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Archive for December, 2010

In a recent Fortune Magazine article, “What if there’s no fix for high unemployment?”  Martin Ford puts forth the well-founded proposition that unemployment may remain high into the unforeseeable future; it may never rebound to acceptable levels.

Technological advancements are increasingly replacing jobs in every sector of our economy.  Following World War II, changes in the global economy and advancing technology gradually transitioned American workers from manufacturing to service related work.  Today, advances in automation are replacing service sector jobs.

From robotic chefs and wait staff in restaurants to robotic automobile production, automated banking, and very sophisticated robotic surgical procedures, computerization has taken over many middle class jobs and will continue to replace others as we gain greater knowledge and improved technologies are created.  Specialized artificial intelligence applications will also make highly skilled professional jobs scarce.

McDonald’s even has a new system that they have been testing so that their customers can order and pay for food from self-service kiosks.  So as this trend continues even lower paid jobs will eventually be eliminated.

You will find in the future that routine doctor office visits, such as to receive a physical, will be automated, including the utilization of copayment and appointment-making services from self-service kiosks, and the physical exam itself will be robotic-aided, or perhaps performed completely by robots.

Airline pilots will not fly aircraft nor will a ship captain pilot ships.

Computerized automation and robotics are customer-friendly, they are fast, less prone to errors, safe, will lower cost, lead to lower prices, and unfortunately eliminate jobs.

Automation will also tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  Those who are at the top of the corporate ladder will benefit from lower cost and greater profit, while those whose jobs are being replaced will end up with nothing, will be increasingly in dire straits, and as a result so will America.

America, as well as other nations, must find a way to manage high levels of unemployment, because with the plague of higher unemployment there will be fewer tax dollars, increased deficit spending, and declines in consumer spending.  It will also mean people will increasingly rely on government for assistance.

There seemingly is a common cause for every problem in our world.  The problem is either not solved or debilitated by the lack of money and need for profit.  It’s not because of evil intent, not usually because of a lack of knowledge, or that folks don’t have an earnest desire to solve the problem, nor is it because of a lack of resources other than money.

The quest for money corrupts government, destroys our environment, controls life, inhibits liberty, and exploits people.

Corporations, in order to sustain profit and shareholder value, must keep resources and products scarce, utilizing planned obsolescence with every product to sustain demand.  Consequently, our economic system is inherently wasteful and we are faced with the problem of unsustainable consumption.

Whether we like it or not there will be no choice, eventually we must transition to a social system that does not depend on the almighty dollar – a fundamental change in the way we think about money.

So, what it boils down to is that America needs to lead the world in putting in place a system that provides liberty and security for all citizens equally.  That system is a resource-based system, which does not require any means of exchange for goods and services.

Sources:

Martin Ford, What if there’s no fix for high unemployment?, CNNMoney.com

Bill Christensen, Robot Chefs Run a Restaurant, LiveScience.com

Janet Adamy, McDonald’s Seeks Way to Keep Sizzling, The Wall Street Journal

Healthcare Kiosk, PhoenixKiosk.com

Marshall Brain, Robotic Nation, MarshallBrain.com

Unsustainable Concept of Money, FutureBlog.net

Jacque Fresco, Resource Based Economy, TheVenusProject.com

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Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “Iceberg Economies and Shadow Selves: Further Adventures in the Territories of Hope,” does give us reason for hope of a better world because there are forces at work that will someday bring to together all that is necessary to achieve peace and equality in the world.

That force is a conglomeration of philanthropies, nongovernmental organizations, other groups, coalitions as well as individuals who provide “soup kitchens, food pantries, and giveaways, takes in the unemployed, evicted, and foreclosed upon, defends the indigent, tutors the poorly schooled, comforts the neglected, provides loans, gifts, donations, and a thousand other forms of practical solidarity, as well as emotional support.” The force is of greater magnitude than the force metaphorically expressed as the “invisible hand,” which implies, falsely, that unencumbered free market forces create the greater good for rich and poor alike, a top down force, manipulated and controlled by the moneyed elite, that in essence says their actions alone create a greater good that trickles down to the benefit of all. One force is unconcerned with profit, is not coercive, is compassionate and unselfish; and the other is concerned only with profit, is coercive, aggressive and selfish.

The world is not changed by those who are complacent and who accept things as they are; the world is changed over time by those who have a vision of things as they need to be, who are at times radical, who do not view their visions as utopian and have a perspective that all things are possible. Rebecca Solnit is one of those visionaries, who in 2010, Utne Reader magazine named as one of the “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.”

As Rebecca Solnit proclaims, “Do not underestimate the power of this force. The world could be much better if more of us were more active on behalf of what we believe in and love.” And, that is the message that I would like to convey as we leave this decade and enter into the next: let’s all become actors in this “shadow system of kindness, the other invisible hand.”

The following are the opening paragraphs to her essay:

“After the Macondo well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, it was easy enough (on your choice of screen) to see a flaming oil platform, the very sea itself set afire with huge plumes of black smoke rising, and the dark smear of what would become five million barrels of oil beginning to soak birds and beaches. Infinitely harder to see and less dramatic was the vast counterforce soon at work: the mobilizing of tens of thousands of volunteers, including passionate locals from fishermen in the Louisiana Oystermen’s Association to an outraged tattoo-artist-turned-organizer, from visiting scientists, activist groups, and Catholic Charities reaching out to Vietnamese fishing families to the journalist and oil-policy expert Antonia Juhasz, and Rosina Philippe of the Atakapa-Ishak tribe in Grand Bayou.  And don’t forget the ceaseless toil of the Sierra Club’s local environmental justice organizer, the Gulf Coast Restoration Network, the New Orleans-born poet-turned-investigator Abe Louise Young, and so many more than I can list here.

