NBC’s Olympic Coverage

NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics is monopolistic.

Delaying major events and airing them during prime time is ridiculous. I understand that NBC has to recoup some of the 1 billion + they paid for the rights to air the games but what happened to fair competition and giving customers what they want?

In the internet-age, where most people get their news updates online and on their phones, it is quite likely they will know the results of these events before they arrive at home to watch it “live”.

I would expect these actions that stem from having a monopoly to take place in a communist type country where the media companies are state-owned and live online results can be blocked and viewers have no choice but to wait till prime time to tune in. I’m not saying this would be right but you get my point.

Shame on NBC. Instead of creating an opportunity to provide live quality programming, engaging viewers and taking advantage of advancements in mobile technology that allows users to watch streaming video on the go, it is abusing its power as the sole Olympic content provider, all in the name of the mighty dollar.

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Greed – something’s gotta take.

Greed is endemic, or is it?

At least that’s how I felt after reading an article about a U.K. billionaire that paid little or no taxes.

I have a theory and I’m open to hearing what you think about it. Here goes:

I believe that in developed countries, one of the reasons wealthy people don’t like paying taxes is because for the most part, public/social spending that is funded by taxes don’t benefit them.

Think about it for a sec. The wealthy don’t need universal health care, public schools, public transportation, etc. Their roads are already well paved, parks are clean, they can have their kids driven to private schools and medical insurance is paid for.

Whereas in a developing nation the situation is quite different. It is in the best interest of all members of society, especially the wealthy, to ensure that the country progresses. And a key source of funding would come from taxes. After all, highways and roads need to be constructed and paved, schools need to be built, cities planned, commerce and trade to kick start….

Just remember –  a capitalist with something to sell and no roads that leads to his store will not stay in business for long.

One argument that I heard is that the government wastes tax payers money, in response to that, another person told me that if only 20% goes towards helping someone in need and the other 80% is wasted, it’s still better than no one paying taxes and 0% going towards helping those in need.

I agree.

Healthcare for all!? Damn, say it ain’t so.

For the majority of Americans, health insurance, compared to other kinds of insurance such as fire or flood insurance is pretty much a necessity. Eventually some health issue or accident will occur and you will have to see the doctor. The two scary unknowns are how bad will it be and how much it will cost. If you have health insurance then for the most part you are left with one scary unknown.

Given the high probability of a health issue arising and the unknown costs that may be involved, you would think that any rational person would get health insurance right?

Not so fast though – only if they can afford it. And when I say afford, I don’t mean sacrifice. And by sacrifice I mean give up some other necessity to purchase it. You see the risk involved or probability of outcome assessment is different for each person or family based largely on affordability, which determines whether or not they purchase something like health insurance.

So what would Universal Health Care actually mean for Americans?

Well to sum it up, basically it would mean health insurance for those who can afford it and those who can’t. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

Politicians are sometimes very quick to label stuff as bad when if you really examine it, the idea itself may be good in terms of meeting a need that benefits society as a whole, but bad based on its implementation.To be honest, I find it crazy when some talk about shutting down or killing Universal Health Care programs dead it their tracks, labeling support for such programs Socialist and therefore evil and anti-American.

I have a simple solution. How about we create a large online platform that allows Americans to discuss and even debate universal health care, with input from doctors, companies, politicians, economic experts, and people who can’t afford health insurance. And even use this platform to vote on it. Not vote based on political allegiances, but on the issue itself.

Of course there would have to be an in dept analysis on how much it would cost to implement universal health care and who would pay for it, but that does not have to be a big issue either. How about we vote on that as well. Numerous funding options can be presented to the public. For example, increasing taxes, cutting the military budget or reducing funding for the space program (I maybe a little late on this one).

I would vote on cutting military spending. How about you?

For a second, lets step outside these rigid political ideals of Democrat and Republican and examine each issue based not only on rational analysis but also on empathy and the greater good of mankind.

Communism. Welcome back?

I was in China when the Occupy Wall Street Protests were going on and although I wasn’t involved I was sympathetic to the causes of the protestors. Who wouldn’t be? After all they were advocates against economic inequality, greed and corruption.

Let me present two definitions for you and I invite you to read them over in your head a few times and tell me what you think.

1. Communism is the doctrine of the conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat.
2. The proletariat is that class of society which procures its means of livelihood entirely and solely from the sale of its labor.

Ok, let’s explore a little further. Communist doctrine discusses:

– getting rid of class division
– no private ownership of property
– revolution against the bourgeoisie(capitalists;owners of the means of productions;providers of wages to laborers)

Now, to get back to the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and correct me if I’m wrong but with the exception of ‘no private ownership of property’, doesn’t it seem as if the protestors were indirectly advocating communist principles?

