How to take over the World

Somebody has already taken over the world (hint: it’s not you.) It might be useful to see how they did it.

Quite simple, actually: you buy congress to pass some asshole law. Then, in order to overturn this law through normal political channels, the public has to get involved at expense of their time and attention span; they have to remember what they’re doing for long enough to see it through to the end; and if at first they don’t succeed, they have to try again – and again.

You got it. The public has no energy to do this, nor does it have enough attention span remaining even to remember that there is a problem. So the people who passed the asshole law win – forever.

Here are a couple examples, “low to high” impact:

1. The CAN-SPAM act of 2004 is a license for spammers to SPAM you. Congress was supposed to put teeth into the law by stating how an Unsolicited Commercial Email must be marked so that the recipient could easily block it if they didn’t want to receive the spam. Congress never bothered to finish their homework, so Professional For-Profit Spammers can spam you all day long and laugh at you when you say it’s illegal.

What failed? The public was lied to by omission. When Bush signed the act, nobody reminded anyone that it was a work in progress requiring another step to complete; so nobody noticed that this final step was not completed. Nobody lost an election for lying to the public about this law. And it would seem that nobody complained about it, either, such that the public was made aware. So we have to live with “legal spam” despite having the power, as citizens, to put a stop to it.

2. Single-Payer Health Care, a.k.a. Socialized Medicine. I don’t know why anyone is or was impressed with Hillary Clinton, as she is the one who insured that discussions (1993) having to do with National Health Care were only attended by Capitalists interested in MAKING MONEY off the system – no advocates of “Single Payer” were invited. Did this vast ripoff of American Citizen Representation get punished? No; Clinton was a viable candidate and nearly became the nominee to run for President in 2008. The public was overtly fucked by this person and the public did nothing to politically punish her for having done so. To this very day, the “system” does what it can to insure that the public will never get closer than a light-year, to getting Single Payer Health Care as enjoyed in all the better Democracies on the planet. Here again, the public could get what they wanted if only they would organize and work for it. But it seems too much to ask citizens in this country to care about the content of their own lives; it’s considered an impolite imposition to remind people that they suffer only from their own political sloth. The bad guys cannot prevail if ever the public would confront them. The public, though, is busy worrying about getting fired, losing their house, programming their phone and watching Television; namely, they’re too busy with Bullshit to save themselves. The notion that they could be working for a system to put an END to their economic fears escapes them entirely.

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I think, if American Colonists circa 1760-1787 had any idea what they were “working for” in a revolution, in terms of “giving what to whom” in times to come, once they saw they were busting their chops to get rid of the British, only to turn the country over 200 years later to 300,000,000 people not one effective one of whom gives enough of a shit to defend their Democracy, they would perhaps have said “forget it, then”, and abandoned the colonies to the King. Why risk life and limb for a bunch of lazy dummies who will ask you point blank with a straight face what they get out of defending themselves, as it they were expecting coupons from some corporation for having lifted a finger in self-defense?

It’s so easy to blame the Corporate Media. The fact however is that (a) everyone knows that corporate media only lies to them; if they pretend otherwise it is because they were given the EXCUSE (of ignorance) to use, and they GLADLY use it; (b) despite knowing that corporate media serve only to lie to the public, the public still consumes those media. Namely, despite its having turned to unpalatable shit, people still tune in because it’s the only shit there is to tune into so that you can tune reality out. What the public does not want to see, what it does not want to face, is how cheaply and easily it’s been bought off with substandard, noxious, intelligence-attacking crap that it insists upon remaining addicted to.

That is: we know better; we just don’t do a damned thing about it, not even face the facts.

The sorry message to the Public in this country is:

You NOW LIVE WITH what you have been willing to FIGHT FOR.

You HAVE NOTHING because you are not willing to FIGHT FOR ANYTHING.

If you want to see the person responsible for your plight -

just look in the mirror.

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There are plenty of people who DO care and DO fight. They just get no interest and no support from all the other people around them whose rights they are fighting FOR.

TURN OFF AND GET RID OF YOUR FUCKING TELEVISION SET. THEN ADOPT A PERSONAL POLITICAL PLATFORM THAT SAYS THAT NOTHING LESS THAN SOCIALIZED MEDICINE IS ACCEPTABLE AND THEN PAY ATTENTION AND WORK TO MAKE POLITICAL HEADS ROLL UNTIL YOU GET IT.

EXERCISE YOUR POWER. FIGHT OR BE SLAVES. NO MORE EXCUSES.

