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Hah. I’m way ahead of Carlos Slim.

He’s making the news because he’s a gazillionaire and he thinks people shouldn’t work so much.

All right. I mean, really now, isn’t it obvious? If we spread time and money around a bit we could all be working less and enjoying it more.

I made that point years ago. But, not being a gazillionaire, I’m one of those people who’s actually done overlong work weeks, so what do I know?

The only thing he does wrong is not take it far enough.

He’s talking about a three-day work week of 11-hour days. (Financial Times but with stupid login restrictions. The gist also here.) So it’s not really a big change from the civilized world with its current 35-hour week. And there’s research (I’ll come back with the link as soon as I dig it up) that people’s productivity slopes off toward the end of even an 8-hour day. It’s d.u.m.b to use people as placeholders to fill up traditional and counterproductive time.

What we need is 24-hour work weeks. Yes, twenty four hours. It seems like a huge departure, but once upon a time a work week was on the order of 70 hours. Halving that to 35 to 40 has helped, not hurt, economies.

The same would happen with 24-hour weeks. If people were paid real living wages for those hours, it would mean significantly more even distribution of wealth. As I think we’ve all figured out by now, that would be a good thing. Rich people would be making twenty or forty times as much as ordinary people. Not hundreds or even thousands of times more. Economies have plenty of resources to provide for (normally) rich people and lots of ordinary people able to live on their 24 hours per week of work. Really. Read that first link up there. I go through the numbers.

And it would solve other problems, too. With 24-hour weeks, there’d be many ways to slice up shifts. Work could be four hours a day for six days, or eight for three, and so on. Within a day, shifts could start every four, six, eight, or, hell, even twelve hours if that works in some cases. The flexibility would be good for everyone: students, people with errands to run, creatives, you name it. Employers could, by law, accommodate caregivers with different shifts. Child care or elder care could become much simpler to arrange.

Honestly. It’s time. The wealth produced by our technologically advanced economies is festering because it’s all piled up in a tiny space and doesn’t get air.

A wage you can live on for a week you can live in.

Happy elderly Siberian couple, photographer unknown

Real wealth

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The joke is on me


When I wrote a piece years ago called “Are women human?” that title was supposed to be funny. Or at least tongue-in-cheek.

I didn’t think the answer was “no.”

But it’s official. Corporations are human. Now even with religious beliefs! Woohoo!

And women? They’re just non-artificial ambulatory uterine incubators. What’s the point of rights for a mass of blood vessels that’s a waste of space unless it’s feeding babies?

Actually, strike that “ambulatory.” Incubators are easier to use when they’re not wandering around loose. That’ll be the next decision by the Five Guys:

It’ll be entirely consistent when they come to it. They’ve never cared that some rights are essential for the others to have any meaning at all. That’s because they’ve never cared about rights, except the kind might makes. Controlling your own body is up there at Right Number One. No other right means anything if other people can do whatever they want to you. The Five Guys just knocked the whole structure down.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting. “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

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Inside a mind too safe to care

“I understand [Obama] wants to fight terrorism, but send in robots, drones. Don’t send in our troops. Our men and women are dying for what?”

Seen here, quoting someone in the USA regarding Obama’s moves in Iraq.

Translated: I don’t care who dies or how they die so long as it’s nobody I know.

Further translation: I know nothing about warfare and think it’s like a video game where drones work on their own and problems get solved by smashing them.

And also too: I don’t have to care or make sense because nothing’s gonna change my world.

Arrogance made a dog’s breakfast out of the Middle East. Now it’s their problem. Right?

My taxes pay for this shit. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Which does no good at all. Dear God, what a mess, what a crime, what an atrocity.

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Teachers: the floggings will continue until morale improves

California’s teacher tenure law ruled unconstitutional.

Los Angeles County superior court judge Rolf Treu … said the current situation discriminates against minority and low-income students in placing ineffective teachers in their schools. “Plaintiffs claim that the challenged statutes result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment, and that these teachers are disproportionately situated in schools serving predominantly low-income and minority students,” the decision said.

The Teacher’s apple

That’s right. Underfund the schools. Underpay teachers. When they buy school supplies out of their own money, don’t be amazed. Ask why they’re not donating more. Tell them how to do their jobs. When the students learn even less, get mad at the teachers and tell them they’re doing their jobs all wrong. When anybody with any brains stops even trying to fight their way through all this garbage to become a teacher, wonder why there aren’t any good teachers.

