CAPITALISM VS SOCIALISM for dummies

American socialist guru, professor Richard Wolff, has remarked that the time has come when Americans can finally utter the word “socialism” without fear and even discuss its merits in comparison to capitalism.  Bernie Sanders further advanced the discussion by proclaiming himself “democratic socialist” and winning a huge following, especially among the young Americans who had a chance to grow up without relentless brainwashing and fear of “the reds” who “were coming”.  That brainwashing was - and to some extent is - so successful that American working class was trained to vote against its own interests.  You can have your “freedoms”, your excessive lifestyle, your pursuit of personal happiness - all to take you away from the idea that your misery is the cause of “invisible hands” manipulating and dumbing you down into compliance in order to preserve their grip on power and their wealth.  To this day, most Americans have no idea what socialism is including many of those who like its ideals.  So lets start with the basics. 

According to the horse’s mouth, aka the “socialist heaven”, aka the USSR’s official political economy textbook, both capitalism and socialism are first and foremost ECONOMIC SYSTEMS adopted by a society.  Capitalism is based on private ownership of the Means_of_production while true socialism rejects private ownership of the means of production due to its inevitable lead to exploitation.  Communism is a form of advanced money-less socialism that rests on the idea of a “new man” willing to give what he can and take only what he needs.  In spite of all the communist fear-mongering, no country ever claimed it built communism, even the USSR, even though Khrushchev proclaimed in the 60s that the Soviet Union would build communism by 1980s.

Socialism is an old idea that resurfaced after an intensive industrialization of the West in the 19th and 20th centuries that led to massive run to the bottom of millions of Europeans.  As Marx noted, capitalism inevitably leads to  crisis when the lower classes will no longer accept their miserable status quo and the upper classes cannot hold on to it, thus leading to revolutions. 

Which is exactly what happened in Russia in 1917 when tzar Nicolas ignored the warning signs and failed to relieve the pressure on his people.  Russian leader of the revolution, Lenin, quoting Marx, even promised to hang capitalists with the rope they sell to him.  The regime changed and survived in spite of relentless wars and attacks first by those who lost everything then by those who were afraid the example would spread.  And it did.

Socialist parties sprung up all over Europe and America.  But while European powers were smart to implement massive benefits to avoid the spread of revolutions, American uprisings and discontent were brutally quashed.  It took a forward-looking president, FDR, to convince the American ruling class that without his New Deal they may follow the fate of Russian aristocracy.  That Deal saved American capitalism and now no one, even conservatives, can imagine this country without social security and unemployment insurance.  They call these benefits “socialist“, but does it mean more just and compassionate society will kill capitalism?

Bernie Sanders cites Northern European successes that he wants to implement in America.  But none of the European countries are socialist.  They still have a capitalist economic system and privately owned means of production.  Introducing social benefits such as universal healthcare, free education, mandatory paid vacation time, limit on work hours, parental leaves etc.etc. alleviates the plight of the poor, evens out capitalist pitfalls and eliminates the need to control the masses thus redirecting billions to the safety net from the police, security measures for the rich and the prison system.

Does it mean the "socialist paradise", the USSR, proved that socialism is a failed system?  It certainly damaged the faith of many followers, but the mistakes made by the Soviets do not mean that capitalism is the only feasible system.  Richard Wolff advocates a worker-owned  enterprises in his book Democracy at Work: a Cure for Capitalism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_D._Wolff  According to Wolff, there are many forms of socialism and cooperative-based worker owned enterprises exist and are successful such as Mondragon in Spain and some even here in the US.

The most important difference between capitalism and socialism though is the human treats they rely upon: while capitalism is promoting and encouraging individualism, competition, greed and all the negative seeds of human condition, socialism is appealing to compassion, cooperation, sense of community and all the positive sides of human nature. “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
― Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

A DOVE LOVE STORY

Have you ever seen a pigeon’s nest or baby pigeons?  Highly unlikely, unless the trusting dove couples that mate for life (pigeons are doves) chose an unsafe nest location near humans such as the unfortunate couple that picked a barren planter standing on a busy staircase near an elevator in an old Budapest apartment building.

The doves were “kissing” (male feeding the female) and cuddling together for days.  They never left the nest unless disturbed.  A mean old human “crow”, prim and proper, would never leave them in peace, tried to chase them away, but they always came back. Then, one day, a tiny egg appeared on the soil.

It was heartwarming to see the birds’ dedication to their unborn offspring.  They were alternating sitting on the egg: mom at night, dad during the day.  As dad was easily scared and would fly away if disturbed, mom would spend all night and most of the day on the nest without food and freezing in cold weather.  Dad would periodically check up on her, but his stays did not last long and, with mom gone to look for food, it was worrisome to see the egg left in the cold…until it was gone. 

Who removed it? Maybe the old “crow”, maybe someone else, but even that devastating event did not deter the two doves: they kept sitting on the empty soil and, talking about persistence, a few days later a second egg appeared!  But, alas, it was promptly removed as well…Still hoping for a miracle, the two doves kept sitting on the nest perhaps thinking the large pebbles were their babies…

Seeing them wasting away was devastating…What would have happened if the eggs were not removed and they ended up with baby doves that could not fly and  had to be fed almost until adulthood?  Would someone kill the live baby birds?  Would the parents have to abandon them and they would starve to death?

All these questions needed a tough solution.  To prevent further suffering,  I moved the pebbles to the other side of the planter and covered the “nest” with a magazine when the dad left for a few minutes.   He came back, walked on the paper and started looking for his “eggs” frantically walking all over the planter and the staircase.   Unable to find them he called mom and she was even more perturbed trying to move the magazine, walked down the stairs and spent hours looking for her stolen eggs, but ignoring the pebbles on the other side. 

The distraught doves tried searching again the next day until they finally gave up and flew away.  Only their sad cooing could be heard over the roof magnified by the echo of the courtyard and sounding a lot like human wailing…

THE EARTHLINGS: a starting point for action

I saved a few cats, pigeons and a live carp destined for dinner (my brother and I  released it in a dirty local river). After reading The Jungle Book as a child I wanted to run away and live in the jungle - I hated people for their cruelty and hypocrisy. And yet, I was a meat eater most of my life until I saw The Earthlings. Some excuses:

1. I cannot possibly make a difference - humanity will never change
If everyone thought that and did nothing we would still be in the stone age. A persistent trickle of water polishes even the roughest stone
2. Humans are animals and are omnivorous predators.
Not true. Our predecessors - monkeys - are vegetarians. Besides, with so many alternatives in nature and agriculture our animal product consumption is a luxury, not a need.
3. We would never conquer diseases or be safe without animal testing.
This notion automatically assumes that human life is to be saved at the expense and sacrifice of all other life forms which is a questionable status quo to begin with. Moreover, modern science proved animal testing unreliable and came up with more accurate alternatives.
4. Millions of people will lose jobs if animal consumption is abolished.
Then lets reverse the abolition of slavery, women's rights, industrial revolution etc.etc. - all caused millions to lose their livelihood. We adapt to progress that is always detrimental to some, but benefits all. It's been well documented how animal agriculture destroys environment; meat consumption shortens lives; animal cruelty does not stop there etc. American meat products are banned in Europe due to the use of hormones, genetically modified feed, pesticides in feed and antibiotics needed to treat animals kept in horrifying conditions - all in the name of reducing costs and increase in profits.

5. With millions of people facing multiple problems animals can wait.
Why should people's problems justify cruelty to animals? Moreover, animal lovers are more likely to be understanding and compassionate with people too. Why don't we start from the beginning and raise - by example - compassionate children who will become compassionate adults?

You might come up with your own excuses that can be just as easily rebuffed.

Why do so many compassionate caring people don't bother to question where these neatly packaged meats come from? How this nice fur coat was made? How can these elephants and tigers learn the tricks they do? How did this new version of Viagra or lipstick came on the market? What is the process of creating all these consumer goods? We choose not to know...

We look at animal photos and they warm our hearts; we love out pets and treat them like family; we save a kitten stuck in a tree and don't mind spending thousands in taxpayers money to send a fire truck to do it; we are disgusted at the occasional animal cruelty news and yet...

Would you kill an animal yourself when your kitchen is full of other food? Many of us would say no and yet we let others do it and serve us as long as we do not participate.

The English language equated animals to inanimate objects: 'it". We renamed animals to detach ourselves from their suffering: we don't torture and kill cows, pigs and chickens - we eat beef, pork and poultry. We created bigoted laws and religions based on our wants and justified ourselves to consume and treat every other living breathing being as god's creation to serve us.