Posted in What is Wrong with Current Reality | Comments Off

Information Asymmetry – What You Don’t Know Costs You

Location, location. For all I know, Walgreen’s deliveries cost more or their union is better paid – I suppose I should check that – but a 40-count box of Vivarin goes for $1.00 more than it does at Rite-Aid, just across the intersection. No concern for the price disparity. The gas station nearest me must be the most expensive one in the Bay Area; he was at $4.699 when I could find gas at $4.059 and even the usual gougers were only charging $4.329. (Don’t forget that teensy $0.009, huh.) It didn’t occur to me to compare prices until one day I wanted to get some Vivarin (caffeine, 200mg/pill) and Rite-Aid was out. So I went to Walgreen’s, and the price was a dollar higher, $8.99 -> $9.99. I think I bought it anyway – expediency, of course. But that reminded me to pay attention, to some extent. CVS’s price is in-between. So it matters where you shop, on that item. MediCal Part D is a shell-game, as I recall, where no matter what you pick you have to pay hits on stuff you ‘missed’ – this is the government’s idea of generosity in favor of the public. So it seems natural to wonder: is Walgreen’s uniformly higher on price than Rite-Aid? If so, you’d figure out that more and more people would catch on over time, and Walgreen’s would only get office rubes and people who didn’t want to face a line at Rite-Aid. With any conscience they’d hire at least one more cashier if the business doubled (being sarcastic: they always have too few servers per unit service time, bad erlang service, I think it means.) So the hypothesis is that the advantage varies over the product lines – the stubborn will location-shop, otherwise the will-pay-for-expediency crowd artificially – due to the presumably uncoordinated collusion of the vendors – will pay excess profits to those vendors, all of them.

Well you know, to hell with that. This could be defended all day long, first as their prerogative; you attack this as hypocritical and remind them they pretend to be your friend, so you would expect them to extend the same pricing courtesy all around and not have to worry what specifically you were buying. Next, it is quite possible that the vendors have differential costs, but then those would be levied on the freight as a whole; it’s highly unlikely that the differential price of delivery could justify the $1.00 difference for that one item, unless they charge themselves a high fee for handling products in small quantities. Ultimately, the conclusion is that the prices are arbitrary, and the vendors don’t seem anxious to compete with a low-price guarantee, that for example said Rite-Aid would keep the lower price where they beat Walgreen’s and match Walgreen’s price otherwise. I.e. really compete, instead of sitting there like twin alligators swallowing excess profits from the public. Two ‘competing’ outlets of the drugstore oligopoly face each other across an intersection, what do you expect?

Here’s a mental-image movie: interview 50 shoppers at Rite-Aid and 50 shoppers at Walgreen’s, and find out if you can cluster them into ‘types’ of buyers. Find out why they go to the one place and not the other, or if they shop at both, and deliberately (a 2-block round trip to comparison shop items?) or at random, these last being less interesting. Now see if you can merge the preferences of one group into the preferences of the other by making changes in policy, procedure, etc. you can conceive the vendor could stomach. If you can do this with one vendor’s group but not the other, choose that vendor; if both, choose Rite-Aid {to suit my petty prejudice against Walgreen’s: they spread like cancer in our area some years back and they’re so tacky. I’ve analyzed my prejudice and it reports: 1. had it been the other way around, that Rite-Aid had gobbled up all these locations leaving Walgreen’s the one with a store here and there, I would probably be holding Rite-Aid in contempt; but 2., if at this point in time, Rite-Aid were to gobble up Walgreen’s, I wouldn’t shed a tear. Rite-Aid and CVS are on the same model. People should be reminded of the tonnage of candy and sweets they’re buying out of these places. I love these drugstores; they have vitamins and drugs to make you well, and sugar-fat sweets and cigarettes to make you sick again. A genuine one-stop shop. I can now see the Vitamin-B Complex 100mg pill bottles being sold alongside Smirnov Vodka without a twinge of regret. OK fine, so I digressed.} The choice you made above, if one, champion that place and boycott the other. We’ll make you corporations a deal: one of you has to leave. The other one has to do anything the other one did (presuming the service was actually used at the other place.) They then declare a specific profit margin to the public – it’s permissible to vary this margin across products, as long as this variance is disclosed (and justified.) This profit margin data must be available to the public at all times and be accurate. I’d like to add that the company outlet promises to keep prices to a minimum.

I’m sure the idea is not original with me, but don’t know who its authors are or were. Or maybe nobody has proposed something as severe: make all company records public. The complaint about ‘loss of competitive advantage’ is of no use for members of an oligopoly like the drugstore one. They don’t compete. The moment one of them is worth a nickel more than the other, it buys the other out, acquiring its stores, its markets, and increasing its power to consume even more competitors. So let us see the details: let us see your costs for the items we buy from you and let us see your overheads, and your ledgers. Then let us judge whether we like your operation or not. Let’s just say that you, as a corporation, pretending to be alive, must also admit that you cannot ‘die’ in any conventional sense, and so should accept trials and tribulations ‘ordinary mortals’ need not. To put it more bluntly, you owe your existence to our good graces, so do as we say or we’ll disincorporate you – dissolve you. If you want to be a business serving the public in such capacities, then you are required to be transparent as well.