“I think of one ornithologist I met in Grand Bayou who had been dispatched to the Gulf by an organization, but had decided to stay on even if his funding ran out.  This mild-mannered man with a giant pair of binoculars seemed to have some form of pneumonia, possibly induced by oil-fume inhalation, but that didn’t stop him. He was among the thousands whose purpose in the Gulf had nothing to do with profit, unless you’re talking about profiting the planet.

“The force he represented mattered there, as it does everywhere — a force that has become ever more visible to me as I live and journey among those who dedicate themselves to their ideals and act on their solidarities.  Only now, though, am I really beginning to understand the full scope of its power.

“Long ago, Adam Smith wrote about the “invisible hand” of the free market, a phrase which always brings to my mind horror movies and Gothic novels in which detached and phantasmagorical limbs go about their work crawling and clawing away.  The idea was that the economy would somehow self-regulate and so didn’t need to be interfered with further — or so still go the justifications for capitalism, even though it took an enormous armature of government interventions to create the current mix of wealth and poverty in our world. Your tax dollars pay for wars that make the world safe for giant oil corporations, and those corporations hand over huge sums of money to their favorite politicians (and they have so many favorites!) to regulate the political system to continue to protect, reward, and enrich themselves. But you know that story well.

“As 2010 ends, what really interests me aren’t the corrosions and failures of this system, but the way another system, another invisible hand, is always at work in what you could think of as the great, ongoing, Manichean arm-wrestling match that keeps our planet spinning. The invisible claw of the market may fail to comprehend how powerful the other hand — the one that gives rather than takes — is, but neither does that open hand know itself or its own power. It should. We all should.”

Read the full article here: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175335/

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The Afghan War is America’s longest war with no end in sight. Despite Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing troops in 2011, the projection is now out to 2014 and beyond. This is not surprising when one considers this war is part of the greater Global War on Terror, a continuous war that George W. Bush declared is “going to take a while.”

That “take a while” has transpired into a multigenerational permanent state of war. Albeit more sophisticated now than then, nevertheless, world history informs us that terrorism is nothing uniquely new and yet we have built a military and security goliath to combat it. It is “The New American Militarism,” an America politically, economically, and culturally addicted to war

As with drug addiction, “Wars without end” have become a windfall for the military and war’s dealers, the profiteers, financiers, industries, and contractors that find war and security extremely lucrative enterprises. A war without end maintains troops at combat-readiness, hardened and experienced, a level of readiness that training alone cannot duplicate. War enhances Congress’ willingness to authorize defense and security appropriations. It makes all those non-military industries that profit from war viable and prosperous. And, we have a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a “ hidden world, growing beyond control,” whose supporting industries also maintain their viability and prosperity from America’s fear of the next terrorist attack. And, all offer secure employment for a significant number of Americans.

Furthermore, “The active duty U.S. military alone enjoys a 666:1 advantage over the estimated number of al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, and Somalia,” and yet no success. Like the war on drugs, it certainly seems to be a “War of Futility.”

Now, concerning success, one has to ask, “Why would these players want to end war?” For it seems to me that expecting the DHS, Defense Department, a military contractor, Arms dealer of which the United States leads the pack, private military contractor,  Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or Halliburton to work towards ending this war is like asking pharmaceutical companies to produce cures for diseases whose very existence depends on not finding cures.

Understand, our economic system is based on consumerism, and it depends on wear and tear, destruction and discardables, and there is not a better instrument for wear and tear or obliterating and wasting things that need to be replaced than war. War is about profiteering. To those who game the war system, profit is success.

Moreover, Eisenhower described the cost of war as “a theft” from those on the home front. Spending on research and development for war deprives America from advancements in beneficial technologies. War robs too many of our men and women from whatever future contributions they could have made in the lives of their families, their communities, and  to America. War takes money that could fund education, improve America’s infrastructure, and fund a mountain of other social and environmental needs.

Essentially, Americans, the Pentagon, politicians, and capitalist do not have the will to end this absurdity. “And nowhere, not even in Iraq, is it clear that Washington is committed to packing up its tents, abandoning its billion-dollar monuments, and coming home.”

Sources:

II Principe, “Perpetual War in Afghanistan,” pinione.blogspot.com

Dwight D. Eisenhower; “Chance for Peace Speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16,1953”;  Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission@ eisenhowermemorial.org/speeches

Paul Craig Roberts, a book review of  Andrew Bacevich’s “The New American Militarism,” AntiWar.com

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, “A hidden world, growing beyond control,” Washington Post

Murray N. Rothbard, “The War System and Its Intellectual Myths,” LewRockwell.com

Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt, “Shooting Gnats with a Machine Gun,” TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt, “War to the Horizon,” TomDispatch.com

Horatio Green, “A perilous and egregious journey of wars without end

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America’s Addiction to War

Tom Engelhardt in his Tom Dispatch blog post, “The Stimulus Package in Kabul,” asked the question: “You must have had a moment when you thought to yourself: It really isn’t going to end, is it?”

Well, Tom, I have had many moments, and it all boils down to No, it is not going to end.

Engelhardt says, “Connect two points and you have a straight line. Connect three points and you have a pattern ….” Beyond colossal embassies in Afghanistan and Iraq — a $511 million expansion of the U.S. embassy in Kabul and a new U.S. embassy being constructed in Baghdad with an end cost of at least $740 million — there is an expanding colossal security empire, a colossal military with more than enough firepower to get the job done and yet cannot, colossal industries who are profiteering off of war, and an America that is addicted to war. The connecting points are all there that lead only to one question: Why would they ever want to give all of that up?

So,  in reality, the real predicament is that they – government, defense, security, and supporting industries – don’t want our current wars  or the Global War on Terror to end, for “War to the Horizon,” is America’s new way of war.

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