Things Pile Up (2016Oct22)


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Thursday, October 20, 2016                                             8:33 PM

The recordings pile up—so the graphics I create for the videos piles up too. So, the YouTube upload count ticks upward. Meanwhile, I’m writing this stuff—and posting it—so the WordPress blog-posts tick upward and these documents keep piling up essay-titles. And, with all the PC activity, my files and folders get longer, bigger, and more numerous.

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The books get bought and, sometimes, read—and while I no longer create a pile of actual books, my Kindle is getting severely crowded. And if you though it was hard to remember what you had already read, when they were actual books—forget about the Kindle’s ‘Library’ listing. Plus, there’s the incessant stream of new TV shows and new movies to keep track of.

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The point is—I’m retired, disabled—I do nothing all day—and yet my life is a steady stream of data, too much, and too fast, to keep track of. I can’t remember what it was like when I had a busy, complex job on top of all that—and a social life, once upon a time.

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So don’t think I’m complaining—I’m just stating a fact—I would not be surprised if your life is far more complex, and your firehose of data is choking you even worse. There may be an internet-access gap that separates the human race into digital haves and have-nots, but the digital haves are not without their share of problems.

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Businesses and governments will find ways to dump a lot of data processing in our laps—there’re insurance forms, tax returns, bill-paying, car registration, subscriber services, cable-package options, and wyfy-speeds to choose from (and pay for). There’re school applications and job applications and loan applications and grant applications and business plans and budgets. There’s chores and meals and shopping and laundry and the kitchen sink (I threw that in too).

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When you get down to it (and if you leave out the suffering and deprivation) the poor really have much better lives than we do. A poor person would have to work awfully hard to hurt as many people as a corporate executive can with a simple paperwork mistake. The more power one has, the greater the damage one’s mistakes can do. And it is far simpler to live life without a nice house full of comfortable things, than to spend every waking hour worrying about losing a nice house full of comfortable things. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve had occasion to be poor, hungry, cold, and tired—and that’s no bargain either—but it is simpler.

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Of course, I’m just being foolish—having had occasion to be short on funds, I’m well aware of the high cost of being poor—the piecemeal existence demands more man-hours and more cost per reward. And the complexities of stretching a dollar are, in truth, more, not less, than those of maintaining a high-income lifestyle. But the grass is always greener, isn’t it?

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I’m starting to wonder what I’m going to do when the election is finally over and done with. I’ve been blogging about the presidential race for two years, pretty near, and it’s time for me to find a new subject. I’m thinking the guaranteed minimum revenue idea deserves at least as much thought and analysis as I’ve given to this lopsided popularity-contest-cum-constitutional-crisis.

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It doesn’t fully address the far future, but it is a reasonable idea to begin the transition from a labor-based economy to a labor-free one. Trying to reform capitalism, in one fell swoop, into something completely different, would be like throwing the transmission of an ocean liner into reverse at full revs—you’d tear the engine apart. But a guaranteed minimum revenue for the unemployed, without conditions, would provide consumers in areas without jobs and, more importantly, give people some financial security outside of the job market.

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It would also serve as a de facto minimum wage—the higher the guaranteed minimum revenue, the more employers would have to offer to get a person to come to work. Politically, you can call it socialism if you want—I can’t deny it.

But you tell me—if manufacturers and business owners produce more goods with less labor (an ongoing trend with a potential zero-sum result) then we must ask, “Do the people that own things become the only people with any revenue?” If the answer is ‘yes’ then we must further ask, “Who are they going to sell this stuff to?”

Henry Ford only paid his workers generous wages because he wanted them to be customers, too. He didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart—he wanted to sell a lot of cars. No one ever got rich selling stuff no one can afford—and without jobs, people can’t afford anything. Okay, dead horse well-beaten—I think you get my point by now.