People should, as a growingly aware community, address the issue of whether smaller businesses remain viable, or whether we should capitulate to a ‘capitalist centralization of production and distribution.’ If we agree that centralization will ultimately prevail, then we should work to Socialize the economy as quickly as possible. The days of the little men in their boardrooms doing their big things must end. Humanity belongs to itself; it must feed itself first, before caring for the profits of disinterested parties. Let there be monopolies and government stores. We the public agree that each of these places can be dolled up by the locals to make the same-old places nicer to shop at; but the prices are, and all other information is, publicly available.

If there is any hope to restore smaller businesses, we should pursue it. We need to regrow our economic body, and the industry that grows to support local commerce is that growth. A movement for regional self-reliance can spur the development of a lot of native plants for industries now foreign. The movement can’t be binding where the costs are too high. The government should target for subsidy those industries where the balance of trade is most severe. If South Korea could catch up to Japan so much and so quickly as it has, I’d suggest the population was involved. If they can do it, we can do it too. We used to have a textile industry. Can we bring it back? And on and on.

I think we as consumers have the right to know, not only the price of an item, but its cost to the vendor (what they paid), and their overheads. I don’t see any reason why people can’t shop on profit margin as well as price. I don’t see any reason the public should not be able to ‘vote’ on vendors based on profit margin as well as price. Throw in the treatment and compensation of employees – the salaries of management – the costs of physical plant, for example is X Corp. dumping $2.5 million on some chimpy façade the public can do without?

What we lack in this country is accountability. I understand the wish of some that there really was a God who would administer justice, and this usually at the point of receiving the worst of such injustice. I agree. Where’s Batman when you need him? I’ve been reading a slew of Erle Stanley Gardner novels lately, and coupled with Foner’s vivid history of violence and injustice imposed upon Labor, in every instance where the wrongs were committed, of course if say, Superman had shown up and stopped the anti-Labor action, you’d have to write a story about a lot of better-off folk despondent to admit that aspects of their lifestyles depended upon keeping the conditions shitty to keep the costs low. Not all of them, of course. Reactionary Libertarians won’t go for it. And you know, that needs to be their tough shit.

Publish the accounts and figures – and listen to the questions, and be gracious with changes that come from this feedback: you’re fulfilling the public will. If your business can’t then compete, it can’t compete. One other thing, by the way: if a local advantage is held by knowing a better distributor – that information must be shared with the competition, if Capitalism is to work properly. True, Honest-to-God Capitalism of the down-home variety is a sharp business – for the Capitalist. He or She wins by offering whatever preferred combination of service, prices, bearing (attitude) and what-not – all things being equal. We can’t eliminate locational advantage – a gasoline retailer snagging a lucrative intersection of his or her business. There’s that kind of luck. But for not knowing there’s a cheaper distributor of the same product in town? That kind of abuse of information is beneath honor. You fix the market behind you when you share that kind of supposedly competitive data. You make the businesses behind you compete, and when they do you have an excess profit to split with your clientele. You are competing forward – and it’s hard work. Let the upstream work as hard as well. An Honest Capitalist is a Good, Hard-Working Capitalist. You heard it here but I still have more to say about those bloodsucking vampires of the proletariat nice folks.

I mean it: demand to see the prices and the costs. And the pay grades and pay at the top, the pay to foreign workers, and the overhead.

Posted in What is Wrong with Current Reality | Comments Off

Will We Please Read ANYTHING to see that the desire to get rid of Capitalism is NOT NEW?

New book by Richard Wolff, “Democracy at Work – A Cure For Capitalism”. On the back it says “It speaks to those who realize that capitalist economics and politics as usual have become intolerable and who seek a concrete action program.”

I find this really, really, really irritating. We live now in a society whose people cannot remember what they read or heard ten minutes ago. But the situation has the analogy that A has stuck a knife into the side of B, and what we see B do is every few minutes or so say “I have this sharp pain! I see A is sticking me with a knife! I should do something about it – after I reprogram my cellphone.” B reprograms his cellphone (because we understand how crucially important this is, right), and promptly forgets the business with the knife – until the pain again reminds B.

Well, then, B is a moron. It doesn’t matter that B has been made into a moron by the puerile culture of obsessing over handheld devices; B still has the choice of observing that B’s attention span has been shaved to the thickness of paper, and changing his or her lifestyle to free themself of the cause of their attention deficit. But the commercial propaganda has converted attention-distracting inputs into “hits” to satisfy some indefinitely-induced addiction, and the public is more interested in checking their text messages than they are in fixing their fucking Democracy, because they have been reduced to this by the total paralysis of our political system. “There’s nothing in it for you to try to change things, because you’ll try and you’ll try and you’ll jump so high, but you’ll never make it over the wall.” And the cowed and beaten public just takes it, and takes it. Mussolini would find this an easy place to manipulate, because our people are every bit as submissive as the Italians were back then. Go ahead and abuse us – have wars, kill our children, kill other people and their children, make us pay for it, and tell us we can’t have a fucking thing to benefit people or society because all the money had to go to pay for the war. And the vast majority of us sit back, watch TV, and do Jack Shit Nothing about itwar after war!

