Friday, July 31, 2015
This Salon article gives at bit of insight, provided by Paul Krugman, into why the Chinese government is doing exactly the wrong thing to avoid making things worse for their economy. The problem, of course, is that not only does "rapid growth" look good to the rest of the world, it makes most of the elites there very rich. Turning that situation off risks losing the apparent solidarity of those in power, and the confidence that unification is supposed to display to the masses, as well as the rest of the world.
Then there's the reality of the markets themselves, and the fact that those that have aren't spending much, and raising the wages of the masses, so they could spend more, takes away the cheap labor that was much of the foundation for the growth in the first place. Sound familiar?
Supply side economics over here results in a similar situation. The rich don't want to risk the ability to accumulate, as well as keep, increased holdings, so they advocate little taxation, and every kind of investment incentive the mind can conceive. There's also a world competitive market at play, given all of those wonderful tree trade agreements, so the other incentive is to keep our wages low as well. Which all serves to create an ever dwindling middle class, and a growing "the rest of us" who simply cannot afford to buy much of anything, any more, either.
The problem with the usual remedies, however, is that Capitalism simply doesn't work very well with them; especially now that it has been electrified. The bottom line is to somehow control the troika of profits, prices and wages, while still having an environment where innovation and market responsiveness can flourish. Given that such control necessarily requires a bureaucracy of significant magnitude you create a process mesh that is essentially an oxymoron.
Given all of this I am left perplexed, to say the least, at how intelligent people, like Mr Krugman, can criticise the panic of misinformed politicians, while they continue to refuse to acknowledge that the model itself is no longer viable. To see that it is long past it's use by date and that it is now time to redefine requirements, and then how best to address them. Something a software person understands or simply doesn't prosper if not.
This Daily Beast article, concerning the documentary The Brainwashing Of My Dad, gives us another informative video we will all need to see.
The thing to remember here is that this also serves as a reminder that "monied free speech," portrayed as an equivalent to individual free speech, is utter nonsense. And it is not only because of the engineering that can be done to message. It is also to be seen from the ability of spreading message across not only a wide breadth of media channels, but to also to give it legs in an otherwise short media attention span.
The only other thing you need to consider is this: Would Big Money spend the incredible sums necessary to create "Amplification" as it now exists if it weren't getting something quite significant in return? If you don't get that then I'm surprised you can read at all.
Monday, July 27, 2015
This Salon article makes clear why a good portion of the right competes in the "I can out stupid that" market. Let us not forget, however, the full circle of this stupidity co-dependency, with the media companies, campaign companies (to name just a few of the corporations), as well as the members of "Big Money" who work this from both sides; as in spending some of their profits in funding the idiots who then spend it back on the very companies these guys own major shares of. Talk about a vicious circle.
Of course the real issue is this: Which is more stupid, the idiots who work in the circle, or the rubes among the population who find it all so entertaining?
Sunday, July 26, 2015
A lot of rhetoric will be expanded upon in the next few weeks calling for new gun control laws, or even the outright ban of them. Most of this will be by politicians who appreciate the response poll response such lip service will provide a great deal more than the actual practicalities of spending real political capital in making it happen. This does not change the fact, however, that this will be prompted by the very human need to do something that is obviously reverberating through the population currently.
And lets be clear from the beginning. A couple of fundamental, reasonable, measures to keep fire arms out of the hands of people with a history of violence, or the tendency towards harm to others, would be quite helpful. A truly integrated national database of such behavior, linked with an effective transactional query system to make checks, as well as updates, quick, as well as accurate, would seem like a no brainer. As would having rules for keeping the weapons locked up when not in use, and keeping track of non compliance should also be included. Unfortunately, governments being governments, of course, make "no brainer's" look like Herculean tasks.
In this, it is also reasonable to ask those who wish to exercise their right to bear arms to bear a significant portion of the cost of implementing, and maintaining this system. Which would be levied in the form of permit fees and gun taxes. And when the right wines about "more taxes" we should simply reply: "If you want the benefit then shoulder some of the responsibility."
What I fear, though, and why I am prompted to make this post, is that we'll get caught up in another well intentioned crusade to ban something outright. And as history as shown quite clearly, all of these "wars" on whatever might be the ill of the day, are often a great deal more harmful than the ill itself. Which is why I would no more ban guns than I would ban drugs.
Both of these things have the potential for stupid people doing stupid things with them. As well as for truly troubled people to do some very troubling things with. The bottom line for me has always been "you simply cannot legislate to any great degree against stupidity or troubled individuals." The best you can do is work around these human flaws to limit the collateral damage.
Being an advocate for social change I am always tempted to put the blame for bad behavior on one or another aspects of the current operating system. Being a Systems Analyst as well, however, makes giving in to that temptation rather difficult. The fact of the matter is that people act out their frustrations, or fears, or anger for a universe of complicated factors. Passion of the moment. The legacy of not being shown how to make better choices, with a balance of discipline and nurturing. Substance abuse. Physical abuse. Brain disorders. A sequence of sudden misfortunes. The list could go on and on.
I'd like to think, of course, that having a more involving, less disconnected, form of social organization would make for a much more helpful environment in which people could learn to make better choices in. Changing that system, however, would in no way eliminate the human propensity for making mistakes in judgement, any more than it would completely eliminate greed, or envy or hate. We are frail beings both emotionally and physically. That's just the way it is. Keeping faith with both Love and Mind, working together, is the only thing that's ever made any sense to me as a way to keep on putting one foot in front of the
Friday, July 24, 2015
As this NBCNEWS.com article points out, cancer treatment is way too expensive. The real ignorance here, however, is not in an inability to answer to this obvious question. Any more than this one aspect of inappropriate valuation is the right question to be asking in the first place.