Thanks to the efforts of the enlightened, we did pass a few laws to limit cruelty, but only if it does not affect us in any way. No dog fights (too few fans to protest), but rodeos, corridas, circuses etc. are perfectly legal. We love pets, but we must have purebreds and buy them from breeders and pet stores thus contributing to overpopulation and senseless killings of millions of mistreated and abandoned animals.

This list is, unfortunately, too long at this day and age of "civilized" humanity. If we don't make massive changes in the way we live and see ourselves in the world, it will get a lot worse. The human population is exploding and if every one of us wants what the other has, we'll consume ourselves to extinction taking most of the other species along on this crushing unsuspecting suicide.

There is, however, one animal that is revered and worshiped in this country more than even life itself, including human. In pursuit or protection of this elusive creature people kill, torture and abuse even each other, let alone other living life forms. It is THE true god of modern America - the Golden Calf. Just watch The Ten Commandments and wait till the scene where Moses is busting a celebration in honor of the Golden Calf... followed by a commercial.

There's also at least one law of nature we kept in spite of millennia of civilization: the weak do not survive. How can we raise awareness of animal rights when people without means are treated like burden to society? Your life and health are luxuries you need to pay for. We perpetuate this attitude by example to our children who develop a natural compassion early in life only to be crushed and abandoned as they grow up. We teach them to resolve conflicts peacefully yet we build weapons and conduct wars; we don't let them hurt our pets, but we take them to zoos and circuses to watch caged animals. These and many other contradictions result in confused young adults who can see through our hypocrisy and we are all paying for it in crime, incarceration, drug abuse, mental disorders, depression, suicides etc. etc. We don't see the link between our societal values and children's despair, but Stanley Kramer expressed it best in his Oscar-nominated Bless the Beasts and the Children: when hunters shoot an animal, a child falls down...
http://www.freemoviestime.com/entry.php/299-Bless-the-Beasts-amp-Children-%281971%29?s=4334da8961aa2c6242221b8f38995026&bt=299#comment299

Gloom and doom? Yes, unless we all do something about it. As in every society throughout history, a small group of progressive thinkers and activists forced humanity forward. Without them we would still have slavery, never ending wars, dictatorships etc. that are now "politically incorrect". Most of us don't have the guts, the strength, the willingness and persistence to join their efforts that benefit all of us. However, there are many things that we can and must do. Don't just write a few compassionate words after you watch documentaries like The Earthlings, Meet Your Meat etc. It helps you express your feelings, but it will not save the animals. Here's a list of some actions that you can do today without even changing your lifestyle (feel free to add your own ideas):

first, watch The Earthlings
http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/earthlings/:

- educate yourself, your family and friends;
- show it to as many people as possible, organize viewings at home, at work, at school, even at a store front - wherever possible
- don't buy anything that was derived from an animal: fur, leather etc. - there are so many good quality alternatives.
- If you must eat meat or animal products (cheese, milk, eggs etc.) buy only from farms certified by animal welfare agencies and eventually graduate to vegan lifestyle.
- don't attend zoos, circuses, rodeos, corridas and other entertainment abusing animals
- never buy pets from pet stores or breeders - shelters are overflowing with animals and many purebreds
- volunteer and/or donate to local shelters
- contact your legislators and pressure them to abolish animal abusing businesses and hunting (breeders, live pets or other animals in stores, fur trade, etc.)

Other suggestions are available on
http://www.peta.org/action/activism-guide/default.aspx and other animal protection sites.

Many activists will disagree, but I'm not advocating a hollow principal: do not consume any animal product under any circumstances. We share the earth with animals who die of natural causes - protecting dead bodies will not help the living. As long as we do not cause their death or suffering in any way we might as well make something out of it - it will save other natural resources. We domesticated many animals and now must take care of them. Don't breed them, but if you are an organic farmer, treat your animals with care, let them live their natural lives and let them die a natural death.  It's OK not to let them rot in the ground. If you have a choice between consuming something of animal origin and it's beyond your principles, don't throw it away - give it away to someone who will otherwise buy it and help support animal industries.

It's highly unlikely activists will force any major legislative changes any time soon. But we all have power as consumers; if we stop buying and consuming any products or services created as a result of animal suffering, we'll naturally force them to find other occupations. How about creating sanctuaries for the animals they abused? We'll gladly support them in that endeavor.

While you were reading this, millions of animals were killed, gassed, tortured and mutilated.   DON'T JUST SIGH - DO SOMETHING!!!

FRAUD INC.

DO REGULATORS NEED CROOKS TO STAY IN BUSINESS?

On October, 9, 2012, US Attorney Melinda Haag along with other US Attorneys and representatives from FBI and the SEC hosted an Investor Fraud Summit at the Rossmoor retirement community in Walnut Creek, California - many are planned across the country.  All the speakers pounded on the need for investor education stating at the same time that "crooks will always be a step ahead". Haag also confirmed it costs millions to run these summits while law enforcement complained they don't have resources to prosecute every scammer.  Replying to an obvious question about this misguided waste of funds, she proclaimed:"We won't stop the educational program".

Victims of the biggest financial fraud in California's history involving over a thousand investors who lost about $750 million in an unscrupulous scheme said they had no hope of ever recovering their losses.  in spite of the ongoing class-action suit, FBI investigation and SEC and FINRA regulations that are supposed to protect the public.(Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, is a self-regulating body of broker-dealers collecting fees and penalties from members)

History repeats itself BECAUSE THE SYSTEM THAT PROTECTS THE PERPETRATORS REMAINS IN PLACE. Case in point, Zanett Inc. based in NY has been selling promissory notes to unsuspecting seniors. Instead of using its own subsidiary, Zanett Securities Corporation, Zanett hires an outside agency, Sumner Harrington Ltd. , to push its notes to the public (and to shield itself from regulations and future repercussions?) SH had the experience selling Sten, Onyx and other collapsed notes since 2000, the head of the agency Ed Elverud was barred in IL, had multiple violations and disciplined by Nasdaq.   Zanett was not deterred. This cooperation continues to this day in spite of Elverud's ongoing SEC investigation, his loss of license, unpaid previous 200K judgment (Stender v.Elverud) and bankruptcy.

CFO Dennis Harkins admits Zanett owes over $3 million to its note investors and is maxed out on credit .  Yet Zanett's CEO Claudio Guazzoni parties in his mansion's ballroom and attends high society events such as NY Fashion Week  (Zanett Inc. (ZANE): Their Revenue/Press Release Games & Their CEO Who Likes To Party  )  Harkins will not tell you that Zanett has worthless stock, revenue losses and no cash. It has been in trouble for years, but unless you're a savvy investor with access and understanding of market reports, you can rely only on your agent who must inform you by law. Rosy PR from Harkins, illegal stock manipulations (pump-and-dump) and no truth forthcoming from neither the agent nor CFO duped elderly investors who lost everything.  Yet, Zanett management travels the country attending trade conferences (7 in 2013) and continues business as usual even in California where it has Forfeited status (meaning unpaid taxes and/or fees) and cannot do business with CA residents.

Conference organizers do not check the background of its participants - after all, they pay to play - so whistleblowers' alerts are ignored.   Warned about Zanett pariticpating in its SF conference, the head of Government Finance Officers' Association, GFOA,  Jeff Esser told a whistleblower "to stop bothering" him.  Apparently, the proclaimed "..purpose of the Government Finance Officers Association ...to enhance and promote the professional management of governments for the public benefit." does not include protecting it from fraud.

Zanett  remains an Oracle corporation's Platinum partner and participates every year in Oracle Open World conference pushing its services to unsuspecting potential clients. A  notice to Oracle was pointless - they'll make a deal with anyone willing to sell their products.  Zanett also lists Microsoft and other internet giants as its partners (zanett.com)

In spite of its shaky history and warnings published by Indiana Business Journal, Zanett was chosen by the mayor of Indianapolis to overhaul its aging computer networks. This project was completed in Jan.2012 while Zanett was refusing to pay back its investors.  Moreover, Zanett sold assets worth over $3 mil.and, according to Harkins, it signed contracts with some California hospitals. Yet, its investors are still waiting for their cash.

Why do Zanett and Co. continue doing what they do? Because they can. Because the "punishment" from regulators is either ridiculous or non-existent - only a fool would stop.  Zanett's Forfeited status and its business activities in CA were reported to the CA lieutenant-governor Gavin Newsom whose office suggested to contact the Attorney General who suggested the Department of Corporations who referred the case to SEC.  Any actions taken?  Guess again...

