Among the many catalogs I receive at Christmas is one from Hammacher Schlemmer. Just why I don’t know. I’ve never bought so much as a pin cushion from them. It’s filled not only with things I can’t afford but even more with things I don’t want. You can see for yourself.
1. The Advanced Foot/Leg Stimulator. It looks like a body scale. That is, you step on it. It uses transcutaneous electrical stimulation. It costs $189.95, plus, I suspect, postage.
2. The Proper Toe Alignment Socks. They have built-in dividers which push the toes apart to promote proper alignment. Cost: $49.99/pair.
3. Electrostimulation Neck Pain Reliever … Combines electrostimulation with heat therapy for drug-free relief. Cost: $169.95.
4. The Rolling Sit-On Tool Chest. Also functions as an organized tool chest with three pull-out drawers on a frame that can support up to 350 pounds. Cost: $119.95.
5. Monogrammed Award-winning Glencairn Whisky Glasses. Winner of the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Set of four costs $69.95.
6. The Non-Slip Furniture-Protecting Pet Covers. Machine washable, covers provide protection from pet hair and other possible damage without slipping or bunching. Cost: Recliner, $84.95. Sofa, $119.95. King bed, $119.95.
7. Flight Attendant Comfort Shoe. Have shock-absorbing gel. Are treated for fungus and bacteria, anatomically correct and shock-absorbing gel in the heels. Cost $149.95
8. Cordless Twinkling Chair Back Sleeves. Twinkles with the light of a starry night. Made with rich velvet that protects a chair’s back. Each sleeve contains fiber active lights and a large satin bow. Cost: Set of four, $149.95.
A Positive Corporate Direction
My cynicism about the one-sided motives that corporations display in their transactions is sometimes challenged—not very often but once in a while. That happened yesterday when I was reading The New York Times. The headline of the half-page article read: “Bringing a Focus on Doing Good and Not Only Doing Well.”
The heroes of the story were three middle-aged and prosperous business men who had been friends since their Stanford University days (Andrew Kassoy, Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan). They left their jobs to form an organization they named B Corps, which certifies companies that operate for social good as well as making money. Every three years they analyze and revise their methods. They have to be satisfied that they have accomplished what they set out to do.
Right now, they’re trying to build a more inclusive, long-lasting and creative enterprise. For example, they do not have employees; they’re workers. It’s a new ballgame, well, not exactly a game, but doing good as they play and profit.
CIA: A Small Look at Agents of Deception
The act, NC 10/2/49, placed U.S. authority over espionage and counter-espionage operations abroad during war time and peace time under the control of the CIA director. Such operations were to be conducted by the Office of Special Projects.
Under Section 6 of the 1949 CIA Act, that organization was exempted from the obligation to disclose any information regarding its funding. The case of US v. Richardson, showed that some entities in the nation (*CIA?) are free from all scrutiny and the less the population knows about it the better. The most famous example of the CIA treating American citizens as guinea pigs is the MK-Ultra program. For example, Ted Kennedy told the Select Committee on Intelligence during a 1977 hearing: “The CIA drugged American citizens without their knowledge or consent.”
Pilots who delivered arms from the U.S. to Nicaragua (during its latest revolution) could “bring back their own cargo,” that is, marijuana and cocaine. The CIA made sure they were not searched on arrival. Moreover, the drugs en route to America were provided by the CIA and a “friend,” drug trafficker George Morales, whom the CIA had pressured into providing planes and money to the Contras in exchange for benefits during his jail time. In 1953, the CIA implemented the TPAJAX project in which Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh
and the Shah worked together. Because of this overthrow of a democratically-elected official, the Iranians were perceived as pro-American. But after 26 years, the CIA’s efforts to secure Iran as a secular and U.S.-friendly state were nullified at the advent of the Iranian Revolution.
The CIA continued its policies time and again. Nobody was punished for the events that transpired under the MK-Ultra project and many more I’m sure. Today, there’s little to be done to change this situation and the CIA wants to sweep under the rug all information about every country that has suffered because of its machinations. I wonder what individuals are in their files.
