry, bias exposed!). The object lesson is clear.  These stories teach us to seek the good.  Likewise we learn to shun the bad.

But what is so very clear and simple in a play, motion picture or novel, is almost never as clear in real life.  But that doesn’t keep us from trying to disregard the complex in favor of the simple.  We want to blame someone for their evil deeds and we want the hero to show up just in the nick of time and save us just like in some old serial Western.

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Aug 04 2008

Privatized Profit, Socialized Risk: the problem of public/private companies

Category: capitalism,corporations,corruption,economy,housing,Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 11:28 am

Larry Summers on the underlying problem of joint private/public companies, and how they led to the current housing market crunch.

Here is a really good creative capitalism idea. All Americans benefit from increases in home ownership because of the values like hard work, community, and respect for property that ownership instills. Families want desperately to own their own homes and accumulate equity. Yet it is very hard for conventional banks that borrow money over the short term to lend over the kind of 30-year horizons that best help families buy houses.

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Jul 09 2008

“Unaccountable Corporations”, or “Unaccountable Government”?

Category: capitalism,corporations,corruption,economyharmonicminer @ 12:00 pm

It’s popular on the Left to bash corporations, and, by extension, capitalism, for just about every evil under the sun. When you dig a little deeper into most corporate abuses (the really big ones, that is), you tend to find that the real problem was government, which is the only way corporations can get enough power to do really bad things. Regulations, set-asides, sweetheart deals, mandated monopolies (it isn’t a monopoly if the government gives it to you), etc., are only possible when government sticks out its hand to corporations and says, “If you pay me now, I’ll pay you later.” True capitalism, which does NOT include giveaways by government to large corporations (or anyone else) would not include things like this.

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