In one of Nasdaq's disciplinary measures, Elverud was fined $60K and "suspended from association with any NASD member in any capacity for 20 days (!) and "suspended from acting in any supervisory capacity or as a trainer of personnel with any NASD member for nine months"(!)  If you can loot 10 times the fine amount and never pay back your victims, would you stop? FINRA finally revoked Elverud's license, but said he doesn't owe any money to anyone in spite of his unpaid judgment.  Buyer beware, Everud's site is still active,Sumner Harrington Ltd and he is still selling other notes - Twin Cities Power and CPS - in spite of an active SEC investigation.

REGULATOR RACKET

We all know about "political theater", but its reach is more extensive than you might think. All the government and self-regulating bureaucracies created to "protect consumers" are like theater decor: impressive fronts only..

If you ever tried to get justice and got pounded down by unreasonable procedural demands, ping-pong referrals, answering machines, unresponsive and ignorant services, "sorry-cannot-help-you"s etc. and gave up trying, the system reached its goal. It was set up by those who benefit from fleecing, not by its victims. All the "tough" regulations, sanctions, fines and other decorative measures sound great to reassure the public, but if you, the victim, want justice, persist and refuse to go away, regulators put up a wall of silence.  Who got time,strengh and often money to persist?! Once again, the system worked as intended.

Even when they do start an investigation, all the agencies that should be cooperating with each other, don't, despite the scandal after 9/11 when non-sharing of data led to tragedy.  In rare occasions, though, the bureaucracy shows what it can do. Bernie Madoff was finally jailed, but don't get your hopes up yet: swindled millionaires forced the system to do its job. SEC's excuse: they get hundreds of complaints per day (!) from duped consumers, but no resources to go after every swindler so the investigators pick scams with the highest dollar amount involved.  Which means your measly life savings looted by "small-scale" crooks don't even get a second look. Higher amounts involved bring higher penalties and fines that pour back...to you, defrauded investor? No, back into the system.

When a TV repairman pretended to fix my bad TV focus that was not broken, a quick call produced a quick action - I got my money back! Turned out, he was unlicensed and my report helped the authorities to get him pay for it in fees and fines that went to city coffers. In these cases, some victims get compensated as well.  In big crimes?  Many small Madoff investors are still waiting to get something in spite of multimillion dollar fines paid to SEC.  FINRA has the nerve to boast in its own pamphlet that in 2011 it "collected $63 million in fines and ordered or secured agreements to return nearly $19 million in restitution to investors"(!) The main page of the pamphlet proclaims:"Putting investors first". 

RACKET ROULETTE


In response to an occasional scandal, a new bureaucracy is created (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the latest); untrained front line workers with low pay placed to fend off complaints and business continues as usual. There are hundreds of agencies - government, non-profit, private - that have great sounding names that claim to protect consumers, elders etc., but in reality, they're referral middle-men at best.  All these clusters of agencies then create umbrella organizations with lectures, symposiums, publications etc. etc. wasting precious few resources on themselves.  They may provide info where you can file a complaint and the ping-pong begins...You need a personal secretary to navigate this useless maze where you hit a brick wall on every turn. How about pooling all these resources, set up one powerful and responsive agency that will say:"We'll take it from here" when you complain. It will cater to YOUR needs, the consumer and the taxpayer...oh well, one can dream...

In spite of all the glamorous proclamations about their goal to protect you, when you actually try to get help, all the regulatory authorities state the same thing: "WE DO NOT HELP INVESTORS RECOVER THEIR LOSSES", even due to fraud.  Want to file a complaint? Sure, that's the first thing you'll hear. Results? SEC won't even tell you IF they will investigate let alone disclose the results. You can find out by searching public records years after you filed - that's how long it takes. FINRA will not even acknowledge the receipt of your complaint and it takes them 3 months just to open it. Attorney General's office ping-pongs you to the Department of Corporations where you must collect all docs and send your complaint by snail-mail. Meanwhile, the time is ticking away at your statutes of limitations. Moreover, why bother if all of them repeat their mantra: "WE DO NOT HELP INVESTORS RECOVER THEIR LOSSES!"

Just to make sure to nail the last nail in your coffin: sometimes, the statutes of limitation start ticking not when you discovered the fraud, but from the first day you started doing business with the company. That means if the swindler managed to keep his scam hidden for  years  he's off the hook, especially considering how long it takes to bring someone to justice, After looting just long enough to assemble a fortune, the scammer can roll into court and say;"Time's up!" or hide under bankruptcy protections as soon as he is discovered.

VICTIMOLOGY

Yes, there is such a word now.  It had to be created to reflect American reality of victim blaming.  If someone sells you a lemon car, no one will tell  you it's all your fault, but if you're a fraud victim, you're greedy and stupid.  Criminal prosecutions are still a drop in the bucket in white color crime that's been widely acknowledged as the fastest growing crime in the country.  Authorities' attitude: it's only money. A pick-pocket is sent to jail, but the crook who looted millions walks with a fine or no repercussions at all.

As a result, victims rarely, if ever, come forward.  Self-blame and shame are common, instilled into them by the society.  Outcomes can be devastating:  financial ruin, broken families, even suicides.  Just check forums such as this one WJFA, or  ScamVictimsUnited, but even in forums there are (paid?) trolls who try to discourage victims to organize and fight back - not an easy task considering no one, under the excuse of privacy,  will share any info about other victims even if you want your contact to be passed on to others.

An entire industry was formed to study who may fall prey to scammers.  Newly created Stanford fraud center  researches statistics and everything fraud related, but wouldn't these millions be better spent prosecuting the crooks?  If anyone really wanted to eradicate the problem, mandatory restitution to victims and putting them first in line for compensation would work wonders.

LEGAL RACKET

So, you're told, your only option is a civil lawsuit. Sure, if you got millions in free cash and ready to burn some to get your money back, good for you.  If you're a senior who lost your life savings, would you throw away the last few bucks to go after crooks who , most likely, will never pay you back, even with judgment in hand?  So you're looking for a contingency attorney who's willing to take your case - good luck with that.  If you got robbed by Google, they'll be lining up to help you, but with a mismanaged company or crooked individual who robbed you, you're out of luck - lawyers want their share of your refund and if they're not sure they can get it, they won't bother.

So you file a lawsuit yourself hoping the judge and jury will see your truth.  Turns out, over 80% of pro se cases (without legal representation) are dismissed for one reason or another - judges don't have the patience for your lack of legal knowledge.

Worst of all, you might not even get an opportunity to file a lawsuit.  Most broker agreements force you to waive your rights and agree to an arbitration.  Even conservative SF Chronicle exposed the plight of fraud victims unable to get justice in its article STOCKS / Brokers Who Take the Money and Run / Cheated California investors get no satisfaction - SFGate.   Even though the victim's lawyer ,  San Francisco attorney Jeffrey Feldman, said his client had a rock-solid case against the broker for choosing "unsuitable investments" the arbitration could not proceed because the stock exchanges controlling it did not like California's requirement to disclose arbitrators' conflicts of interest and sued to get a waiver.

BOTTOM LINE

There's logic to all of this. If pest or weed control companies really let you destroy all weeds and roaches, they would go out of business. If regulators do everything to PREVENT crime rather than deal with it after the fact or if they make fraudsters pay for their crimes dearly, the perps would think twice before swindling the public and the regulatory bureaucracies would be out of work. Besides, they're supported by the industry's fees and penalties so they do a double duty: protection racket, or "roof" as it is known in gangster world to let banksters continue their shenanigans and, at the same time, show the public the regulatory facade of imaginary enforcement.

Think it's not your problem? Think again. Who pays for this self-sustaining roulette? First of all, the victims who lose their savings then help regulators extract the fines from the perps without getting anything for themselves.  Second, it's you, the taxpayer. Besides wasting your tax dollars on maintaining these front regulatory agencies, the government will have to bail out some victims who will apply for welfare and other programs when they could have been using their own savings stolen by crooks.

Fraud victims are trapped in this stranglehold of the system with no real way to get justice and the crooks are enjoying the rewards of their looting.  No wonder someone said "the best way to rob a bank is to become its boss".

And this roulette is in perpetual motion..