Oh, and remove the last shred of job security. That’s sure to attract good people to bad schools. What could possibly go wrong?


Earlier posts on this topic, War on Teachers, Part 1, 2, and 3.

Update 2014-06-15. Turns out I was channeling Diane Ravitch’s more sober and well-sourced article, June 13th: Making Schools Poorer.

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“Bergdahl could be prosecuted”

The top-ranking US military officer has raised the possibility Sgt Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted if he abandoned his post before his capture.

Seriously? I mean, seriously?

If you read this blog, you know I’m not exactly pro-military. But anyone who has spent five years alone among a bunch of irregulars like the Taliban, never knowing which moment might be his last, has suffered quite enough. It no longer matters what he has or hasn’t done.

And the same goes for the people held for years without trial in Guantanamo, even though they’re supposedly the prisoners of an actual government that (used to) follow some kind of rules.

Once upon a time they said the bad reception given to Vietnam vets when they returned was a disgrace. What’s this then?

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At 11 PM one night

The five hovering lights in the sky were not UFOs. I was pretty sure they were helicopters, but that’s unusual too. Even here, near a major airport and some military bases, you don’t usually get five flying apparently together. So I looked at them for a while, idly wondering what would develop.

They hovered slowly closer. The powerful landing lights on one lit up the bedroom from I would guess about three miles away.

From that window I can also see a downhill stretch of freeway. One police car appeared, blue and red lights flashing. Then another. And another and another and another.

Whoa.

I stood up to look, so I could see a bit more of the freeway. By now there were about a dozen cop cars, all with lights flashing, all following each other so close it looked like they were getting in each other’s way. They and the helicopters gradually disappeared around the curve of the freeway, although I could hear the copters droning and droning.

Were they chasing the capo of some ruthless drug gang? Had the President arrived for a sudden visit? Had there been a fifty-car pileup down the road?

The next day I tried to look it up. I found a tiny notice in our most local paper.

A high-speed chase ended in Thursday night Moorpark after starting in Los Angeles, authorities said.

At least one person was arrested in connection with the incident.

TV stations’ reports stated the chase began after the vehicle was reported stolen.

Two conclusions:

1) The cops really are out of control.

2) No wonder Los Angeles has budget deficits.

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What doctored photo? Which US mercenaries?

Bild am Sonntag had a story recently about US mercenaries being seen in Ukraine, working against the separatists. Blackwater / Xe / Academi / Whatever-they-call-themselves-now are scum who might — might! — be operating on their own. But, honestly, what are the chances of that? The US State Department didn’t even try that excuse. They simply said the pictures weren’t taken in the Ukraine. For instance, the LATimes:

This month, corroboration seemed to appear in a photo that showed five men dressed in black and carrying assault weapons on a featureless city street. State Department officials say the men were New Orleans police or contractors trying to prevent looting after the 2005 hurricane. The photo, they say, was doctored by “Kremlin-sponsored websites” to remove the sign of an American fast-food joint.They did not identify the websites, but the photo has rocketed around social media.

Well. Very interesting. You’d have to doctor more than a street sign to make it believable. New Orleans has different vegetation, to begin with. So I wanted to find the picture all the fuss was about.

And nobody I can find links to it. Nobody says “here’s the picture the State Department says was doctored.” I find that odd. If it was so obviously doctored, you’d think they want people to see that, right?

The picture accompanying the Bild article looks like this:
soldiers and civilians running on a wintry street
The accompanying video from which that still is taken also shows brown wintry grass and the same armed men, soldiers, and bundled up civilians. It’s definitely not New Orleans, and it’s certainly not as hot as it was there in September 2005. I lived there for 13 years and nothing in New Orleans looks like that. If this is the “Men In Black” video, they’ve photoshopped whoever the suspicious-looking guys are supposed to be (I can’t even tell) into a video taken in some very Ukraino-Russian-looking place. So why isn’t the State Department making it clear to all of us how they know it’s a fake? Or, even easier, insisting there are no Americans in the picture? Is it so obvious to the experts that those are American mercs that there’s no point trying to deny it?

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Talk is cheap

Talk against racism has blown right through worthless and come out the other side into worse-than-useless. I’ve been trying to articulate what puts me off about the waves of self-congratulatory anti-racism that blow through the US at every excuse. Lately it’s been Cliven “Freeloader” Bundy and Donald “Past It” Sterling. Their crimes are not what they’ve done, although that’s plenty. No, it’s what they said.