The problem is the insane economic operating system that values net gain more than any thing else. And not just net gain in and of itself, but whatever the marketer can get away with. A system which actually prides itself in encouraging the marketer to behave in exactly that manner.
If city sized groups of individuals were in charge of both production decisions, as well as owning the responsibility of maintaining collective production capability, the only factor in deciding what should be produced is the willingness of those individuals to apply the effort, and resource, to make the production happen. Doing so precisely because they thought it was worth such effort and resource.
Such an arrangement is not rocket science. It is simply a reasoned conclusion of what cooperation, personal involvement, and technology, in balance, can accomplish.
Setting it up, on the other hand, is something that will be extremely difficult. Make no mistake. Saying that, however, does not make it impossible. It just means that the commitment to make it happen will have to be total for everyone who can see that business as usual isn't working any more. It is, in fact, quite unsustainable. It is driving us all insane even as it destroys the planet.
Perhaps the big takeaway here is that the real cancer is Capitalism metastasizing on the carcinogen of electrified money. A cancer that is eating away at everything.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
I just can't seem to help myself when it comes to juxtaposing seemingly disconnected news stories. Each story relates to an important, and/or passionately held, aspects of certain events, but we don't always get the bigger picture context that these events play out in. Especially as it relates to the complicated nature of how things can interact in both cause and effect.
Another case in point. Three stories concerning world events:
1: Wall Street is freaking out about China’s economic slowdown: Here’s why humanity should cheer
2: Springtime for America’s Enemies
3: Japan-China Spat: Beijing Plans To Tap Oil Field Near Disputed Waters, Tokyo Says
The first deals with the environmental upside hoped for in China'a economic slowdown. Brief mention is made, of course, to how Wall Street isn't too happy about it, but it does go into the environmental challenges China faces in some detail; as well as the amazing public outcry from a much abused populace (the death rate from particulates alone is astonishing).
The second is a passionate plea from a former Russian chess grand master that America is playing a foolish game of "make peace" with evil governments that cannot be justified by either the long term goals of these regiems (as in Russia, Iran, and Cuba), or their current humanitarian records.
And lastly is another aspect of geopolitics as it relates to the oceans around China, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and China (to just name a few).
The bigger picture can become obscured in each of these precisely because there is usually one group or another who benefits from portraying (whether justly or not) particular players as either monolithic evil, greed masters, the enemy de jour, or the patsy de jour. And, as with all good propaganda, there is always an element of truth to any of the claims to make them have feet, if not legs, to stand for a while in the media.
My bias, of course, is the questionable status of the current predominant economic operating system in place across the world; whether governments be supposedly democratic, socialist, communist or a monarchy of whatever sort, they are all capitalist to varying degrees. As such it is my contension that none of the players will be able to successfully coexist with the others until the profit element inherent in commodities, and the resources underlying their production, as well as production itself; with the way we go about it and the connection it has to individual material well begin, are addressed.
How can we ever talk intelligently about peace, or war, when so many either profit, or starve no matter which path we take? How can we know truth in any set of circumstances, so as to negotiate knowledgably, and apply engagement, or isolation effectively, when information itself is a commodity. And if peace or war discussions cannot be initiated as a trust based dialogue, what chance will environmental discussions have?
Profit is power. Profit is permanent war economies. Profit is a permanent class of poor and the unrepresented. Profit is poision in the air, in the ground and in the oceans. Even peace is profit, along with all of the poisons, if you define peace as only the absence of armed conflict. The truly astonishing part of that kind of peace is how the elites are so surprised at how unpeaceful not only the poor and unrepresented become, but how the earh itself responds in kind.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
We are data but we are also a great deal more. If only we had an operating system that understood and encouraged that.
The attitude expressed in this article is as depressing as it is illustrative of everyone being unable to think outside of the mandate of money. Remembering that, in this context, money is information and information is money now that Capitalism has been deformed by electricity, and electrified information retrieval systems.
We are data. That is certainly true. But virtually everything is. One has not made much of an enlightening statement when utters this. The real problem is the automatic incentive to fuck with data at every level that Capitalism now provides. The only part here that is inevitable is that someone will respond to that incentive and will try to act upon it before, and/or with better effectiveness, than anybody else, so as to acquire competitive advantage and be more successful in the process of net gain. Because, in that success, is their true power. At least as it relates to further success in playing the money game we call Capitalism. Take away the incentive and you take away a great deal of the inevitability of data in reasoning engines becoming our ultimate successors.
"The Best of Enemies," which is set to come out on the 31st of this month, and featured in this Daily Beast article, will be well worth watching. Both because the two principles involved in the debates, who are at the center of the documentary, were such amazingly smart, and articulate men, but also because what they talked about was so prescient for the topics going on today.
William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal were both intellectuals of the highest rank. You had to admire them both, even if, as a progressive such as myself, you certainly didn't agree with Buckley. The problem was that I, being so young, and the rest of the left being so bereft of ideas to challenge economic orthodoxy, and Buckley be so adept at articulating it, challenging him was no easy thing. Vidal, however, did quite well in at least spelling out what that orthodoxy was doing wrong.
The Daily beast article spends a few paragraphs on Hillary Clinton's latest economic speech, and how she takes the Republicans to task for "Trickle Down" policies a few "Troglodytes" are still trying to peddle; the "cut taxes" for the rich, and let corporations have their way policies that the Democrats have repeatedly had to come in and clean up from.
What is interesting here, even as Mrs. Clinton makes reference to creating jobs that pay meaningful middle class wages, is that she seems to gloss over the fact that it was her husband who put two of the most significant nails in the coffins of the middle class: gutting Glass-Steagle, and pushing through NAFTA. Sure, he balanced the books on the deficits, and got jobs growing again, as well as a bit of an increase in wages, a great deal of which was squandered during the Bush II years, but it is also undeniable that he laid the ground work for both the Dot Com bust in the early 00's, as well as the "Great Recession." And now that we've had another two terms of a Democratic administration, where are we? At even greater levels of inequality, both as wealth and as outcomes.