VICTIMS' RIOT


According to research done by various groups and a multitude of victim forums, fraud is now the prevalent crime in the US.  Yet, white collar crooks almost always get away with it, which is why it will spread even more.  Steal a TV - go to jail.  Steal life savings - keep the loot and avoid justice.  There's a common disregard for the casualties of this crime: "it's only money” But if you read and hear the stories of  wrecked lives, suicides, foreclosures, broken families and other possible outcomes many victims of fraud must live with, you'd change your mind.

Worst of all, victims are ignored, dismissed, referred to civil courts with outlandish fees or are told it's all their fault.  With a knife in your back, multiple agencies, organizations, non-profits, groups of all kinds spend millions to teach you how to live with it, how to avoid getting hit again and refer you to yet another agency that will refer you to someone else.  NO ONE WILL PULL THE KNIFE OUT!  Even in a rare occasion when crooks get punished, it's usually a fine payment to the regulators, not restitution to those who suffered at their hands. 

There's some compensation for victims of violent crimes, but there's no such thing for fraud victims who rarely get justice in the system built to protect the purps.  Those brave enough to torture themselves further by going solo through the court grinder, get "punished" by judges who dismiss the overwhelming majority of pro se cases (plaintiffs representing themselves).  Moreover, even if you get a favorable judgment, it doesn't mean you'll get what is owed to you: no one enforces judgments.  There are appropriate laws on the books, but if they're not enforced, crooks are encouraged to continue.

Given the sorry status quo, victims who are frequently shamed and defeated into silence must stand up for themselves and make their voices heard.  Like with OWS, if media does not report it, the perception is - it does not exist.  How do you get attention?  Old tried and true tactics have their role, but take years to accomplish little.  OWS did raise awareness of issues and brought them into the limelight.  Successful PETA campaigns may be shocking to some, but that is exactly how they get their message across.  Russian group Pussy Riot made a splash all over the world with its unique protest.

So how about a Victims' Riot?  Most victims of fraud suffer in silence. Others are too stuck on self-defeating individualistic mentality and think no one will help.  How about helping each other?  Strength in numbers means everything: today I help you, tomorrow you help me.   Results can be achieved for everyone or no one.  Want YOUR money back?  Join ranks and fight for EVERYONE.  Here are some tried and true tactics as well as new ideas for actions:

  • Get in the face of fraudsters, prevent their “business as usual” by contacting their clients, lenders, shareholders, investors – everyone who is involved with their business one way or another and let them know what the scammers are up to
  • Make and publicize a list of fraudulent companies and individuals, list their names, contacts, locations and expose their fraud
  • Demonstrate in front of their offices
  • Demonstrate and distribute flyers at key events for the scammers’ business
  • Post all this info on financial forums to warn investors and strangle their money supply
  • Attend shareholder meetings if possible or demonstrate if not
  • Pool resources and advertise the list of fraudsters in media
  • Contact media for coverage of demonstrations and other actions
  • Use public access media to create shows exposing fraud and lack of prosecutions
  • Organize email campaigns to let politicians know that fraud ultimately results in taxpayer bailouts in the form of welfare and other government assistance to the victims not to mention health expenditures to treat fraud casualties
  • Your ideas here

The more adventurous demonstrators willing to don masks to represent faceless victims and symbolize that anyone can become one, will attract more attention, but it will also give privacy to those not happy with personal exposure.  In any case, the more victims come forward, the more chances for success.

CORPORATE ETHICS: AN OXYMORON? Oracle's crooked partnerships


In May 2012, Business Week published an article "Can Corporate America Ever Be Cured?"
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-15/can-corporate-america-ever-be-cured#r=related-rail-img  with many examples of corporate crime.  3 days later another article, "Why Corporate Ethics Statements Don't Work"  ( http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-18/why-corporate-ethics-statements-don-t-work ) seemed to answer that question.  The author, a former corporate HR executive, stated that "most of us in corporate America are so steeped in the “win at any cost” mindset.  We’ve grown up in the culture of competing to win, taking no prisoners, and making the bold move, no matter where it sits on the ethical borderline."  Just as she mentioned, "every company of any size introduced an Ethics Statement a decade or more ago.  In too many cases, they’re just words buried deep on the company website.”

Oracle Corporation is an exception: it has not only a page, but an entire website (hosted by EthicsPoint) titled Oracle Integrity Helpline.  As stated on its home page "EthicsPoint will route all questions and reports to Oracle's Global Compliance; Ethics organization, which will insure that your questions are answered, that all credible reports of suspected misconduct are investigated fairly, thoroughly and discreetly, and that appropriate corrective action is taken where warranted."  https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/media/en/gui/31053/index.html
Great.

Does this apply to Oracle Partner Network, companies selling its software and paying for the privilege to be called an Oracle partner?  Oracle's legal eagles protected the company from possible misdeeds of its partners by inserting a disclaimer against such responsibility.  But...

Is Apple responsible for the mistreatment of workers at its Chinese plants?  Is IBM responsible for selling its equipment to  Nazis to facilitate prisoner record keeping?  What if your business partner is involved in illegal activities, would you dissolve that partnership?

Apparently not.  Participating in the Oracle World yearly conference there is one Oracle partner, Zanett Inc.., whose questionable tactics were reported to SEC, FINRA and FBI.  It has Forfeited status in California for non-payment of fees and/or taxes.  Yet, Zanett comes to San Francisco every year to exhibit at the conference and push its contracts. A report to Oracle was fruitless: why would it lose a paying Platinum partner selling its products even if that crooked dealer defrauds seniors of their life savings and defrauds CA residents? 

Zanett and its CEO Claudio Guazzoni were the subject of many negative reports even by financial analysts.  This title alone says a lot: Zanett Inc. (ZANE): Their Revenue/Press Release Games & Their CEO Who Likes To Party   Others are just as telling: STRANGE CASE OF ZANETT and CITY TAKES RISK  – a warning to the mayor of Indianapolis about to hire Zanett to overhaul its computer systems.  (That warning was ignored: governments can be just as unscrupulous).   
  
To raise cash, Zanett was selling Unsecured Subordinated Notes that offered very high interest rates for term deposits similar to CDs.   The CFO Dennis Harkins boasts that over the years Zanett sold notes to thousands of investors who were always getting paid.  But, for the last few years, Zanett  was not redeeming any notes and, if we believe his own statements, it owes over $3 million to "about 13" elderly investors.  Some lost their life savings.  Continuing promises to pay are never put in writing and never materialize.  A classic pyramid.

Zanett's historical share prices reflect yet another illegal scheme: pump-and-dump, whereas worthless stock is artificially inflated leaving stock traders with losses when it crashes. (Confirmed by former insiders and ZANE Message Board.)

Zanett maxed out its credit, has losses in every statement and no cash.  Yet, it spends $$$ on fake PR reports, flashy accouterments for Oracle World  conference where they sent 14 people last year to stay at glitzy hotels and found enough cash to pay hundreds of thousands in bonuses. 
 
So why would Oracle ask any questions if its crooked partner is still in business ready to sell Oracle products?





ALL FOR ONE - ONE FOR ALL, a plan for action

Activists organize protests, demonstrations, letters to people in power etc. - all the tried and true methods that bring results - occasionally. But the situation for the 99% got worse over the last 30 years in spite of some small gains. There are 100s of various organizations and agencies with great sounding names and promises, but they're fragmented, their mandates are limited or their true purpose is just to draw salaries from government funds. So most of the time you get "sorry, we can't help you"s or referrals somewhere else and the ping-pong begins. Eventually, you get fed up and give up.

While Occupy movement develops, people lose homes, go without medical care and die, suffer from abuse, fraud etc. They can't wait for rosy future, they need help here and now. Occupy is still in its infancy and its long-term success remains to be seen, but to add to already established practices that concentrate on general goals to achieve progress for all, why not expand on occupying foreclosed homes idea and help people with whatever serious situation they have in the meantime?

Let's say you, little David, have a problem. You have a choice: either give in to Goliath or fight it alone. Most people give in because wasting time, energy and often money is not worth it - more often than not, they will lose. Asking for help is not "cool" and we're shamed into silence and self-sufficiency. . Individualism is brainwashed into every American, because the principle "divide and conquer" works to control the minds of the masses. (A fantastic British documentary series The Century of the Self - free on youtube - exposes the birth and development of propaganda)

But what if each little David got a few other davids on his side? What if they show up together, help resolve the problem and publicize the result? Or loss?