In a world without jobs, you have to give people money. They buy the stuff, the businesses make a profit, the businesses pay taxes, the taxes pay the guaranteed minimum revenue to the people, so they can buy more stuff—and round and round it goes. The only difference is that computers and robots do the actual work—the salaries once paid to workers now take the form of taxes paid to Big Brother. The taxes are disbursed more uniformly than the salaries ever were, so it’s actually a much fairer system in some ways. We just have to get past our conditioning—our belief that a man makes his bread by the sweat of his brow—we can still do work, but we will not have to have jobs.

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We will have to accept that doing almost anything by hand is pure therapy—that it would be easier and quicker to have a machine do it. Human life once included defending ourselves against wild beasts—it was so much a part of how we defined ourselves that men still hunt and fish today—for things they could more easily get at the supermarket. Soon, labor will be equally vestigial—like running on a treadmill to stay in shape, instead of fleeing from a mountain lion or a pack of wolves.

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Who knows? Perhaps, at some future date, we’ll even need some artificial form of stress, just to keep us mentally fit—in the same way we exercise to stay physically fit, in a world without walking, lifting, or carrying. You know, most people don’t work in busy offices resembling zoos because they have to—they do it on purpose because they get off on the energy of it. Without stressful jobs, we’ll be desperate for challenging activities to match that energy—especially the younger people.

But I digress.

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I’m starting to feel sorry for Trump. I still need him to lose the election—nothing about that has changed, only intensified. But this guy really has issues—once he is without Secret Service protection, I hope his loved ones can stage some sort of intervention and get him the help he so clearly needs. Did you know he has numerous siblings? But forget the eerie absence of his kin—let’s talk about his mother. What political candidate has ever failed to dote on his or her mother, to harken back to her sure, steady raising—that made them the person they are today?

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Where is the love? Is that the true purpose of his presidential run—to be loved? Is Trump crying out for attention, much like an abandoned child? It’s kinda startin to look that way. His fear and mistrust of women is readily apparent. His avoidance of babies and children is publicly documented. Trump has intimacy issues. The poor guy—no wonder he’s this close to pulling the whole country down around his ears—and doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Melania, give that poor bastard a hug, wouldya?

Losing this election isn’t going to help him any—but self-destruction and self-loathing go hand-in-hand, so it’s inevitable that it should come to this. Still, I’m really starting to feel sorry for the guy.

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Banana Time   (2016Sep30)


Friday, September 30, 2016                                              11:08 PM

Where is the love, people? Where is the love? Are we so afraid of something bad happening that we can’t spare a moment to consider something good that might happen? We can argue about the size of government and try to make that the issue, but—communities used to do a much better job of taking care of their own—states used to subsidize their state colleges enough to keep tuition down to a reasonable fee, instead of a small home mortgage. Welfare was roundly condemned for having a few bad apples—but back in the welfare days, a company had to pay a de facto minimum-wage that was high enough above welfare to make it worth working full-time, instead of collecting checks.

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And why are we starved for jobs when the infrastructure of all fifty states is either unsafe or outmoded? We could spend money on infrastructure and count it the same way a homeowner counts home improvements, as a good investment—with the added bonus of jobs aplenty. The enhanced infrastructure will spur business growth.

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I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember—when Eisenhower started the interstate highway construction, commerce exploded. In the New York metro area alone, the bridges and highways that made all of Long Island to the South—and all of Westchester to the North—brief, pleasant drives to and from the city, turned lazy little backwaters into bedroom communities for city-workers. The construction boom alone lasted decades. The commerce both in city-to-suburbs, and in services industries for these exploding communities, was part of what made my early years a time of seemingly endless growth, here in New York, and all over the nation.

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And, believe it or not, if the economy booms loud enough, you start to see a labor shortage. Labor shortages are good for labor—increased demand forces increased salaries. If you want to grow the middle class, get the economy growing at a rate fast enough to create a labor squeeze—we haven’t seen a labor competition in a long time. But, let me tell you—it is a beautiful thing. When employers simply can’t get enough workers, they start paying people more money. You should see it—beautiful, I tell you.