What magic formula is she going to apply to suddenly get Big Money to pay more of its net gain in wages and accept less as profit? What formula that won't displease the bankers and investment honchos who are just as much a part of her financial base as it was for Obama; they guy who not only couldn't jail any of them after the Great Depression, but even brought some of their proteges into his administration. What formula that can't be corrupted, watered down, or otherwise deflected in the long term. And perhaps almost as bad, what formula that won't choke this god awful engine off with bureaucracy, well intended or not; for never forget that competition is a part of the stupid game, whether you like it or not, and you fuck with it at the game's peril.
The simple fact of the matter is that it can no longer be tolerated, and it can't be reformed. This merry go round of cliches has to stop and we all have to get off of it. The thing is, it would be far better to do this in an intelligent, and at least semi-organized fashion, rather than having the mess come apart of a sudden and fling everybody off. Therein lies the choice. It will stop eventually. The only question is whether we will have any effective steerage involved when it does.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
See the full article here.
1. In 81 percent of American counties, the median income, about $52,000, is less than it was 15 years ago. This is despite the fact that the economy has grown 83 percent in the past quarter-century and corporate profits have doubled. American workers produce twice the amount of goods and services as 25 years ago, but get less of the pie.
2. The amount of money that was given out in bonuses on Wall Street last year is twice the amount all minimum-wage workers earned in the country combined.
3. The wealthiest 85 people on the planet have more money that the poorest 3.5 billion people combined.
4. The average wealth of an American adult is in the range of $250,000-$300,000. But that average number includes incomprehensibly wealthy people like Bill Gates. Imagine 10 people in a bar. When Bill Gates walks in, the average wealth in the bar increases unbelievably, but that number doesn’t make the other 10 people in the bar richer. The median per adult number is only about $39,000, placing the U.S. about 27th among the world’s nations, behind Australia, most of Europe and even small countries like New Zealand, Ireland and Kuwait.
5. Italians, Belgians and Japanese citizens are wealthier than Americans.
6. The poorest half of the Earth’s population owns 1% of the Earth’s wealth. The richest 1% of the Earth’s population owns 46% of the Earth’s wealth.
7. More locally, the poorest half of the US owns 2.5% of the country’s wealth. The top 1% owns 35% of it.
8. Inequality is a worldwide problem. In the UK, doctors no longer occupy a place in the top 1% of income earners, London plays host to the largest congregation of Russian millionaires outside of Moscow, and also houses more ultra-rich people (defined as owning more than $30 million in assets outside of their home) than anywhere else on Earth.
9. The slice of the national income pie going to the wealthiest 1% of Americans has doubled since 1979.
10. The 1% also takes home 20% of the income. This figure is the most since the 1920s era of laissez faire government (under Republicans Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover).
11. The super rich .01% of America, such as Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, take home a whopping 6% of the national income, earning around $23 million a year. Compare that to the average $30,000 a year earned by the bottom 90 percent of America.
12. The top 1% of America owns 50% of investment assets (stocks, bonds, mutual funds). The poorest half of America owns just .5% of the investments.
13. The poorest Americans do come out ahead in one statistic: the bottom 90% of America owns 73% of the debt.
14. Tax rates for the middle class have remained essentially unchanged since 1960. Tax rates on the highest earning Americans have plunged from an almost 70% tax rate in 1945 down to around 35% today. Corporate tax rates have dropped from 30 percent in the 1950s to under 10 percent today.
15. Since 1990, CEO compensation has increased by 300%. Corporate profits have doubled. The average worker’s salary has increased 4%. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has actually decreased.
16. CEOs in 1965 earned about 24 times the amount of the average worker. In 1980 they earned 42 times as much. Today, CEOs earn 325 times the average worker.
17. Wages, as a percent of the overall economy, have dropped to an historic low.
18. In a study of 34 developed countries, the United States had the second highest level of income inequality, ahead of only Chile.
19. Young people in the U.S. are getting poorer. The median wealth of people under 35 has dropped 68% since 1984. The median wealth of older Americans has increased 42%.
20. The average white American’s median wealth is 20 times higher ($113,000) than the average African American ($5,600) and 18 times the Hispanic American ($6,300).
21. America’s highest incomeinequality is located in the states surrounding Wall Street (New York City) and the oil-rich states.
22. Since 1979, high school dropouts have seen median weekly income drop by 22 percent. Ethnically, the highest dropout rates are among Hispanic and African American children.
23. In 1970, a woman earned about 60% of the amount a man earned. In 2005 a woman earned about 80% of what a man earned. Since 2005, there has been no change in that figure. African-American women earn just 64% of what a white male earns, and Hispanic women just 56%.
24. Over 20 percent of all American children live below the poverty line. This rate is higher than almost all other developed countries.
25. Union membership in the US is at an all-time low, about 11% of the workforce. In 1978, 40 percent of blue-collar workers were unionized. With that declining influence has come a concurrent decline in the real value of the minimum wage.
26. Four hundred Americans have more wealth, $2 trillion, than half of all Americans combined. That is approximately the GDP of Russia.
27. In 1946, a child born into poverty had about a 50 percent chance of scaling the income ladder into the middle class. In 1980, the chances were 40 percent. A child born today has about a 33 percent chance.
28. Despite massive tax cuts, corporations have not created new jobs in America. The job creators have been small new businesses that have not enjoyed the same huge tax breaks.
29. More than half of the members of the United States Congress, where laws are passed deciding how millionaires are taxed, are millionaires.
