Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’


We hit 100,000 views a few days ago, and to celebrate (if that’s the right word) we’re listing the best posts we’ve published over the years, divided by category. Here’s the second installment. The third will be the first of the Humor installments, and it’ll focus purely on jokes.

Civil Liberties

Economics

Gardening

Interviews

Journalism

 

 

 


(First off, apologies to our long-term subscribers who were used to regular posts. Ill health, especially long-time insomnia, made regular posts difficult. I finally thought I had a remedy for this after being diagnosed with severe sleep apnea six weeks ago. Unfortunately, I’m among the approximately 20% of sufferers for whom the usual remedy, a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine, does no good. In fact it made the problem worse. I’ll be returning the machine tomorrow, after a month of near torture trying to make it work.

The following comes after several zero-to-four-hour nights of sleep. Please forgive any lapses in logic. Please, and I mean please, check out any assertions from the following — I might make an occasional slight lapse, but overall I think I’m dead on. I’ve undoubtedly missed a lot of things — if you see anything , please point it out.

  • The first thing we need to face is that approximately 25% of the voting public in the US are evangelical theo-fascists, who simply want to impose their warped “morality” on the rest of us; and they enjoy hurting us — they’re sadists;
  • The second thing is that they’re utter hypocrites. They say they’re pro-family, but they support a thug who breaks families apart and causes irreparable harm to child victims, and death to children;
  • They are NOT patriots. While they wrap themselves in the colors, make a spectacle of their supposed patriotism (as at their role-playing ballgames) they betray every decent thing America is supposed to represent: a welcome to all fleeing persecution; freedom of speech; freedom of opportunity; individual freedom to partake or not partake in “patriotic” spectacles;
  • They’re so brainwashed (thanks Fox/State “News” and the Facebook echo chamber) that they don’t even recognize it;
  • To be blunt, for them a day of exercise consists of an afternoon of repeated knee bends and bending over to kiss (Trump’s ample) butt, followed by an evening of goose-stepping, all to the romantic light of very fine people bearing tiki torches;

Beyond that, there are a lot of ugly truths to confront:

  • Real wages peaked in 1972-1973. Productivity per hour has roughly doubled since then;
  • Corporations have exported jobs overseas for decades as long as they could save 25 or 50 cents an hour;
  • Those savings were made real by tax laws favoring overseas “investments”;
  • Rather than understand this and confront their real oppressors, many racist idiots have attacked even more powerless victims than themselves — victims that their corporate overlords set up as scapegoats;
  • Those scape-goating tools are thugs for the corporations — racists who attack scapegoats, and work to empower their own oppressors;
  • And some continue to proudly ruin the environment with smoke-belching trucks while they deny that blatant problems exist;

Then there’s the unspoken problem:

  • Overpopulation is a major cause of ecological problems. Yes, there are ways to make this problem less severe, but it’s a major problem nonetheless;
  • Why even have overpopulation?
  • There are three interconnected reasons:
  • 1. Patriarchal religions encourage overpopulation as a means of increasing revenue/power/adherents;
  • 2. Patriarchal religions encourage overpopulation as a means of female submission (what else can do they do with dozens of kids but take care of them and then seek solace at church?)
  • 3. Overpopulation makes all the above worse, so it produces more and more desperation, and more and more dependence on the “word of God” (and it’s interpreters) — and more and more adherents and “offerings.”

The conventional “good guys” are not the saviors.

  • Since the 1980s, at least, the Democrats have been the “good guy” in the good-guy/bad-guy mugging of the working class while the parasitocratic 1% picked their pockets;
  • Bill Clinton once said “we’re all Republicans” — referring to his corporatist-subservient agenda;
  • After the Republicans crashed the economy in 2008, Barack Obama rescued the banks, but not the millions upon millions of average Americans who lost their jobs and/or homes;
  • He didn’t do shit for ’em (myself included — lost more than half my income in the following year);
  • He did not prosecute a single one of the criminals responsible for the greatest financial crime in world history — not one;
  • He also had pledged “the most open administration in history” and then delivered the least open in history, with vicious persecution of whistle blowers;

Both Republican, Democratic, and social democratic parties have conspired to suppress real, democratic alternative structures that might have solved the above problems/crises:

  • In the 1900s/1910s/1920s the U.S. and state governments outlawed and then imprisoned on a mass scale members of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) who advocated the takeover and management of industry, and elimination of “moralistic” laws, by self-managed unions. Thousands of IWW members languished in prison for years as a result;
  • In 1918-1921, the Bolsheviks hypocritically advocated and then destroyed the self-managed “soviets” in Russia, followed by mass murder of anarchist and other self-management advocates;
  • In the 1930s, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Spanish Falange, destroyed, along with the active complicity of the authoritarian USSR, the most important real alternative to authoritarian organization of society: the CNT (Confederación Nacional Del Trabajo/Federación Anarquista Ibérica), that lasted over two years on a mass scale — including the self-managed operation of the most heavily industrialized region of Spain, Catalonia;
  • In the early 2010s, the authoritarian Obama regime coordinated the suppression of the Occupy Wall Street encampments that had sprung up nation wide; these were self-managed camps, where for the first time in their lives a hell of a lot of people experienced control over their own lives. And Obama and his minions were so frightened that that “contagion” would spread, that they crushed the encampments.

