Yapping Yak

THINKING ALOUD

Tag Archives: Human rights

Look Into My Eyes!

A Piece of New from AJE

In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channelled a significant amount of  energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women.

The dead:
Mohamed Dawood son of  Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed 
Payendo
Robeena
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir 
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali 
 
The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim
Parween
Rafiullah
Zardana
Zulheja

Look into the man’s eyes for 5 secs, and tell me you don’t tear up. 

How U.S. Tax-free Money Goes to Help Isareal on the West Bank

I read the excerpt of a tax journal paper on TaxProf Blog and its link to a NYT article two years ago.

I really don’t know enough to say anything on the Palestine-Isareal issue. It is tragic to both sides, as well as the whole human society.

But gaming the system and undermining principles, that I can’t tolerate.

Revisiting My Socialist Root: How About Guaranteed Basic Income To All?

I am so easily sold on free food and beer: when the old boy club professor who seems to be a die-hard  Republican and Obama hater invited the class to the pub for beer and appetizers, I went, for the free food, and conversed with some female colleagues on lawyer fashion and stuff, hording over the food and being patronized by the old boy. It’s easy when you don’t give a flying sugar.

That’s my introductory ranting. SKIP ABOVE.

=====================================================

Bob and Michi and I continued some discussion over equality and efficient tax system (tax lawyers with souls <3) over the left-over nachos. Basically this elitist professor suggested a low income(or anything rather) tax rate would be beneficial to the social welfare, as it reduces the stake people have in tax planing, thus saves the resources spent on tax compliance and planning/evasion. Making being smart on tax not worth the time, basically.

To ensure revenue, we can broaden the tax base, grant less exemptions (I forgot whether he mentioned this point but I think it makes sense because who cares about tax exemptions when you only have a 15% rate and it costs a lot to comply with the requirements for that exemption. of course, quantitative study needed), etc. Also, prof suggested that people should be left with their money to do whatever they want to, maybe he thinks this would reflect a truer market. High tax rate also induces lobbying, which wastes resources and distorts the market to a great extent (like taxation on carried interest, easily enabling the hedge fund managers to have a better rate on their wage compensation than others, as it is taxed at cap rate).

I certainly hope the tax rate goes up, because it would give me tons of work, and I will become a fat cat, and then I will lobby like a maniac to have the government exempt the exact form of my income.

Anyways. Taxation is thought to be existing for a few reasons:  generating revenue for the government (to do what? keep the machine running, and redistribute ), providing some incentive/disincentive for certain economic/social behaviors. Revenue generating is a vague concept, and where to “lay the incidence of taxation”, i.e. who to tax and how much, depends on the fair share based on usage of social resources, ability to pay, and of course ideological and lobbying consequences.

So I think it is fair to say, we 1) would like to make sure the society is functioning properly and provide a decent life for people living on the land; 2) improving the economy, with different schools fighting over how much government should get involved.

To realize these two goals, we can use 1) positive taxation, where government ask people for money, or 2) negative taxation, meaning the government gives money out to “deserving” people. (there is an interesting article on whether lazy people deserve our money, at here)

If one agrees with there should be progressivity in income taxation,one probably would agree that we ought to tax the right people at the right amount (actually flat rate and regressive income tax folks might think the same too).  The efforts to devise a tax system on these beliefs would be : taxing the rich at a reasonable amount to “subsidize” the society, and taxing the poor at a lower amount to have them pay their fair share, and redistributing the subsidies to the poor in various forms, including but not limited to: minimum wage, safety net (social security), child support, etc, which are forms of Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI). Whether we should have a welfare system is beyond the scope of this discussion.