30. Twenty five of the largest corporations in America in 2010 paid their CEOs more money than they paid in taxes that year.
31. In the first decade of the 21st century, the U.S. borrowed $1 trillion in order to give tax cuts to households earning over $250,000.
32. In 1970, there were five registered lobbyists working on behalf of wealthy corporations for every one of the 535 members of Congress. Today there are 22 lobbyists per congressperson.
33. In 1962, the 1% household median wealth was 125 times the average median wealth. In 2010 the divide was 288 times.
34. During the Great Recession, the average wealth of the 1% dropped about 16 percent. Meanwhile the wealth of the 99% dropped 47 percent.
35. Between 1979 and 2007, the wages of the top 1% rose 10 times more than the bottom 90 percent.
Jon Steweart: Year after year of the bull shit being made clear to us and still the money game plays on
No other comment is needed in regards to this Salon.com article.
Fox News wore Jon Stewart down: How 16 years of debunking right-wing lies exhausted the last honest man
Another NBCNEWS.com story lets us in on the growing concern for the potential collateral damage of deep sea mining. And just to be clear here, the metals industries are undoubtedly chomping at the bit to get at those riches.
Insanity upon insanity. A fitting counterpoint to the way bull shit keeps piling up around us.
Anybody with even half a brain know that this is stupidity taken to the power of Donald Trump's ego. Especially when far more is available simply floating about in our solar system.
If the Pluto mission teaches us anything it is that we can always achieve far more reach than what we currently grasp. And as the stars lie along the same path why are we wasting so much time and treasure on worn out behavior patterns.
The rape of the oceans must stop. Just accept that. And the only way we'll be able to do that; the only way we'll be able to change our thinking enough to see clear to doing that, is to stop playing the money game.
This NBCNEWS.com story ought to make forward thinking individual cringe. To say that it is ludicrous hardly even begins to cut it. You need only to remind yourself that, given the pace of technological development, the skills these young adults have taken on debt for will probably be relevant for no more than five to ten years, whereupon they will be required to retrain in some fashion. And all the while they will be bled financially with obscene rent charges. Throw in the inevitable rise in food costs and you have to wonder why a person would even bother at all.
Everyone should be angered by this. Everyone. It is beyond ridiculous. It is not sustainable any more than it is morally tolerable. We simply have to stop playing the money game. It is winding us up into ever more stressed and inflexible knots. We cannot connect with each other properly. We cannot touch upon any of the aspects of life that would allow growth or wisdom. If we are to remain human at all it must stop.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
This article from the New Yorker talks about a quake zone that makes the one in California look only bad. Since it is part of the Cascadia Subduction zone, and the Juan De Fuka tectonic plate, it puts the Pacific Northwest in the cross hairs of a really bad quake event. I live well east of the I-5 corridor, but I do not take a great deal of comfort from that. Not only because the shaking will still undoubtedly be catastrophic here, but that the region as a whole may well crumble back to the subsistence levels of a third world country.
And nearly as bad will be the overall economic effect as it spreads like another wave throughout the economic landscape of the country. Given the nature of Murphy's law, it is likely to happen in close concurrence to tornado's in the mid West, Hurricanes on the East Coast, or terrible flooding from more traditional storms where every you might want pick randomly. And of course in more than one or two possible combinations in succession.
How does a cost based economy deal with that and not face a terrible strain on it government to remain viable. How long can strict controls, and Marshal Law be kept in place in order to just get a handle on where to begin rebuilding?
We don't like to think about these things because, for one, there don't seem to be any reasonable answers, and there certainly isn't any real leadership demonstrated by current politicians to take on the really big changes that need to happen in order to be even modestly prepared.
What we're doing then is not only burning daylight, in a manner of speaking, but the relative calm of only smaller scale disasters. Events that ought to be alarms going off but are ignored. It's a choice that is really going to bite us in the ass.
This article from Salon paints a quite dismal picture of where this country is heading now that "Financialization" holds sway in the lofty realms of investment. Investment for jobs, as such, no longer has the emphasis as holders of capital seek rents in various forms to obtain net gain. And its not only financial instruments that gain predominance in this trend. Even the super managers of established companies no longer look to wages to make their mark. They go now to the stock options at today's prices so that next year, or the one after that, they can use company profits to buy back stock and thus push the price up substantially for a sell off.
When you think about it, however, why would any, purely rational, holder of capital, even dare to think of jobs oriented investments here? Even with our stagnant wage growth labor costs here are far higher than a good number of places else where. And let us not forget that here there are also other regulation costs here; all these silly workers, and consumers, not wanting to get sick, hurt, or ripped off in various ways (go figure).
And then there is the trend line of the general cost/benefit ratios of human labor at all, as opposed to the application of the right hardware and software. If you then throw in all of the instability factors raging around the world, and the resultant lack of predictability... Well... What's a cold rationalist supposed to do?
The interesting thing in this for me is that the only response that the well intentioned folks who present us with these dark statistics is to suggest that financialization be regulated in some way. That is to say that the commodity of money be limited in how it can be rented.
Understandable as what motivates this response may be, one wonders at the host of difficulties its practical application would present. Even for a Progressive such as myself, setting up investment regulatory bureaucracies as would be required here is mind boggling. And unless you would be willing to regulate competition itself, as well as profit minimums and maximums, along with wage minimums and maximums, with even more layers of bureaucracy, you would be a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. And even if you were willing to regulate all of the above the biggest accomplishment would probably be to make government the biggest employer; perhaps the only employer in the long run.