This just goes to show how frightened they are — and how much power that we potentially have.

We can self-organize the economy. We can self-organize the world. Don’t mourn, organize.

 

 


by Chaz Bufe, editor See Sharp Press

(I wrote this about three years ago, so some of the statistics, especially the employment statistics, are no longer accurate.)

Let’s get one thing straight right now: I’m not questioning the good intentions of those who join the U.S. military. The vast majority almost certainly do so for very understandable reasons.

At the same time, respect for the individuals who comprise the military is not the same as worship of the military, which is almost a state religion in the United States. It’s nearly all pervasive, from Fox “News” to liberal pundits  (Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert, Michael Moore) to every craven baseball announcer (in other words, almost all of them). The reasons for this military butt kissing are obvious: 1) to create and maintain conformism with its us-versus-them mentality; 2) to confuse military worship with patriotism; and 3)  to make discussion of the size and role of the military taboo, “unpatriotic.”

But what of those who serve in that military? Why do they do so? And are they heroes simply because they do so?

The primary reason that most young people enlist is almost certainly that they’re economic draftees. Real unemployment (counting the “underemployed” and “discouraged workers”) is approximately twice the official rate of 7.0%. On top of that, the black unemployment rate is more than twice the rate of whites, with hispanics falling in between: 6.2% white; 12.5% black; 8.7% hispanic; with teenage unemployment at 20.8% (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). And the employment situation is in reality even worse than that: the percentage of adults aged 18 to 65 either working or actively seeking work is at a historic low, only 63%.

Then realize that wages in this country are so low that it’s nearly impossible even for those who have jobs to get ahead. Real hourly wages hit their high point in the U.S. in 1973, and have fallen about 15% since then; productivity per hour worked has doubled over the same period. And during the current “recovery,” a large majority of new jobs are low-wage jobs.

So, it’s virtually impossible for young people to work their way through college (if they can find jobs), and their families simply can’t afford to send them. The cost of college tuition rose roughly 300%, three times faster than the cost of living, over the last 35 years–far higher even than the increase in the cost of health care. As a result the percentage of college graduates in the 25 to 34 age group in the U.S. fell to sixteenth in the world in 2012, with the U.S. seeming to fall further behind with every passing year. And those who do graduate from college in the U.S. are often burdened with crushing debt well up into the tens of thousands of dollars–debt which, thanks to the U.S. Congress, they cannot discharge through bankruptcy.

So, is it any wonder that many “volunteers” in the U.S. military enlist simply because they have no good economic or academic alternatives?

The second reason Americans enlist in the military is that a great many believe that they’re “protecting America” or “protecting freedom.” But is this at all realistic?

The first and most obvious question here is “protecting” against what?

The U.S. has been the world’s sole superpower for the last quarter-century, and has a military presence in over 100 countries and on all continents except Antarctica. Since the War of 1812, U.S. territory has been invaded exactly once: two remote Aleutian islands invaded in 1942 by the Japanese–twice if you count Pancho Villa’s border raid on Columbus, New Mexico in 1916. In the same period, to name only instances that immediately come to mind, the U.S. has invaded Mexico (seizing half of its territory), Cuba, the Philippines, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That’s some “defense” there, Bubba.

Who does this benefit? Certainly not the American people. The U.S. spends more on its military than the next ten countries combined; the U.S. military budget was $682 billion in 2013 ($711 billion now), and that doesn’t count the “black budget” nor veterans benefits nor interest on loans taken out to finance previous military spending. This means that the U.S. government spends over $10,000 on the military annually for every American family of four.

So, again, who does this massive military spending benefit? Certainly not American soldiers. They’re the ones in harm’s way (4500 dead in Iraq, over 2000 so far in Afghanistan–with tens of thousands physically wounded, and quite probably far more bearing psychological wounds: approximately 5,000 current or former members of the U.S. military commit suicide every year). And their wages are often so low that their families end up on food stamps.