What is wrong with that picture? Leonard Pitts says it best.

On race, meet dumb and dumberer:

[P]redictably, dutifully, media figures, pundits and pols have come together to blow raspberries in their direction, to say all the right things in condemnation of them and their diarrhetic mouths. And yes, they deserve that. Still, there is something facile and dishonest in it, something that reeks of unearned righteousness and even moral cowardice.The truth is, the idiocy of these men doesn’t mean a whole lot, doesn’t impact much beyond their immediate lives. We hyperventilate about it, yet somehow manage not to be overly concerned as black boys are funneled into prison, brown ones are required to show their papers, voting rights are interdicted….

I would only add that there’s no need to limit it to “boys.” What matters is that human beings, female ones all too included, are impoverished, humiliated, deprived, attacked, and killed.

That’s what we need to work on. We can have the luxury of a national flap about the blithering of twisted jerks when the real problems are gone, not as a substitute for dealing with them.

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One World Order — evil twin version

I see this: “Experts said [Putin] is also promoting “Putinism” – a conservative, ultra-nationalist form of state capitalism – as a global alternative to Western democracy.”

And this (pdf) which amasses enough data to make even Serious People sort-of-admit that the US is an undemocratic oligarchy.

So we’ve achieved one world order. Not quite like the founders of the League of Nations had hoped.

Captain Picard of Star Trek transformed into a Borg

Captain Picard of Star Trek transformed into a Borg

 
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Gently shout disaster

I don’t envy the IPCC. The International Panel on Climate Change studies looming calamity, and has to talk about it in polite, soft, encouraging tones. Otherwise they’re called “alarmist.” “Unrealistic.” Or (eeeek) “pessimists.”

So we’re facing flooding over coasts where billions of people live, people who won’t be able to farm any more so they and others will starve, people who will move to higher ground where nobody will want them and will try to push them out. We’re facing droughts and floods and freezes and fires due to climate forcing. We’re facing pests and diseases moving into new areas where there’s no resistance to them. We’re facing the triggering of feedback loops like the release of greenhouse gases from the formerly frozen Arctic and the release of methane from icy deposits on continental shelves. At that point we can push our puny human contribution down to zero and it won’t matter. The build-up will continue and there will be exactly nothing we can do about it. And that’s only the beginning of what we’re facing. Our grandchildren, your grandchildren, are the ones who’ll find out just what it is that we’ve done.

But God help you if you say that THIS IS A FREAKING DISASTER AND OUR LIVES DEPEND ON DEALING WITH IT.

That would be rude. And depressing. Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. If you don’t have a solution, stop being a problem. Oh, and don’t tell us to change anything.

(That’s why it’s also rude to point out the real world evidence: we could be using 100% sustainable renewables by 2050(pdf) with less dislocation than the Great Recession. Or take it from the IPCC itself. Also a summary of options in 2011, before recent improvements.)

So the IPCC is doing its best. They’ve said, “Um. I hate to interrupt or anything but, uh, we really, really, really, really, really need to do something. But, ah, if that’s too harsh, you can also tell yourself you’ll try geoengineering.”

There aren’t enough swear words in the English language to do justice to the idiots who want that kind of “optimism.” As I said in one of my many earlier posts on this topic, we’ve been so good at controlling planetary processes, our best alternative is to mess with them.

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Not so cynical about Afghanistan

You know, mostly the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. Afghanistan, I would have said, has been fasttracked.

And then today I saw this.

Afghani man backpacking a ballot box up a mountainous trail in the rain

Ballot boxes were carried by hand and by donkey all over Afghanistan
(Ahmad Masood / Reuters)

Sure, Afghanistan is corrupt and war-torn and sexist and poor. They know that. They know that no election is going to make a big difference all at once. And yet they carry ballot boxes up mountains to small villages because they can see a better world even if they don’t live there.

They may make it.

Which means there may be hope even for the rest of us.

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What’s the US problem with a Crimean referendum?

I hear Kerry is making barking noises about the Crimeans daring to vote on their national affiliation, and I just don’t get it. I mean, of course I understand that the real agenda is to stick it to Russia and interfere with that country getting a bit of prime real estate. That’s not why I’m puzzled.