If we accept that human skill is already an absurdity as a commodity, and that trying to regulate the other main commodity (which is essentially information) is a fools errand, why can we not also accept that the old, mechanistic, capital model of organizing production, and the distribution of material need, is no longer valid. That something new and original is required to best make use of an electrified information environment. It really isn't that big a leap. Not if you have anything near an open mind, and are actually willing to use it.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
You may think you know the situation as far as special interest propaganda goes, but trust me on this, you really don't. I know I thought I did but it wasn't nearly as complete as this excellent documentary makes clear. Doubts, and outright lies for that matter, are a very high profit commodity, and a fundamental aspect of "amplification" in the information mutated world of Capitalism these days. From the days of the cigarette companies lying, and what the rest of corporate America learned from their success, to the fabrication of the 31+ K of scientists supposedly having evidence against climate change (which turns out to be a few cold war physicists who, not only hadn't done any actual research, but were actually motivated not by the facts but by their fear that regulation would be the slippery slope to Communism), with a quick detour through how Big Tobacco fueled the bogus turn to toxic flame retardants into furniture. You end up thinking there ought to be a new variation on the Klingon saying: "Bull Sh_t is a dish best served cold."
The thing to remember here, though, is that this is the only way for Capitalism to work. Established investment has to protect its interests or go out of existence. And the other side of the coin is that Big Government as the only counter balance becomes just as unworkable. Even if you could, some how, remove the influence of money you would still be adding layer after layer of bureaucracy to do the checking, and holding corporate feet the fire, which is of course an expense, but also a hindrance to flexible development itself. This in an information matrix that's already far too complex.
The bottom line here is that this mode of how we provide for ourselves, and make the decisions that go into running that process, has become completely inadequate to the task in an electric information environment. We desperately need to completely rethink how we ought to go about it, and we need to start that task soon.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Here, in a concise statement of resignation, is why a cost based economy cannot take us to the stars
This article from the Daily Beast declares, quite succinctly, why the "net gain" crowd are ill suited for carrying society forward any longer. The main narrative here, concerning Boeing's early work to figure out what kind of wing would take aviation into the jet age, serves to point out how we used to have an amazing "can do" attitude toward difficult, and costly, creative efforts.
After the trouble with creating the 787, though (having been burned a lot by the problems of outsourcing, as well as the purely technical challenges as the article points out), outgoing boss James McNerney is quoted (in responding to financial analysts) that the 787 represented a philosophy of:
"...“every 25 years a big moonshot, produce a 707 or a 787 – that’s the wrong way to pursue this business. The more-for-less world will not let you produce moonshots.”
And even more troubling is the thought that many of the social and environmental threats we now face are, perhaps, even more challenging than a moon shot. And the mind set of profits this quarter, and the prospects for the next, doesn't allow for much in the way of real vision. This is more than just a problem of competitiveness, it is a matter of survival. If you don't see that than you've probably been spending too much time worrying about your investment portfolio.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
Often times the best way to consider the different points of view by different authors is to do so within the light of how they contrast with each other.
The three stories, all from Salon.com (#1, #2, #3), in this case are:
These all, of course, refer to different aspects of the shortcomings of a market economy. An economy that emphasises money, narrow interests, and the continence of a few to not only protect their interests, but expand their breadth and reach.
One party in the political system certainly seems to give more lip service to looking out for the rest of us, but when it really comes down to it, the net affect on money, and the interests of the few it serves, doesn't really change that much. How could it be otherwise with the money that both parties suck in from the teat of those who have the accumulations to afford such investments.
The problem here is not one set of policies as opposed to another set, and which is the best to grow our economy. The real problem is that the economic operating system itself is no longer relevant to the information environment we now live in. The mechanistic model this operating system runs on was never intended for electrified information environments, or the new mind sets formed of them.
The simple fact of the matter is that it is time to start over. Time to redefine what our requirements are and then mold a new system to meet them.
There is one certainty that one can draw upon from all of this back and forth bickering the parties do. None of it matters one bit. They are the fools arguing over how to arrange not only the chairs, but the birthing hierarchy of a sinking ship. A ship that has fouled both the water it cruises in, but the very means by which the people who keep it running can stay sane and healthy. Too many contradictions. Too many task areas working at cross purposes. Is it any wonder at all why things are flying apart all over the place?
Change is coming. The only remaining question is will the ensuing difficulty be for a purpose, or simply the result of panic and the chaos that then results. We have a choice to make and a lot rides on that choice.
Need we say more than George W. Bush being paid $100K for speaking at a "Hiring Our Heros" event. This may well have been a charity fund raiser but I have to believe that the most challenged beneficiary was not a veteran. Too bad the VA hasn't done research on prostectic brains for former presidents.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
I have often maintained that a big part of why we end up working so hard, and at hardly ever anything truly rewarding, is so that we can afford all of the additives and diversions that allow us to work so hard, and receive only money in return. Pills to keep us. Pills to keep us down. Other pills to counter the side effects of the first pills. Alcohol, risky behavior, and addictions in growing diversity. Thus we are occupied as well as not on the streets, or sleeping in a car.
This article from Scientific American adds some resent research to provide substance to this point of view. It especially makes sense if you remember that Capitalism, and the work, commodity, and commercialism inherent in it, is essentially life mechanized. It came about via the mechanistic mind set of Typographic thinking after all; separating things into repeatable processes that can then assemble anything that can be sold. A mind set for which economies of scale become immediately apparent so that concentrations of such task groups become the order of the day.
Bringing electricity into the picture, and especially as it relates to making experience instantly retrievable, changes everything however. That is everything but social inertia. Whereupon we apply electric modalities to a mechanistic organizational model and create monstrous mutations as a result. And the added insanity only applies accelerant to an already raging fire.
Everybody, supposesly, hates money in politics, as this article from Salon.com illustrates. Do you seriously think that will ever, consistantaly, keep it out? You don't have to read this article to remain sceptical, but it does help.
Capitalism has had its day. It is way past time for an alternative.
