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February 14, 2014

tom perkins' plutocracy

I know that Tom Perkins, he of the Kristallnacht reference, is eighty-two years old, and as such, he is allowed to have some peculiar ideas.  After all, he was alive before we all had cellphones, and before there was even basic cable!  He's bound to have a couple real doozies rattling around in that octogenarian head.

But this one goes above and beyond.

When challenged to say, in 60 seconds, how he would change the world, Perkins made a playfully controversial response. He suggested that, in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson's voting land owners and Margaret Thatcher's idea of only allowing taxpayers to vote, "The Tom Perkins system is: You don't get the vote if you don't pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How's that?" To which the audience responded with laughter. Perkins later said offstage that what he meant was that, with 50% of registered U.S. voters not paying taxes, "we got ourselves into a mess."

I'm still picking crazy out of my teeth from that one.

Though it really should make the rest of the Silicon Valley Self-Actualization Zone a little bit uncomfortable, because Perkins edged ever closer to coming out and saying that what would work best is a Plutocracy, and that's supposed to be a secret.

I guess all this is not so shocking considering that these comments were delivered at an event called The War On The One Percent.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:36 AM

February 10, 2014

hey look billionaires

Last night I spent a diverting half an hour last night looking over Forbes' list of the billionaires of the world, all 1,342 of 'em.

I mean, we toss the word around all the time, like a schoolyard taunt.  But billionaires, my friends, are real.  Like you and me.  But with billions and billions of dollars.

Here's some fun things I noticed.

First thing I did is check (list is searchable) for one of the obvious candidates for wealthiest person alive: Vladimir Putin.  It's long been no secret that power is not the only thing he's been amassing in Russia.&nbps; Not on the list!  And for that matter, neither is Kim Jong-un, who presumably would be worth at least a cool billion.  So the list does have its blind spots.  I presume that billionaire criminals are also not on the list.

However, those Koch brothers we're always shining a light on (such as when some knucklehead at a Koch event leaves a confidential donor list behind)?  Well they are actual billionaires, tied for number six on the list, with $34b a piece.

Which makes you wonder: why list them individually?  Why not just call them "The Koch Brothers" and be done with it?  Melinda Gates doesn't appear on the list, but you know for sure that some of Bill Gates' (#2) $67b has Melinda's name on it.  Though sometimes the individual is noted as "X and family," (such as #40, German Larrea Mota Velasco and Family) which I guess indicate that there is some question of inheritance and interested spread among family members.

Speaking of family members, let's check the Walton family, scions of the fortunes generated by the notably union-averse largest private employer of the United States, Walmart.  There are six Waltons (one "and family").  Members of the Walton family occupy rankings 11, 14, 16, 17, 276 and 346, with an aggregate wealth of approximately $114 billion.  That's a lotta cabbage!

Coincidentally, here's a neat little story from a long-time Walmart employee about Walmart's slow degradation, and here's an explanation of why your Walmart shopping experience is shitty.  Have a read.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:10 PM

richard berman in the spotlight again

I've had this fascination with the "lobbying" Richard Berman.  Basically, he is an industry shrill who owns a rat's nest of "non-profits" along with another rat's nest of for-profits that end up servicing the non-profits.  In fact, last month I suggested that maybe at least part of Berman's motivations in his ceaseless (and sometimes purposely futile) lobbying is his own enrichment.

And now hey look, the NYT is on it!  And the reporter, Eric Lipton, shares my suspicions:

But the dividing line between [the Employment Policies Institute] and Mr. Berman's firm was difficult to discern during two visits last week to the eighth-floor office at 1090 Vermont Avenue, a building near the White House that is the headquarters for both.

The sign at the entrance is for Berman and Company, as the Employment Policies Institute has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman's for-profit advertising firm, instead, "bills" the nonprofit institute for the services his employees provide to the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

Maybe this double-dealing is not illegal.  But maybe it's something that people, specifically Berman's clients, should be aware of?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:32 AM

thanks for your kind thoughts

That is to say, thanks for your kind thoughts aimed out to other people and the universe in general.  That really is the best revenge, right?  Kind thoughts.

And with that let's try to move on and may the lessons we've learned inform us in the good ways and not the bad.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:14 AM