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Take the Pledge

Nov 02, 2014
Someone (Mark Twain?) once famously commented, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Of course, the remark was intended to be a facetious one. What, after all, can one do about the weather? Precious little, as we are coming to realize in the face of global warming and increasingly dire episodes of out-of-control climate change.

Everybody (it seems) also talks about our current political situation, and have been talking about it eloquently for a good many years now, in films, books, newspaper columns, magazine articles, speeches, podcasts, tweets, and what-have-you. But nobody is doing anything about it.

Well, I am.

After attending to much of the material noted above, and after six years of blogging and considerable thought, I conclude that there are two bedrock issues we must address before we can do anything about all the others with which we are confronted. And those issues are poverty and education.

See The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty, 2000 to 2008-2012 and Poverty in the United States.

Poverty, always a problem in this, the richest nation in history, is getting worse. And as FDR told us, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

It is time to provide enough to those who have too little. And the only way I can see clear to doing that is through work. Men and women need to work, for their food and shelter, for their self-esteem, and in order to take their proper place in a society where, for better or for worse, we are dependent upon one another. And their work needs to earn them a living wage. It is immoral to take an adult’s full-time labor and compensate that adult with less than a living wage. It is immoral, and it ought to be illegal.

So I pledge to expend my precious vote only on candidates who themselves pledge to support the following: That any adult 18-65 who is able and wanting to work will be provided with a job that pays a living wage.

Education. No Child Left Behind is a wonderful sentiment. However, as anyone who is today associated with the education establishment, the public welfare bureaucracy, or the prison system knows all too well, it is a sentiment which is far from becoming a reality. We waste our human capital by the millions in this country, and the burden which an unemployed, uneducated, and all-too-often imprisoned citizenry places on the rest of us is unacceptable. If we are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, then no child can any longer be left behind to grow up in neglect, poverty, and ignorance.

This will require a reallocation of resources, a makeover of our public education system, and long-term devotion to the betterment of each and every individual member of our society.

And so I pledge to expend my precious vote only on candidates who themselves pledge to support the following: That we as a nation will do whatever it takes to assure that every child will grow up in a sufficiently nurturing environment so as to optimize their potential for leading happy and productive lives.

And you out there, will you join me and take the pledge? Because you know that today your vote is wasted, that representative democracy in this country is no more, that even the best of our “public servants” are captives of corporate money and influence.

If you will, send me your name, town, and state, and I will add it to the list of others who have so pledged. If the list grows sufficiently, one day it will make a difference, and perhaps we will be on our way to reversing our present descent.

And if you won’t take the pledge, just what will you do? I hope it is something worthwhile, and I hope to hear about it, because I will want to do it, too.

tags: Domestic Unrest | Politics | ATN

The End of Libraries, Part 18

Nov 01, 2014
Amazon has introduced the Kindle Unlimited (KU) service. For $9.99 a month, subscribers can download and read an unlimited number of books on Kindle and Kindle-enabled devices from a collection of over 700,000 titles (up from 600,000 when it was first introduced). Subscribers also have access to thousands of audio books from Audible.

This takes the one-book-a-month service to Amazon Prime subscribers a giant step further on the road that may one day see libraries replaced with a for-profit subscription service. For less than $120 a year, readers can now read their fill—no limit to the numbers of books they read, no due dates, no late fees. I wrote in Part XVII of this series about Scribd and Oyster, two other subscription services whose offerings are similar in scope and cost to KU. Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla, however, and KU is a more serious threat to public libraries than other subscription services. Of course, 700,000 titles are a small portion of the millions of titles available in digital format today, and you can bet that many of your favorite authors and newest bestsellers will not be any more available on KU than they are today, digitally, at your public library.

However, who can doubt that if and when Amazon finds an acceptable way to recompense publishers and writers equitably based upon actual circulation, we won’t see that package expand exponentially? “Actual circulation” today can not only track downloads, but methods are even available to determine whether someone actually read a downloaded book, a portion thereof, or none at all. And in Part II of this series, I outlined a method for public libraries to recompense publishers and writers which Amazon could easily adapt to its purposes.

As noted in Part I of this series, “If libraries cannot begin to serve their patrons’ eBook reading needs—and they don’t come close to doing so today—and an Amazon or another commercial endeavor steps in to fill that need, libraries are finished.” Public libraries are not doing a significantly better job of serving their patrons today than they were doing back then, over three years ago.

Amazon Prime’s book lending feature is insufficient to threaten libraries; KU’s is not. A recent article in Forbes, for instance, advocates closing all the libraries in Great Britain and purchasing a KU subscription for every citizen, arguing that such numbers could warrant a low “bulk rate” from Amazon that would save the country money. I have no doubt such thoughts are rolling around many a publisher and writer’s head, and you can bet Jeff Bezos is thinking the same thing.

I’m a big fan of Amazon and always have been. If they manage to kill libraries, I won’t blame them. They are doing what comes naturally. We aren’t. We (publishers, writers, readers) are sitting by and watching the privatization of our dearest resource, and the passing of it into the hands of a monopolistic entity whose only concern is maximizing profit.

tags: Books and Libraries

From Bad to Worse

Jul 26, 2014
Everything is going to become unimaginably worse and never get better again. –Kurt Vonnegut (1970)

ISIS; MH17; Boko Haram; 56,000 unaccompanied Central American children crossing our border. Everything is becoming unimaginably worse since my last posting on St. Paddy’s Day.

And little is being done about any of it. It is as if the civilized world has become exhausted by the enormities of our uncivilized brethren.

