Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Consumption Crisis

Remember after 9/11 G W Bush told America that the best thing to do was to go shopping? America listened and now faces the consequences of this disasterous neo-con advice.

Shop for victory. Buy for Bush and Blair. What to get? Big, expensive stuff, clearly, now that Vigilance rather than Prudence stalks the Treasury, and the £2.2 billion contingency reserve has largely gone on fighting foot and mouth and other pre-Taliban adversaries. But conspicuous spending seems obscene when the first flurries of war begin and when Afghan refugees eat grass or weeds.

Through out the eighties and ninties as the neo-con agenda took over governments around the world those proclaiming the new rights agenda continually promoted globalization reminding us that the advanced industrialized capitalist countries were now transfroming from fordist manufacturing economies to service industries. No longer were we to be workers, we were consumers. Others would work for us. With the great crash of 2008 the chickens have come home to roost for that bankrupt ideology.

Furthermore the ideology of the neo-cons was that we should no longer be renters but owners. Thatcher began the transformation in England, with the selling off of row housing to those who rented.

In America the ideology of home ownership began with Clinton and continued under Bush. Congress pushed the idea of homeownership as self reliance and responsibility. It conincided with both Thatchers push and Clintons push to adopt the neo-con agenda of work for welfare. They go hand in hand.

Of course during this past presidential election republicans and right wing commentators focused on this push for homeownership and lowering the mortgage credit limits as being for African Americans. Forgetting that most working poor could not afford thier own homes without a more liberal mortgange scheme.

However all this is moot. The reason for America's economic collapse is twenty years of promoting credit based consumption. Unemployment and corporate restructuring has been continous since the eighties. Offshoring and contracting out, privatization of public services, all the practices of the neo-con agenda have resulted in a growth in credit and consumption and a decline in manufacturing production.

The result was the ultimate in credit crunch economics; the war in Iraq.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Irrelevance of Protests

As I have said in the past mass demonstrations would not be violent if armed police, riot cops and Swat units were not present. But of course then they would be a carnival that resulted in nothing much than another day out in public solidarity. The FT has a satirical look at the recent protests in the UK against the Cameron Austerity measures and attacks on the public sector unions.

The point is well made, however a real difference is not that violence attracts more attention, as the writer implies, but rather what is a more effective form of resistance to state sanctioned measures we oppose.

Union and Civil Society/NGO endorsed marches, end up being a call to vote out the bastards, which neither challenges the system nor the institutional form of politics.

What does work is mass occupations of the legislature, as occurred in Alberta in the nineties during the attacks on medicare, and the recent occupation of the Wisconsin legislature. But they need then to be followed up with the Mass Strike, of workers and citizens. As we have seen in Egypt.

For it does seem a basic rule of modern British democracy that if you are marching against something you’ve already lost. Parading one’s discontent through London is the political equivalent of a fly bashing its head against a window pane. Of course there’s a terrific sense of community on a march – 250,000 flies with the same headache; it’s hugely empowering. But short of handing out placards with slogans such as “Mildly Miffed” or “I’m so angry I walked peacefully through London”, it is hard to imagine what more the protesters could have done to signal their acceptance of defeat.

It’s irresponsible to admit it, but this kind of peaceful protest is pointless. The system has all the shock absorbers necessary to handle a law-abiding demonstration. The next day ministers were already clear they would ignore the entire event, while insisting that they would be happy to discuss the issues with marchers, though sadly not over tea at Fortnum’s as it seems to be attracting the wrong sort these days.

It’s not that I’m advocating violence and disorder, just dispassionately noting that in Britain it is more effective. What last weekend’s thugs grasped is that ministers can’t ignore anarchists daubing the Cenotaph and bringing a bit of havoc to the capital. Once or twice they might be able to turn on the rioters, but not if it keeps happening. There’s nothing like stoking voters’ fears about the rule of law and the fabric of society to get the government’s attention.

You have to think of this in management terms. On key deliverables peaceful marching just doesn’t cut it. It’s all inputs and no outputs. But violent protest can be measured on key performance indicators. How many shops did you smash up? What percentage were banks? Did you manage to scare the Duchess of Cornwall? I’m sorry Dave; you are below target; do you want to nip over the road and vandalise that RBS?”

Friday, April 01, 2011

Plawiuk for Premier

As I announced on Facebook this morning
Eugene Plawiuk announced today that he is throwing his hat into the ring for leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party...."I am the only progressive in the race" he said, "the rest are Conservatives" His hat did not comment....

Meet the new boss Same as the old boss

Well that didn't take long, did it.

Human Rights Watch denounces Egypt's ban on strikes and protests

Strike ban plan is a 'betrayal'

The International Trade Union Confederation has branded a plan to outlaw strikes by Egypt's military government "a betrayal of the revolution." It demanded on Tuesday that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf scrap the proposed decree.

