Voices in Unison

Maybe it’s the environmental regulations that are being abandoned.  Maybe it’s the armed thugs who barged their way into an active legislature without being, at the very least, surrounded by SWAT if not arrested and hauled away.  Especially given that unarmed marginalized groups have largely suffered much worse while protesting peacefully, often while on their own land.  Maybe it’s that large corporations received huge sums of relief while small businesses continue to be shut out in the cold.  Maybe its that those same corporations have been blithely rewarding their shareholders and CEOs with record profit payouts while paying their employees poorly and, most certainly, not building a reserve to bridge this exact kind of downturn.  Maybe it’s that the tippy-top earners have seen their wealth grow by 200+ billion in the past few months while 36+ million people are suddenly unemployed and waiting for relief that may never come.  Maybe it’s the states that are purposefully ending their emergency orders in order to prevent people from collecting unemployment.  Maybe it’s the companies who call their employees ‘heroes’ but then turn around and refuse to pay them a living wage or to even give them proper protection.  Maybe it’s that trillions continue to be spent on military adventurism yet they resisted tooth and nail to spend anything to help the homefront.  Maybe it’s that there has been more domestic deaths now than there were in some of those wars (or things that started wars).

And maybe it’s just the general ineptitude, narcissistic nepotism, and the absconding of responsibility while claiming all the glory.  May you would just like leaders to be competent, thoughtful, and to, well, actually lead.

Maybe it is any of those things, and more, that have you, on some days, wanting to flip a table.  Yeah.  I feel you.  I’m there too.  This crisis has not only exacerbated the f-ed up parts of our system(s), but even more so has made them eminently visible.  It’s enough to sap one’s feeling of agency and the will to do right in the world.

But there is a salve.  While there are many conversations to be had to change the narratives we hold around these issues, it is equally and more worth remembering that these are and are held in place by systems, and specifically they are systems shaped and driven by policy.  And policy can be changed.  We have a kind of superpower we sometimes forget, and it is called the ballot box.   But, like everything else, it is only power if we use it.

If you live in the USA, please check out this YouTube channel aptly named:  How to Vote in Every State 2020.

And know that it may not be easy.  From closing polling places to misleading mailers to gerrymandered districts to limits on absentee ballots to onerous and unnecessary ID laws to dark money groups to all sorts of things, there are many forces trying to limit our voices.  And that doesn’t even count the day to day difficulty of managing work and childcare and everything else that renders our time a precious commodity, and adds to the strain of going to one of those limited voting spots and actually casting a ballot.  Democracy is being limited (and to be clear this is primarily and especially being done by right wing interests and legislators) because the less that we speak, and the less that we can speak, the easier it is for them to hold onto power.

Which is why it is important to start planning now.  Doing the work to register now so you can find what’s needed before the deadline comes.  Making plans with friends, family, co-workers now to ensure things will be covered that day such that and will you have a much higher chance to reach the poll to cast your ballot.  And maybe even to prepare some backup plans.

All so that we can get out there and get legislators and executives – nationally, stateside, and locally (All are important!  Most of what affects us on a day to day basis happens at the local level!) – to alter policy and set up the systems that work for the most good for the most people, moving the needle towards a more just, verdant, healthy, and equitable future.

Philosophy Tuesday

Einstein is reported to have been very much enamoured with compound interest.  While it is unlikely that he – despite the memes floating around – ever proffered any highly quotable declaration on the subject, compound interest is quite a potent thing.  When the growth of something builds upon its previous growth, which then builds further upon that growth in turn, the results pile on real fast.

So it goes not only in the world of finance and savings accounts but also when it comes to all realms of self-cultivation, and in several ways.  For starters, as we develop our mindfulness and work to create clearings from old (and usually unintended) patterns, views, and straightjacketed ways of being, it becomes easier to do more of the same.  With less crud in the way we move more quickly, discover insights more quickly, and develop ourselves more quickly, further compounding our skills in mindfulness and in the arts of living and being in the world.

Even greater are the specific, measurable, as lived results that, as we create those clearings and unleash our agency, power, freedom, self-expression, and peace of mind, naturally show up in our lives.  All those things that we want build up on themselves, creating a compounding train of ever greater results and ever more of what we want.  And when something goes awry – for that is inevitable – we’ve got both the mental/spiritual clarity as well as a nice foundation upon which to remain mindful and thus able to deal with it with proper equanimity and while never denying our humanity.