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I sometimes suspect the rich actually suppress growth to keep the 99% on the back foot, demand-wise. And then there’s foreign labor—that’s us turning a blind eye to unfair conditions in other countries, just for cheap stuff at K-Mart. Big mistake, long-term—not to mention ethically blind. Don’t buy shit from China.

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But this is the world we live in now. Who ya gonna believe, my facts, or the other guy’s facts? It doesn’t matter—I write for the pleasure of hearing myself talk (in my head). There’s a shit-ton of infrastructure in this well-developed country—but it’s all pretty old by now, a lot of it needs re-furbishing or outright replacing. Add in the clean-energy industry, and the need for a modernized power-grid from coast-to-coast, replacing half-a-nation’s worth of lead water-pipes (and disposing of them safely), and a resurgent manufacturing sector—you’re talking about a lot of jobs.

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So I expect Hillary to do something immense with infrastructure projects. If the government invests in the country, I’m sure American businesses can take care of finding a use for a vibrant, modern business environment. And if she taxes them for the privilege, well, it’s about damn time, is all I can say. I’ve heard enough rich-folk mumbo-jumbo about ‘trickle-down in my face and call it rain’. Pay your fair share, you sleazy bastards. It’s all take, take, take with you scumbags… Well, break-time for you—reality check. Even rich folk don’t get something for nothing.

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I blame a lot of this on the media—those people are always chasing after the butterflies, they never show us the onrushing train of current events, just a bunch of sensationalist trash. But it’s our fault too—they go by ratings, and we have no one to blame for high ratings but ourselves. But we don’t expect TV or the internet to be serious, like a book—we expect it to give us escapism, like opium. That’s what we want, so that’s what they air. We have to want information to get information. But we’re just a bunch of monkeys—we don’t care, as long as we get our banana on schedule.

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Now, here’s a little something I played earlier today:

Hope it suits.

 

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…Russ, and Joey, and ?, ?, ?

Money and Time (2016May07)


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Friday, May 06, 2016                                               11:33 AM

America was relatively young and full of beans after the second World War—the middle class exploded, salaries climbed to the sky, and poverty reached a record low of 11% in 1974—a figure we haven’t seen since. My whole adult life has been witness to our economic decline—so I can easily understand people wanting to ‘go back’ to better times. But grow up, already—hey, I’d like to be twenty-one again, too—but that ain’t gonna happen. We call it the ‘past’ for a reason.

And America, having reached those historic highs by being America, is never going to recover that prosperity by undoing the social progress that is America’s defining feature. That’s a bill of goods being sold to us by the finger-pointers, who blame various groups for something that is systemic—the changes in global and domestic economy that have brought us to where we are now are not going to be fixed by targeting some ethnic or religious faction—and certainly not by blaming the poor.

Business used to be a social contract that included stockholder profits in the equation—it has been whittled down to where it now concerns itself solely with that one objective—and as always happens when greedy people oversimplify a situation, we are seeing a lot of dysfunction in business—especially in the area of employment. For one thing, nobody has had a raise since 1980. People don’t make money in America anymore—a few people own money, and the rest of us have to scramble for the scraps. You’re not gonna fix that by blaming the Mexicans—or the Chinese. You’re only going to fix that problem by returning to a world where employees matter to their employers.

And if America has let itself become too accepting of child-slave-labor products from overseas, we’re not going to fix that by importing that cold-blooded attitude back here to America. Businesses have been very eager to cancel their interests in North Carolina due to gender-rules in bathrooms—when are we going to stop importing goods from countries that treat their workers like serfs? It doesn’t help that our politicians spend more time and energy on rationalizing our dysfunctions than on finding solutions—but the real problem is that too few people have too much say, and those rich bastards have hearts of stone. The easy answer is just to kill all the rich people. Maybe after they spend a few days ducking bullets, they’d re-acquire some respect for the people that actually create their fortunes.

It’s a puzzle, alright—how can we keep getting new gadgets, new discoveries, new insights—and the result always turns out to be a bigger mess than we’ve ever had to deal with before? How can we have unheard-of productivity and at the same time suffer under unemployment and low wages? What the hell? Someone has rigged the table and we’re all getting taken.