So let's create a 99% community self-help network: Musketeers, People's List or People Shield or whatever. If someone needs help, others will volunteer to help out. When they need help themselves, the rest of the community will be there to support them. Their wins and settlements are published and their losses will provoke further actions from other members of the community. No more exploiting lack of knowledge, poor language skills or other weaknesses of the 99%. Knowing the entire community is behind every member, corporations, governments - any power entity will think twice before imposing foreclosures, fees, unfair practices, fraud etc.etc. The idea is not to wait for change from those in power - prevent them from continuing the status quo in every individual case making the current injustice system unenforceable. It will be a labor union of the 99%.One for all and all for one.

A weekly or monthly newsletter with lists of companies and organizations that resolved the problem and those that did not will expose them to the community. Those conducting a fair business will be rewarded with mass community participation and those who do not will be boycotted. Government agencies and politicians will be treated the same way and exposed if they do not stand up for people they're supposed to protect.

A website with sections Help! for those who need it and a list of those who are willing to help them can be created. The word of actual free help will spread like fire, membership will grow and become a unified force for change. Ground up.



PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS

The idea will need practical solutions to be discussed and implemented. Here are some:

- to reach the public, publicize the creation of the new self-help community in every possible media outlet, fliers, posters, TV community access channels, PBS, radio announcements, ethnic publications, stores, schools and government agencies postings, calls for media coverage etc. Once started, the word of mouth will be the best outreach

- those willing to help can control their level of involvement. The web page for them can specify if they're willing to co-sign a letter, talk to the person in need, provide advice, do the necessary research, participate in negotiations or? They can also specify if they're willing to be contacted or contact the person in need themselves. All this will provide comfort in their ability or willingness to get involved.

- those in need should be able to contact someone and get a quick reply be it by posting on the webpage or contacting any person volunteering for that. Emergency contacts can rotate among help volunteers on strictly voluntary basis.

- solicit help from various action, legal and consumer protection groups to provide knowledge and resources,

- your suggestion here

IF WE TAKE THE MONEY OUT OF...

Some time ago a conservative guest on Bill Maher's show Real Time with Bill Maher said:"We got no money" when asked about providing health insurance coverage for sick children. The host, an outspoken critic of America's problems, said... nothing! Such is the state of mind in this country that "no money" argument is acceptable even for critics of the system in the world's richest country. Maher should have persisted asking about the priorities his guest would rather spend the available funds for. Between a dying child and the military that is supposedly "fighting for his future"; roads for business and private use so that the economy will thrive and you could ride your car; providing tax breaks to anyone?! Which of these or any other deserving purposes would you give your money to if you knew you're condemning a child to death?

Too bad, no one is asking these questions in America because in this land of plenty money is more important then a human life. They may proclaim an embryo as human, but willing to kill if you disagree and abandon the existing children to suffering and death.

So let's look at what would have happened if money was taken out of...

POLITICS

your government will work for you, the voter, and not the biggest campaign contributor
politicians would actually spend time trying to solve YOUR problems rather then spend most of their time and effort searching for campaign donors
anyone could be elected to office, not only money-bags and corrupted influence peddlers
decision-making and laws would be independent of who-gave-what and pay-backs
new parties would have a chance to be created and survive with equal fund distribution
new ideas and solutions could be heard from the 99% rather then those who control them
actual democracy, not its theatrical stage version, might be born


MEDIA

access to the public through media would be spread equally between political candidates
media outlets will not depend on corporate sources for survival thus controlling and corrupting the messages and news you get
reporters and their bosses will be working for you and will not be afraid to challenge the big business and the "big brother"
you will be getting actual news and info you need instead of endless mind-controlling "feed" and dumbing-down commercials


HEALTHCARE

profit will be eliminated bringing down the costs to a fraction of the current expenditures
newly out-of-business insurance companies won't encourage food and other industries to produce patients to fill hospital beds
prevention, not treatment, will be emphasized
everyone will care about everyone's health as we will all be paying for each other
food industry will be forced to comply with healthy food standards
ditto for all industrial polluters and contributors to health risks
government subsidies will be diverted from unhealthy food production to small organic farms avoiding harmful substances to humans, animals and the environment
employers will not have to carry all health care expenses for employees opening more employment opportunities for those with illnesses and older workers
the entire human body will be covered including teeth, eyes and feet currently "luxuries" in most medical programs
medical research will explore the most needed remedies regardless of their costs, including natural, not the ones with high revenue potential


EDUCATION

colleges and universities will accept students from all walks of life, capable academically, not financially.
research facilities will be independent providing true results, not the ones "ordered" by funders.
science can concentrate its efforts on research beneficial for most, not just industrial applications or luxury items


You can think of many other benefits and other sectors that will benefit from money excision.

And now for the big question: HOW DO WE PAY FOR IT ALL? Before we answer that, please, calculate the current taxes, payments, co-payments, contributions, deductibles, fees, charges etc. you spend for various causes to protect yourself. Got that? Now, even if you had to spend THE SAME AMOUNT going to direct care and not someone else's profits it will be a drastic improvement already. Add to that all the cuts in overhead for private companies, multi-billion lobbying expenses (that you the consumer is paying for in higher prices) plus many more expenses and hidden costs associated with running a business - all passed on to you - and it turns out that you will actually stop paying for corporations fleecing you with your own money!

Moreover, it's not a fictional utopia - many democratic countries have been running such a system for decades. Their populations are happier, healthier and their societies are more humane with less crime as a result. Socialism, you say? Do you know what the word means or you're just repeating that old scary bogeyman word that was brainwashed into you with your mother's milk? Still afraid? No, it's not socialism, it's capitalism with a human face where everyone is contributing their fair share to the benefit of all and NO ONE COMPLAINS. They would not have it any other way.

Still think your monthly expenses are not taxes? Another bogeyman word intraveined into your system to provide an immediate negative response. Guess what: you're paying more in various expenses covered under their system than they pay in taxes!
In those countries social benefits include 6 week vacations, 1 year maternity and paternity leaves, universal healthcare, guaranteed additional replacement days if you get sick during your vacations, 100% salary during your sick days, 6 additional weeks off with free spa treatments on doctor's recommendation in Germany, etc.etc.etc! Moreover, there's some kind of holiday - days off - every month! How much would you spend to get all that?

Their rich don't want to be rich in a poor country where no one can afford their products - it's not charity, it's good business. French millionaires wrote to the president offering to pay more taxes while the country is in trouble. Warren Buffett may talk the talk, but no offers coming from him yet...

American rich like to grab all they can in profits paying low salaries, outsourcing production, discouraging or fighting with unions, controlling laws and regulatory measures, charging high prices for their products etc. Then, after amassing millions and billions they will never spend, they like to play charity and "donate" a fraction of the loot portraying themselves as benefactors and preserving their names for posterity.

Winston Churchill once said:" You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else" Maybe there's hope...

SURVIVAL OF THE RICHEST

Many Americans don't believe in evolution, yet the society they created is based on the most commonly recognized law of nature: survival of the fittest. It is a cruel law where the weak are sacrificed for the survival of the species.

 In American society the same rule applies, only your physical attributes are replaced by your ability to make and control money. In spite of centuries of human progress, community building, compassion and tribal mentality of human kind, this country, unlike any civilized nation, still favors individualism and success at any cost.

Social programs for the "unwashed masses" of necessary labor and consumers are considered necessary evils to keep the "weak" in check, but many American realities and cruelty  such as foreclosures and the like simply don't exist and would be unthinkable elsewhere in civilized world.

HOW TO PASS A PROP IN SAN FRANCISCO

10/22/2009


It's all in the language. All you need to do is pick a good cause - schools, firefighters, environment etc.. say it would help (whether it will or not) and concoct a heart-wrenching tragedy that your prop will prevent to have the compassionate voters to pass it. Who's thinking of the chips that may fall at that time? Property tax increases are an easy solution in SF where the majority of renters are happy to stick it to "rich" homeowners without giving it a second thought that those affected might be their own family members.

Consider prop A passed last year to allow SFUSD to collect exorbitant amounts (over $200) in property taxes in addition to the existing school facility tax. The prop writers did not make any exceptions putting a heavy burden on everybody regardless of the situation or income status including seniors, disabled etc.

Theoretically, seniors 65+ can get an exemption, but must first jump through hoops and send in before July 1 a request on a form supposedly mailed out in May by the SFUSD. Many of them do not receive the form (easy to guess why...) and the excuse provided is: "They can hear about it in the news or remember or learn about it from neighbors"!

The property tax bills sent out in October already incorporate the additional charges and by then it's too late to file an exemption or even obtain the form required. This effectively entraps the most vulnerable forcing them to pay or lose their home.

