Ars Technica has a series on the history of the Amiga right now, and part 3 contained this:

Why was everybody willing to work so hard, to put in tons of late (and sometimes sleepless) nights just to build a new computer? The above and beyond dedication of high-tech workers has been a constant ever since Silicon Valley became Silicon Valley. Companies have often reaped the rewards from workers who were willing to put in hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime each month. Managers in other industries must look at these computer companies and wonder why they can’t get their workers to put in that kind of effort.

Part of the answer lies with the extreme, nearly autistic levels of concentration that are achieved by hardware and software engineers when they are working at peak efficiency. Everyday concerns like eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene often fade into the background when an engineer is in “the zone.” However, I think it goes beyond that simple explanation. Employees at small computer companies have a special position that even other engineers can’t hope to achieve. They get to make important technical decisions that have far-reaching effects on the entire industry. Often, they invent new techniques or ideas that significantly change the way people interact with their computers. Giving this kind of power and authority to ordinary employees is intoxicating; it makes people excited about the work that they do, and this excitement then propels them to achieve more and work faster than they ever thought they could.

The reason this works (and the reason why you also have those tendencies in what is often referred to as “creative” jobs) is simply that the worker is not (or at least less) alienated from their work:

The theoretic basis of alienation, within the capitalist mode of production, is that the worker invariably loses the ability to determine life and destiny, when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of themselves as the director of their own actions; to determine the character of said actions; to define relationships with other people; and to own those items of value from goods and services, produced by their own labour. Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realized human being, as an economic entity, this worker is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, in order to extract from the worker the maximum amount of surplus value, in the course of business competition among industrialists.

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Merkel on Trump

Angela Merkel has called on Trump to respect “democratic values”:

“She stressed that “the partnership with the USA is and will remain the foundation of German foreign policy so that we can meet the great challenges of our times”.

These included, she said, “the pursuit of economic and social prosperity, the struggle for forward-looking climate policy, the war on terrorism, poverty, hunger and disease, the pursuit of peace and freedom, in Germany, Europe and the world”.”

This is rich coming from the leader of the German government:

  • the course of her government in the Euro-crisis has done everything possible to undermine economic and social prosperity
  • the climate goals declared in Paris die a slow death in Germany, with any attempts by the minister of the environment to lock down some goals sabotaged by members of the government and the conservative party
  • the German government has just voted *against* a resolution calling for a ban on nuclear weapons
  • and the support for governments like the Saudi-Arabian or Turkish ones does precisely nothing for the fight against terrorism, or for freedom

Regarding the last point: I find it interesting how long Erdogan could run rampant before at least a bit of criticism emanated from the German government, compared to the calling out of Trump.

The hypocrisy would be startling if it hadn’t become so common-place by now.

Posted in democracy, developed countries, Hypocrisy | Leave a comment

FUCK the Eurocup

I don’t care much about soccer but if people get excited about the Eurocup – sure why not.
But all those exhortations in the last days to enjoy the Eurocup in spite of everything:

Let’s put aside for a moment that those events are publicly-subsidized commercial events that enrich some cooperations and do NOTHING for the population (in economic terms).
But this happens in a country, of which the government cuts public spending for socially useful purposes left right, lately deciding to cut 500 million from research and environment.
This is an event that has been used to extend the state of emergency, which said government used to inhibit public protests during the climate spectacle and currently against the attempt to gut the labor protections.
And this is an event which the same government tries to exploit to discipline the protesters and to distract from its attempt to push through in an undemocratic manner a law that will worsen the life of the working population.

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Importing poor sexy foreigners

NFL (and other US) cheerleaders are paid pretty badly:

“You get this prestigious job dancing for the Warriors and you go home, and think: Hey, I’m making $10 an hour! It’s like working at Wendy’s,” said Lisa Murray, 28, a former N.B.A. dancer who is supporting the nationwide push for a minimum wage and benefits, and one day a union.

and have pretty brutal working conditions:

So it is with cheerleaders, the N.F.L.’s dancing lumpen proletariat. For years, these women labored off the radar of enforcers of modern wage and hour laws. Many had body fat monitored, along with menstrual cycles and private lives. Teams paid stipends, describing the cheerleading squads as clubs, like the Elks in leotards.

In the world beyond the castle that is the N.F.L., this is known as wage theft.

Now they’re trying to change that, suing for damages and legal changes. So what do the Miami Dolphins do in best capitalist fashion?

[L]ooking for cheerleaders in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico

according to Yahoo Sports. Preying on those with a lower standard of living in making them believe that their lot might improve in the US:

Leaving one of the poorest cities in Brazil at 5 a.m., 20-year-old student Luciane Lima traveled from Sao Goncalo to a Copacabana hotel two hours away to join 300 women at an unusual audition in the land of soccer: Cheerleader for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
In exchange for injecting a touch of samba into the Dolphins’ cheerleading team, they hope to start new lives in the United States.

Let’s contrast that with the hopes of US citizens:

Lacy Thibodeaux grew up in southern Louisiana, football country in all of its humid and insane passions.

She married, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and became a dancer for the Golden State Warriors. It paid minimum wage. Then she tried out as a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders.

That was a dream.

Thibodeaux made the Raiderette squad. She took long drives to Napa Valley for the calendar photo shoot. She invested, as directed, in expensive hair colorings. Practices stretched for hours. She made 10 required appearances at sponsor events.

After a few weeks, her husband asked: Lacy, where’s your paycheck?