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Thursday, May 05, 2016                                          11:37 AM

Our kids were born in the 1980s. I was born in 1956, my parents in the 1930s, my grandparents were born in the 1910s—we’ve been a very 20th century family for quite a while. Here we are, 16 years into the next millennium, and I’m about to become grandfather to our first 21st-century kid. To him or her, my entire century will be a vague notion in a schoolbook; I will be a strange, wrinkled old man; his or her world will be something I never fully understand.

You can see why people are so fascinated by stories of time-travel—time-travel isn’t that much different from a genie granting wishes—you can have whatever you want, but the genie will put a fatal twist on it that you didn’t see coming. Time is such a troublemaker that even if we could jump around in it, we would still have problems with it.

My biggest problem with time is that time only goes quickly by when I’m happy. What’s with that? What evolutionary advantage is there in losing track of time when you’re happy? Maybe it’s our bodies saying to us, “Well, there’s no danger here—don’t pay any attention.” If danger can heighten our awareness, then perhaps happiness does the opposite. Maybe that’s why orgasms are so brief—it’s Mother Nature getting us back in the game, so we don’t get eaten in the afterglow. Happiness is a blank space to our instincts, and they just shut down until we return to the drudgery of survival. And perhaps that’s why an old codger like myself is mistrustful of happiness—we are at our most vulnerable when happiness turns off our alarm system. Perhaps that’s why the Puritans were so dead set against being happy—it has similarities to intoxication.

Then again, I have to wonder why I’m so afraid of being vulnerable—I made it sixty whole years without ever having to use a gun or a knife—or even my fists. It reminds me of how bad my fear of dogs once was, without ever being bitten—there was a mean dog on our street, but it never bit me—it just strained against its chain, making the most angry barks and growls. I think I was frightened by its display of viciousness—it obviously wanted to confront something. Also, I think people treated their dogs worse back then—mean dogs don’t come out of a vacuum—they are a reflection of their owners. I was no less afraid of people—they had more bark to them, back then, as well.

Nowadays, fear grows and grows—and it has less cause than ever. I go through night-terrors and anxiety attacks without any reason—I’d be more comfortable with actual dangers—at least those can be faced down. This vague, unfocused terror is a thing unto itself—it just is—what do you do with that shit?

Lesley Stahl has come out with a new book, “Becoming Grandma”, about the wonders of being a grandmother—she claims there is an actual biochemical change in a person who is granted a grandchild—I hope she’s right. Claire and I are fairly dancing with anticipation. And time bustles on.

Manufacture This   (2016Apr27)


Wednesday, April 27, 2016                                              9:28 AM

A recent NY Times article points out that Manufacturing, the former giant of economic growth, is shrinking in the manpower it requires to meet demand. This means that manufacturing jobs aren’t disappearing to other countries—they are simply disappearing. And the increase in service industry jobs, with their meager pay, is only contributing to the income-inequality gap. The article suggests “health care, education and clean energy” as an alternative growth strategy—but I see this as an avoidance of the central issue.

The algorithm of capitalism is unraveling. It was once a given that creating a manufacturing base in a developing country would lift its citizens into a first-world economy—but a chart in the article shows how the return on manufacturing development, over time, has lost its ability to raise a given nation’s populace in either income or education. Eduardo Porter, the author of the article, uses this data to prove that the presidential campaigners’ promises to return manufacturing to the USA, even if fulfilled, would not create the wished-for boom in either employment or income, any more than it currently does in India or China.

It makes me impatient to see the issue parsed so precisely—to my mind, the overall concepts of capitalism—ownership, employment, demand—are as outdated as the specific case of manufacturing jobs. But I realize that changing an accepted paradigm is like turning a cruise ship—slow and full of inertia. And it doesn’t help that capitalism has become America’s political brand-identity, as well as a way to organize society—which adds a ‘loyalty’ factor to conservative thinking on the matter. But it is past time for America to return to its original brand-identity—that of Yankee ingenuity—because a post-capitalist global economy will certainly require a great deal of innovative thinking.

