Monday, October 29, 2012

The world's poorest 1.3 billion people live on $1.25 dollars a day. That amounts to, at most, about $460 per person a year. If you added up the income of all these people, it would equal about $600 billion, an amount equal to what group of richest Americans — the top 10%, 5%, 3% or 1%? Tthe answer is…

Yes, it's the top 1% — the very same top 1% that has been the focus of the Occupy Wall Street's ire, but this time in an even more staggering global context.

The top 1.1% of Americans — a little over three million people living in the richest U.S. households — had per capita incomes of about $180,000, after taxes, in 2008. As a group, they earn almost exactly $600 billion a year.

The $600 billion of income of the three million richest Americans (the top 1.1%) exactly matches the total income of the world's poorest 1.3 billion people.

Those 1.3 billion people outnumber the richest Americans by a factor of more than 430 to one.

Those 1.3 billion people accounted for just under 20% of the world population in 2008 — and were equal in number to the entire population of China.

The top 3% of Americans had per capita incomes of $125,000 in 2008. As a group, their total income was $1.1 trillion — almost twice as much as the combined income of the world's poorest 1.3 billion people.

The top 5% of Americans had average after-tax incomes of just over $100,000 in 2008. (Note that these are the richest 5% of Americans measured by their household income, which obviously includes many children whose incomes are zero. This means not only that they live in wealthy households, but that their parents make multiples of the per capita figure of $100,000 a year.)

The total income of the 5% of richest Americans was $1.6 trillion. That was almost three times the combined income of the world's poorest 1.3 billion people.

The richest 10% of Americans, measured in terms of household income, is a group of a little over 30 million people. In 2008, they had an average incomes of just over $80,000 on an after-tax basis. As a group, they made almost $2.5 trillion.

Thus, the total income of the richest 10% of Americans was more than four times the total annual income of the world's poorest 1.3 billion people — even assuming they all lived exactly at the very upper edge of the absolute poverty line of $1.25 per day, which many of them do not.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

President Obama and Mitt Romneyagreed strongly in their third and final debate that the United States needed to vigorously expand its leadership role in a dangerous world, pressing its economic interests, using its military when necessary and spreading its values.
But most Americans apparently don't agree.
Polls show that after a decade of two wars and a brutal recession, most Americans have grown deeply skeptical of the benefits of the global leadership role that the president and the Republican challenger, backed by the foreign policy establishment, insist is the nation's wisest course and destiny.
Though few Americans want to turn their backs on global crises, they are increasingly doubtful that an America that's always in the lead benefits them or the rest of the world, the polls show.
"There's dramatically more isolationist sentiment than there's been for some time," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, which conducts extensive opinion polls.
Kohut compared the current mood to periods after World War I, the Vietnam War and the Cold War, when many Americans demanded sharp cuts in military spending and fewer foreign adventures. Though Americans want the nation to lead the world, they're more focused on challenges on the home front.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Are Chinese Telecoms Firms Really Spying on Americans?

The House Intelligence Committee recommended that American businesses stay away from computer network products made by two Chinese firms, Huawei and ZTE, for fear that they may compromise U.S. national security. The world’s second and fifth-largest information-and-communications-technology companies have large operations overseas but have failed to expand extensively in the States.

“Based on available classified and unclassified information,” said the U.S. panel’s 52-page report, “Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems… Malicious implants in the components of critical infrastructure, such as power grids or financial networks, would also be a tremendous weapon in China‘s arsenal.”

Are ZTE and Huawei victims of the China-bashing that has characterized the U.S. presidential campaign? Or is there more going on? The answer is probably a bit of both. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney seem intent on one-upping each other in showing their tough-on-China street cred. Congress may be simply joining in on the game. But it’s also not hard to believe that these Chinese firms, should they be pressured by their government to do so, may feel compelled to commit a secret, untoward act toward foreign entities in order to protect the growth of their business back home.

Accusing the U.S. panel of engaging in protectionism, Huawei released a statement on Monday:
The United States is a country ruled by law, where all charges and allegations should be based on solid evidence and facts. The [congressional] report failed to provide clear information or evidence to substantiate the legitimacy of the Committee’s concerns… The report released by the Committee today employs many rumors and speculations to prove non-existent accusations.
Chinese analysts have, unsurprisingly, dismissed concerns that the two companies might target the U.S. with cyber-espionage. They point out that Huawei and ZTE have never been caught spying on its global customers or slipping malicious coding into its software. Instead, they counsel more trade and collaboration as the way forward. “If you take China as the enemy, that’s the wrong way of doing things,” says Zeng Jianqiu, a professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications... “If America does this, then there’s the possibility that China will do the same thing, too.”