The situation is even worse for disabled and early retirees, even teachers who were encouraged to take early retirement and accept reduced pensions saving the board $$$ in salaries and benefits, but who now must carry this ever increasing burden till the day they die. There is no recourse for them to change the status quo. Even the president of the teachers' union is not moved - why protect the disabled and the retired when they subsidize the young fee paying members?

The SFUSD set a hotline 415-522-6770 to answer questions and fend off complaints (last year the phone rep admitted having to listen to crying disabled individuals and other affected callers). The person in charge is Chris Almentrout, director, Development and Local Gov.Relations department (241-6121) If you manage to get him on the phone, don't expect compassion and understanding.

As one of the forum commentators observed, voters have been subsidizing schools for decades, but the quality of American education lags behind some of the poorest nations on the planet. How do they do it?
NOT EVERY PROBLEM CAN BE SOLVED BY MONEY.

Moreover, Doug Caplan's "Redevelopment Boondoggle" in last Sun. Chronicle reveals how "more than 10c of every $1 in property tax collected in California last year - more than 4 billion - was intercepted and spent before reaching the school district". Did voters or those who endorse props know about that? Obviously, voters are too busy to read various props on the ballot, let alone inquire about those who might be affected. But the media endorsement authors MUST check these details before issuing their verdicts.

Why the SFUSD "overlooked" those who can least afford it? For the same reason the budget cuts target mostly those who don't have the funds and organizational skills to protest. "THE PROP PASSED AND NOTHING CAN BE DONE".

Why don't we have a flexible system to allow corrections of unfair "mistakes" affecting thousands or rules preventing these unintended casualties in the first place?

CONNECTING THE DOTS TO THE BOTTOM LINE:

the idiots' guide to the big picture

Concentrating on individual problems we often don't see the forest for the trees. But when the big picture is contemplated, it seems to work perfectly, - not for you, the average citizen, but for the powers that set it up and control it. Let's see how the system works.

You go to work, earn your salary, then spend it to buy products you and others produced at inflated prices making the bosses rich. If you don't have enough dough to buy what you want, they'll lend it to you at inflated rates plunging you into debt and... making themselves rich in the process. If you have a small business, you work 24/7 to survive.

Basic education is needed to perform the work for them so it's free - to them, not to you, you pay for it with your taxes and they often find loopholes to contribute nothing at all. To further your education in college, you might learn stuff and become a picky consumer - not what they want. So to discourage the consuming masses to educate themselves, let's make it prohibitively expensive so that only the elite can advance and continue to rule. Moreover, let's propagate the value of stuff, rather than education, and set up the media propaganda system that depends on our commercials to survive.

To make sure the masses are not exposed to the bosses' lavish lifestyle and bar access to the rulers, let's set up the police that  punishes those who transgress in any way. Moreover, let their taxes pay for the force and their bare-bottom needs to make sure they don't rebel.

Create a fake system of justice and institutions so that the masses would have a vent for their frustrations, file their grievances and wait for results - for years.  Let's charge them an arm and a leg if they want to try the rigged legal system. They'll go bankrupt, get tired and give up.

Let them eat cheap crap, make them fat,  then treat them in the most expensive health care system in the world. Stuff them with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and create diseases, then push overpriced medicines to treat them; convince them that self-indulgence is a right, not a vice. Most importantly, convince them that good health is a luxury, not a human right.

Take their minds off their problems with escapist entertainment, tempting consumerism and god who will give them a better life upstairs, but only after they're dead. Make them believe that this life could be theirs if they work hard, submit to the existing laws and consume, consume, consume...

Let's promote individualism, divide and conquer, so that the suffering of others would not inspire much protest.  Let's ridicule and shame the feeble and the weak and idolize the pursuit of happiness at all costs even if it tramples other poor schmucks.  Let's promote salary non-disclosure so that you could earn less than your coworker doing the same job.  And finally, let's tell them you can join us, the VIPs, if you work hard - for us.

Why this system was set up? To increase the bottom line - not yours, theirs. No matter what your question or dilemma is, look for the bottom line - it will always provide a clue and an answer. Ask yourself when you hear, see or asked to donate or do anything: who is benefiting from this?

In this country of insatiable consumerism, where you're bombarded with shameless, relentless, obnoxious and sometimes sophisticated spin=propaganda=marketing etc., how do you protect yourself and see through those pitches and spin? Simple: always ask yourself who's gaining what?

The bottom line rules in America with no moral qualms. Creating fear = creating business. How many tapes were sold to seal the houses after the anthrax scare? Why funerals cost $$$? Because this business thrives on your grief. Why medical costs are so high? Because if you don't pay you die or suffer. Why all the tech gadgets are introduced with 1 or 2 improvements at a time and not all at once? You pay for the first one, then the second and so forth - more money to be made. Why the roads are not covered with coating that actually saves your tires and lives (it exists)? Make a guess...Examples are everywhere.

What can you do? Question everything and everybody. Dig deep to find out who's profiting from what. Don't be lazy to educate yourself: knowledge is power. And if you are smart enough and knowledgeable enough to be too threatening to the powers, maybe - just maybe - they will want to buy you and let you join their ranks. Deep down isn't it what almost every American wants? Aaaah, to dream the impossible dream...To help you started, watch the documentary The American Ruling Class - yes, it exists according to its members' amazingly candid and shocking admissions...(check Links on the right).  For deeper analysis and documentary evidence watch THE CENTURY OF THE SELF (link on the right) and/or read the review http://inspinwetrust.blogspot.com/2010/01/century-of-self.html

Parking in SF? Good Luck!

Ask any San Franciscan about parking in the city and more likely than not you’ll hear the most derogatory comments - not to mention many “colorful” words - ever mentioned about a city department. Exorbitant fees, restrictive rules, lack of parking spaces and elimination of the last free spots in the city are some of the major contributing factors.

Add to that frequent blatant disregard for citizens’ rights, inaccessible DPT Administrative Policy and its statutes favoring the agency and you’ll know why SFMTA (that absorbed DPT) produces such animosity.

Decriminalization of parking offences seemed like a good idea on the surface, but with no legal restrictions, the agency can set up its own rules that you must follow. Just one of many examples: as an individual, you have 3 min. to park in yellow zones for loading or unloading passengers or cargo. Commercial vehicles get 15 min to 2 hours to do the same. Fair enough? Some folks need 3 min. just to get out of the car and open the trunk. What if you need to load / unload furniture and there’s no parking available? Get a ticket. It seems, many restrictions are written with $$ signs in the head of their creators – not the regulation of the traffic flow as the purpose of the agency states.

Besides all of the above, it’s the mean spirited PCOs, Parking Control Officers (talking about pompous titles), AKA “meter maids”, who will do everything they can – legal or not – to ticket you. Sneaking up from behind while you’re sitting in the car or blocking it to prevent you from leaving while they’re writing a ticket are some of the tricks of the trade. Is it allowed? Without access to DPTs internal rules of conduct, you’ll never know.

To find out, you must get access to the above-mentioned DPT Policy – good luck with that! (Some employees will tell you it does not exist).

Theoretically, you can request it in writing, wait for the reply and pay for copies and postage if you want hard copies of the pages they select for you. Otherwise, they will schedule your visit to a location of their choosing so that you can peruse it yourself. Now who got time to do all this?! Don’t worry, you’ll never get to that point. I requested it online, even wrote to the director and…never heard back from anyone. Hence, the odds are stuck against the average citizen who is busy working and living to fight that monstrous bureaucracy.

I managed to get my hands on a few pages of the Training Bulletin for PCOs pertaining to driveway "blockage" (sounds like an intestinal problem). Exciting read if you can get your hands on the whole thing, but here are a few pearls: a driveway must have a cut curb to be valid even if there's a garage; abandoned driveways are not legal- - no cite, no tow; the complainant MUST open the garage door to cite a blocking car; notifing the owner is a courtesy only if they live close-by, but "the vehicle should be cited first"(!) Moreover, the complainant must give consent to notify the owner! SF meanies - rejoice!

Perusing the codes can also be quite informative. Did you know that red zones without DPT logo are illegal and not enforceable?

If you’re fed up and are willing to waste your time and stand up for your rights, DPT will teach you a lesson so that you’ll never forget. First, you protest in writing and, regardless of the circumstances, most likely, you get a reply that your ticket is valid. Another mail hearing will likely bring the same negative result. Now you need to go to the DPT office in person and have a hearing with one of the hearing officers - HOs (office hours only). Moreover, you have just 3 weeks to do this and prepay your fine before the hearing. Ever heard of innocent before proven guilty? You don’t pay that fine into a court of law, you pay it to DPT, so what is the incentive for them to give it back to you?! There is a provision for low-income earners whose fee can be waived, but you’ll never know unless you happen to dig into the CVC to find out that DPT MUST inform you about it ahead of time and send you the application form. They don’t.