What’s irritating about that quote from the back of the book? Between the lines one reads that awareness that Capitalism Sucks is somehow “new” – as if only now, by about 2010, are people finally discovering that maybe Capitalism is not working properly. Like DUH! And Not Hardly. Andre Gorz in “Strategy For Labor” gives the same analysis in 1964. Sidney and Beatrice Webb in “The Decay of Capitalist Civilization” give the same analysis in 1923. Walter Weyl in “The New Democracy” gives the same analysis in 1912. Laborers in the 1880‘s wanted the Railroads nationalized due to these same abuses. Karl Marx is famous for the same analysis in 1850. And other ‘Socialists’ had been complaining of the same things by 1823 and earlier.

People have been complaining about the Classical Economic endorsement of Laissez-Faire Capitalism ever since it was first advanced by David Ricardo! Try 1820!

So wake the fuck up, people – A has been sticking the knife into the side of B for 200 years and you have the gall to think you’re discovering this only now?

Moreover, does it immediately become blindingly clear that “let’s just try to fix the rough edges” of Capitalism is no answer? The only reason we have a Welfare State now is that the rich realized that keeping us working 14 hour days, 7 days a week at below-subsistence wages would guarantee a revolution in short order. So they threw us some crumbs, and beefed up the Middle Class just enough to buffer them from the mass of poor, shat-upon people.

Wolff is going to address some form of anarcho-syndicalism. The back cover says “Wolff’s compelling new manifesto advocates an alternative based on workers themselves directing their workplaces.” Okay, fine, let’s hear about it. But please, please, O pretty please, do not think this is anything new. Anarcho-Syndicalism was the answer of revolutionary Anarchists more than 100 years ago. All we have to do is wake up to the fact that people have very well known about all this agony AND they have known what the solution was, for 200 years!

And see that all we have to do – is finish what they started!

Get the Rich out of Power.

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Is the Medical Profession sitting on its ass?

In 1974 in college I had a roommate for a short while who had horrible Eczema. Wikipedia says its cause is not known but lists two theories as to “its” cause (there are several kinds of Eczema.)

It bothers me that between 1974 and 2012 there seems to have been no progress in dealing with this disease – or Psoriasis, or a host of other problems. I don’t know who does Medical Research; if I refer to “the Profession” I am really only referring to the ‘practice’ of Medicine and the practitioners are not the ones engaged in research, so the title of the piece is a bit off. The point remains: how many people are engaged in studying these problems and why are they (apparently) not making headway?

Monsanto pretends that it “knows all” concerning Genetic Engineering. Or rather, it claims it knows enough to claim its GM practices are harmless. We can easily see through this; they didn’t know their GM corn would kill Cornsilk Moths, for example – and if they were so prescient, they would have known. I think it’s easily claimed that they’re actually quite ignorant about what they’re doing and easily shown that they don’t care what the results of their mistakes might be. I only mention all this to set up the following challenge: if Monsanto is so smart about Genetic Engineering, perhaps their excuse would be they only deal with plants, and not humans. But we can ask them to solve the mysteries of these possibly-genetically-related diseases, in order that they can prove they really do know what they’re doing; and if they cannot, then their “license to screw with Earth’s Genomes” should be revoked.

I would think that if we start producing ten times as many Medical Researchers, we should accelerate the finding of the causes and cures for the various diseases that still plague humankind. I would hope that someone in authority would recognize the usefulness of solving these problems now, immediately, as soon as possible. I would ask the Public to demand an increased focus of attention on these problems until they can be solved.

As to Medical Practitioners – the HMO system, I claim, has totally dulled all sense of responsibility these people might have as to the usefulness of their paying attention to facts they learn in the field. I suspect there is no “feedback loop” to funnel observations in the field back to the Medical Schools. I suffered a skin problem where I would get these small pustules along the sides of my fingers (from Wikipedia I would identify the condition as ‘Dishydrosis’.) The condition “arrived out of nowhere” and “for no apparent reason”, until I observed that I could produce the condition at will by eating a large bag of Nacho-flavored Doritos; and that if I abstained from eating the chips, the condition went away by itself within two days. Armed with this knowledge, I tested my HMO doctor. I asked him “could my diet have anything to do with the condition?” and he said “no, I don’t think so.” I then told him about the Doritos, and he said, “well, don’t eat them.” But it did not seem to occur to him that he had contradicted himself within two sentences, and that now he was admitting that diet could be a factor. I would have hoped that dissonance would have alerted him to the fact that he had observed a potential cause for a condition the field says is not understood and has no known cure. I would have hoped he would have called UCSF Medical and reported his observation, in case it might help put them on a track to find at least one reliable cause for such a condition and thus possibly arrive at at least a partial theory as to how to combat the condition. But he ignored the event and it was clear that he was satisfied to simply tell me that nobody knew why the condition occurred and that there was nothing to be done about it but live through it. He was content, as I say, to cash his check and go home. So I see no solidarity between the HMO practitioners and their patients; their patients are just items on an assembly line, to be fed pills and sent away, while they cash their checks and go home. This, as far as I am concerned, is what you get for letting for-profit vampires into a system that ought to be devoted to care for humans; this is another example of our National Psychological Depression – we no longer care, about things we are not allowed to fix.