A week ago I read the Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. A great read, I will admit, but a lot of unanswered questions.

History provides a lot of lessons that make us wary about adopting communist principles due to the disastrous effects of them in practice by Lenin, Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Mao Ze Dong, who all used Marx’s and Engels’ ideas as a platform to take and abuse power.

But does that make Communist theory evil?

Growing up in the West we were ‘taught’ that Capitalism was good and Communism was bad. If I take the base definition of Catholicism to mean something good but due to the purportedly negative acts of numerous Catholic leaders, such as covering up sexual child abuse, then I can be lead to believe that Catholicism in practice may be evil. What Western leaders have done is make us believe that Communism in theory is evil due to the practices of historical Communist leaders.

Here are some notes by an English editor of the Communist Manifesto, David Boyle:

“We might take with a grain of salt the Manifesto’s claim that the working class is the instrument that will liberate humanity from its power but we still have to take seriously the other claim: that the power of capital has alienated human beings from each other and from themselves.”

“The bourgeoisie, according to the Manifesto, “has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible (not able to be overturned) chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable (not right or reasonable) freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct brutal exploitation. ”

“…150 years later we are all very suspicious of their vague revolutionary solution, with its fatal hint of violence.”

And some of my notes after reading the Manifesto:

“It seems as if leading up to the Cold War and even today the United States was/is willing to do almost anything to make sure that Communism did/does not spread. Since the theory of communism lies in the working class removing the capitalists from power, the elimination of private ownership and the formation of a class-less society; it would be in the United States’ best interest to make sure that Communism was eliminated, as a way of controlling capital interests in non-communist countries and to ensure that the American ruling-class (made up of and controlled by capitalists) did not lose their means of production and power.”

“The goal wasn’t to destroy or prevent the spread of communism for the greater good of the U.S or society as a whole but rather to protect the interests of the ruling-class capitalists.”

“The messages of religious and political freedom, human rights and freedom of speech were all political strategies used to increase public support in the fight against communism, but the truth behind the movement had very little to do with morality.”

Lastly, I invite you to read this excerpt from Wikipedia about Salvador Allende, ex-Chilean President 1970-73.

“The possibility of Allende winning Chile’s 1970 election was deemed a disaster by a US administration which wanted to protect US business interests and prevent any spread of Communism during the Cold War.[35] In September 1970, President Nixon informed the CIA that an Allende government in Chile would not be acceptable and authorized $10 million to stop Allende from coming to power or unseat him.[36] Henry Kissinger’s 40 Committee and the CIA planned to impede Allende’s investiture as President of Chile with covert efforts known as “Track I” and “Track II”; Track I sought to prevent Allende from assuming power via so-called “parliamentary trickery”, while under the Track II initiative, the CIA tried to convince key Chilean military officers to carry out a coup.[36]

During Nixon’s presidency, U.S. officials attempted to prevent Allende’s election by financing political parties aligned with opposition candidate Jorge Alessandri and supporting strikes in the mining and transportation sectors.[37]

After the 1970 election, the Track I operation attempted to incite Chile’s outgoing president, Eduardo Frei Montalva, to persuade his party (PDC) to vote in Congress for Alessandri.[citation needed] Under the plan, Alessandri would resign his office immediately after assuming it and call new elections. Eduardo Frei would then be constitutionally able to run again (since the Chilean Constitution did not allow a president to hold two consecutive terms, but allowed multiple non-consecutive ones), and presumably easily defeat Allende. The Chilean Congress instead chose Allende as President, on the condition that he would sign a “Statute of Constitutional Guarantees” affirming that he would respect and obey the Chilean Constitution, and that his reforms would not undermine any of its elements.

Track II was aborted, as parallel initiatives already underway within the Chilean military rendered it moot.[38]

During the second term of office of Democratic President Bill Clinton, the CIA acknowledged having played a role in Chilean politics prior to the coup, but its degree of involvement is debated. The CIA was notified by its Chilean contacts of the impending coup two days in advance, but contends it “played no direct role in” the coup.[39]

Much of the internal opposition to Allende’s policies came from business sector, and recently-released U.S. government documents confirm that the U.S. indirectly[24] funded the truck drivers’ strike,[40] which exacerbated the already chaotic economic situation prior to the coup.