Monday, October 8, 2012

In recent years, our country's symbol of freedom has come under attack. I am not referring to foreign nations stomping on and burning our flag. I am talking about our own government interfering with the right of Americans to display their American flag.

The Internet is full of articles in which the flying of the American flag has raised some sort of controversy. Local governments and, in some cases, state governments, have interfered with the right of individuals to proudly display their American flags.

Earlier in this year I was involved in such a situation. I received a citation for having an" illegal sign" in the right of way. My country's flag is not a sign. It is instead a symbol. It stands for all that is good in this great nation. It stands for the freedoms we enjoy each and every day. It seems that many Americans take these freedoms for granted. These freedoms did not come without much loss of life.

Though we might not know these individuals personally, we should share in the grief their families have. These fallen soldiers deserve our respect. One way of showing that respect is to display your American flag each and every day.

As a result of my own flag controversy, I have had the honor of meeting hundreds of active duty as well as retired military personnel from throughout our nation. Not a day goes by when someone who serves or has served in our military doesn't come by my business to thank me for my stand on my flag. They share with me the importance of what displaying my flag means to them. They have served to protect this flag and all it represents. And just like me, it saddens them that so few people and businesses display an American flag.

Would it not be awesome to see American flags flying all the way up and down our city streets and throughout our neighborhoods?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

American voter participation is consistently below that of other industrialized democracies. (The historically significant 2008 presidential election drew less than 62 percent of eligible voters to the polls.) Poor turnout produces poor representation, which produces laws people are disinclined to obey and so undermines the process. But here’s a new idea: testosterone may provide a key to boosting voter turnout.

In 2008, scientists from Duke University and the University of Michigan analyzed the biological effects of voting on more than 150 voters.

They noted a dramatic pattern: men who had voted for the losing presidential candidate, John McCain, suffered a big drop in their testosterone after hearing of his defeat.
The scientists reported that the male McCain voters “felt significantly more controlled, submissive, unhappy and unpleasant.” The testosterone effect was “as if they directly engaged head-to-head in a contest for dominance” and lost, one researcher told a reporter when the study was published in 2009. The men who voted for Obama fared better.

Women had no change in testosterone levels, regardless of whom they voted for.

Is it possible voting makes male voters too vulnerable? Could the unpleasant feelings male voters experience when their candidates lose discourage them from revisiting the polls? No wonder they stop voting. It hurts too much.

Low turnout should be a concern, and not just because of the inadvertent commentary it supplies on American manhood. The democratic process is our way of resolving conflict. It produces the laws that underpin our society, often in the face of substantial disagreement. Researchers have demonstrated that participants in the democratic process are more likely to comply with its outcomes, even when they disagree. They pay their taxes and obey the speed limit.

Low turnout also affects the quality of government.

Americans are struggling with a severe case of electoral dysfunction. They have to navigate bureaucratic hurdles needed to cast a ballot...

Perhaps the pharmaceutical industry will come up with a little blue pill to make people voters. But until then, we may need to man up and face facts. For all our idealism about voting and democracy, we have created a needlessly complex and burdensome voting system...we should think about making voting simpler and easier.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Olivia Wilde and America Ferrera Talk Beauty and Their New Documentary Half the Sky

Tonight at 9 P.M., PBS will air the first half of the four-hour documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The series is full of incredibly inspiring women who are working to end sex trafficking, forced prostitution, maternal mortality, and gender-based violence—things that collectively kill one woman every 90 seconds worldwide. We caught up with two of the film's stars, Olivia Wilde and America Ferrera, on how the film changed their views on beauty and the products they packed for their individual journeys.

You met women from all over the world—did it change your idea of beauty?

Olivia: "While I was sitting in Kenya with women who I seemingly didn't have anything in common with, all I could think about was how we had everything in common. That concept of sisterhood really lends itself to our acceptance of ourselves and our beauty, our acceptance of our differences, and our celebration of being women. Which is what I think the beauty industry should be about. It should be about celebrating being women and having fun with beauty and femininity. It made me really proud and excited to be a girl."

Is there one product or treatment that made you feel instantly refreshed when you got home?

Olivia: "The Revlon shadow stick. It's a wonderful product. One side is a creamy shadow that doesn't crease. And the other is a thick soft liner. It's so easy and immediately gives you that smoky look."

America: "A really amazing facial is my beauty indulgence. I go to Linda Ross in Los Angeles and she's my savior with all the traveling and flying and lack of sleep and stress. Her facials save me."