This is a link to the NY Times article mention above: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/business/economy/the-mirage-of-a-return-to-manufacturing-greatness.html

To invent something that makes a person’s life easier is called convenience. To invent something to make manufacturing and farming easier is called automation. We see them as two different things—this is what makes the decline of jobs a problem, to the point where legislation is passed in California trying to prevent further development of automation tech in agriculture—because it’s taking jobs away from the state. Not that it will do them any good—the Luddites never win—it’s like King Canute commanding the tide to back off.

More importantly, it misses the point—automation should be a good thing. The idea that civilization could produce enough to meet demand without a single employee should be a good thing. The only reason it isn’t is because capitalism is based on presuming that to be an impossibility. Capitalism says, ‘go out, get a job, and earn a salary—that’s how modern people make a living’. But if the living is being made without human participation, we need to find a new way to disburse our production to a globe of unemployed. The answer will sound a lot like socialism—although it will go even further, if faced squarely.

The real trouble is power—the answer to ‘the end of jobs’ will have to involve a lot of reasoning based on fairness, not on demand or need. Business owners, corporate board members, bosses of every kind will lose not just their petty tyranny over employees, but lose their power entirely—that power is based on capitalism and it will disappear along with it. It would be impossible to convince the one percent that they should surrender their power willingly—but ultimately they face a choice just as much as the rest of us. Workers are also customers—unemployed or underpaid workers can’t produce the revenue the one percent’s system is based on. So, while the worker faces the more immediate threat, the end-game involves us all.

We see the one-percenters tentatively embracing Ludditism—in the pushback against renewable energy and in the aforementioned union efforts to stop or slow automation in the workplace. We also see it in their transformation of our once wide-open avenues to higher education into overpriced preserves for the training of young one-percenters—and a source of mortgages paid on knowledge and accreditation by the rest of our children. But holding back technology and education will have no long-term effect on the coming changes—competition is also built into capitalism, so one way or the other, the whole paradigm is going to fail—has to fail, eventually. The only question is will we be enlightened about it, or we will make it into a fist-fight? Three guesses. And here’s a hint: Star Trek was fiction.

Nobody For Hire (2016Feb04)


Thursday, February 04, 2016                                           4:11 PM

When I was a young firebrand, I felt that a job was a fallback position—that exceptional people (like me, of course) should strike out on their own and do great things, free from the bonds of nine-to-five servitude. Two things escaped my notice at the time—one, that exceptional people worked just as hard, even harder, for themselves than other people worked for their boss—and two, that working people had something that even exceptional people don’t have—they were needed to get a job done. It’s nice to be needed. At one point, when I was working in the early days of office computing, I was very much needed—it was a great feeling.

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My working life back then was exciting—my father was starting a small business and I was helping with the computers—new and exotic at the time. The energy of growing a business combined with the innovation of computers—whose software, hardware, and operating systems changed with alarming frequency—kept me hopping. Computers were unusual and they brought with them new ways of thinking—I spent a lot of time explaining things to people—things I had had explained to me only a short time beforehand. There was a lot of learning, and teaching, involved. And the computers made us so competitive that the business grew swiftly—bringing its own challenges. If I were young again, that’s what I’d do—start a small business—there’s nothing like it for adventure.

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Lately I’ve been trying to accept that my infirmity went on for too long, that restoration of my health (such as it is) came too late, and my senior years arrived too early—and that these three combined present a good case for me to accept that any professional life I might have had has gone by the boards—that mere existence, mere dependency, is the best I’m going to do with my near future. I recognize that living off my disability, without any struggle to regain my place in the commerce of the day, is a surrender—but I’ve spent some time fighting to stay alive, to stay sane—and it looks like that is the only challenge I’m prepared to face. Excusing myself from the greater struggle, that of wresting a paycheck from the wide world, is just another lesson I’ve picked up from my teacher, my cancer, my mortality.

