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​Sneakers for Sale

Gadfly | June 4th, 2023

By Ed Raymond

Can Someone Tell Me Why Sneakers Sell for $1.5 to $2.2 Million a Pair?

It has to be something other than quality. I shop for used books in thrift stores because I have discovered thick books given as gifts usually have not been read. Last week I picked up a new Microsoft ENCARTA Dictionary—the first dictionary for the Internet age--for $2.50. It was priced at $24.95 U.S. and $36.95 Canada. It’s the first dictionary published in about 30 years, so it contains computer and internet language not in older dictionaries. A real find.

I bought it the same day Sotheby’s announced that Michael Jordan’s sneakers (Bred Air Jordan-size 13) he wore in 1998 National Basketball Association finals sold for $2.2 million. The auction house had predicted a potential $4 million. In 2022 Jordan sold a jersey he wore in the 1998 final for $10.1 million.

Used sneakers in thrift stores start at $1.50. What possesses a person to pay $2 million for stinky sneakers and $10 million for a sweaty jersey? Love of the game? Bragging rights? Investment? Country club power? Narcissism? Selfishness? Too much Harvard or Yale?

American social science tells us that men are falling behind women in higher education, die more than women from drug overdoses, and commit suicide at higher rates. Would a rich woman buy a pair of Billie Jean King’s shorts?

What can money buy? A mixed bag of shrinks, psychologists, columnists, highball drinkers, and psychiatrists said for a long time that $75,000 per year is the limit for expanding happiness. But new research by the National Academy of Sciences members now say that happiness can be bought for those whose income swells way beyond $200,000.

Does Mr. Anonymous who spent $2.2 million for Jordan’s sneakers, sneak them out of his bank’s safety deposit boxes to sniff them once a month to feel a surge of happiness in his cerebellum? Does he have an expensive watch to check his heart surge? Only the superrich know.

Is Jeff Bezos, Who Takes Turns Being the Richest Man in the World, Happy?

Poor Jeff keeps buying mansions so he can retain his title as the largest collector of bathrooms in the world. He has purchased two yachts totaling 663 feet, which might be the world record for one billionaire.

Yachts are the favorite toy to do battle about who is richest. I guess it’s a step up from during the Trump years when the contest was about who had the biggest penis. I haven’t been able to find out how many bathrooms there are on the two yachts.

How happy is Bezos? He dumped $38 billion on MacKenzie Scott to divorce her after 25 years. Scott is very happy spending billions supporting programs that Bezos refused to give a dime to during their marriage. He had no prenuptial agreement.

With his new hot trophy fiancee Lauren Sanchez wearing his $2.5 million 30-carat engagement ring, he evidently has agreed to negotiate a nuptial deal because she is relatively rich in her own right. A successful businesswoman at 53, she, wearing $2,400 T-shirts, and Bezos, at 59, wearing $2,000 T-shirts, already share joint property assets and several “philanthropic endeavors.”

The couple requires two yachts because she couldn’t land her helicopter on his 417 ft. Kuro, a sailing yacht with three very high steel masts too dangerous for close-flying helicopters. So, his superyacht has a 246 ft. superyacht “shadow” named Abeona where Sanchez can land on a helicopter pad and then take a boat to his “boat.”

The very rich super rich have “shadow” yachts following their superyachts to carry toys: seaplanes, supercars, motorcycles, ATVs, scuba equipment, submarines, jet-skis, smaller boats, and other toys to bring pleasure to the ever-seeking.

Nineteenth Century English philosopher John Stuart Mill’s essay “On Liberty” is still quoted when freedom is defined by lesser thinkers: “Humans are under a moral obligation to seek the improvement of our moral character. The test of what is right in politics is not the will of the people, but the good of the people.”

David Brooks explains the passage: “He understood that the moral obligations we take on in life—to families, friends, and nation, to the past and the future—properly put a brake on individual freedom of action. And he believed they point us toward the fulfillment of our nature.” Amen!

Want to Live the American Dream? Better Move to Denmark or Finland!

Each year the plutocrats who govern the countries of the world fly in their private jets to Davos, Switzerland to discuss how a few thousand people are going to screw billions of people into parting with their money. Oh, they do talk a little about economic inequality and philanthropy by getting museums and hospitals named after them, but they never talk about taxes.

All of them pay a lower rate than their maids, cooks, finance managers, yacht captains, and pilots. And they hide fortunes in tax havens. One of the most pleasing seminars at Davos this year was led by the Irish finance minister who claimed Ireland, a notorious tax paradise for billionaires and their companies, was no longer tax heaven. It was lightly attended.