I’m puzzled that the US no longer even seems to feel the need to find an excuse for anti-democratic power politics. We’re not even getting lip service anymore. What’s up with that?

This country is supposed to be all about the voice of the people and self-determination and all that good stuff. What possible (official!) reason could they have for objecting to people deciding on their own future?

Surely, the only objection to a referendum would be if the situation was so rigged that the voice of the people didn’t stand a chance. But Kerry doesn’t say that. I don’t know that anybody has said popular feeling is against it and the vote is rigged. The US just seems to be saying “Don’t you dare have a referendum to find out what people want.”

Say whuuuuut?

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This is how our world ends

Not with a bang, but with brain-shattering neurotics who vote.

Via Suburban Guerrilla:

Conspiracy theorists think government planted ‘fake snow’

[W]eather across the south of the U.S. has raised a controversial question online: was it just a light snow, or a nefarious government conspiracy? … [T]he last few days have seen scores of videos like this from skeptics [Ed. note: "skeptics"] who claim the snowflakes aren’t the real deal.

“I have a sample of ‘snow’ … leaving the snow unmelted.” Via YouTube / sugar magnolia

The conspiracy reasoning goes like this: the snow is unusual in Georgia and other southeast areas and doesn’t melt when burned. Therefore, it must be fake snow, distributed by the government, as a diversion from big government tyranny. Via YouTube / Div9neImages

And no, much as I believe in citing sources, I’m not making live links to those youtube clips. I’m worried about teh stoopid cooties.

Basic chemistry/physics: a solid exposed to high enough heat does not become liquid. It goes straight to gas. So, duh, when you put a butane flame to snow you don’t get liquid water. And the butane is a hydrocarbon. If the flame cools fast enough — by the proximity of snow, for instance — the carbon will precipitate out as nice black soot instead of floating into the atmosphere. (Congratulations. You’ve reduced the amount you contributed to climate change by many molecules of carbon. Just like a liberal!)

I laugh so as not to cry.



Update, next morning. It’s worse than I thought. We’re not just talking about voters. The actual legislators in what passes for the actual government have less comprehension than your average sea cucumber. (Example of average sea cucumber below.) Sea cucumber at Sydney Aquarium. Photo: Erin Silversmith. From Wikimedia. Via Slashdot: “The bill, dubbed the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 (HR 4012), would prohibit the EPA’s administrator from proposing or finalizing any rules unless he or she also discloses “all scientific and technical information” relied on by the agency in the regulations’ development.” Um, hello? It is all published. That’s part of what makes it science. Once the Honorable Congresscritter learns how to read, he’ll be able to discover all that wonderful data! Except the bits corporations want to keep confidential. Oh, and are we going to make sure science is equally respected at the DOD? The CIA? The NSA? I think that would be a good idea.

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Search and social: You are for sale

Part of a series on who owns you and what it means.

“Free!” and “ad-supported” don’t belong together in the same breath. They’re mutually exclusive. The web isn’t free any more than the supermarket is free for the cake of soap on the shelf. The soap isn’t paying to be there, and you’re not paying for the web for the same reason. You’re the product. If you mattered at all you’d be getting a cut of the proceeds.

Google made $60,000,000,000, 60 billion, sixty billion-with-a-b, last year. Eighty eight percent of that is estimated to be from advertising. You are the eyes that advertising is buying. Are you seeing royalties from Google for your essential role in this? How about from Dataium ($2 billion profit per year)? Or BlueKai, Acxiom, or Omniture (now part of Adobe)? How about Splunk? (Don’t you just love the cool, we-juggle-at-the-office names?) Or any of the hundred other hidden internet tracking companies all making profit off you? There’s a Firefox extension called Lightbeam that shows just how many dozens, even hundreds, of sites are involved. Forbes had an article that showed an estimate of how much somebody is getting for shoving one banner ad at you. Not what you’re getting. You get nothing. You’re just a thing for sale.

It’s true that the search and social sites make life easier. But they’re under no obligation to make it better.

We’ve lost control over our own lives so completely that most people’s only response is to apply the pragmatism of the damned and ask “Whatchya gonna do?”

I don’t know what to do either. Tactics are never my strong suit. I’m just here to say that we better start realizing that privacy is absolutely essential to any kind of free or comfortable life where rights are respected. Unless you’re okay with a world where your boss knows you’ve been constipated recently, where you see higher prices because of the browser you happen to use, where you find yourself not even looking for information in case you get put on a list somewhere, unless you’re okay with what total surveillance means, privacy — an individual’s right to control her or his own data — is not optional.