The most prominent U.S. corporations in Chile prior to Allende’s presidency were the Anaconda and Kennecott copper companies, and ITT Corporation, International Telephone and Telegraph. Both the copper corporations aimed to expand privatized copper production in the city of El Teniente in the Chilean Andes, the world’s largest underground copper mine.[41] At the end of 1968, according to US Department of Commerce data, U.S. corporate holdings in Chile amounted to $964 million. Anaconda and Kennecott accounted for 28% of U.S. holdings, but ITT had by far the largest holding of any single corporation, with an investment of $200 million in Chile.[41] In 1970, before Allende was elected, ITT owned 70% of Chitelco, the Chilean Telephone Company and funded El Mercurio, a Chilean right-wing newspaper. Documents released in 2000 by the CIA confirmed that before the elections of 1970, ITT gave $700,000 to Allende’s conservative opponent, Jorge Alessandri, with help from the CIA on how to channel the money safely. ITT president Harold Geneen also offered $1 million to the CIA to help defeat Allende in the elections.[42]

After General Pinochet assumed power, United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told President Richard Nixon that the U.S. “didn’t do it,” but “we helped them…created the conditions as great as possible.” (referring to the coup itself).[43] Recent documents declassified under the Clinton administration‘s Chile Declassification Project show that the United States government and the CIA sought the overthrow of Allende in 1970 immediately before he took office (“Project FUBELT“). Many documents regarding the 1973 coup remain classified.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende

Communist you say? Hmmmm, maybe.

What Canada can teach the U.S. about race relations

A young African-American male is exiting his apartment building on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, dressed casually with his hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head. He opens the back door of a car parked outside of his apartment complex and proceeds to enter, when almost inside the vehicle, a white male grabs him from behind and proceeds to pull him out of the car.

For a second, put yourself in his shoes and tell me what you would do?

The white male was a plain-clothes police officer and unknown to the said police officer, the driver of the car was an off-duty police officer and cousin of the young man that entered the car. When the driver stated that he was a police officer, the plain clothes officer backed off and said that he thought the young man was involved in something narcotics-related and looked suspicious because he was exiting a known, drug apartment building. Mind you, the police officer never stated that he was an officer before grabbing the young man.

What would have happened if the young man’s cousin (the driver) wasn’t a police officer and the young man had retaliated?

Michael Gladwell’s book – Blink (which I strongly recommend you read, along with all of his other books) discusses the power of snap judgments and the thought process that takes place in the blink of an eye. In the book he references this case – http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/d/amadou_diallo/index.html and discusses the snap judgement errors and stereotypes that may have led to the officers killing Amadou Diallo.

Gladwell states that “for there to be improvements made in race relations, white people need to consciously interact with and make friends with non-whites.” To add to what he said I believe that looking at other racial groups from afar or on television only paints a simplistic, biased picture. When you live with people of races/ethnicities other than your own you start to realize that there are good and bad in all people and for the most part it is impossible to tell what a person is like by simply looking at them and making snap judgements.

In Ontario, while walking around malls, community centers, neighborhoods, downtown and commercial areas, it is quite common to see a large number of multi-racial couples, and kids and teenagers of all races playing and interacting with each other.

On numerous instances when I’m having lunch or dinner in various Caribbean restaurants in sub-urban Ontario I would witness white-Canadians walk in and order roti, doubles and other Caribbean foods.

I would often see white Canadians driving their cars blasting the latest Popcaan and Vybz Kartel dancehall tunes, and singing along! Yesterday, as I was riding through the parking lot on my way home from the gym I see and hear this white guy in his car playing my favorite Popcaan tune – “Partyshot” and I said to him – “I see you’re playing Popcaan” and he responds, “I like Popcaan, he’s a little commercial but I like him.” I smiled, felt happy that he knew about that type of music and seemed to be enjoying it and I thought to myself he must know his Jamaican tunes.

It is quite common to find stories like these in big American cities but the big difference is that these interactions are taking place outside of metropolitan areas in Canada.

Towns are not as segregated, neighborhoods are more diverse, homes are built closer together, with dead ends/roundabouts and a large number of them are attached, and for the most part suburban communities are built inward which makes it easier for neighbors to interact with each other and kids to play together.

So, if it is normal for a white Canadian child to interact with non-whites and they are able to experience both good and bad, then people simply become people, capable of both. So when they get older they are more likely to have friends and significant others or spouses who are of a different race as themselves and therefore less likely to make snap judgments based on stereotypes, segregate themselves and discriminate against others.

By the way, I’m not saying that white people are the only ones that discriminate, all people do but given the racial composition of both countries, the effects of one group against another can be quite profound.

Why is Canada more expensive than the U.S.?

Over the past few years I have spent a considerable amount of time in Canada and as much as I enjoy my visits there I usually end up complaining about how much more expensive Canada is compared to the United States. Or should I say Ontario compared to New York?