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My illness has taught me that there is a realm beyond that of ‘try harder’—I’m a little annoyed whenever someone suggests that I could do more. When a nerve is severed, no amount of ‘try harder’ will ever reconnect it; when a muscle no longer contracts, when the skin is numb to the touch, ‘trying harder’ doesn’t enter into the problem. When a mind that once served me so well that I look back on it now with awe, decides to atrophy—I cannot regain my genius by earnest effort any more than by wishing on a star. While I’m pleased and excited that my health is so much improved from what it was (what Billy Crystal, in “The Princess Bride”, describes as ‘mostly dead’) it is just as important for me to accept that my old self is gone—all my assumptions about my abilities, my knowledge, my stamina, my capacity to learn new things—they’re all misleading taunts, memories of a healthy me that hasn’t existed for decades.

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So I’m giving up on finding a job—if I’m dissatisfied with myself, how could I expect anyone else to find a use for me? If anybody wants to call me on this—or explain how I should just ‘try harder’—well, you know what you can do with that sentiment. There are seven billion people running around—I think we can do without one pair of shaky hands, and things will still roll along pretty much unchanged.

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The biggest problem is that I remain a neo-Calvinist by nature—and I’m unhappy without any hard work to do—I feel most needed when I’m being pushed to meet a deadline. Drawing pictures was always my go-to busy-work—but shaky hands and draughtsmanship don’t go together. It’s a conundrum. I’m trying to teach myself to enjoy being unneeded—but context is everything, and I’d love to have one—a context, that is. That’s what a job really boils down to—I’ve had different jobs at different salaries, but behind it all, whatever job it was was always a context to my life—a framework for my self-worth. Only exceptional people can stand alone, assured that they are of value, even without a paycheck to show for it—but even exceptional people need a target for their efforts, a challenge to strive for. Perhaps it’s just ego on my part—I’m disappointed with the lightweight challenges I’m prepared to meet—and I miss the days when people sometimes expected the impossible of me and I was able to deliver. Applause, applause—yeah, those were the days.

Tomorrow We’ll All Be Okies (2015Sep09)


Wednesday, September 09, 2015                                                       1:23 PM

The nation’s founders were agrarian—to them, independence and liberty seemed a simple enough thing—a farm for everyone and everyone on their own farm. And for our first century, there were few indications that America would ever be anything other than a bunch of farmers.

But with industrialization came factories—and with factories came two enemies of liberty—men with hitherto unimagined wealth and power—and a labor pool ripe for abuse and persecution. With slavery still part of our culture, it was easy to mistake any large work-force as ‘owned’ and devoid of privilege—and early factory workers saw working conditions not much different from slavery—even the children worked a full day (but without, of course, full pay) and no one got reasonable hours, time off, or safe working conditions.

We have spent more than a century now, beating back these persecutions with legislation—trying to get owners and business leaders to see their labor pool as human beings, while they scream about the only thing that matters to them—profits. But even that is just an excuse, since productivity often increases when employees are treated with the respect any human being deserves. We killed each other in stacks, like cordwood, over some of us still wanting to be slave-owners—it’s no surprise that we still struggle with the relationship between workers and owners. And our migrant workers (or, as the media likes to tag them—the ‘immigration problem’) only come here because those who employ them can’t resist an employee who works for almost nothing and has no civil rights to speak of.

This ideal we all have—that a person must earn their way in this world—made perfect sense in an agrarian culture—cows don’t milk themselves and farming, in general, is pretty demanding of the farmer. If a person went hungry, it was most likely because they neglected their chores. In modern life, we still see an approximation of this—but the complexity of modern life has people working for institutions, rather than for themselves. The industrial age made the common run into a labor pool—and owners have used that labor pool without having any sense of responsibility for their employees. It is up to the workers to find their own place, to prepare themselves with the required skillset, to locate themselves where the jobs are, etc.

