Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Sixth Extinction

“WTF is 'The Sixth Extinction' and why should I care?”

It is unclear who coined the phrase, “the sixth extinction.”  Elizabeth Kolbert published her book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History last year, 2014.  In 1998, the American Museum of Natural History hammered a permanent plaque onto its floor memorializing the phrase.  And the most prominent paleoanthropologist in the world, Richard Leakey, published a book entitled The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind in 1995.  So, while the phrase is sort of recent – no older than 20 years – it refers to what is called a “major extinction event” that began as long ago as 12,000 years (the advent of agriculture) or as recently as 300 years (the start of heavy industrialization) (experts argue over these things!).  And it refers to species extinctions at the hand of human beings, either intentionally or as a by-product of human activities.  To put it in perspective, the Fifth Extinction took place some 65,000,000 (65 million!) years ago, at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs (the Mesozoic Era – containing the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods – from 250 million years ago to 65 million years ago), and the beginning of the Age of Mammals (the Cenozoic Era, from 65 million years ago to the present) which led to US.  To put even more perspective on it, the Sixth Extinction is happening at a faster rate (more species vanishing per year) than any of the other five major extinction events.


Monday, March 16, 2015

King Ludd is Dead; Long Live King Ludd!

Ned Ludd is alive and well and having a rebirth in Austin Texas, at the SXSW Music Film Interactive festival.  Ned Ludd, of course, is the late 18th century English weaver whose name was immortalized in the word Luddite, someone who is anti-technology, because advances in technology cost jobs.  They are at it again in Austin, Texas, mostly a tech crowd protesting the further advance of technology.


What are you gonna do?  Technology won the war against King Ludd, technology won the war against the mythic John Henry.  And technology will win this war too, there is no stopping the advance of science and technology.  Ask yourself: if you were a CEO, would you refuse to automate your company with all its corporate benefits, for the sake of the jobs that your company will otherwise cut?  If you choose to save your workers’ jobs, your Board of Directors will cut YOUR job.  You know that.  On the other hand, the future has already chosen automation and computers everywhere in the work-place.  Can AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Robots be far behind?  Putting aside the question of when, AI and Robots are on their way, and they will cost jobs – millions and tens of millions of jobs – especially here in the USA, the home of the high-paid middle class (whose numbers shrink every day).

So, what are you gonna do?  If business owners and CEO’s have their way, it is full-steam ahead for the corporate benefits of technology, damn the lost jobs and hoist the flag of the Bottom Line!  If workers had their way, AI and Robots will never be allowed into the work-place.  Today, in our version of Capitalism, CEOs will have their say and workers will have less and less voice in corporate decisions (even as they vote to cripple the once powerful Union movement). 

So, what are you gonna do?  Well, the first step toward a solution is acknowledging that there is a problem.  The second step is to think about it and come up with YOUR solution.  The third step is to sit down with your enemies and fight it out.

If you can’t solve it sitting down around a table, you’ll fight it out the old-fashioned way, with bloodshed and battlefields.

P.S.      It seems to me that at least two good things must come out of such a discussion.  One, a plan for a reduced human population, as technology needs fewer and fewer humans to get the job done.  Two, more and more people will be full participants in a true affluent middle-class society.  That’s not a bad result, but it will take a huge effort on the part of the people who might otherwise fall by the wayside.  That’s YOU, Binky, so get busy!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Strong Dollar

Most Americans are simple-minded.  Well, that is a libel and in addition, it is not true.  How about this?  Most simple-minded Americans are simple-minded.  Well, OK, still a libel even if it is undeniably true, as most (really ALL) simple-minded Germans are simple-minded too.  And Frenchmen, Japanese, Chinese, etc.  Simple-minded people are simple-minded and even if we don’t have a monopoly on simple-mindedness, we have our fair share.

Here is an example of simple-mindedness: economics is just common sense.

OK, how about this economic statement, uttered more than once by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew: “I have been consistent in saying, as my predecessors have said, that a strong dollar is good for the United States.”  It sure sounds obvious, but is it really true?  Is a strong dollar good for the United States?


A strong dollar IS good for those of us traveling overseas where our dollar buys more stuff than the weaker currencies it can buy more of, but it is bad for Americans working in travel-related firms in the U.S.  A strong dollar IS good for our citizens who shop at Walmart and anywhere else that sells goods manufactured outside our borders, whose currencies are not so strong.  But a strong dollar is bad for American manufacturing as our goods are now more expensive on the foreign market.  And a strong dollar is bad for American labor for the same reason: reduced demand for more expensive American goods overseas.  A strong dollar is also good for creditors, who will be repaid in more valuable dollars than they loaned out; and that same strong dollar is bad for those in debt who now have to pay off their debts with more expensive dollars (so, good for the top, not so good for the bottom).  And, last but hardly least, a strong dollar is bad for our Balance of Payments as that strong dollar will buy more foreign goods than foreign currencies will buy American goods, so more dollars will fly overseas than Euros and Yen will re-patriate here.

So, is a strong dollar good for the United States?  Surely the answer is never a simple “yes” or “no,” the answer is always “it depends on who you are and where you live.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

To My Countrymen

My book, To My Countrymen: The Essential Handbook for Tea Partiers, Occupiers, and Every American Who is Mad as Hell and Isn't Going to Take It Any More, is about the American democracy  that was and what you can do to restore it.  My hope is that you buy it, read it, recommend it to your friends, and take action.  If you and enough Americans follow its plans, the forces that control America today MUST yield to the strength of your passion, your commitment, and your numbers.

I have made it as easy as I can to get my book into your hands.  You can buy a paperback version or a Kindle (eBook) version.  For very reasonable prices.  I have made the paperback as inexpensive as I realistically can, $8.99.  And, more often than not, Amazon sells it to you for considerably less ($7.64 at this writing).  As to the Kindle version, I give it away free for 5 days (unpredictable) out of every 90 days, but $2.99 is still a great price for a Kindle book.

But I also make the following offer which no one should refuse: you can get the Kindle version free if you buy the paperback version.  This is my way of urging you to buy the paperback version.  I make this offer because I really want you to read To My Countrymen more than I want your money.  There is a much better chance that you will read a paperback book than its Kindle version because a) you paid more for it and b) people read more of the paper books that they buy than the eBooks that they buy.  And, my book begs you to interact with it – to bend down pages, to mark the essays that you have read, to highlight passages you find especially noteworthy, and to make notes in it – and these things are much more easily done with a paper version of the book.  OTOH, the Kindle version does have the immense advantage over its paperback big brother in that you have immediate access to all hyperlinks (clicking a link opens your browser at the referenced page).

I wrote To My Countrymen because the Democracy Movement needs to raise an army of citizen-soldiers who know what they are fighting for.  It will make you a better citizen, guaranteed.  And I hope one of the several million citizen-soldiers that we need to win this war.

So, click on the cover of my book at the top right of the screen ("Ben's Book"), do a “Look Inside” at Amazon.com, buy the paper version of my book (and don’t forget to ask for the free Kindle version, it is not automatic, you have to click a few more things – look for the words “Kindle MatchBook”), read my book, tell your friends about my book, organize, decide what specific actions you are going to take, calendar them, and get to work.  The job of “taking back our country” demands that we all understand what that means and what we need to do.  Get on board.

And read my blog, and tell your friends about my blog.  I promise it will NOT take over your life as I will average only 1 to 2 short blog posts per week.

Thank you for listening.