Egypt urged to scrap draft law outlawing protests and strikes

Last week’s decision by Egypt’s military rulers to criminalize the kind of protests and strikes that drove Hosni Mubarak from office makes one wonder whether that country has just experienced a democratic revolution, or a military coup that rode into power on the coattails of the popular uprising.

The new anti-strike law does not prohibit strikes and protests, Minister of Justice Ahmed El-Guindy told a press conference today.

“We as a government believe in the right to protest as long as it does not disrupt work, cause chaos and are held through legitimate channels,” El-Gunidy said in the press conference held at the cabinet offices.

El-Guindy added that he wants to “assure” Egyptians that they still have the right to protest. He said that the ministry has noticed that chaos broke out during recent protests and strikes and that they ask the Egyptian youth to help stop some of the strikes, which are ignited by members of the old regime.

Since the law was approved by the cabinet last Wednesday, nationwide protests have broken out against a law that many believe violates the values of the January 25 Revolution. The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions has organized a march for later today from the Journalists Syndicate to the cabinet offices in protest at the law.

Political groups and activists are angry about the law which bans strikes, protests, demonstrations and sit-ins which interrupt private or state-owned businesses and carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison with fines of up to LE500, 000 to anyone who calls for or incites these actions.

Many have claimed that the law violates all the values of the January 25 revolution, in which the right to freedom of expression was one of the core demands.

Another protest is to be organised in front of the Radio and TV headquarters in Maspero, in what protesters dubbed as the ‘Friday of Cleansing.” They are demanding that all media personalities loyal to the old regime be removed. Already three were arrested this morning in front of the building.

Protesters are also showing their solidarity with students from the Faculty of Mass Communications at Cairo University, who have been protesting for two weeks demanding that Sami Abdel Aziz, dean of the faculty, steps down because of his ties to the former ruling National Democratic Party.

On Wednesday evening military police stormed the university's grounds and forcibly dispersed the protesters and arrested and beat several students.

On the Facebook page of the Revolution Youth Coalition, the group announced that this protest will be to voice their anger over “the military police storming of the Cairo University campus, cutting off the electricity from the mass communication students, the physical attacks on students, their professors and those who joined their protests, and the use of electric batons to beat them and throw them out of their own university”.

The coalition added that “the Egyptian people have sacrificed many martyrs to get rid of Mubarak’s repressive regime and they are ready to sacrifice again if their freedom is taken away from them once more.”


Protesters took to Egypt's streets in January, demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak supporters clashed with demonstrators in Tahrir Square, which became the focal point of protests in the capital, Cairo. More than 300 protesters were killed in the uprising. Although Mubarak pledged not to run again, fired his government and appointed a vice president for the first time in his three decades of rule, the protests intensified until Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that the president had handed over power to the military.

Protesters have continued to demand that the military rulers carry out reforms. On March 19, Egyptians voted in favor of constitutional changes that include limiting how long presidents can serve and determining who can run for office. However, many opposition leaders said the vote was rushed. The military government has said it will lift the country's three-decades-old state of emergency before parliamentary elections scheduled for September. Presidential elections are slated to be held by November at the latest. Bloggers and activists have called for 1 million Egyptians to gather in Tahrir Square on April 1.

Wont Get Fooled Again

Paul Goodman on Youth Revolt in the Middle East

In light of the youth revolt spreading through out the Middle East, I thought this quote from the American anarchist Paul Goodman was appropriate, it comes from the sixties youth revolt in the U.S. which he participated in.

And there is an authentic demand for Young People's Power,
their right to take part in initiating and deciding the functions of society
that concern them—as well, of course as governing
their own lives, which are nobody else's business.
Bear in mind that we are speaking of ages seventeen
to twenty-five, when at all other times the young
would already have been launched in the real world.
The young have the right to power because they are
numerous and are directly affected by what goes on,
but especially because their new point of view is
indispensable to cope with changing conditions, they
themselves being part of the changing conditions.
This is why Jefferson urged us to adopt a new
constitution every generation.

And while American youth in the sixties were protesting the Viet-Nam war and demanding Free Speech on campuses they were experiencing a capitalist economy that was booming, despite that boom their alienation from the old Left and old Right and the rule of old men was not unlike their counterparts today in the Middle East.

A coalition of six youth groups that emerged from Egypt’s revolution last month has refused to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Cairo earlier today, in protest of the United States’ strong support for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted by the uprising.