We have even interpreted this condition as ‘independence’—we are all free to work where we want, for whomever we want. We imagine that there is an element of competition there—that owners will have to make allowances for their employees needs or those people will go work for someone else—leaving the owner without labor—but this is an imaginary condition. There are always more-needy workers who will take the place of any employees who object to being treated like slaves. Owners, by virtue of being employers, can even claim that they support the work force—that everyone in America makes a living through their beneficence.

While that is true, in a sense, it is also just one way of looking at the situation—I see it as owners taking labor for granted, using what they need and letting the rest go to hell, for all they care. If we look at the entire citizenry as ‘a labor force’, then we see that owners are actually very irresponsible and careless about those they rely on to get done the work that keeps owners rich and powerful. When government tries to intervene, to create programs to care for the ‘outsiders’, those who don’t fit into business’s plans or who are unable to work, owners band together, complain about ‘big government’, and insist that it is un-American to support anyone who doesn’t slave for them, like they’re supposed to.

At the same time, modern businesses are rushing to increase that ‘outsider’ group through digital tech and robotics. While they want any laborers that aren’t specifically working for them to live in poverty, they also seek to increase profits by putting more people into the street. With the speedy growth of AI and robotics, it won’t be long before we are all out on the street—will it be wrong of government to help us then? Imagine how heavily the government will have to tax those business-owners to feed a nation of unemployed. But if the government doesn’t support us, how will we become customers for the business-owners to enrich themselves through?

Henry Ford (a horrible fascist and anti-Semite) did have one important insight—he paid his workers so well that they were able to become his customers. Work out the profit on that, today’s small-minded CEO. Somewhere along the way, business-owners have forgotten that America’s workers are also America’s consumers—and the less they make, the less they spend. By greedily straining after every last penny of profit, Business has actually constricted itself into a depressed economy—at a time when America should be virtually exploding with innovation and commerce. Still, that’s old news.

The new problem is the disappearance of work—underpaid workers don’t spend much, but unemployed workers replaced by robots don’t make a dime. When every factory in America becomes automated, who is going to buy their stuff? This already happened once—everyone in the country used to be a farmer. With the dawn of the Industrial Age, powered farm equipment made most crowd-sourced farming chores into a job done by one guy sitting on a tractor, plow, seeder, or harvester. Had industry not also spawned cities, and factory jobs, we would have had a country of idle indigents—‘Okies’ from coast to coast, with nowhere to go for new jobs.

Now we face the disappearance of city jobs, factory jobs—even truck drivers are less than a generation away from going the way of the buggy whip. It’s time we started to look at all of us as ‘the labor force’. It’s time we started to imagine a world where there is no work to be paid for—how will we live in a world where the living is too easy?

Put Me On The List (2014Sep15)


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Monday, September 15, 2014                12:24 AM

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How do I reach the mind of a reader and convey our times with any grace? As with all things now, the list of imagery or phrases would make Whitmann blanch—back in his day, he was delighted that there were so many wonders and charms to be catalogued in his poems. In our time, a writer despairs of there being far too many details in even the merest moment of our lives. That may be the cause of the popularity of lists.

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Actual paper-printed books of lists were authored, and made bestseller lists, even before the advent of social media memes. Our collective consciousness has determined that a list gives more information in less time, by virtue of confining itself to a category and a list of members of that category—it’s virtually mathematical. It also feeds our pre-occupation with competition. In time we can have standardized lists so well-known that the title of the list (say List A) will take the place of paragraphs of re-chosen, re-worded examples of the list.

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For instance, instead of my wasting time writing down a lengthy indictment of the GOP, I can simply reference List F (the List of Things Progressives Dislike about the Republican Party) and carry on with my point unhindered. Instead of re-writing the National Anthem and the Constitution in my summary, I can simply print ‘List I’ (the List of Things that Over-Intellectual Bloggers Love about The USA). These two lists alone would reduce my blog posts to a single page, instead of the usual three or four.