To be fair, other countries have not yet solved these problems either, and they are not all bastions of neoliberalism. So perhaps the problems are “really as hard as they seem.” Or, perhaps humanity as a whole has not figured out that these issues should be put at a higher priority than they are at present. The principal point of objection to current reality is that far more money is spent by humanity on the design, development and production of weapons, than is spent on Medical Research; and the Drug companies are more interested in making money, with the 5th and 8th erectile-dysfunction pill, or the 15th or 30th totally needless Statin drug to preserve Corporate profits, than they are interested in solving the problems that affect humanity as a whole. The solution for the waste on the Military is obvious. Stop wasting that money. As for the Drug companies – at the very least I would tell them that the price they must pay to introduce yet another “vanity” drug to the market, is they must also produce a useful drug that usefully solves real problems. Make them do that on a one-for-one basis and we might see more useful drugs arriving on the market – and fewer useless ones.

I read the ingredient list on the Doritos bag. GMO corn, for sure (and I only just now realized that); but the only ingredients I could find listed that I would have suspected were Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate, and I had eaten plenty of food containing those ingredients without a problem. Maybe my body’s chemistry is changing with age; after this event I abstained from Doritos for a long time, but have eaten more again later and both seen the same effect recur – and not seen the effect recur. Quite vexing to not see any clear correlation. I only wish that Medicine would get smarter about our pharmacology, and do so “real soon now”, so that such weirdness can be explained – and prevented.

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I got Jetro to stock California Garlic

I was a friend of the people who ran Fred’s Market on University Avenue (Berkeley.) They were ultimately destroyed when the feckless Berkeley City Council allowed a Trader Joe’s to move in a half block away. In the interim, I was looking for angles to help them stay in business.

One day I wandered around behind the counter and saw a full bag of peeled garlic – and noticed that it was a Product of China. What, are you kidding? Gilroy, California might be the garlic capital of the world and is just 90 miles down the road from Berkeley. What the hell is anyone doing importing garlic from China?

So I asked Maher (one of Fred’s sons) about it – why are you buying Chinese garlic? He said, because Jetro, his main food distributor in Jack London Square, didn’t carry California garlic. I sent Jetro an email asking why they didn’t carry California garlic, and they responded, claiming it was too expensive compared to the Chinese garlic and that their clients wouldn’t buy it. Maher referred to Christopher Ranch, a Gilroy producer, and said their garlic was much better. He opened the package of Chinese garlic and opened a pack of Christopher Ranch garlic for me to compare. “Smell this,” he said, referring to the bag of Chinese garlic. It smelled strongly of garlic. “Seems strong, doesn’t it?” he said. “But that’s all the flavor – in the smell – and when you use it, it’s washed out. Now smell this,” referring to the bag of Christopher Ranch garlic. No smell at all! A little weird! Maher said, “that’s because all the flavor is still in the cloves, so when you use it, you get all the flavor.”

I asked him: okay, how much more would you be willing to pay for one bag of Christoper Ranch garlic? The Chinese garlic cost $6 per bag. He said he would be willing to pay up to $9 per bag for the California garlic. That’s quite astounding, actually – he would be willing to pay 50% more for the difference. By then I think the people at Jetro were getting the point on their own, but I sent them another email reporting what Maher said: had Jetro actually asked any of its clients what they might pay? Here’s my grocer and he’s willing to pay – and come on, California pride, California local!

Jetro got the point and started to stock Christopher Ranch garlic – along with making some face-saving remarks about how the Chinese garlic was coming in moldy anyway. Now Fred’s food is that much better for using California garlic, and here we have a small, but tangible (edible and tasty) victory for California Local. I wonder how many other grocers and food vendors started to buy Christopher Ranch after Jetro made it available. Not just a few, I suspect.

Just a story to encourage you to be on the lookout for ways you too can help your vendors push back against “price is the only thing that matters.” Perhaps Quality matters more.

Posted in I did that! | Comments Off

Of Course civilization is decaying — we’re all depressed. That’s why we’re Fat, too.

I deal with a number of really small operators – little convenience stores. Consistently now for years, I have noticed that these people are “on automatic” and are not really paying attention to their businesses in the way one might think businesspeople should.

One recurring theme runs as follows: I go to some place to buy some specific thing. I end up buying the place out of that specific thing. The place should have replacement stock on hand, but they don’t. But then, they don’t reorder the sold-out product, either. I end up having to remind them that they have run out of whatever it is, and overtly get them to reorder the thing. But — that was their job to do! Worse, they don’t seem to understand the concept of an inventory system — which can tell them not only what they have run out of, but with a minor effort can also tell them how frequently they should reorder the product to insure it stays in stock. After all, when they run out of the thing, of course they can no longer sell more of the thing until they restock it; it’s of importance to them to insure no shortfalls so as to capture all the sales they should — but they don’t pay attention. So they’re losing money — but they still don’t care.