This juncture may be unprecedented in modern Arab history. Suddenly, despotic regimes that have been entrenched for fourty years and more seem vulnerable. Two of them – in Tunis and then in Cairo – crumbled before our eyes in a few weeks. Others in Tripoli and Sanaa are fighting to survive. The old men who dominate the rest suddenly look their age, and the distance between them and most of their populations, born decades after them, has never been greater. An apparently frozen political situation has melted overnight in the heat of the popular upsurge that began in Tunisia and Egypt, and now is spreading. We are all privileged to be experiencing a world-historical moment, when fixed verities vanish and new potentials and forces emerge. Perhaps one day some of us can say, as Wordsworth said of the French Revolution, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”

At its core, the uprising from Tunis to Sana is a youth revolt and it can be sparked elsewhere in the world, whether the local government is run by monarchs, generals or kleptocratic elected officials.

Observers have identified decades of oppressive rule and growing economic disparity as the main factors behind the Arab upheaval. One aspect that has not received adequate attention is the anger of the region's youth populations, educated and unemployed, most of whom have known only one ruler in their lifetimes. Products of high fertility rates and low investment in education and job creation, these young adults fear ending their lives as poor, unmarried and marginalised in their own societies. They demand democracy in order to take charge of their lives and to build a future, but what they crave most is the dignity of employment and a normal family life.

Population growth in the Arab region followed by rise in life expectancy has created a youth bulge, not unlike in India. The total number of youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24) has grown nearly two and half times in 30 years, with 60% of Arabs aged between 15 and 59 years. (In India, the same demographic accounts for 56.9%.)

This young workforce and low dependency rate would have been welcomed as a "demographic dividend", as it is in India. In theory, young workers could have supplied the world's labour force and - with only 6% of the population over 60 - increased the savings rate. But the region's failure to generate employment and offer education and skill-sets matching jobs has instead created a demographic disaster. The region's single largest unemployed group comprises educated youth below 25, whom a recent ILO report on unemployment called a "lost generation".

Mother Tells UN’s Ban How Son’s Suicide Sparked Tunisian Revolt

“I am proud of my son, my son who contributed to the liberation of Tunisia,” Manoubieh Bouazizi said following her 10-minute meeting with Ban at the Regency Hotel in Tunis. Her comments in Arabic were translated into French by one of her daughters. “I am sure where my son is, he is happy.”

To support his extended family, including a sister at university, Bouazizi sold fruit and vegetables on a street in rural Sidi Bouzid, a four-hour drive from the capital. He was harassed and heckled by local police for not having a permit and his cart, the source of his livelihood, was confiscated. That final humiliation was the last straw.

“The real violation was the affront to Mohamed Bouazizi’s sense of human dignity,” Ban said. “The daily indignities, the crushing of a people’s potential.”

Students study unrest in the Middle East

Faris said the recent Arab revolutions are all important waves of democracy. He said the incident in Tunisia where a fruit-seller set himself on fire to protest the government was the catalyst in Egypt. There are many other factors to the recent revolts and one very notable cause is the passion of the youth. The youth make up the most of the population of the protesters.

Fashandi said the role young people are playing in the uprisings throughout the Middle East is vital. "It is amazing to see the factors which separate the Egyptian people such as religion and social class, and instead focuses on the common goal of basic human rights and democracy," said Fashandi.

Faris said it is important to note that the youth are at the forefront of the revolutions in the Middle East. "What happened in Tunisia and Egypt is a reminder to all of us that young people really do have the power to bring about important changes, both in the Middle East and here."


For the Revolutionary Youth in the Middle East


Starting with the Luddites, the 19th Century machine breakers, sabotage was one way workers resisted exploitation on the job, by stopping the machines that made them work harder. In the 21st Century the new sabotage is to resist work, especially 'team work' and all the management participation programs by becoming disengaged from the work you do, in other words, by marking time on the job, taking sick time, stress leave, and when you are working doing as little as possible.

a recent Gallup survey of 47,000 workers around the world which showed that that Australian workers are among the most dissatisfied in the world with only 18 percent of Australian respondents saying they are fully engaged in their work.“Compounding these results,” writes John Belchamber, “is the finding that almost two thirds of Australian employees are emotionally detached from their employer and only do the minimum amount of work to avoid getting dismissed. 20% of dissatisfied respondents describe themselves as ”actively disengaged” – disliking their organisation, hating their boss and being indifferent to their job. But rather than leaving their jobs, they’re spending their time spreading their negativity amongst others in their team’s.” At the bottom of the table: Singapore and China. A staggering 98 per cent of employees in those two countries admit they’re disengaged with their work, preferring to be doing something else somewhere else. Twenty-three per cent of the British and Kiwis are engaged, one in five Canadians are happy with their work, and in the US, surprisingly, 28 per cent of workers experience high rates of job satisfaction. Overall, the global average is 27 per cent.The problem of employee disengagement is now widely recognized. Its cost to the bottom line has been demonstrated. Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line, while
breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to the bottom line to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.

Rather than making work productive perhaps it is time we abolished work, wage slavery that is, replacing it with another concept; play. Making work not about production but about our pleasure and happiness, rather than the drudgery we face day in day out, no matter how many happy managers we have telling us to be happy. The work we do is not satisfying our emotional and human needs, it is not playful or fulfilling, it is simply a way of paying the bills.