“The team told me we get paid at the end of the season, $125 per game,” Thibodeaux recalled. “They paid nothing for travel expenses, mandatory promo events or calendar shoots.”

She said, “My contract was highly illegal.”

Again, this is a US citizen, that is to say someone who has more rights (and more leverage) than someone will have who is there on a working visa (or even a green card). Building a base for a life in the US based on a below-minimum wage job is going to be hard, unless the longer-term plan is to find someone to marry or provide materially in some form. Trying to get better conditions risks having the employment terminated and being sent back.

All in all, disgusting, or in other words: par for the course for the NFL.

Posted in exploitation, gender, professional sports, workers' rights | Leave a comment

Beware of false friends

There’s a website called “Curious Apes” that published an article called “You’ll have to choose sooner than you think: Basic Income or Dystopian Slavery”, which a friend linked on Facebook. It’s an extended argument for the Basic Income Guarantee that rehashes a bunch of right-wing talking points.

I got annoyed and commented on FB:

1) cherry-picked Kurzweil graph? Check!
2) “the machines are coming for our jobs”? Check!
3) “work” defined narrowly? Check!
4) Socialism incorrectly defined/described? Check!
5) assuming away any negative effects of the basic income? Check!

I realized at the end that this by a US-American for US-American, so some of the distortions are explainable. And I’ll give points for pointing out that the loss of brainless jobs is not a bad thing.

All in all: “There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view I hold dear.” — Daniel Dennett

The editor of the FB account replied with such choice words as:

Cynicism and negativity are far less helpful than the article[.]
To assume it’s going to solve the world’s problems is an immature and naive thought, and obviously just an excuse for you to taut your ego while you provide zero substance to the conversation.

I don’t mean to be aggressive or condescending, but if you’re as intelligent as you want everyone to believe from your comment, you must realize how pointlessly negative your comment was, and how such trolling adds little-to-nothing to the greater dialogue this article is attempting to create.

and asked for more constructive criticism.

So I wrote some up but don’t want to have only FB benefit from that write-up.

Continue reading

Posted in democracy, developed countries, housing, neo-liberalism, standards of living, techno utopianism | Leave a comment

Subversion in Capitalism is hard, episode whatever

Saul Williams clearly tries to be a subversive voice, has lots of interesting things to say and makes interesting music. According to his website, I can order his new album:

  • digitally from iTunes, a platform of a company that has tried hard (and continues to try hard) to attain monopoly status for its users and has its hardware products produced in pretty disgusting conditions
  • on Vinyl on, a company that exploits its wage labor mercilessly and fights tooth and nail against any kind of labor regulation that would improve said labor’s lot, using any loopholds they can find along the way
  • on Google Play, the platform of a company that tries hard to keep its monopoly and whose “don’t be evil” is only a l distant memory

leaving me with having to identify the lesser evil…

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ISIS and cancer: We’ll never get anywhere if we only focus on the symptoms

As was to be expected, the usual suspects are already trying to use the deaths in Paris for their own political agenda. But even the ones that are not openly xenophobic seem to mainly think of calling the attackers “barbarians”, hunting them down, bombing ISIS positions etc.

Which is just idiotic, if one thinks about this for a second.

Consider ISIS a cancer, if you will – an image that should jive with the supporters of the police/surveillance/military state, with those that fear that “Christian culture” is superior, with those that want to keep all the black, brown, poor away from the countries where they are the elites.

What causes a cancer? The immediate reason is a mutation in a cell’s DNA that hasn’t been repaired and leads to uncontrolled multiplication of the cell. But we’re not faulting the cell for that. We also accept that mutation is a necessary condition for evolution by natural selection – traits develop by mutation and are selected for or against, based on the environmental conditions. There are certain cells that are more likely to mutate and cells that divide more often – they are more likely to develop cancer but we don’t decide that we should react to this with eradicating those cells from the human body. And there are species that are much less likely to develop cancer – the Naked mole-rat comes to mind – without us considering them necessarily more advanced than us.

When cancer finally develops, we attack it ruthlessly: we use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy. We cut, we poison, and we irradiate. But we also agree that prevention is better than having to deal with cancer once it develops – hence we try to avoid environments that are conducive to the development of cancer. We tell people that they shouldn’t smoke because it increases their risk of lung (and many other) cancer(s), we limit the amount of radiation that we subject humans to, we discuss whether we should reduce eating processed meat and whether we should stop using RoundUp.

So what we blame, what we try to control, are the proximate causes of cancer, those that increase the risk of mutation. Yet when it comes to ISIS, this thinking is repeatedly rejected. We focus on the cancer, or on the mutated cell, but we ignore the environment that’s conducive to the development. Presence of risk factors does not lead automatically to the development of the disease, neither in cancer, nor in the case of the millions that are Muslim and non-Muslim, live in dictatorships and/or in poverty and/or are marginalized and oppressed, and still don’t turn to terrorism. And absence of risk factors doesn’t mean that nothing will happen, as Anders Breivik demonstrated so horribly. But creating an environment of that increases the risk and then expressing one’s anger about the mutating cell is stupid at best and willfully ignorant at worst!

Edit: And by the way: whenever someone knows about the carcinogenic effects of certain substances and doesn’t reign in their presence but actively create environments where people are over-exposed to them – soy farming in Argentina, for instance, cleaning up Fukushima without appropriate protective clothing, continuing to hawk cigarettes and deny their harmful effects etc – it’s because they make a nice profit. You know, like when it comes to poverty, exploitation, oppression…

Posted in Hypocrisy, Musings, terrorism | Leave a comment