Friday, December 16, 2016

Happy Friday

11 comments:

  1. listener12/15/2016 09:14:00 PM
    "Contained within evil are the seeds of its own destruction."
    Would you believe that is a quote from Karl Marx?
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    No difficulty there at all for me, listener. Marx applied Hegel's philosophy to the evolution of society, and to economics. Feudalism enabled mercantilism, which displaced the feudal powers. Mercantilism enabled industrialism, which displaced the merchants and in turn enabled capitalism. He figured that the next step was for the proletariat to displace the capitalists in power, which seems to be a long time coming...but the evidence of Marx's lifetime seemed to indicate that it was imminent.

    Marx's observations of the evolution of capitalism seem absolutely valid today. Whereas in old times the artisan had his own tools and created the entire product with his/her own labor and skill, as time goes by the capitalist enterprises that produce the material goods divide the work into smaller and smaller bits that can be done by less and less trained (and therefore poorly paid) workers, and invest more and more capital into automation, to continue squeezing a profit out of lower and lower prices. They must also expand their markets, displacing other producers by more efficient production. The excess value (*very roughly* analogous to profit) in the manufactures is taken out step by step as it travels from the factory to the consumer. And Marx pondered the question of what happens when machines do all the work; I don't think he developed the idea, but we know he considered it. And he considered knowledge workers, like engineers, to be proletarians also, albeit at a higher level than physical laborers. Fascinating.

    The more the capitalists monopolize the excess value created by the workers, the more oppressed and irate the latter will become, and the sooner they will resort to extraordinary means to take control. Or, to put it another way, it is dangerous for the profiteers hoard the value produced by the workers rather than to redistribute it. One way it used to be done was through the tax system. The maximum tax rate when I was young was 90%, which sounds confiscatory--but very few if any people paid that. It was made financially desirable to them to invest their money in public infrastructure--roads, bridges, canals, airports, schools, etc. in a way that got them built soon and lowered the cost to the taxpayer. There were other methods of redistributing wealth too--estate taxes, for instance.

    Lecturer descends from lectern...

    Alan

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    1. P.S.: Marx was very much the very highly (most Americans would say over-) intellectual 19th Century european professorial type. Even today Europeans tend to be far more intellectual and less practical than we are inclined to be. Marx in full flower can be very hard to plow through, but evidently Engels finished Das Kapital and made it more accessible. Just what one is to do with Marx's observations is something of a puzzle, but they are nevertheless deserving of careful consideration. His concept of the progress of history is worth comparison with Whiggism [Click], which generally seems to be our default mode of thought. See also Whig Party (United States) [Click]

      --Alan

      Alan

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    2. During the half-century between 1920 and 1970, the proletariat (working class), via trad unions, did acquire much/most of the power the capitalists had previously held. Since 1980 the capitalists have regained a portion of the power they had previously lost. But evidence suggests that we are now on the verge of another turn of the spiral (a very Hegelian = Marxian concept).

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    3. The definition of proletarian vs. capitalist has always been ambiguous, especially outside the manufacturing sector. Are the owners of a mom-and-pop grocery store, with no non-family employees, capitalists? Am I a capitalist? I once read a well-known British socialist book from the 1930s (can't recall author or title) that concluded CEOs were proletarians because they were technically employees rather than owners.

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  2. Dylan Roof verdict [Click]
    Excerpts:

    A South Carolina jury has found Dylann Roof, the self-avowed white supremacist who killed nine black parishioners in a Charleston church in June 2015, guilty of all 33 federal charges he faced, including hate crimes, murder, attempted murder and obstruction of religion….

    Nine white jurors and three black jurors took less than three hours to come to a unanimous decision on the charges.
    In addition to these federal convictions, Roof will also face a trial on state charges, scheduled for January. Roof could be sentenced to death in that trial too…

    The charges Roof faced included nine counts of violating the Hate Crime Act resulting in death – one for each of his victims, including Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a state senator. Roof was also found guilty of three counts of violating the Hate Crime Act involving an attempt to kill, one for each of the three survivors. Roof was also convicted on nine counts of obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death; three counts of obstruction of exercise of religion involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon; and nine counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence.

    --Alan

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    1. It's good to know Justice prevails...sometimes.

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  3. This is from the end of a letter Ken Burns wrote to a young woman asking what to do in Trump's America. The link was wa-a-a-y too long to type.

    We must try to remember that this level of vulgarity, of blatant lying, of demonizing whole groups of people, nearly always backfires, that real change will come when middle class whites, Hispanics and blacks realize they share more in common with each other than those in whose interest it is that they stay divided. This has been a successful strategy for generations in this country: why not blame the other, who might take your job, rather than blame the boss who laughs all the way to the bank.

    What to do, you ask? A million things, of course. But it begins only with the first step of awareness and commitment, which you have already made.

    Just go forward. Engage. Don’t despair. Find likeminded people — not from your social circle, but everywhere. Change the opinions of others, not with ridicule, but reason. Finally, remember too that Barack Obama himself has said that the highest office in the land is not president, but citizen.

    Be one.

    With my sincerest best wishes,

    Ken Burns

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  4. listener, you wanted to read my letter to the electors. After much computer fumbling here it is, I think:

    Donald Trump hasn't even taken office and he's already attacking freedom of the press and the First Amendment. His spokesperson, Kellyanne, has said that if we criticize Trump "there will be consequences". He clearly knows nothing about the Constitution or the role of President. He seems to think he was elected to be dictator.

    Every person he has appointed to a department is *against* the department they have been appointed to. They will spend their time weakening or outright dismantling the EPA, the FCC or any other department they head.

    He continues to include his children in government meetings. He is including them improperly as none of them were elected and none of them have security clearance. Also, if they are to run his businesses they are clearly not operating a Blind Trust.

    I do not exaggerate when I say I fear for the people of this country if Trump enters the White House. He is clearly unprepared and unfit to lead. He is a bully who is thin-skinned and who will retaliate harshly for even an imagined slight. Please. Save us from this demagogue. I truly believe he will destroy us.

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  5. Everyone stay warm and safe. I see that the NE is getting some very wintry weather. We had some nice rain down here on the Valley floor, but up in the Sierra Nevada they closed all the roads into Yosemite Valley for safety. It is said to be very early in the Winter to do that.

    Alan

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  6. I think I am going to have one more dose of Nyquil this evening. Yesterday and today I put in a full day's work at the lab and then some, but I still tire more easily than usual. We completed the Alameda County Coroner's work for the week--about triple their normal amount. We had hoped to get it out a day or two sooner, but a certain coworker played sick. Still, our turnaround time is very good compared to most other such labs--say five working days compared to five weeks, five months, or more. It depends on the jurisdiction, but in some places the Coroner can't release the bodies to the families until the autopsy reports are completed--including toxicology.

    Alan

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