Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'll Drink to That

I got one of those roaming emails right after reading a couple of other things about Atlas Shrugged. I thought, as a service to my loyal readers who don't really want to invest the time it takes to read a 1,000 page novel this is really what Ayn Rand was saying in a nutshell. So enjoy and then have a toast to the 70 year old Cleveland woman who I just read chased 4 would-be robbers out of her home with her 5 quart Emeril Lagasse sauce pan after dodging the bottle of Jack Daniels one of them lobbed at her! Who knew food news could be so criminal!

Tax System Explained

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (The poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."

Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!" "That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax
system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Will We Never Learn?

Given that it is the 50th anniversary of the famous Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, I decided to read it, having somehow missed this iconic American experience in my youth. (I cannot attribute this failing to my penchant for reading only works of non-fiction for I only developed that tic in the relatively recent past. And I must admit that I do make exceptions such as this one and the last being another 1,000+ pager by Ken Follett Pillars of the Earth that also offered some historical significance, although in retrospect I am not sure it was all that valuable.)

My friend and I agreed to read it simultaneously and meet intermittently to discuss it. Ah, the best laid plans. I finished the book before we have had a single meeting. I had to.

The book was driving me crazy! Very often I found entire passages that were amenable to being ripped from the headlines, so to speak. My husband was being tortured with my constant interjections of "Listen to this...!" My other regularly articulated reaction was "how can people be so stupid?"

Do we learn nothing over time? As I repeat that question to various friends and acquaintances I am most troubled by the nearly universal reaction "[t]hat's people for you!" But isn't the ability to reason supposed to separate us from the birds and the beasts? We can't have it both ways!

Even as I finished the book, longing for my own map to that hidden spot in Colorado where logical people hide from the rest of the world, I was being hit with the harsh reality of human nature.

After spending a mind bending week at the Legislature trying to sell an environmentally sound project to a bunch of environmentalists who were practically begging us take the most environmentally offensive option (all for political reasons, I might add) you can probably understand my initial reaction to the documentary I went to see at the Phoenix Art Museum on Sunday.

The film, about the 1000 Journal Project, describes how this fellow who calls himself Some Guy, over a period of 2 years, set loose out into the human network 1000blank journals for people to make entries and pass along to someone else. The idea is that once filled the journal would make its way back to Some Guy.

Wow! What a concept. A project that is only basically defined and is tabula rasa for random creativity. The first thought to jump to my mind was that people would see that by taking individual responsibility for things we could lead happy productive lives with little or no need for an overarching set of rules to inhibit us, hamper our pursuit of happiness and convince us that we need things we really don't.

Needless to say, by the end of the film, my audacious hope was obliterated under the weight of human tendencies once again. Although less than 20 journals have made it back to Some Guy in the 8+ years they have been floating around, the film maker was able to document that they have indeed traveled the planet (mostly in the first and second world countries and for the most part in the northern hemisphere.) Interestingly, along the way there are various instances where the participants try and force their own personal moral code on the conduct of the transfer and/or the content. Some people set up queues for particular volumes and tried to impose time limits. People transposed emotions to the content. Some were appalled at the revisions made to the work of others.

Some people obviously have just kept the journal with no intention of returning it. Others have no doubt forgotten about possessing it as it likely made its way to the pile of stuff being stored in the garage. Some used it as a metaphor for understanding unrelated life changing experiences or political realities. In other words, every human interaction one could imagine has taken place in the context of the movement of the journal. It really clarifies the point that all people are interesting and we are likely to disagree with most of them.

So what does that have to do with Ayn Rand? It brings us back to the apt conclusions of my inner circle: it truly is the way people are. We don't learn; we keep repeating the same mistakes as groups because the groups consist of the random collection of all the possible personality iterations and the same traits are dominant and bubble to the top every time.

So as we sit here in the midst of the great recession asking ourselves how this could happen, we should look ourselves square in the eye and ask ourselves if we contributed by accepting fate, following the crowd and being apathetic. And then we should ask what is life for anyway? Is it really about whose name is on one's jeans or is it about improving the human experience and honing the skills of reason to continue our progress as a species toward spiritual perfection?

In recent conversations, at least three people have articulated the ultimate problem facing the world today as overpopulation. As with most who are keenly aware of major problems, none seemed prepared to suggest a solution. But I have a simple solution that tracks Ayn Rand's concept of respecting the people with brains and letting them lead us to Nirvana. Overpopulation is a function of poverty. People in poverty, driven by the innate human motivation to perpetuate the species have many more babies than people living in comfort. The chances of their progeny carrying on are so much smaller that they are inclined to have lots of kids to create the possibility that at least one or two of them will survive. Once we realize that by adequately taking care of one's own needs first we are then freed up to help other people become just like us, then we can easily rationalize the pursuit of wealth and stop demonizing it.

The world is experiencing a paradigm shift of epic proportions right under our noses. Now is our chance to seize opportunity and work within the change as opposed to seeing the negative and throwing up our hands. So what if I can't afford to fill my house with junk from Walgreen's any longer; the jobs created by that consumption are not the kind that were going to break the poverty cycle. Let's stop shrugging, get creative and leave behind a journal of great things for future generations.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beautiful Boobs

Here are my faves from the:


Members of Quilters of South Carolina have created one-of-a-kind bras for Breast Cancer Awareness. The exhibit consists of forty-nine original works of art which are unique, entertaining, humorous, and beautiful to make the public aware of breast cancer, to memorialize those lost to the disease, and to honor survivors.

This exhibit will tour SC until Oct '09 at which time individual Artfull Bras will be auctioned and the proceeds donated to the Best Chance Network, a program to provide care and treatment of uninsured women across the state who are diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer.

The bras come prepared for display on their own hangers and are available for exhibit across the state of South Carolina. The exhibit is available until October of 2009. If you are interested in delighting and inspiring your organization membership, contact Sandra Baker, president of QSC at

Pastel Party - Judy Twitty

Nursing Bra - Anne Duncan

Support Your Favorite Boob - Kathy Hauser

Sports Bra - Angela Faulkenberry

For more go to