I look for some thread to unify my experiences of the behavior of these places, and what I come up with is that people are exhausted at having to deal with details. Their behavior, though, is that of a depressed person: I know I should do something, but I am just too tired (of the same-old same-old.) “My interest in working through a mass of (repetitive) details has vanished,” they might say — if they paid attention to where they were at — but they don’t pay attention to that either. The “daily grind” is allowed to occupy all of their attention to the exclusion of improving their performance, correcting the deficiencies in their responses, and paying attention in general to the operation of their business overall.

From Psychology comes the concept of “failure to thrive.” We cannot blame these people for having subsided into minimal repetitive efforts if they are depressed due to being locked in their circumstances, but now I am referring to all workers in the United States. I claim that the “outer” situation, of living in a country that pretends to its people that they do in fact have political control of their country, while instead what happens is always the choice of people outside and above that system (i.e. The Rich), coupled with the Rich extracting from all workers to the extent that they can every last discretionary dollar,  has produced in the population a National (Psychological) Depression. When you are trapped like a rat in a system that feels like slavery and see no way out no matter what, short of suicide, you will become depressed. You might first become angry, but you see no avenues out, and when every effort you make to change the circumstances you face fails, and every effort to get others to join with you in combating the circumstances fails, the anger has nowhere to go. Either you explode and “go postal”, and some people do; or you acquiesce to the circumstances hoping there will be an out “later”, and become depressed — which most of us do.

Why spend effort when there is nothing to live for? The image of Lions at the Zoo comes to mind. Nowhere to go; nowhere to Run; nothing to do. You can pace and pace and pace and pace; or you can lie down and go to sleep for as much of the rest of your life as you can, to shut out the fact that the only other thing to do is to pace and pace and pace. This is to live as a Dead person.

One human equivalent to pacing is to incessantly eat something while watching TV. Let me numb myself to my pain by deriving as much comfort as I can from continuous oral gratification. Perhaps in the back of my mind, something screams that I should act, that I should get up and change my circumstances, that I should quit being trapped in my tiny circle of behavior. And when that noise becomes too loud, just turn up the volume of the TV, and try to “pay closer attention” to what is on the TV. Make that screaming stop. I am trapped and simply no longer wish to be reminded of the fact. (And thus they have stolen all the rest of your life from you.)

I figured for myself the best way to eliminate the depression was to eliminate all the props I used to support it; thus the TV had to go. There was nothing on it anyway; all I had to do was admit this and that I could not be losing anything by getting rid of the TV – except its function as a mental pacifier. “Face the Void”; face the emptiness of a deprived and meaningless life; remain trapped in and facing the pain of the confinement; this is horrible; but it appears to be the only way to force the psyche to make imperative demands upon the conscious to act to change one’s circumstances. The longer you feel trapped on “the razor’s edge”, the more likely you will definitively act to change your circumstances. Necessity being the Mother of Invention, keeping yourself in sharp consciousness of your trapped circumstance should start producing a stream of ideas as to how to remedy the situation. Many or most of these ideas will fail and produce additional pain that will increase the desire to go drown it out again in any pursuit which annihilates your consciousness, watching TV being the prime example. So, eliminating the props keeps you in pain until the situation is solved; keeps you in the place of trying. It hurts a lot, but at least from that point there may be a way forward. There is no way forward while you sit on the couch watching TV, eating potato chips and getting fat.

One mechanism to support keeping you trapped is to make you believe that you are the only person facing such circumstances. How different things would be if “we all realized” that we are all in this circumstance. Immediately you should be able to find many others around you who acknowledge the same trapped feeling, and with whom you can join to explore collectively-powered alternatives. Band together, as Franklin might suggest. Rediscovering “society” in the vacuum produced by the missing Television should be a gratifying thing. Even if it’s not much better, four trapped rats playing cards will have more fun and more ideas for changing things, than four trapped rats sitting in four separate living rooms watching four separate TVs.

The neoliberal practice of Capitalism has done what it can to destroy social cohesion. It would prefer that every individual was in their own room watching TV and talking to no-one else about how depressed they are. Turn off the TV and Radio and go meet pissed-off people who want to see our society change so as to eliminate this system of enforced depression and passivity. Only vote for people who admit to you the truth of your actual circumstances and give you meaningful solutions to the problems you face. If the goal of life is to be happy, the current situation doesn’t support it. You are The People. You deserve the changes in society that will eliminate the current inexorable march to personal powerlessness; but you will have to work to get those changes, and that means working with others to obtain these changes. All you need to remember is that the purpose of life is to live it happily and not to continuously ‘strive to produce wealth’ as they have us believing now.