But there is one other form of GMI, which, if you are OK with giving people some money, you should not be TOO alarmed by this idea, which is: BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE. According to Wikipedia, the idea is this

basic income guarantee (basic incomecitizen’s income) is a proposed system[1] of social security, that regularly provides each citizen with a sum of money. In contrast to income redistribution between nations themselves, the phrase basic income defines payments to individuals rather than households,[2] groups, or nations, in order to provide for individual basic human needs. Except for citizenship, a basic income is entirely unconditional. Furthermore, there is no means test; the richest as well as the poorest citizens would receive it. The U.S. Basic Income Network[3] emphasizes this absence of means testing in its precise definition, “The Basic Income Guarantee is anunconditional, government-insured guarantee that all citizens will have enough income to meet their basic needs.”

I think the current tax system does address the “basic human needs” in form of deduction, basically saying we won’t tax you for an amount of income you have to spend to live like a human being. So, rather than having people take out those expenses first (where a lot of problems arise: what if they dont have the money to spend, no income to deduct from? some people dont have the chance to take advantage of the deduction/tax system as a redistribution system first), why not convert that “reimbursement” kind of system into an “allowance” type?

Granted, we now have SS and other things in the welfare system, and I am no expert in welfare system, aside from knowing the following things: it’s broken and incoherent, it lacks the support system to guarantee its proper functioning (outreach and advocacy). One thing  the welfare system struggles is the eligibility issue, and lot of resources are wasted on this area.

Basically what happens, roughly, is that we try to give people who have no resources to take deductions based on their own income some money, and on top of that, allow deductions for basic living expenses. In a perfect world, if equilibrium is achieved, deserving poor will get appropriate amount of govt subsidies and deductions and taxation will work out well.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, do we?

How about, approach this “we respect you need as a human being” from a different angle. Not a tax rebate system, but a prebate system. Just simply because of your being a member of this decent society, we grant you….(drum roll)….

BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE , which relates to  SOCIAL MINIMUM

Originally I accept this idea kinda naturally. As Bob said, maybe it is easier for ideologically socialist countries to adopt this, because we are brought up with this kind of noble ideas. Well, it does seem to ring a bell, similar to the communism ideas. But for the sake of dog, ideology worth less back home than here. Look at tbaggers and occupiers, and even the pro-life folks, they go all out for their (stupid) beliefs.

I guess my support originates more from a vague philosophical idea. In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, on the subject of Social Minimum, it starts

‘People should not be allowed to starve in the streets.’ ‘No one should be denied access to a decent minimum of health-care.’ ‘Every citizen should be able to meet his or her basic needs.’ These statements all express a widespread view that a political community should seek to ensure that its members are all able to enjoy at least a minimally decent standard of living. They assert the importance of what is often called the social minimum. However, the exact nature of the social minimum, the considerations that support it, and, indeed, its basic justifiability, are all matters of intense philosophical controversy.

I guess I am just naturally gang-ho about social justice. I can’t stand injustice. I am such a baby.

In Wikipedia, there is a more economics-based explanation

…The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet-unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact…From the point where it takes only 1,000 hours per year or 20,000 to 30,000 hours per lifetime to create an amount of wealth equal to or greater than the amount we create at the present time in 1,600 hours per year or 40,000 to 50,000 hours in a working life, we must all be able to obtain a real income equal to or higher than our current salaries in exchange for a greatly reduced quantity of work…Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be. The present crisis has stimulated technological change of an unprecedented scale and speed: ‘the micro-chip revolution’. The object and indeed the effect of this revolution has been to make rapidly increasing savings in labour, in the industrial, administrative and service sectors. Increasing production is secured in these sectors by decreasing amounts of labour. As a result, the social process of production no longer needs everyone to work in it on a full-time basis. The work ethic ceases to be viable in such a situation and work-based society is thrown into crisis…
André GorzCritique of economic Reason, Gallile, 1989
It’s interesting. I am totally buying it. Granted there are barriers and hard to implement, but a nice approach nevertheless. Actually some of the objections directly linked to the Karl Smith argument I mentioned above. So a lot of it can be, theoretically, solved by scientific advancement. So where are all the scientists???
I need to follow up on this. But now, time for food. and PARTEYYYYY.