Another article for NBCNEWS.com indicates a couple of things that Americans ought to keep in mind. One is obvious, but the other maybe not so much.
First, of course, is the simple, but always bitter, realization that what goes up eventually comes down; and nothing more so than stock markets. Two point eight trillion dollars, however, is one hell of a lot of down, only this time its the Chinese who are getting re schooled on the axiom.
The other thing, though, that might no be so obvious here is this: We, as a nation, always have this tendency to see new economic competitors as the bogey man, and nearly at our door to kick it down. They will take over everything just as the Japanese were supposed to have done.
The trouble, of course, is that we see these "others" as a monolithic engine of unfettered success, for whatever reason, that cannot be stopped. The problem, though, is that they are seldom without a wide range of deep, social, or material, fault lines that we always gloss over. All the more surprising when one takes an even casual look at Chinese history. So large. So dispersed by language and material well being throughout the centuries. When their fault lines give way they suffer cultural and economic shock waves unlike any other nation.
And now, with the income disparity there making ours look paltry, you just bet the government elites are starting to sweat at their choice of embracing state run Capitalism. I don't envy them or the peasant masses.
NBCNEWS.com had this report from academia: "Scientists warn genome data could outgrow youtube-twitter." And the potential numbers they were suggesting might reach the exabyte level, which is one thousand petabytes, which, to give you some perspective, only two peta's would hold all U.S. academic research libraries (By Julian Bunn in Globally Interconnected Object Databases.).
How does one even begin to comprehend creating and maintaining the infrastructure for that kind of new data load, as well as everything else in the realm of financial, commercial (as in content delivery), and government? And, as always, who will pay for it? How will they pay for it. All while still trying to find the means to rebuild after each of the ever increasing catastrophic events that are sure to keep coming?
Even an effort based economy is going to have great difficulty handling these challenges, even assuming we might be able to reduce some of the demand by taking out significant portions of the financial and commercial requirements.
Just one more thing to consider as we ponder the extent to which Capitalism is obsolete.
Monday, July 6, 2015
I understand the frustration expressed by this Salon.com article condemning the Democrats on TPP, labor rights in general, as well as income inequality, which of course goes hand in hand with the inequality of outcomes.
Abandoning the Democrats, however, in and of itself, is nowhere near enough. What really needs to happen is a new kind of unionism. An organization of workers not based on a particular industry, or skills commonality, but one where you simply work for a living. And, even more importantly, an organization that isn't focused on narrow workplace issues, or wages, but on the much more fundamental idea that Capitalism itself is no longer viable. Not only because human skill as a commodity is absurd, but because what Capitalism has become is inherently bad for both a healthy Democracy, as well as for healthy people, or a healthy environment.
In this context, the idea of a strike is not to bring a single industry group to the negotiating table, but to make it clear to both the political establishment, as well as the primary holders of capital that the real grit of society will no longer play the money game. That, in point of fact, a completely new economic operating system is required, and nothing short of that will be tolerated.
This will be, of course, organizing on a completely new scale, seeking to stop work across as broad a spectrum of economic life as possible. Something that will cause unprecedented hardship, dislocation and sacrifice. There is just no other way to express it. The only thing that will give this even a remote chance of succeeding is the ability of each and every participant to work with their neighbors to mitigate those various difficulties. Sharing, cooperating and thinking creatively, as well as keeping a balance between what is private property and what ought to be considered in the greater good. Something that has always been a real powder keg in the American psyche.
Talking about it ahead of time. Engaging everyday workers in the dialogue. And trying to work towards a common consensus will be the only way to go. We just have to remember that it can be done. It has been done; every time a big disasters hits, be it tornado's, hurricanes, earth quakes or floods, Americans put property, money and self interest aside and just get down to helping one another get through it. The goal here will be in getting every day Americans to see that where we are now is a disaster of even greater proportions than anything we've ever encountered before. The only difference being that it is happening in a different time frame than usual. If we can do that then there is a chance.
This Daily Beast article indicates that even writing, as either fiction or non-fiction, is falling to the reach of software. Could it be that critical writing about much of anything will be just another part of message engineering (which itself is only part of the new age of electric amplification)? Perhaps sooner than we think?
Sunday, July 5, 2015
If the people of a corporation are talking about "Holacracy," as a way to run things, why is it so hard to simply take it to its logical conclusion?
The Salon.com article about "Holacracy" is the first I've heard of it. I suppose, if I were still doing IT, I would have heard about it a lot sooner, as it has its roots in the "Agile" software development model.
What's interesting to me about Agile is that I was doing it years before it had a name, or at least before I ever caught wind of it. The six years I spent working for Health Services Northwest (from 2002 to 2008) was agile development out of necessity. It was also probably the best six year of my professional life as an analyst/developer.
To understand why you first have to understand what Health Services Northwest was, and for the most part, still is.
In the health industry H.S.N. is what is know as an R.B.O, or remote billing organization. It was formed as a partnership between the Providence and Swedish hospital groups as a means to centralize, and make more efficient, the entire process of formulating patient charges, submitting them for payment, and then resolving any billing issues. And, as this necessarily involved a diverse panoply of payer groups, with complex hierarchies of ailment to appropriate treatments correspondences, you can imagine that it is, by default, a very information intensive process.
That I came to be hired by them at all was another serendipitous event (in a series of them throughout my career). I was initially brought in as a contractor by a tech temp agency. H.S.N. had already been involved in a year long effort of process review by a prominent consulting company (Point B) to identify key parameters; the ultimate goal of which was a reporting tool. A point for which a lot of concern had developed as the tool was way behind schedule, and work hadn't even started on it yet;
the problem being who to do it for an affordable price. Out of desperation, I think, they picked a temp agency and hoped a single coder could make it happen. At least with a modest dollar per hour figure they could claim to be doing something while not risking too much in the interim.