Let us set one Social goal and try to meet it. Let us demand a four day week – a 32-hour week. Let us insure that work is spread around so that everyone who needs income can get it. But primarily, let us observe that we only get what we fight for, so that we begin to be always fighting — for something. That will go a long way toward curing our National (Psychological) Depression.

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How learning a little History gave me a big change in Attitude

Sometime in 2009 I posted an article on the US Mensa discussion forum for Politics that argued for creating a no-fault Guest Worker card and immigrant labor policy.

I was surprised to get a great deal of negative flack on the Forum. When I defended the guest-worker idea saying that it would reduce unnecessary suffering on the part of immigrant workers, the negative responses ranged from “so what?” to “they deserve to suffer and we deserve to exploit them.” I was a bit shocked, after all these were Mensans (Mensa is a worldwide organization whose members are in the top 2% of intelligence as measured by IQ), and it’s a commonplace that the more educated one is, the more liberal one tends to become. So I had a few exchanges with various posters and came to the conclusion that roughly three-fifths of the discussion forum posters were self-proclaimed Libertarians. One of the posters told me I should read Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action, saying that book was the authoritative reference on economic reality.

There’s no justification for demeaning people, yet apparently the poster thought that for having read Mises’s book, he was entitled to hold opinions such as “they deserve to suffer and we deserve to exploit them.” I was curious how an otherwise supposedly intelligent person could arrive at a position of such obvious moral lapse, and yet walk away from his attitude’s consequences for society. The simple question to him would be “would you be willing to trade places with these people you disparage”, and the answer would be No; but the following question is “how do you justify contriving to keep any segment of civilization deprived and disenfranchised in such ways to benefit yourself?” The only answer to this would be “I want mine and I don’t care about others,” but there is no excuse for such an attitude in today’s world (circa 2009) when the world’s economic output is sufficient to care for everyone. So the Mises philosophy would have to justify malevolent greed, and do so in such a way that “supposedly well-meaning people” could adopt his views without shame.

I decided to confront these ideas – whatever ideas supported these supposedly intelligent people to say that personal greed is paramount and all the rest of society can take the hindmost. That is, after all, the attitude of the so-called 1%, more accurately 0.1% and even more accurately 0.01%. “It’s our world to play with as we see fit, and the rest of you are only here to fill the roles we give you.” Namely, to hell with Democracy, as well as to Hell with People. Worldwide.

I embarked on a large project, to teach myself all the background of Economics, so that I could rebut Mises in Human Action anywhere he puts people behind other people’s strivings for wealth. I immediately added Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman to the list of Mises’s fellow travelers: I will dispose of their Libertarian philosophies one day. I realized the task would be at least arduous, insofar as before I read Human Action to rebut it, I would have to read all the economists who preceded Mises: Smith, Say, Ricardo, Mill, Menger, von Wieser and Böhm-Bawerk, and numerous lesser names. How to study the field? Should I just start reading Adam Smith?

I began with Fernand Braudel’s three volume series “Capitalism and Civilization” as my landlord had more than once recommended the third volume of it. I read a few additional histories, one by Henry Spiegel, one by Phyllis Deane, and one by Ben Seligman. I have a deep mental “stack”, so it’s alright for me to pursue digressions on the way to resolving specific questions, and I read Proudhon’s What is Property?, where he explains how “property is theft.” I read George Woodcock’s biography of Proudhon (Proudhon). I then ran across the fact that Proudhon had written a book titled The Philosophy of Poverty, and that Marx had rebutted it with his The Poverty of Philosophy. Apart from enjoying the fact that jibes were being passed around in book titles, I thought Proudhon and Marx would have been ‘on the same side’, so I borrowed the Marx book to read Marx’s letter to J. B. Schweitzer about Proudhon and was dismayed to see that Marx thought Proudhon a sellout – but by then I understood why.

The most important reading I’ve done to date, though, is the History of Labor. I read Philip S. Foner’s 10-volume series The History of the Labor Movement in the United States, followed by Art Preis’s Labor’s Giant Step. I don’t think anyone with an ordinary conscience could read the Foner history without being appalled at the extents to which the owning class would go to suppress wages and freedom for their own benefit. Foner died before issuing his 11th volume in the series, and his history ends with William Z. Foster’s  TUEL at the point where it was to turn into the TUUL. In reading the history of the AFL, I saw the vast, vast corruption of the process of representation – namely, the AFL selling out to employers so the people running the AFL could wear suits and hob-nob with the rich and powerful – I saw how the IWW was created in order to serve laborers the AFL refused to serve – saw how stubborn the AFL was about the idea of Trade Unions versus Industrial Unions. Preis’s book about the CIO begins after a small gap of years after Foner’s story ends. The AFL’s policies were forever such that an alternate union was needed if laborers overall were to be enfranchised, so the AFL leaders should never have been surprised at the formation of the IWW or the CIO. But the labor history was very discouraging. I have always been aware of being “unhappy about middle-class attitudes” without being able to explain what they are; “I know them when I see them.” Samuel Gompers was a personification of these attitudes I despise, and I learned a lot about what my attitudes really meant and what they were about: Gompers was willing to sacrifice the interests of the laborers he pretended to represent, in order to secure his own comfort. It was his ego-driven denial that he could be so negatively characterized that I recognized to be the source of my antipathy towards his attitudes. Namely: “I will express amazement that you could challenge my position, given my stated good intentions.” All he has to do is refuse to debate his attitudes, and he can keep them and keep acting from them. Not so much anti-intellectual, as anti-admit-other-views, anti-admit-how-I-can-be-seen-by-others, and anti-personal-accountability for being this person who lies that their actions are in benefit to others when they are not. I hold the largest anger at such people who refuse consciousness concerning their own actions and the effect those actions have on others and on society. And this sort of person seems always to ascend to leadership positions, with the result that the progress of human history is halted or seriously delayed. The AFL’s corrupt adherence to Trade versus Industrial unions only finally ended in 1952, thanks to a succession of corrupt leaders of the AFL, beginning with Gompers. So that’s 57 years’ worth of delay and denial – due to the egos of those involved.