At home, the Dow tops 17,000 and everything is hunky-dory for the one percent. On Democracy Now, Israel is slaughtering Arabs again and Canadians are delivering water to thirsty Detroiters. And DetroitWaterProject.org wants you to pay the bill of some of the 13,000 Detroiters who have had their water turned off for not paying their bill. Incredible!

The virulence of the Obama haters, which has paralyzed our government for over six years, will only get worse if Hillary Clinton is elected in 2016. From the vantage point of today, that seems the most hopeful scenario one can imagine, as horrible as I contend it will be, with more horrible ones becoming as likely very soon: a Republican takeover of the Senate this fall, the death or retirement of Ruth Ginsburg, a Republican takeover of the White House in 2017.

Economic recovery? There is no economic recovery while millions are unemployed or underemployed, or are seeing the buying power of their paychecks shrinking. And—surprise!—that includes most of us.

How can one live in this world? Where are the Mahatma Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings who can lead us out of this spiraling descent and back toward the mountaintop? They are nowhere. It is up to us. We MUST organize a third party and it must bring together the vast number of unhappy Americans who are tired of endless war, tired of huge deficits, tired of a bloated do-nothing government of over-privileged nincompoops, tired of the corporatocracy, and ready, once and for all, to forge a new government, of the people, by the people, and for the people, before we all perish from this beleaguered and crippled earth.
tags: ATN

Noted with Interest, March 2014

Mar 17, 2014

* NEW * Paul Krugman won’t save us: We need a new conversation about inequality
by Thomas Frank. I've been saying this for years (though not this well). You've probably been saying this for years. EVERYONE has been saying this for years. So when are we going to stop talking and start DOING! From Salon, Feb 23, 2014. Accessed Mar 17, 2014.

tags: Noted with Interest | Economics

Announcing bookaworld

Mar 16, 2014
bookaworld is a 501(c)(3) public charity which, on March 4th, received its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Since I first applied for that status in September 2012, you may imagine my delight at finally receiving it.

bookaworld’s mission is to place an eReader, stocked with 1001 titles representing the world’s most illuminating, entertaining, and educational books, into the hands of every child in the world. We will begin with those children who are not able to provide such an advantage on their own.

Reading informs, humanizes, and develops the mind and spirit. Yet billions of people have severely limited access to reading matter. Its delivery has, until now, been an onerous and expensive proposition, almost inconceivable on a global scale.

eReader devices and the Internet change all that. Today, we can place a small library—the equivalent of 50 cartons of books—on a six-ounce piece of hardware and into the hands of any individual for less than the cost of a few books. And if that individual has access to the Internet, their small library becomes a huge one.

If we are to meet and overcome the existential challenges confronting our world today—political, economic, environmental—we must engage all the brain power we can. This means liberating our fellow beings from the scourges of ignorance and want. Education and the printed word are vital in enabling this liberation. bookaworld exploits a unique moment in history to take new and dramatic steps in support of this effort. We hope thereby to help inspire and enable recipients of bookaworld eReaders to deliver themselves from ignorance and poverty, and, in time, to lead their villages, their towns, their nations, and their world to a peaceful and sustainable future.

I invite you to become a part of the bookaworld family. Our labor is all donated, and there is much to do. The bookaworld story is told at http://bookaworld.org. Please give it a look, and let me know what you think.
tags: Books and Libraries

All Together Now

Dec 31, 2013
Maybe next year.

Maybe in 2014 all those voices of dissatisfaction, from the unemployed, the underpaid, and the underrepresented; to the homeless and the hopeless; to Krugman and Stiglitz and Reich; to Mother Jones, Sister Amy, and Brother Cornell; to Scahill and Hedges and Greenwald; to Chomsky and Nader and Ehrenreich; to Snowden and Manning and Assange; to Occupy Wall Street and even to the Tea Party; and finally and firstly to you and me; maybe in 2014 we will get together and begin to forge the New Age of American Democracy.

Without such a new age, 99 percent of our children are doomed to a marginal income even in the professions, to a rampant and unrestrained corporatocracy, to one meteorological disaster after another, to the triumph of tyranny as China assumes command of the world, to a very possible fiery end in nuclear cataclysm.

Everything is broken. The end is near. Let's get to work.
tags: Working Together

Noted with Interest, November 2013

Nov 26, 2013

Storybook Plutocracy
by Thomas Frank. Review of George Packer's The Unwinding. ". . . a minor masterpiece of the social-disintegration genre—a beautifully written, clinically observed story of the slow-rolling economic transformation that has, over the last 30-odd years, made vast parts of America into a destitute wasteland while lifting a fortunate few to a kind of heaven on earth. . . ." From Public Books, November 21, 2013. Accessed November 26, 2013.

Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History
by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. I told you so, four years ago. Merry Christmas! From truthout, October 30, 2013. Accessed November 5, 2013.

There Are Good Alternatives to US Capitalism, But No Way to Get There
by Jerry Mander (can that name be for real?). An excerpt from his new book, The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System. I disagree it is obsolete, quite the contrary, unfortunately. I will confess this, too: I love capitalism. But I love ice cream, too, and if I let ice cream have its way with me the way capitalism is having its way with the world today, a similar end would result. From AlterNet, July 24, 2013. Accessed November 5, 2013.

Imploding the Myth of Israel
by Chris Hedges. The greatest tragedy in history, following so soon after the second greatest. A two-state solution will never work; a one-state solution will never be proposed. The Jews will be fighting on and on, winning all the battles, until they lose the war (as we learned so starkly in The Gatekeepers). From truthdig.com, November 4, 2013. Accessed November 5, 2013.

tags: Noted with Interest

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