The first time time I drove across the border from New York was probably in 2008 and after crossing over I couldn’t help but notice that nothing really changed. The infrastructure of both countries were pretty much identical, traffic flowed in the same direction, the people sounded pretty much the same, the value of both currencies were almost identical and the ‘feel’ of the place just wasn’t one that made me instantly aware that I was in a foreign country.

Eventually, as time went by and I continued to travel to and spend more time in Canada I started noticing the differences with regards to the prices of goods and services. To date, I have been able to compile a list of stuff that is considerably more expensive. Basic items such as snacks, beverages, groceries, McDonald’s, gas, clothing, shoes, cell phone and internet services and hair dressing services are all priced higher. A few months ago it cost approximately $4.00 a gallon for gas in New York City, in Ontario – approximately $5.00 a gallon, the same pair of Nike sneakers cost me $65. in New York cost $90. in Ontario . At&t’s high-speed internet service which includes 250gb of data/month and peak download speeds of 3 mbps costs $38./month ($20. with a one year contract), while Roger’s high speed internet service which includes 15gb of data/month with the same peak download speeds costs $36. per month. The list goes on and on but you get the point.

I started looking into reasons why this was so and in my quest to find the answer I looked firstly at the exchange rate. This provided no answers because whether the U.S. dollar was slightly stronger/weaker the cost of stuff in Canada was still higher.

My cousin believed that it may have something to do with the difference in the respective country’s population sizes, whereby in Canada the market is alot smaller so companies sell less stuff at higher prices. At first I thought his reason provided a clue but upon further examination I came to disagree. With that logic, countries with small populations would have goods that are unreasonably highly priced. This would mostly be true for small countries that relied heavily on imports of commodities. There may also be reason to believe that one may have to factor in the costs of transporting goods from the U.S. to Canada (respective of the smaller population) but given that the countries are on the same land mass, how much more should it cost to transport (by ground) goods from a factory in Minnesota to Dallas, vs transporting it from Minnesota to Winnipeg? Secondly, in Canada, even the prices of locally produced goods are more expensive compared to locally produced goods that are sold in the United States.

Maybe the answer lies in the laws of supply and demand. A quick, simplistic review would remind us that the market price is determined when supply equals demand. I wonder if that holds true in Canada? Is there a supply shortage which pushes up the price of a pair of Nike sneakers? Is demand that great? Would companies say that they are not selling more so they can’t sell for less? I’m not sure, because even in small town America stuff is cheaper. I guess I could understand if the countries were not of the same land mass, whereby other more complex factors would come into play, but  what is preventing a Canadian who lives 5 minutes from the border from going across to the U.S each weekend to fill up their gas tank?

The last area I decided to explore was income statistics. Canada’s Human Resources and Skills Development bureau states that in 2011 its GDP per capita reached $39,370, whereas the CIA World Fact Book lists the United States’ at $48,100. Canada’s Income per capita, provided by Ontario Ministry of Finance was $38,617 compared to the U.S. at $41,663 (The Bureau of Business and Economic Research).

Income tax rates:

Income America Federal New York City Total Canada Federal Ontario State Total
$50,000 25% 3% 28% 22% 9% 31%
$35,000 15% 3% 18% 15% 5% 20%

Sales tax rates:

New York City – 8.9%

Ontario – 13%

The one bright spot is that Ontario’s minimum wage is $10.25/hr. compared to New York City’s at $7.25/hr.

I assumed that my question would be answered due to the possibility that Canadians earned more money, which would off-set the higher prices of goods and services. But the data above proves that Canadians are getting ‘hit’ 3 times. On average they make less than their American counterparts, hand over more of their income to the government in the form of taxes and when they do decide to go shopping, sales tax is higher.

I didn’t mention, but I am a car fanatic so one day I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Mazda car dealership in Ajax, Ontario. After 15 minutes of joyriding in the MX-5, I sat down with the car salesman to discuss the cost of the vehicle and I was stunned to find out how easily a car that I thought would cost me about $25,000 USD would cost about $35,000 CAD. Upon further exploration online, I now  know that cars in Canada cost approximately $10,000 more than cars in the U.S.

So why is Canada more expensive than the U.S? I really don’t know.

But before you think about moving south of the border, remember that money isn’t everything. Coming soon – Is Canadian health care really free? and What Canada can teach the U.S. about race relations.

Income tax rates sales tax rates and minimum wage info. found at:

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/fq/txrts-eng.html

http://www.moneychimp.com/features/tax_brackets.htm

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/fq/txrts-eng.html

http://taxes.about.com/od/statetaxes/a/City-Income-Taxes.htm

http://ny.rand.org/stats/govtfin/salestax.html

http://canadaonline.about.com/od/labourstandards/a/minimum-wage-in-canada.htm

http://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/workprot/minwage.shtm