I’m reading “wildly” at the moment – wishing I could read 5 books per day, or even just 1. What I see is what I missed in school – that I think everyone in the U.S. misses in school – real, honest history. Because the primary thing I’ve learned about what is wrong with our society is that very few Americans have any idea what happened in the past. I’ve been saying that what we have now is the fact that the rich have arrested history for 100 years: “they” will not allow forward social progress. If they did, we would have Socialized Medicine by now. I said 100 years as a round figure – but people had been arguing for Socialism since well before 1912. The Socialists were making headway with their own party such that if they had continued (unopposed), we might well have a Socialist national administration by now. I figure if everyone (many within the 99.99%) were to read the Foner history, we would get a lot more activism; because the excuses the rich use to keep us stagnated are the same excuses they used 100 years ago, and people familiar with the actual history of labor’s struggles would not tolerate the nonsense these people dispense.

One big topic is Socialism versus Capitalism. Which is “better?” But based on what I’ve read by now, I think this is not the issue at all, in fact. The simple issue facing America and the World is that the Rich run the place to suit themselves. It is much less a concern for the economic system than the mere fact that we do not have actual Democracy, anywhere the Rich can prevent popular-democratic outcomes. Based on the little I’ve read (compared to the extent of what I have yet to read), I figure that “Socialism” is the natural next step after “Capitalism”; and people have known this since about 1830; and yet we have to keep living with Capitalism, because it is the mechanism by which the Rich stay Rich. The “common folk”, if and when you can pry them away from the TV, would agree that they would rather have “Socialism” if that is the only way to get the Rich out of power. But Socialism isn’t required for that to happen. All that is needed is for the average American to notice that they are not represented under our Democracy – and to vote the rich out of power.

I have called for people to pass along the idea of not voting for anyone who owns or earns more than 10 times what you own or earn. If you are not Rich, then you can’t expect to be politically represented by a Rich person, and obviously should not vote for one.

I have called for people to simply refuse to vote ever again for either major party (Republicans or Democrats.) Walter Weyl wrote a book (The New Democracy) in 1912 complaining how the two parties were sold out to the interests of moneyed people, and nothing has changed since then except that (seemingly) the American people forgot the fact and have only lately rediscovered it.

I think one answer for the current situation is for all of us who are not members of the ‘elite’ to understand that we are therefore members of the ‘proletariat’. When the middle-class can forget the lesser classes by simply going home to turn on the TV, we have a problem. Getting the Rich out of power is not going to level society all at once; “we” are not going to invade your upper-middle-class home to seize your sewing machine just because someone down the hill who is poor does not own one. That hysterical reaction should be dismissed out of hand, and anyone who promulgates it should be ignored (overall).

First we restore genuine Democracy in America – and we know we have done that when the 80% of voters who said they wanted Single-Payer Health Care get it. As someone who is watching the mainstream media rewrite and eliminate history, I remind you that the 2000 election was stolen by the Supreme Court in an action the American People have yet to punish; that not-actually-a-President Bush nominated Alito and Roberts; and that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Addington, Yoo and a host of others are War Criminals (and Traitors) who have yet to face justice for their crimes. We know America is on the track to recovery when our War Criminals are submitted to the Hague for trial; when the people will censure the five justices who “appointed” Bush, and remove the remaining three still on the court who cast that vote (Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy); when we can get an independent reinvestigation of “9/11″, since it appears that 9/11 required US complicity to have occurred, so “9/11″ was a hoax – and the public deserves to see this in glaring detail, the extent to which criminal mentality supports the neoliberal/neoconservative rush toward Fascism on a worldwide basis.

If you ever meet any of these people who have sold us out – the Rich and the caterers to the Rich – the people who smugly stifle Democracy worldwide for their power and profit – put your hands in your pockets, and before you walk away from them, say

“Thank Me For Not Killing You.”

 

 

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