There are some tools to help in the fight. A collection of anonymity extensions, useful tips at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Just today I saw this: Privacy Tools: opting out from data brokers. It shows just how much of a career it is to claw back even partial privacy from the leeches.

I know the tips don’t amount to much. They either do little or take too much time. But we have to start somewhere. We have to stop being pragmatic about how little there is we can do and just start doing it.

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Now can we be outraged over apartheid?

More than 30 universities have introduced new rules banning female students from almost 80 different degree courses.These include a bewildering variety of subjects from engineering, nuclear physics and computer science, to English literature, archaeology and business.

The BBC headline for that was Iranian university bans on women causes consternation.

Consternation? Consternation? Consternation? Are you farking kidding me?

This is de jure segregation. This is apartheid. This is shutting down the civil rights and lifetime potential of HALF THE GODDAMN POPULATION.

And what do we get? Consternation.

Then there’s the ongoing hate killings of health workers in Pakistan. The price of prevention. Three more polio workers shot in Pakistan; eight dead in 48 hours. Vaccination workers shot.

All women. All executed for being outside the house while female and doing “Western” stuff.

The only problem mentioned is that Pakistan’s war on polio is imperilled. That is a big problem. No question about that. But it hardly seems like the only one that needs mentioning.

Then there was the atrocity committed against the medical student in India. The headline: Death of India rape victim stirs anger, promises of action. There have since been several more publicized abominations and, I have zero doubt, hundreds not even considered worth mentioning.

So. Lynching. And what do we get? A “struggle to respond.”

Really?

Half the human race is deprived, starved, terrorized, and murdered and the problem is that it’s hard to figure out how to respond?



(Update 2014-01-29. I’ve had these links stacked up over a year. More of the same horrors keep piling on top. There will never be a time when somehow I’ll be able to say something intelligent about it. There is nothing intelligent about destroying female human beings.)

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The nanny, the Indian diplomat, and the US authorities

Here’s what I don’t get about this event. I gather the diplomat was accused of some kind of visa violation in underpaying her nanny. Okay. So the State Department looks into it, determines if there was an underpayment and fines the diplomat (or whatever the law says) if there was. Right?

Devyani Khobragade

Consular official Devyani Khobragade
(Wikimedia commons)

No. She gets arrested in a snatch and grab raid on the street in Manhattan, as if she was a drug boss on the run, hauled off to the cop shop, and strip-searched.

I mean, WHUUUUT? Did they think she was hiding the nanny’s money in her underwear? If underpaying your foreign household help brings out the anti-terrorism swat team, most members of Congress will go into hiding.

And the US, instead of falling all over itself to apologize, says they’re talking to India and stressing how important bilateral trade is. Again, whuuut? Translated from the bureaucratese that sounds to me like, “Hey, you get lots of money/weapons/whatever from us. So shut up.”

Does the US really not understand that testerical overreaction like this is stupid?

In the past when I’ve seen people spreadeagled on the hoods of cars for minor traffic stops I’ve thought that the cops were having too much fun playing with their equipment and barking to care how stupid it looked.

After this event, I think it’s worse than that. I think they’ve been doing it so much for so long they’ve really forgotten that normal responsible adults show restraint. Somewhere in the dim corners of what passes for the authorities’ minds, they know that this is what they do to people hundreds, thousands of times a day. They do it to people who’ve run stop signs or stood still on a street corner listening to their ear buds or maybe trundled a shopping cart too far from the supermarket. Almost always brown people.

The US should be apologizing to the diplomat, and also to everybody else to whom they’ve been jackbooted thugs.

That would be a lot of people. Apparently the US has gone so far down that road, they either can’t stomach the size of the apology they have to make or, worse, they don’t even remember anymore that thuggery is bad behavior which requires an apology. [Update: Well, that would be B. "The arresting authority, the U.S. Marshals Service, characterized the strip search as a routine procedure imposed on any new arrestee."]

There’s a final little ironic postscript to this sorry tale. A good part of the Indian reaction has been outrage that a person of high rank has been treated like a nobody. Not realizing, of course, that in the US being brown is enough to make you a nobody.

The real solution is for everybody, Indians, people in the US, everybody to treat people like somebody even if (they think) they’re nobody.

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