I was able to make it happen, but not because I was all that good of a coder. Two factors worked to save not only my bacon, but H.S.N's as well. First was the amazingly complete process outline that was created by the Point B person in charge (Paul Nevaro), and the second was the amazing group of claims analysts, and cash collection folks that the company had pulled from the two hospital groups.
These were collegial, smart, team oriented individuals who weren't afraid to take a hands on approach to getting working automation going. That and a middle management group that left us alone to just get it done.
That teamwork is what made it happen. And it was also that teamwork that got me hired into H.S.N.'s systems group as a full time employee. And it would be that same, ongoing teamwork, that would allow me to create not only the main data collection, and distribution system, but a ton of individual automation apps; apps that made it possible for the company to grow billing throughput significantly (going from about $2.5 billion to around twice that in six years). Automation apps I couldn't have written, or supported, without the very close involvement of every user in the company; as well as to say without having immediate management that just gave us free reign for the most part. Minimalist interface apps, I might add, from an app template, that did only a few specific things without any bells or whistles. The data in question would be loaded from a spreadsheet, or text, template, the business logic required applied, and the results then pushed out as required, through other, channel and format, templates, with the users doing almost all of the debugging, leaving me to fix the bugs, as well work on new apps. It became a fairly well oiled little machine.
I look back on that fondly now as I continue advocating a social/economic "holacracy." Function circles as cities indeed. Only why would anyone continue to hold on the ridiculous notion that we need to do it as a part of a commercial/commodity,consumption model? Why not just skip the middle man that is corporation and manage our own lives as truly integrated workers and managers; sharing not only the benefits, but the responsibilities as well? If corporate America is finally starting to see the light in empowering the people, shouldn't we take it to it's next logical step?
Saturday, July 4, 2015
As this Salon article makes clear, our so called Independence is an illusion. A lot of resonant imagery will be shown, and glowing terms will be uttered, before midnight moves across the time zones, but it will it will end up as only so much smoke and ash, and more than a few unintended fires as a testament to our own stupidity.
We celebrate an event that actually used to mean something, but now serves mostly as a way for a lot of us to just get drunk and party, or others to make use of the pageantry for their own political ends, while a very few rake in the money that all of beer, and booze and partying, and traveling, and filling parks across the land provides. With much of that going into either conglomerates with no real national allegiance, or to outright foreign powers. And as every year passes, not only does the event loose more of its meaning, we loose meaning as well. The meaninglessness of the things that occupy us becomes ever more glaringly obvious just as our need to party, one way or another, to ever greater distraction grows apace to keep us distracted.
Will fill ourselves with more and more stuff, and things of various sorts and still we are empty. It is at the base of why we have lost our way. Go ahead and blow sh_t up. It will make you feel good for a while. Heaven knows that increasing numbers of us take that feeling seriously enough to continue doing it with more than just symbolism in mind during the rest of the year. As you strike each match, however, just keep in mind this simple fact, that emptiness we all share is lighting a lot more fuses than you realize.
Friday, July 3, 2015
Now if we could only see this in comparison to other statistic, as in say, student spending per capita, as well as per student. State tax rates and the K-12 mandated spending as a proportion, as well as tax makeup, as in percentages from sales tax, state income tax, and property tax, etc. One might also want to see the per capita amounts of tax breaks given to corporations here.
The billions indicated here might seem like a lot, but when put into perspective maybe not so much after all. We need more of this kind of reporting.
Why BP Is Paying $18.7 Billion
The Salon.com interview with the foreign policy theorist Andrew Bacevitch is well worth reading. It provides an interesting perspective on the last 35 years of waste; wasted lives, wasted trust, and wasted resource. So many things we could have done to address far more critical priorities, for us and the rest of the world. Just wasted.
Seen in the context of enlightened foreign policy this was certainly failure of the first order. Seen in the light of the interests of Big Money, however, it was an unqualified success. Big Oil had its interests protected, for the most part. The Military Industrial Complex had its interests seen to on a scale that one could only describe as the "wet dream" to end all "wet dreams." And the holders of capital in general now find themselves positioned with power, and protection, not seen for quite some time.
And then there is the question of why the American people cannot remember very important events. This is interesting because it also relates to how Americans perceive anything initially, and the ongoing factors that either reinforce those perceptions, or distract from them. And in this Big Money has also had some success.
Between the manipulation of the fear dejour, the creation of unintended booms and busts, and the ever expanding media-marketing, and info-entertainment matrix, what Americans perceive has gotten a lot more complex; a new edged reality seen through the worries of working or not, keeping health and home or not, wondering what meaning even is anymore, let alone whether you might occupy yourself to achieve it; all the while immersed in ever more distracting dreams of what should be desired, or what should be desire to dream, all of which, of course sells one thing or another.
How can we remember? How do we even get to understand what has happened today? Let alone remember it tomorrow.
This is the legacy of insanity that a mutated, formerly mechanistic, economic operating model bestows now that it leaves the mechanistic behind and embraces holistic environments of effect and disbursement. Ever more instantaneous, multi-channeled and re-engineered in a constant state of feed back. We become chameleons then on electric mirrors that are also cameras. This is madness that not even Kafka could have imagined.
Want to have a foreign policy that works towards the best interests of the people who are the grit of the nation who's name it acts under? Change the operating system that turns information into something must be horded by a quite selfish minority. Perhaps then occurrence can be understood and recalled.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
No comment needed for this one.
The next Cold War is here: China, Russia and the ghosts of Dwight Eisenhower
The reform in question here is Ranked Choice Voting in multi winner districts which, as the Salon article that discusses it, would likely serve voters better, in the long run, than even independently considered district boundaries would.