And humanity is the pinnacle of this compounding greatness.  For just as easily as we can see how the positives in our lives can and do compound, we can easily recognize, get present to, and be willing to confront that negatives can also do the same.  A bad break here can all to readily lead to further bad breaks and downward spirals.  It may have happened in our lives, it may be happening now, but even more than that, it can happen to any of us.  And with that realization we can forestall our judgement about ourselves and, especially, about others.  When we see people down on their luck or struggling or acting out of sorts, who knows what paths were compounded from years ago?  Who knows their starting place?  Who knows what compounded itself downward?  And the same goes in the other direction too.  A single break or a position of privilege quickly pushes these two realms apart.  Neither our nor any one else’s position on the economic/social/etc ladder is ever a pure reflection of either morality or worthiness.

With this in mind we get to synthesize and compound all of the above, taking agency and working on self-cultivation to build ourselves and our lives (and the lives of those around us) while never losing sight that chance and happenstance is never far away, influencing outcomes and ready to put a thumb on the scale.

When we look at our designs for ourselves and the world and when we look at what we want to create and leave behind, we can ask “what do I want to compound?” and go from there.

Strike the E and the P from their name

At this point, I’m fully expecting mustache twirling.

The EPA, under direction from the current administration, suspended its enforcement of environmental laws.

Not just some of the laws and regulations – effectively all of them.  No monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, reporting, or certification obligations.  So long as the company says that it was due to COVID-19 and provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.

As if the EPA would request it.  Because there’s no end date set.

Even after the fallout from COVID-19 is done, this can stay on.

Plus the EPA has clearly stated that it won’t pursue penalties if companies break the rules.

There are not even any provisions to take action should a company do something egregious or if there is immediate threat to health – at best the EPA has said they would tell “state authorities.”

This is beyond reprehensible.  They are using the cover of a crisis to cause active and ongoing harm to people, to people’s livelihoods, to the future.  There could be another Cuyahoga River incident tomorrow, and they would shrug.

This is not good.

 

(And just to be sure both sides of their moustaches gets attention, they also just dropped fuel economy standards.)

BailoutBS

So wait.  In the last 5 years, airlines spent $44B on stock buybacks.  That’s 96% of their free cash flow.  Plus billions more on dividends.  They did not improve their services, nor improve their structure, nor, and this is the biggie, did they save anything for the inevitable downturns or other acts of woe.*

They act fiscally irresponsible, line their pockets, impoverish us, and now they want a bailout?  They have the audacity to ask for a bailout?  A bailout that is essentially in size of what they spent on buybacks?

This is why good governance is important.  This is why oversight is important.  This is why societal involvement and accountability is important.

THIS is why your/our vote matters!

 

* Nor, of course, did they boost their employee pay, or working conditions, or aid the consumer in any way… but that’s a whole other story.

** As a whole, the top 500 companies spent $5T on buybacks + dividends vs $4.5T in earnings — they are willingly and wantonly enriching themselves while foisting their liabilities into debt and the public trust & our pocketbooks (by both charging more and paying employees less, plus foisting costs into the environment into which we all live).  All aided by the recent tax code “revision” (read: giveaway).

 

#cdnpoli

Hello my fellow Canadians!  As we travel towards the polls on October the 21st (you are intending to cast a vote, oui?), once again I would like to bring my experience as a current expat to bear and provide some perspective on one of our national political parties, namely the Conservative Party of Canada.  Living as I am right now in a country that, at a federal level, has been pursuing many of the policies of the Conservative Party (or, perhaps more appropriate to say, the Conservative Party has been all to happy to crib from and adopt the policies from down here), I have a close(r) view of the impacts and end results of these policies.

To which should be our focus.  Like all elections, this one is about policy.  It is not about popularity or pageantry, it is about the theories and temperament of governance, the passing of bills, the direction of our laws, the shaping of our systems, and, most importantly, the results thereof.

And the results of the policies and politics favoured by the Conservative party (and their Republican role models) are not great.  In so many ways and by so many measures they have not brought and do not bring what is best for the country, its lands, or most of its people. Continue reading

Quote of the Day

“I saw Activision’s statement about why they “broke up” with Bungie over at GameSpot, but it’s like…  more than seven billion wasn’t “enough” according to the onyx spire they worship.  I don’t think they can be trusted to determine what constitutes enough.

I own a company, I understand that they have to make money, but the top of that organization is completely divorced from every other part of it.  It’s sick in the particular, unaccountable way that is an accelerant to revolution.  The people who generate the wealth they bathe in are so abstract as to be inconceivable.  I have some experience with this; there are people who will pulp you to get a “good year.”  One hesitates to suggest that they serve Evil Gods, you know, far be it from me to make a moral pronouncement, but their purposes are inimical to human flourishing.  The human being, essentially considered fungible and endlessly replaceable in its capacity to generate value, exists nowhere in their calculus.

The parable of the golden goose has endured for a reason, and that is because none of these motherf’rs ever seems to learn it.”

Tycho (from Penny Arcade)