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Sycophants, plutocrats, and pitchforks

by Ed Raymond | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Gadfly | February 15th, 2017

The game is rigged

Last year 25 American hedge fund managers, whose income tax rate is about half of what their secretaries pay, made enough billions to fully pay the salaries of over 450,000 teachers.

Thirsty and hungry at Super Bowl 51 this year? A glass of beer was $12 and a hot dog $8, a soda and a few pretzels were only $17, a bottle of water sold for $6, and a parking spot three blocks away charged $50. Want to watch the game from a stadium seat? Seats averaged $6,250.

The research organization Oxfam reported that the eight richest individuals (all men) in the world have as much wealth as 3.6 billion people who live in the poorest half of the world’s population. Six of the eight are U.S. citizens. Only Amancio Ortega of Spain at $67 billion and Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico at $50 billion represent other countries.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates is in first place at $75 billion. At one time he tried to call all of his software programmers private contractors so he wouldn’t have to pay them benefits. In third place is Warren Buffett at $60B, the sage of Omaha who makes a lot of money shipping North Dakota crude oil by rail. Jeff Bezos of Amazon at $45.2 billion wants to deliver innumerable products by drone and was very surprised about the terrible working conditions in some of his warehouses. He is in fifth place.

In sixth place is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg at $44.6 billion. He is currently upsetting all of his Hawaii neighbors because a built a six-foot wall about a mile long on his beachfront property, thus destroying the view of many other residents.

In seventh is Larry Ellison of Oracle, CEO of another software company. Larry recently bought an entire island in Hawaii with some of his $43.6 billion. He loves the water. Years ago he spent billions developing a sailboat that won the America’s Cup. When Larry and his friends play basketball on a full-size court on one of his yachts traveling at warp speed, he keeps a speedboat in the water to recover any basketballs that go over the side. Now—that’s rich.

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and owner of Bloomberg LP, is in eighth place at $40 billion. I always thought Bloomberg did a good job governing New York City as he often wavered between being a Democrat or Republican.

The airlines take advantage of inequality

The airlines around the world have created a mammoth caste system with smaller seats and less legroom, bag fees, seat fees, and food fees -- to larger seats, large suites with beds, tables, large flat screens, and personal servants.

Etihad Airways of India is now offering a luxury ride from Mumbai to New York City in what they call “a penthouse in the sky” consisting of a three-room suite. The suite comes with a personal chef, butler, and bed turn-down services. It has a double bed for single or double occupancy and a bathroom with shower. A round-trip ticket will cost you $76,000. The suite is on the A380, a plane that can carry 500 passengers, with 415 in economy caste--class. If you occupy the suite, the airline guarantees you will never see a lowly passenger in coach.

Actually I’m surprised airlines have not started to sell really cheap standing room in airplanes that only have straps hanging from the ceiling to hang on to.

And now we have the Ark for animals, recently built at JFK terminal in New York City. If the rich want to travel with their pets and other animals, the Ark offers luxury accommodations. Dogs have a splashing pool and a “pawdicure.” The bill starts at $100. Traveling with a horse? The Ark has 24 stalls, with each costing you about $10,000 a night.

The Ark figures to serve 5,000 horses and 10,000 dogs and cats per year. There is a yard for relieving and a kitchen stocked with Royal Canin food. Luxury suites for dogs will soon be available with double beds, flat screen TVs, a swimming pool, and a nightly tuck-in service. A veterinary technician will always be available.

Too bad George Carlin died young

We badly need the irreverent George Carlin around today. He died too young, at 71, in 2008. He took on George W. Bush. I can only imagine what he would do to Donald Trump. In this magnificent political rant, Carlin nails political sycophants and the plutocrats that dominate them:

“The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have hidden owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls.

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork.

It’s a big club and you ain’t in it. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on: It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

And Carlin is talking about the Bush Administration. What would he do with The Donald?

Why are the elites building “safe” or “panic” rooms?

About 2,500 of the wealthy, the powerful, the famous, in other words, the political sycophants and plutocrats from around the world, recently met in Davos, Switzerland for about a week, plotting how to make more money by screwing the poor and the middle class.

Davos is a high-class ski resort with hotel rooms going for thousands of dollars a night. Annual membership fees in the World Economic Forum run from over $50,000 for individuals up to $600,000 for large businesses. The ticket for meetings runs a cool $19,000, with other costs running to $31,000.

At the cocktail parties the plutocrats and their high-priced sycophants and lobbyists seem to be completely bewildered by the backlashes aimed at them around the world. One hedge fund billionaire who has been attending Davos for 21 years said that the world order has been turned upside down: “Everyone is looking into the abyss.”

Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio agrees that the economic religion of the world elite, free trade and open markets, is under very strong attack from populists, but his only solutions are loosening regulations and lowering taxes. These two “solutions” got the world in trouble in the first place in 2007. Over 80% of the businessmen at Davos are very concerned about economic growth--and that social and environmental problems brought about by income inequality and climate change are making a very dangerous world.

The sycophants and plutocrats are getting nervous about their physical health. They have had to add to their own security forces because it’s pitchfork time. They are building safe and panic rooms in their luxury mansions. A panic or safe room is almost a necessity in the sale of New York and Los Angeles luxury homes. A safe room is fortified to protect a resident in case of home invasion, natural disaster, or terrorist attack. It costs about $250,000.

Mark Zuckerberg is building a stand-alone safe addition at a home in Palo Alto that will probably cost millions. Lady Gaga’s Malibu mansion has a bullet-proof and entry-resistant safe room.

Perhaps some elites actually remember that history often repeats itself. In 1787 the starving peasants and piss ants of France had had enough of the plutocrats represented by King Louis XVI and “let-them–eat-cake” Queen Antoinette. They used the “big French razor” and dropped many aristocratic heads into baskets.

The rich are beginning to practice survivalism

The latest issue of the New Yorker has a fascinating article by Evan Osnos, ”Survival of the Richest: Why Some of America’s Wealthiest People Are Prepping for Disaster.” Plutocrats from Silicon Valley and Wall Street are buying “survival” property all over the world, from tiny islands to huge estates and escape havens in New Zealand and fortified mountain retreats in Montana.

Some think their civilization is cracking up. In the first ten months 0f 2016 world plutocrats looking for escape havens bought over 1,400 square miles of prime New Zealand territory. The truth is they want to escape what happened in Paris 230 years ago. New Zealanders don’t like these sales at all in a land where sheep outnumber people about 6 to 1.

One imaginative builder paid $300,000 for a surplus Atlas missile site in Kansas and spent $20 million converting the huge underground structure capable of withstanding a nuclear strike into 12 private apartments. He has sold them all to rich survivalists. A full-floor apartment sold for $3 million and a half-floor sold for $1.5 million.

The builder claims 75 people can survive for five years off the electric grid because areas can be converted into fish tanks to grow tilapia and vegetables can be grown under grow lights. The units include sniper posts for security to use. He has swat-team style armored trucks that will be used to pick up apartment owners within a 400-mile radius.

The complex has a 75-foot pool, a rock-climbing wall, an Astro-Turf pet park, a computer room filled with Mac desktops, a gym, a movie theater, a library, a common room and an armory filled with rifles, other firearms, and plenty of ammo. The silo even has a bare room with a toilet in case a resident goes bonkers and needs to be put in solitary. It has a medical wing with hospital beds and a dentist chair (two of the owners are doctors and one is a dentist). If the unit is attacked each resident will be required to work four hours at some duty station. There is such a demand for similar units that the builder is planning four more silos. It’s beginning to look like pitchfork time--again.

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