I have demonstrated for things I believe in—like a peaceful world and I think if going to jail would bring this country any closer to peace, I’d do it again. We’ll see.
How About a Teeny Tax on Wealth?
For several years I’ve been receiving a monthly four-page (that’s front and back) periodical called “The Hightower Lowdown” which politically is somewhere between radical and progressive. It’s well-researched and well-written and I trust its information. The September edition was entitled “It’s time for a (teeny) tax on Wealth.”
During the past half-century, myriad corporate and governmental decisions have methodically slanted America’s economic and political systems so that money and power flow from the many to the few. America’s tax code no longer adheres to the principle of ability to pay. Nearly 70 percent of capital gains are made by America’s richest 1 percent so they, obviously, would be the target of a campaign to make this a reality and not “pie in the sky.”
As the average U.S. worker’s real wages have stagnated for more than a decade, income disparity has become enormous. Today, such a worker, most likely, would pay the top tax rate of 30 percent on an average income while America’s richest will pay 1 percent.
This country has a moral and ethical responsibility to tax its citizens fairly. The proposal should be for a bold, unabashedly progressive wealth tax based on income. Should legislation be proposed to enact a program to bring the plan to fruition, we middle-income taxpayers would have to really campaign to make it a reality.
Guns and Common Sense
The topic of guns is ongoing in this country—whether pro or con, among individuals or corporations. Recently the Supreme Court cleared the way to allow relatives of victims of gun violence to sue perpetrators of the violence. Prompted by a plethora of gun violence, 145 corporate executives, including Levi-Strauss, Twitter, Uber and Citigroup, wrote the U.S. Senate urging stricter background checks and laws to prevent people who pose a threat from buying guns. Edward Skyler, the vice president of Citigroup’s Public Affairs, explained: “This isn’t a question of keeping guns away from legal customers; this isn’t a challenge to the Second Amendment. This is trying to put in place best practices about trying to reduce risk.”
The U.S. Attorney General William Barr is and has been concerned about growing gun violence in this country. He plans to combat it with an initiative, Project Guardian, which will consist of representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and state and local law enforcement. It will also create partnerships with community organizations aimed at preventing gun violence and increase scrutiny of people convicted of violent felonies or domestic violence, potentially reducing their access to firearms. At a news conference he explained that Project Guardian is intended to “better target offenders who use guns in crime and those who try to buy guns illegally.”
The reactions from organizations supporting gun usage generally would question Project Guardian. Kris Brown, the president of Brady, a gun control advocacy group, responded, “An initiative that focuses on enforcement and increased policing makes no serious effort to address the supply of guns and how they fall into the hands of individuals who have proven themselves a danger to themselves or others.” I suspect that the relatives of people who have been killed by gun violence would ask for more details from the Brady group.
Iceland—Almost Violence Free
According to the 2011 Global Study on Homicide by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Iceland’s homicide rate from 1999 to 2009 never went above 1.85 per 100,000 population in any given year. (The U.S. had homicide rates between 5.0 percent and 5.8 percent per 100,000 population during that same period.)
No. 1) There is virtually no difference among upper, middle and lower classes in Iceland and so tension among those economic groups is nonexistent.
No. 2) A study done by a University of Missouri student found only 1.1 percent of participants identified themselves as upper class, while 1.5 percent saw themselves as lower class. The remaining 97 percent identified themselves as upper-middle class or working class.
Babies in Iceland are often unattended, left in a carriage alone, for a few minutes. GunPolicy.org estimates there are approximately 90,000 guns in a country with a population of just over 300,000.
Police are also unarmed. The only officers permitted to carry firearms are the Viking Squad, and they are seldom called out. There are few hard drugs in Iceland. A 2012 study of people from the ages of 15 to 64 found that users of cocaine were 0.9 percent. In the past, when drugs seemed to be a burgeoning issue in the country, the parliament established a separate drug police, and in the first 10 years of its existence, roughly 90 percent of cases were settled with a fine.
Is it possible that other countries could adopt the same measures?