Wait, it gets worse. Lets say you cannot afford to pay the fine. Compassionate San Franciscans created and passed Project 20, a program that allows citizens to work off their parking tickets at the city non-profits. At $6 per hour, it’s below the established minimum wage,(at this time, the city is facing a lawsuit for breaking its own laws) but it’s better than nothing – you help the community and help yourself. Most importantly, you divert the funds from DPT coffers. Sounds great, but there’s a catch: you show up at the hearing and suddenly you must sign a waiver to give up your right to Project 20 if you want to protest your ticket. No signature – no hearing. Again, no warning and no time extension: you’re cornered into the decision to either waive your right to protest or lose your money if the hearing is not decided in your favor.

Once again, it’s justice for those who can afford it, the poor would not risk their meager earnings to have a chance to protest, especially if you’re a little David fighting a Goliath and your chances of winning are slim to none. You wanna protest? Pay up!

Just reading a parking ticket is a daunting task with its abbreviations and codes. So the odds are always stuck against the most vulnerable and least educated segment of the population who cannot afford exorbitant fines.

Oh sure, we all grunt and complain, but it’s amazing that in this vibrant and sophisticated city with a large number of educated people these DPT rules have not been challenged and reversed. Too many more serious issues to deal with? Maybe, but it’s our daily quality of life and sense of justice that are being challenged and trampled upon. One organized citizens’ revolt just might bring results if we ALL say:” I won’t take it anymore!”

Reading craigslist and other forums is educational to say the least. Along with many outcries for help, there are some helpful posts, but there are also quite a few irritable and outright rude folks who misdirect their anger and blame the victim – drivers in this case. They can’t be all DPT employees, can they? Unfortunately, this problem is not limited to parking forums, - it seems to be quite pervasive. Even Chronicle editor John Diaz lamented about it in his May 11 editorial We’ve Got Mail – Some with a Kick.

How about channeling your anger into something constructive? There are citizens whose lead should be followed. Marc Perkel provides space on his website to give voice to public frustration with DPT http://marc.perkel.com/2003/08/09/im-tired-of-san-francisco-parking-tickets/ SFSOS ( sfsos.org ) is doing something productive by organizing San Franciscans to fight multiple city problems, including parking issues.

California Superior court dealt with many parking woes in the city and produced the following report in 2000-2001 http://www.sfgov.org/site/courts_page.asp?id=3725
It’s a long read, but if you have the patience, peruse it and check how many problems have been addressed – not in theory, but in practice.

Why is this sorry state of affairs allowed to continue? DPT has long been the city’s sacred cash cow – it has to pay for itself (including some of the highest salaries for low skilled work) AND raise revenues. And it’s asking for more. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/28/BAOFVSA29.DTL&tsp=1
Why would any politician slap the hand that’s feeding the coffers?

So what can you do? To aggravate the system that’s already clogged you can fight every ticket you get – even if you lose, you, at the very least, delay your payment for weeks if not months and there’s no additional penalties while it’s being appealed. Here’s the process: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/penf/13441.html#protest

If you have time, check your ticket for any mistakes and omissions Find the claimed violation in the California Vehicle Code (CVC http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/vc.htm) or Traffic Code: http://www.municode.com/content/4201/14143/HTML/index.html Find your section and pay attention to every detail – you just might find something useful for your protest.

If your time is more valuable, there are companies that will help you beat the ticket for half of the fine amount, some will even refund your money if they lose. If you got time, but no money and are too tired to fight the system, use Project 20 – you’ll save $$ and help non-profits.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport”, it’s up to all of us to shake the status quo and fight for our rights.

SUPER SIZE US

One of the most popular documentaries, Super Size Me, was created by Morgan Spurlock. In the filmmaker’s own words it is "one man’s journey into the world of weight gain, health problems and fast food. It’s an examination of the American way of life and how we are eating ourselves to death”.

A healthier than average young man, Morgan conducted a mini-experiment eating exclusively McDonald’s food for a month. Guess what happened. No, you don’t know. Besides gaining 27 lb in 30 days he almost ruined his health. It took him months to lose extra pounds and regain his former vitality thanks to his vegan chef girlfriend.

One point made in this cautionary but entertaining and witty film is our responsibility for our own health. Citing a court case where 2 overweight girls sued McDonald’s and lost, Spurlock also interviews the lawyer who successfully sued tobacco companies and who doesn’t think that food industry should be left alone.

Consider the following facts. In Europe the median age is almost 50 and it keeps rising fast. In the US, the richest country on earth with top-notch technology, it’s only 37 and rising more slowly. Why do so many immigrants coming to this country gain weight including those from other developed nations? Do they suddenly change their eating habits? Maybe additives and fillers, processing and preservatives, coloring and genetically modified foods are not that harmless after all? And another thing, how many times you heard about new drugs, procedures, products successfully used elsewhere but not here? The latest news: the government is considering offering your tax dollars to multi-billion pharmaceutical industries, the richest in the US, in order to motivate their research for new antibiotics. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy the ones already used in other countries?

Watch The Corporation (available on youtube), a documentary from Canada exposing the true nature of business. Even if you know that your health is not on the board of directors’ agenda you should still see the inner-workings of these business behemoths.

A focus groups rep said they don't do business in the Bay Area. Why? We’re too educated and thus too demanding for their liking so they prefer the states where the Joe-public can readily swallow their sales pitches. What does it tell you? Consumer education is the key. They will use every trick in the book to transform us into mindless consumption robots (see the BBC series The Century of the Self - also on youtube). However, if we exercise self-control and demand what we need they’ll have to adapt. (Buyer beware though: McDonald’s added salads to their menu that contain more fat than a Big Mac)

Fast food does not have to be fatty and unhealthy. And it won’t cost more either in spite of what McDonald’s & Co will tell us. What will cost is their restructuring: abandoning their reliance on mass production of frozen pre-cooked concoctions and adopting new healthier menus. Look beyond burgers and fries, folks. There’s a variety of healthy alternatives around the world that are already used as fast food.

We flock to Italian, French, Greek, Indian, Mexican restaurants. The list is endless. Have you seen American cuisine restaurants around the world, or even here? McDonald’s and some other fast food chains are the omain ambassadors of American “cuisine” along with other fast-food joints. Are you proud yet?

Here’s another sad thought. It’s a known saying in the business world: bad publicity is better than no publicity. The popularity of Super Size Me might bring a fat cat smile to McDonald’s bosses: best exposure and it didn’t cost a penny. (And I just added to this elation.) Too bad their biggest honcho did not live to enjoy it – he died of a heart attack.

THE CENTURY OF THE SELF

Are you free? Free to make your own decisions, free to express yourself, free to choose your lifestyle, your government, your possessions etc? Most Americans would answer yes to all those questions.
See if you still keep your beliefs after watching another “British invasion” that will rock your world - a 4-hour BBC documentary THE CENTURY OF THE SELF (its full version available on youtube in 4 hourly parts) .

This film is a must-see for every American, especially now when our collective psyche is being exploited and manipulated like never before. It explores the world of Public Relations (formerly known as propaganda) and its influence on the hearts and minds of ordinary people by tracing the history of psychoanalysis and its “creative” use in business and politics.

It is not enough for businessmen and politicians to rely on your reasonable choices when they can use your subconscious to cajole you into buying or thinking what THEY want you to buy and think. They can mold you into a perfect consumer and a pliable controllable citizen. And the best thing of all – you’re not even aware of it. You still think there is no puppet master in this puppet theater. Think that’s too harsh? Here are some examples.

Did you know that women were forbidden to smoke in public until the tobacco business came up with this ruse: smoking = equality. Riding on the feminist movement’s increasing popularity, ad execs promoted smoking as a sign of freedom and independence from men. Sales soared. Cars are not just vehicles. They represent your status; they show who you are. Sales soared. When technology allowed the switch from mass production to manufacturing of a wild variety of goods, we were suddenly encouraged to express ourselves, our individuality by buying products we did not need. Sales soared.