My only complaint here would be to remind everyone that it still wouldn't do anything to address the more fundamental issue of "the free flow of information," so essential to any functional democracy, and for which Capitalism thwarts as fundamental aspect of its very being (as money and information are essentially the same thing now).
Let us also not forget that, as Willaim Greider made clear in "Who Will Tell the People," reforms that work against the interests of Big Money seldom stay in place as is, or at all, for very long. Precisely because they can play the long game of influence, and the control of perceptions. Now more than ever as "Amplification" in the age of electronic information systems gives them a depth and breadth of reach with their message not even dreamed of in the old days of Capitalism and Industrialization.
The only reform that will work long term, in my view, is to completely rethink what an effective economic operating system should be in the information age.
Hopefully, after investigators do due diligence in making sure there was no criminal negligence in the setting up, or maintenance of this machine, we'll be able to see this incident as just the tragic anomaly it was.
Analysts and commentators, such as myself, who have an overtly expressed agenda, tend to seize on such events as grand metaphors for larger ills. Certainly here there is great temptation to see this as a kind of exclamation point to what machines have been doing for some time to the economic prospects of so many middle class workers for the last several decades. This isn't, however what I want to emphasize now.
The fact that you have to put in a disclaimer at the get go about the possibility of criminal negligence in such a circumstance is, I think, quite legitimate grounds to ask big picture questions about technology and our current economic operating system.
And in this it is not just robots that are of concern; it is any form of automation. As the many critical systems we have become dependant on become vastly more complex, and thus beg for control approaches that do not require participants subject to the frailties resplendent in humans, we convince ourselves that software, and whatever hardware it might directly control, is the only way to go. That these are also systems that have to exist within the realities of cost in the abstract terms of counters that have to come from one accumulation or another, we get into a quite contentious atmosphere very quickly.
Capitalism is nothing if not conducive to creating the mindset that you don't get to keep, much less increase, your accumulation of counters by being overly generous with paying for things. As I have said many times, the whole point of net gain is to get more back than you put in at the instigation of one enterprise or another. In the early to mid point of Capitalism's development, this could certainly still be quite tragic, but hardly ever as catastrophic as the kinds of system failures we are now, and will be, facing. Electrical power distribution systems. The ever more integrated stock, bond, and commodities trading systems. And then the activities we will be quite tempted to hand over to what will seem like the more cost effective, automated alternative; as in, for example, active surveillance and protection, both at the civic level, as well as more general areas of the national level.
Even a person of limited imagination could go on. The point here is really two fold. One: it is Capitalism's own competitive rush for more, faster, that pushes us to hand off more to software few, if any, will ever understand. And two: It is Capitalism's own penchant for cutting corners on costs that always has us going to not only the lowest bidder, but the supplier who seems to deliver, at least on the surface, the best cost benefit ratio. We make enough mistakes as it is just because we are human, and we will continue to do so. Staying with an economic operating system that is ingrained to amplify the generation of mistakes is insanity of epic proportions.
Robot Crushes Contractor to Death at VW Motor Plant in Germany
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
And nothing warms the heart of Big Money profitier more than a "War On Whatever." Hell, I but they could start a war on war and still make out like bandits. If you really want to start addressing our existential threats you better be willing to start talking about an alternative to Capitalism.
America is addicted to war: Terror, drugs and the existential threats that define us
Two articles from different sources provide some interesting contrast in the context of economics. The first, from Salon.com, reviews a new study showing the precipitous rise in housing costs, and how difficult it will be for the rest of us to afford even renting. And the second, from Gizmag.com, announcing the successful development of a new, fully automated brick laying robot.
It is interesting for me, at least, as it further illustrates the contradiction of making human skill ever more unable to compete in the realm of compensatory occupation, while at the same time creating products that no one will have the job to be able to pay for.
Even as lots of new rental properties are being created, fewer and fewer people will have the income to stay in them, while also being able to buy other sh_t that makes this economy go. Some will certainly choose to do so and forgo who knows how much of the other, while others will have to move to cheaper housing environments; whereupon they will enter the Twilight Zone of financial descent, as cheaper usually equates to less desirable in a host of categories. And though sheltered to one degree or another, they will still be buying less of the other sh_t.
One can imagine that, at some point, the powers that be will deem it useful to let the robots start building the least expensive, highest density, cubby hole sleeping unit possible; something the Japanese have tried out before. Something a person could have merely by holding down a job. And of course one of the basics it will provide will be a high def screen and the free Internet I have already spoken of. And, as already mentioned, cameras will be integral to the construction materials, and so pervasively distributed as to make their destruction, let alone the slum hooliganism of past years, virtually impossible to undertake. Step out of line even a little in these environments and the surveillance drones of tomorrow will be on you like stink on poop. And trust me, you really don't want to be doing a lot of imagining of what automated incarceration will be like.
This is what I fear we will be heading for. At least if the whole mess doesn't collapse first, which it may well do. I don't see either being very desirable. Trying to figure out, and then implement, a new economic operating system isn't going to be all fun and games either, but I have to believe it would be better than these outcomes.
And what, you might ask, would a former governor bring to the table, expertise wise, to a Big Bank, who would undoubtedly already have an army of lawyers, as well as the best lobbying firms money can buy?
Perhaps when the phrase "consulting gig" is used in this context it is the guy receiving the pay check who is all so on the receiving end of the so called "consulting?" One could imagine, after all, that a mere state governor might not fully understand how money works in the larger context of financial markets. As such, he could probably benefit form being schooled in the proper ways currency flows should operate. And aren't we lucky that a bank would be willing to subsidize the education of a perspective occupant of the White House? Wow... Such altruism... And we get another president who knows exactly where money comes from, and where it should be applied.
How Jeb Got Real Rich, Real Fast