Talk by Mr. Kim Hyun Sik

[Note: This post was originally written in April 2011 and I hit a wall. I was originally planning on writing on how one's idea about the world changes and not changes, but I don't have a background in neuroscience, psychology and sociology to provide any valuable insight; the whole thing would just turn into a worthless self-exploring stream of consciousness writing by a 20 something y/o female.  Enough of those on the web already, and I just know enough to stop myself from doing it, at my best]

I went to a talk by Mr. Kim Hyun Sik at Harvard on April 21. The official name of the talk was An Inside Look at How The North Korean Regime Maintains Its Power.

I was very interested in this topic because I saw the sharp change in my perspective throughout the years.  I was a loyalist with a naive critical eye until about when I turned 20, and slowly migrated to the zone of dissidents. If early year education  is of the great significance as we think it is,  what does the liberation of my mind imply? A failure of the early year education (in the sense that part of its purpose was implementing a certain ideological framework in the younger generations), rendering it a systemic failure? Or, a stronger than we might think predetermined pseudo-genetic temperament (which led me to continuous exploring and adjusting), implicating a more personal problem/trait?

So I was hoping Mr. Kim would be able to confirm or shed some light on my puzzled mind. Being an “ideological  nomad” himself, he seemed to be someone who went through a similar path with me, like, we wander around between ideologies. The idea is, we wander, we explore, we don’t settle; but we long to settle, we became tired, and it doesn’t seem that we can live off the shackle of an ideology-bound mindset, to some extent.

Oh, doesn’t this sound like bluff.

Well his talk definitely reassured me how North Korean-ish my grade school education, maybe even junior high, was. And how old men from North Korea and China share some interesting traits. He reminded me of my grandfathers. I can get what they are talking about but not where they come from, almost like an ingrained idea in their minds that got reinforced by repeated preaching to other people, without any mental flexibility, the only way they seem to integrate the current situation into their thinking is using it as a contrast to illustrate how much better things are right now, without much on why things are, allegedly,much better now.  Granted that I am drawing the conclusion based on one talk, so it seems to be the right time for me to plug in a disclaimer. Kim Hyun Sik might be awesome. I am just too ignorant.

Before I move on to talk about what Mr. Kim said about North Korean education system and my personal experience, let me take a detour to insert some of his background info. here. Kim Hyun Sik fought in the Korean Civil war and killed some American soldiers. He subsequently majored in Russian in college and graduated top of his class. He then was appointed Professor of Russian in the Pyongyang University of Education (my alma mater‘s counterpart in NK! So happy we went with the French Normale system in school naming ;)), later the Dean of the Department. He claims that he was also selected to be private tutor of Kim Jong Il and was involved in evaluating the academic aptitude of Kim Il Sung’s second wife’s nephew, which was the trial for the new extended compulsory education system in NK (testing whether young children were intellectually developed enough so that they could start the education earlier ). Later he went to Soviet Union to teach Korean (ironically after the Seoul Olympics, when people start to pay attention to the language spoken on this peninsula) , where he defected to the South, and later came to the U.S. He is now a researching professor at George Mason, and apparently his book is being selected as a Nobel Prize contender. There is no English translation yet (only Japanese, which is enjoying a “great readership there”), but you can find a summary of the book in English here .

Mr. Kim didn’t go into details how the education is structured to maintain the ruling power in his talk or his book (summary). His role, to me, seems to be more of a living fossil (a very precious one) rather than someone who is actively providing explanation based on his experience. Him, for some reason, is somewhat objectified, willingly or as a corollary.  Another victim of the western-centered discourse?

Also while he seems to be very much criticizing the situation in NK, he still believes that NK could contribute to the human capital in Korean if a unification ever happened by having young people with the great determination to serve the country. I wonder if the regime is overthrown and everyone is presented with all the opportunities that others have, would they still stick to the one option of serving the country rather than freely opting for some less altruistic goals, such as not serving the country. Statistically this is bound to happen. But anyways.

To sum up, other than an interesting personal story, I didn’t learn much from the talk. You can learn it all from the book summary.

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