Or as Herr Doctor Marx once said communism means there is no contradiction between play and work since nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes . . . to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic” (The German Ideology, Tucker, 160).

It’s not so much what you do, or the money you make, but the level of satisfaction you have with your work and yourself that is of ultimate importance. Your level of job satisfaction carries into all other areas of your life, consciously or subconsciously.

But because most people’s mindset is “how can I work less and play more”, they live for the weekends, obsess about vacations, and dream of the day they retire. (I can’t tell you how many friends and family members I’ve seen fall into a major depression within months of retiring due to the shock that it doesn’t really fulfill their life’s dream) Their sole motivation for work is to not have to work anymore.

Work is work - whether you love it or not. A job is still a job and at it’s core it’s about making money for survival. And while I love what I do, if money was no object, I’d much rather be traveling with my wife, playing with my dog, or dominating 12 year olds in Call of Duty.

According to Frost and Klein (1979), play and work probably lie on a continuum.
However, play can be differentiated from work by defining their unique characteristics.

What makes play "play" and work "work"? Play has at least four fundamental qualities that distinguish it from work; it is designed primarily for its own enjoyment, it is controlled by the child, it has a dose of fantasy, and it is internally motivated.

Play is designed primarily for its own enjoyment. Typically, the process of play
is what is important, not the product. However, work is designed for a product. Work is engaged in for what may be gained as a result (Lefrancios, 1986).
The quality and quantity of play is controlled by the child (McKee, Play working
partner of growth, 1986). When the child decides that he or she no longer wants to play, all the adult encouragement cannot recover the play. However, work is controlled by others. In fact, if a child is required to continue to play even when he doesn't want to, it turns into work.

Work is typically designed for a product, controlled externally, based on reality,
and externally motivated. When a person is required to work, a product is usually
expected to stem from the work. Furthermore, this product is often judged by some
criteria as reflecting "good" work or "poor" work. The judging criteria is determined by some external "correct" model. Good work is reinforced, poor work is usually reprimanded.

Because work entails a product and a judgment, people can easily determine
whether change has taken place in the person’s behavior. Thus, if the product comes closer with the model, or the person produces more (i.e., quality and/or quantity increases) one can say behavior has changed or learning has taken place.
The influences of work is not always with a product. Work is also associated with
stress, ulcers, suicide, feigned illness, etc. It is interesting to note that as our schools have instituted more product oriented teaching, there has been an increase in the incidence of stress and other problems with children.

Has the time come to abandon the Protestant work ethic? As technology advances and the structure of work changes, Pat Kane suggests a different, more creative philosophy to suit the new era

DOES the devil necessarily make work for idle hands? The most momentous changes in the structure of employment are upon us: it is time we looked anew at our oldest prejudices. With the information age transforming all social co-ordinates, we should think about a replacement for the work ethic - in a world where work, as we know it, is evaporating before our eyes. I bid for the play ethic.

The objection to this is simple: how can you sustain a work ethic, when work itself is deconstructing before our very eyes? The massive shifts towards short-term contracts, part-time work, self-employment and manufacturing-to-services are well enough documented. Their causes - new technology, global competition, individualism - are recognised and accepted by most of us. And it is a standby of current social thought that the relentless automation of labour - mental and manual - is laying in store an unemployment problem of massive proportions.

Around 75% of the labour force in any industrial nation is doing little more than simple repetitive tasks, and is thus potentially automatable: less than 5% of companies round the world have begun to use new technologies fully in their workplace (an excerpt from Jeremy Rifkin's The End of Work).

Intellectually at least, the case can be made for play's virtues. Psychologist DW Winnicott cited play as the "creation of personality" - that exciting sharing of self and world that make new ideas possible. The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga has called us Homo Ludens: in that exhaustive book, he states that "pure play is one of the main bases of civilisation". And in the sciences of complexity, play is regarded as the central process that brings order to the chaos of natural creation - in the words of biologist Brian Goodwin, "our creativity is essentially similar to the creativity that is the stuff of evolution".
Of course there can be a downside to ending the work play divide.

According to Prensky, for Digital Natives "play is work and work is increasingly seen in terms of games and game play".21 This ethos has not gone unnoticed by some larger organizations, such as the American Army. The army has changed their approach to recruit instruction. Since the majority of the American army's recruits are between the ages of 18 and 22 and require wide- ranging training, the army has developed "an extensive array of gaming simulations"22 to help teach their recruits with great results.

But let's leave the last word to someone who understood the work play dialectic well, Mark Twain;

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it–namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
Take This Job And Shove It



The End Of The Leisure Society

Black History Month; Paul Lafargue

Take Time From the Boss

Work Sucks

Time For The Four Hour Day

Goof Off Day

The Right To Be Greedy