What’s wrong with that, you’ll ask? Nothing, except for your transformation from a reasonable caring human being satisfied with basic necessities into a self-indulgent and the all-consuming self that has come to dominate today’s America. This personality makeover is also changing the political climate. Look behind Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign and Tony Blair’s surge to power. Mourn their respective parties’ ideals sacrificed on the altar of popularity. (The film was made before Bush’s era)

The top PR achievement? Weasel its commercial messages into the mainstream informational media thus hiding the visible hand of the puppet-master.

What is the media’s role in all of this? Theoretically, we have freedom of speech allowing for public access to all information regardless of its contents, controversial and all. However, when your very existence depends on business’ ads and commercials, would you rock the boat? Would you side with business in trying to create a perfect consumer or attempt to educate the public raising its awareness and stimulating minds by bringing more conscience-raising and thought-provoking programming and contents?

How motivated is the American media to educate the public? Judge for yourself.
Have you compared the commercial content of American TV and radio with their international counterparts? Have you lived elsewhere and, after coming to North America, wanted to smash your TV in helpless anger at every program break? (A personal favorite: commercials coming right after a scene from “10 Commandments” where townsfolk are blasted (by Moses?) for worshiping the Golden Calf)

BBC’s attempts to broadcast meaningful and objective contents were criticized as elitist and condescending. But look at the American alternative. Local media moguls give the public what THEY think it wants, feeding the population mostly hollow entertaining fluff. Even news programs reflect “my back yard first” approach. This media diet of thought and fact starvation only perpetuates ignorance, narrow-minded attitudes and lack of respect for other cultures. And then we wonder why the world hates Americans?!

So how do we change all that? The film does not give any answers. It only raises our awareness by exposing the outrageous PR stunts in business and politics. Most importantly, it eliminates any doubts in authors’ objectivity by presenting interviews with hair-raising answers by the “puppet-masters” themselves or their immediate helpers.

We could try to resist in many ways: question everything, avoid consumerist temptations, boycott advertised products, educate ourselves etc.etc. And, most importantly - THINK FOR OURSELVES. In this media climate, however, one must make an effort to search for objective info, so, most people, tired after hard work, will be resigned to their habitual “easy-listening”, swallowing ready-made opinions, or simply withdraw into their everyday lives. Just as the puppet masters intended.

A cartoon comes to mind: a flock of sheep is moving towards a precipice invisible to all but the ones already pushed in the abyss. Only one brave sheep is fighting the crowd trying to move in the opposite direction. Is it you?

AMERICA...AMERICA...

An Outsider’s View from Inside
ongoing thoughts

Why is the country called by the name of the continent? Superiority complex? A moron is bad enough, but a smug moron?! I used to think US is the leader in all innovations. There are so many research facilities here where the most improbable ideas are studied and tested (by many imported brains). And yet more and more we're finding out how many advances in every field have been made elsewhere. US does not recognize them and insists on reinventing the bicycle the "American way" wasting your tax dollars along the way. Even foreign movies and TV programs are redigested “a la US” so that Americans would never know where the idea came from (Bird Cage, The Toy, Three's Company, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars to name just a few). A brilliant film by Francois Truffaut was remade into an awful comedy with Burt Reynolds. Only the title remained: The Man Who Loved Women. Want more?

ATMs were introduced in Europe years before North America; alternative medicine was practised for centuries all over the world and just being studied here; there are many effective (and cheap) medications used everywhere but unavailable to Americans (big business interests, hello!).
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The current crisis in education started over 30-40 years ago when "bright American minds" decided to "free" the students and make it "fun". The whole system was overhauled: no rote learning, no teacher lectures, no grammar. The principle was - if you make it fun, they will want to learn. Sounds great, but in practice Johnny can't read! Generations were raised in this system and we can all see them in the work place now where outrageous ignorance is shocking. American products used to be treated as a symbol of quality - not anymore. We buy Japanese cars, Italian shoes, French food and wine etc.
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For outsiders, it used to be that everything American seemed perfect: its inaccessible goods, its movies (and we had a chance to see some of the best), always smiling people. Could it be that some of that propaganda we heard was true? Mighty dollar is king here and it's better to be rich than educated?
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Some time ago there was an article in the Insight section of the Sunday Chronicle (highly recommended for those who actually like exercising their brains) about Americans' preference of self-righteous individuals. They might be dead wrong, but sure that they're right and that's appealing. Saves you the trouble to ponder and actually think for yourself. Disney Co. refused to distribute Michael Moore's doc. Fahrenheit 911. Why? They decided it's too controversial for Americans to see - it might thaw our brains.
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One recipe for solving most of America's problems? Education. Think about this: any kind of progress in human civilization was achieved by thinkers and protesters who questioned the status quo (ex: Galileo who questioned religion; revolutionaries who questioned dictatorships, humanitarians who questioned slavery and human rights abuses; hippies who protested the Vietnam war; current anti-war movement, Greens etc.etc.). Dig in and see where these people are likely to appear - university campuses and intellectual circles. Even the majority of revolutionaries came from the ranks of "oppressors" (they had access to education) They stirred "the masses" into revolt for their rights.
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If we teach (from the appropriate age) that no one is beyond criticism and provide both sides of opposite opinions, people will have to develop critical thinking and decide for themselves. Educated citizens will not accept much of BS propaganda and push for change. Case in point: Bay Area, considered to have more sophisticated population, was the birthplace of many progressive movements that most Americans take now for granted. Even if they become only "armchair critics”, they would still have their votes to express their informed preferences. "Nerds" will be honored not ridiculed; Mike Wallace will be the new JLo and daring thoughts would be expressed by all, not only comedians.
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Would you choose a doctor without a medical degree? A lawyer who did not pass the bar? Would you hire someone "who's like you" to manage your investments or you'd insist on rigorous interview process and credentials evaluation before you can be sure the candidate is qualified for the job? Why not insist on the same procedures for the most important job in the world? Let's set up a Presidents' U where EVERYONE can be admitted - not only the rich and powerful; where the same standards would apply to every single student regardless of his connections and where specialty courses would be taught:

1.Geography, history, languages, cultural differences, religions of the world, diplomacy, current affairs etc. for foreign relations

2. math, finance, world and local economy, principles of economic development etc. for managing economy

3. psychology, stress endurance, sensitivity training etc. for effective communication with people and diplomacy

4. moral values such as honesty, compassion, sincerity etc. to uphold the lives of others higher than your own.

5. you will swear that you will not impose any law on the country unless you or your family members will abide by it. (military service etc.)

To prove that you're ready for the last right of passage you should be willing to share your wealth with others before you can become president. How many would still want the job? "In times of change the Patriot is a scarce man: brave, hated and scorned" Mark Twain
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That selfless activism on behalf of strangers still moves me to tears: refugees could not comprehend why thousands of people on the other end of the world would fight for them. America was the unreachable land of dreams. Older Europeans remembered food and other items Americans dropped to devastated cities after the war. That was the America admired and worshiped by the world at the time. Where is it?...

Americans - this good natured and basically compassionate folk - are victims of the powers that are ruled by greed. Abysmal education and relentless brainwashing decimated the country's spirit. America needs to stop cheering to empty slogans, wake up and see the reality for what it is.
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I have this cartoon in my head: a pig getting screwed by an elephant with an ass watching helplessly - can you draw?
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Financial "wizards" knew their risk would pay off regardless of the outcome - they're too big to fail. They screw you, the taxpayer, and millions like you, because they KNEW no one will make them pay for their greed!

Those companies should not have been bailed out. What about entire industries collapsing when new innovations are introduced? Cars replaced horse handlers, feeders, caretakers etc; technology allowed automated work and millions of workers lost their jobs - who rescued them? Progress has its price and people adapted. Moreover, I'd say to the top brass: you put millions of people at risk so here's the deal - you either make it work, prevent collapse or you get stripped of your fortunes and march straight to jail. I bet they would quickly find solutions to the problem.

Dems were influenced by scare tactics, but they should have given money DIRECTLY to little folks who might get crashed, not the criminals at the top.
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Do you know what socialism is? Extreme theory prohibits private ownership of land and means of production. That's what happened in Russia and failed. But most prosperous European nations adapted the theory, allowed private property and have semi socialist systems even though they are not always called that. The richest country in the world per capita - Sweden - has the most advanced socialist system and some of the highest taxes. Yet, in Europe people are taken care of from "cradle to grave" and nobody wants to change the system in spite of high taxes. There's no such thing as foreclosure - both parties reach a compromise before any crisis. People don't mind paying high taxes to help those less fortunate and that, in turn, ensures low crime rates and happy societies.
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TBC (to be continued)