The ones who benefit from massive military spending and military intervention are the transnational (not U.S.) corporations that have no loyalty to anyone or anything other than their bottom lines. The U.S. military essentially operates as security, as muscle, for these corporations as they siphon profits from the rest of the world.

The words of former U.S. Marine Corps Commandant, Major General Smedley Butler are still pertinent after eight decades:

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the country’s most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all ranks from second lieutenant to major general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….

War is a racket, possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious… Out of war a few people make huge fortunes, nations acquire additional territory (which is promptly exploited by the few for their own benefit), and the general public shoulders the bill–a bill that renders a horrible accounting of newly placed gravestones, mangled bodies, shattered minds, broken hearts and homes, economic instability, and back-breaking taxation of the many for generations and generations.

How would you describe those whose lives and physical and mental health are sacrificed in such service? Or simply all those who put on the uniform? Heroes? All of them?

Those who indiscriminately use this term cheapen it; they use it as a propaganda term to stifle dissent. If all members of the military are heroes, their acts are also heroic. And who wants (or dares) to protest against those who order “heroic” acts?

Reserve the term “heroes” for those who deserve it–those who commit out-of-the-ordinary, genuinely heroic acts. The term simply doesn’t fit all those who are cynically used and discarded by the government and the corporations it serves.


We put up our 1,000th post a little over a week ago. We’re now looking through everything we’ve posted, and are putting up “best of” lists in our most popular categories.

This is the sixth of our first-1,000 “best of” lists. We’ve already posted the Science Fiction, HumorMusicInterviews, and Addictions lists, and will shortly be putting up other “best ofs” in several other categories, including Anarchism, Atheism, Politics, Religion, Science, and Skepticism.

Best Economics Posts


The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations coverby Chaz Bufe, editor See Sharp Press

(Note: I wrote this in 1914, and the figures for unemployment rate, etc., have changed since then. But there have been no major changes, and the arguments here still hold.)

In what passes for political debate in this country, one of the current hot topics is whether or not to raise the minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour). Those arguing against raising the minimum wage express concern for low wage workers and speculate that paying them higher wages would somehow hurt them. Their argument is that higher wages would reduce the number of ultra-low-paying jobs.

Well, guess what. Wages have fallen drastically since G.W. Bush stepped foot in the White House, and that hasn’t produced a bonanza of jobs, nor income growth for those fortunate enough to have a job. In the period since Bush took office through 2011, median income fell a staggering 12.4%. And, since 1973, wages for the bottom 60% of working men have actually fallen. Especially since the start of the recession, almost all wage growth has benefited the top 1% of wage earners. According to the New York Times, in 1979 the top 1% received 7.3% of all wages; in 2010, they received 12.9%. As for the minimum wage itself, half a century ago it was $1.25 an hour, equivalent to $9.50 an hour today; a few years later, in 1968, it went up to its peak, $1.60 per hour, which is equivalent to $10.84 today. Today’s minimum wage of $7.25 is almost exactly a third lower than that peak minimum wage.

At the same time,  productivity per hour worked has been rising at a fairly steady rate of roughly 1.5% – 1.75% per year for over half a century. Increases in wages and productivity almost exactly matched from the end of World War II through 1973, when wages began to stagnate as productivity continued to rise. Since then, productivity has gone up roughly 80%, while wages have been nearly flat. As for wealth, the percentage owned by the top 1% has steadily risen since Reagan took office, and now exceeds 40% of total national wealth.

In other words, the “job creators” are doing just fine. So, where are the jobs? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official unemployment rate in February was 6.7%. The actual unemployment rate, counting “discouraged workers” and those involuntarily working part-time, is roughly twice that, and even that’s probably understating the matter. The percentage of working-age adults participating in the labor force is only about 63%, very near a historic low.

Given all this, let’s take a closer look at the argument that keeping wages at just above starvation level is somehow good for those looking for work.

Many on the right actually argue that there should be no minimum wage law, and that workers would be better off without it. They’re seriously arguing that wages already so low that many workers can’t even afford to rent a studio apartment (and instead must sleep in their cars or in homeless encampments) are beneficial to workers. And that workers would benefit from even lower wages.

They argue that earning $3 or $4 an hour is better than having no job at all. At the same time, they never argue against laws restricting labor organizing and tactics — Taft-Hartley, “right to work” laws, laws against boycotts and secondary boycotts, etc. In other words, they’re in favor of laws restricting the rights of workers, and against laws guaranteeing worker rights.

Let’s take the right-wingers’ argument a step further. If labor for any compensation at all, no matter how minimal, is preferable to unemployment, there’s an obvious solution to the jobs crisis. There’s a tried and true way to guarantee every able-bodied worker a job, food, and a place to live: slavery.

Some Republicans are already arguing for it.