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Think of it: List R (the List of Remaining Examples of Blatant Racism that Still Persist), List E (the List of Reasons Why Education is Vital to National Security and Economic Growth), List P (the List of Crimes Against Humanity (and Especially Minorities) in the Present Prison System)—how much time they would save! There are so many details that there are bound to be Lists so numerous people will question whether Lists really save time. I’m reminded of the early days of office computers. Back then, the first step in computerization was to data-enter the last six-months-to-two-years of paper records (and this while also using the system to enter new paperwork and bookkeeping).

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Naturally, people were doing at least twice their usual work while learning to work with this new thing: a mini-computer work-station. Inevitably, the workers would begin to comment on how much time and effort the new computer was ‘saving’ them—and question whether computerizing had any advantage at all over the old ways. Hey, if start-ups were easy, everyone would be an entrepreneur—and there were many an old, revered (but now defunct) business that failed to realize that computerization was, in effect, a ‘second start-up’ of every company in those days.

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So lists will probably remain a pleasant bit of diversion posted to Facebook by George Takei (dear old Uncle George) for some time to come. But they are inevitable—whenever something becomes too awkward and bulky to memorize and repeat again and again, we rename the whole kit-and-caboodle ‘the Revolutionary War’ or ‘the British Invasion’ or ‘LGBT’ (a mini-list as anagram). In the future, with population growth as it is, there will be very few things on this earth that will stand alone, without a category to be listed in.

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Pick a subject, any subject, and Google it—you’ll see what I mean. Nothing comes back all on its lonesome—it’s either ‘not found’ or it has one hundred listings, or ten million. The Internet is the soil of global culture—the layered detritus of millions of data-points, comments, articles, and opinions. As they age, they creep lower and lower on search results, supplanted by fresher entries of the same. The New is precious to the World Wide Web—and it can get pretty precious about what’s new—if you’ll pardon the wordplay. For example, I saw a recent video getting lots of re-posts (meaning it was popular) and it was just the song “Let It Go” but re-worked with the lyrics, “Fuck it all. Fuck it All…” …you get the idea.

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That’s the sort of thing that eats up the seconds and minutes of my life, amounting to several hours a day. I’m chafing at the bit as this drug-like escapism takes over so much of my time. I’m hoping that after my treatment is over, I’ll get healthy enough to do something outside the house. I have no idea what that may be, but I know I’ll like it better than my computer keyboard.

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In the meantime, I’ll continue on my main project—finding a form of words that will clearly set out my thoughts on how ending employment-as-we-know-it is a necessary step towards a just future. The axiom that a man must earn his way in the world makes little sense in a world with too much technology and not enough resources. Today, the number of jobs available and their salaries are casual decisions made by the business leaders and bankers. We all pretend that the system is merit-based and recognizes hard work and loyalty—but we know that’s not really true.

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All the legitimate work in the world today could be done by a fraction of the 8 billion people in the world—how can we continue to fantasize about ‘earning a living’ when we’re already completely dependent on these economic ‘rulers’? They decide how many people get jobs, they decide how much—scratch that—how little those workers will be paid. It’s all a pretense, desperately trying to maintain the status quo that keeps those ‘rulers’ in charge.

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For our society to be humane it must eventually bend towards socialisms of one sort and another—competing over jobs has become a cruel joke. And those that lose the competition don’t deserve any less than the fortunate employed—nor do the employed deserve the draconian forms employment has taken in this long slough of high un-employment.

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Everyone has to get an allowance—the same subsistence wage that people now work three jobs to acquire—and those with ambition can go out and look for work, while the rest of us just live. Corporate Slavery is my mental label of employment-as-we-know-it—no escape from poverty, no chance of advancement, not enough funds for education (O, that’s another thing that has to be subsidized), and the poor living conditions and crime that such a horrendous system perpetuates.

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The filthy rich like to bitch about illegal aliens, but it’s mostly to divert our attention away from how we citizens are being shafted by Capitalism. They tell us to be afraid of Terrorism, when they are stripping America of all its Freedoms and Opportunities. They tell us to ignore Climate Change, but only because Petroleum is such a big part of their status quo—and Progress is the thing they most fear. Change threatens them, but it beckons to us. Listen, you can hear it calling.

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