Billionaires don’t want to talk about taxes. They go to seminars covering, racism, division, economic inequality, feminism, and other societal problems, but taxes are boring. They don’t talk about how happiness actually continues to rise with income in the high range of incomes for the majority of people, showing that many rich, ofor n average, having more money makes them happier.

The Divided States of America is the richest developed country in the world and has the most billionaires, but it ranks way down on the list of the most desirable countries in which to live for the average citizen—and “common good.”

The main reason is quite apparent when we look at the total tax revenue as a share of gross national product (GDP) of the top countries, 37 of them in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland have been rated at the top of the most desirable countries in which to live by United Nation surveys for many years.

The Divided States rate between 16th and 21st on the best place to live chart. Tax rates reveal the true reason. The five top countries have tax rates of 40% to 45% of GDP. We sit in 34th place with a tax rate of 24.2%.

The top countries in the best living contest have a balanced mix of capitalism and democratic-socialism. We now have “chaos” capitalism. The average tax rate of the 37 OECD countries is 33.7%. Only Ireland, the tax haven, and Chile, and Mexico—two really screwed up countries—have lower rates than the DSA.

In the End, Why Try To Control Economic Inequality and the Superyachts?

Joe Fassler of The New York Times, in his article “The Superyachts of Billionaires Are Starting to Look a Lot Like Theft,” presents us with critical facts indicating why global warming will, in the end, probably be the death of us all.

Fassler writes: “Operating a superyacht is probably the most harmful thing an individual can do to the climate.” He uses the example of Dreamworks co-owner David Geffen’s Rising Sun, a 454-foot, 82-room megaship. He burns enough diesel fuel to spew 16,320 tons of carbon-dioxide gases annually into the atmosphere. That’s 800 times what the average American citizen generates in a year.

In 2023, the superrich own 5,500 superyachts that are 100 feet long or longer. The 300 biggest superyachts put 315,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the air each year based on likely usage, about the same as Burundi’s ten million inhabitants. A 200-foot superyacht burns 130 gallons of diesel an hour just sitting still in a harbor to keep the lights and toilets operating. If it travels 100 miles, it will burn about 2,200 gallons.

We will soon know which billionaire owner of a superyacht will win the annual World Superyacht Award. It will be a floating sea mansion, complete with elevators, glass swimming pools, hot tubs, exercise rooms, and other amenities too numerous to mention.

One yacht in the running this year has an air-conditioned helicopter hangar. One from previous years had a full-sized basketball court on deck. It had a special speed boat to go after the ball if it fell in the water.

Next, I’m going to research private jet flights that add 37 million tons of carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere. One of the superrich used a private jet to take a 17 minute jaunt!

The Wealthy Are Making the Planet Too Hot to Live On – and Kill Too Many Animals

Bernie Sanders, our only Democratic-Socialist senator, insists that economic inequality is the most important issue on the planet and that the world doesn’t need any billionaires. He opines that a family can get by very well on $999 million.

We might save some of the species that are endangered by “gourmet” billionaires with unusual tastes for fish and animal parts to solve sexual impotence and other medical problems.

Here is a very short list of the thousands of species that are being purchased by the wealthy to satisfy unusual “needs.

1. The vaquita porpoise called the totoaba is on the verge of extinction because their buoyancy bladders evidently taste great in soup and supposedly makes your skin “glow.” Chinese billionaires love it and will pay $50,000 for a kilo (2.2 pounds) of bladders.

2. A hundred million sharks are killed each year just for the fins which are used in tasty soup.

3. Travelers from Guyana have been arrested at airports for concealing chestnut-bellied seed finch hidden in hair curlers. The Chinese and others have bird singing contests, and if a bird is particularly melodious, it can be sold for $10,000.

4. Rhino horn, which is simply keratin like our fingernails, is rumored in Asia to improve sexual performance, so it sells for about $400,000 a kilo on the black market. When a rumor was passed saying rhino horn cured cancer, the price skyrocketed for a time.

5. An African poacher who kills an elephant can make four years of salary for the kill. The average bull elephant has ivory tusks that will sell for as much as $400,000 on the Asian black market. Poachers usually use rifles with military ammunition to kill elephants, but some use oranges loaded with strychnine to do the killing. Then other animals and vultures also die from eating the meat.

6. A Cambodian trafficker in long-tailed macaque monkeys was arrested at JFK airport in New York for selling 2,634 to U.S. drug companies to use in drug trials.

7. Jaguar teeth bring the poacher $22 each and are sold by middlemen for $900 each.

I think Senator Bernie Sanders was right, but I would like to see what would happen to the illegal fish and animal trade if families were limited to $999 million.

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