June 25, 2012

We're Doing It To Ourselves

We're not thinking about it, I can tell. We give it lip service, if that, and go our merry way. We're not going to change, and so whatever I'm saying won't mean much. Our own convenience means more than the bigger picture. We don't like libertarians, but we've been influenced by them just the same, because "it's not my problem" (the foundation of libertarian ethics) has moved into the central control booth in our lives. But hear me out.

We do our banking online. It not only exposes us to some degree of vulnerability, but it means less cashiers at the window, and less associates at the desks to work with. Bank doesn't have to hire as many people. Jobs are lost.

We do our bill paying online. It not only exposes us to some degree of vulnerability (I've had to cancel or change accounts for three credit card already, and it happens with regularity everywhere), it also means less people have to process the mail. No need for all these people opening envelopes. No need for all these people to process checks. No need for printers to print checks. No need for stamps. No need for the people who print stamps or sell them at the window of the post office. No need for the post office to have so many people. Jobs are lost.

They say "if I pay my bills online I am saving trees." But if you have any bills you pay by mail, just look at the little recycled symbol almost everywhere. Virtually no bills and billings are printed on "new" paper. The "save a tree" argument is bogus.

We buy things online. There still has to be someone to pack the order, ship it and deliver it. But who needs people at the counter? When was the last time you were at a mall or a commercial district? When you were there, did you notice how many people aren't behind the counters? Those jobs are gone.

Add this to the political climate and you have a problem. The big move is now to reduce "government spending" (not the military, of course, that would be unpatriotic), which will translate into cutting back government hours, government programs, and the people who run and administer them. Jobs will be lost. And the vicious, mean-spirited conservative will look at people from the Occupy movement and snarl "get a job." Exactly where that job is, however, remains a mystery.

We'd love to find someone to blame. But I think we're just doing it to ourselves.

There's a bit about public works in here...

Recorded during the Bush Presidency.

June 11, 2012

Anarchism and the Computer Age

"Anarchist Women of Spain"

There's more to "anarchism" than meets the eye. It isn't just a matter of protesting and eventually not participating in an election wherein you get a choice between two different brands of control over many aspects of your life, it is also a matter of conscience and observation.

I've mentioned before about an old friend of mine in Arizona named Fred Woodworth. He's the guy who has been continuously publishing the anarchist zine The Match! since 1969, and we even got a small mention in the Spring 2012 issue (so now I'm probably on a hundred different watch lists I guess... as if the Scientologists didn't already have me there).

But Fred is off the grid, as I mentioned, meaning he had brought a good healthy dose of anarchic skepticism about the net, and I thought it might be provoking to copy him here. Maybe provide some interesting reading as opposed to my usual tripe.

Okay, before you throw this magazine out in disgust, read on for just a moment.

Try to recall life of several decades ago. The activities carried out in the course of a day involved dozens, perhaps hundreds, of disparate operations: playing a record, taking a picture, paying a bill, conferring with an associate or friend, seeing a movie, writing a letter, going to the library or bookstore, doing homework, setting up a dental appointment, reading a newspaper, writing a comment for publication in the paper...

To do all these things you went to a lot of places, moved about, functioned diversely in and all over your town and city. More and more today, though, all of that human scope is being compressed down and moved in and out of your home on a couple of small wires (or a fiberoptic cable). How much easier this is for someone who might want to, and who has the power to, watch and control.

Pay attention to the routine news reports, and a phrase will begin to stand out in many of the accounts of arrests, investigations, etc.: "Authorities seized his computer" or "have started looking at his home computer files..." The presumption, and it is probably accurate, is that this accused person's entire legal existence is stored in one small box. They don't have to hunt around, go to the bank, bookstore, library, school, trashcan - they just have to grab this one little box.

There, everything resides: political affiliations, tastes in women (or men). If a person has made a disapproved or unwise comment or thought about or discussed some illegal act, it will be easily possible to both discover and prove that fact - something that would have demanded, in most cases, a stupendous and paralyzingly daunting amount of effort just a few years ago. Thus it is no accident (italics are Woodworth's) there is such a relentless push to force all life into this digital regimentation. Here it's not the normal climate just yet, although it's approaching that condition fast, and countless misguided enthusiasts for the new controlling technology seem to work tirelessly to cajole hold outs to get with the program. They're like dopers at a party where someone declines a joint - almost personally offended.

Where this has or should have significance for anarchists is in the fact that a free society cannot possibly exist under circumstances in which so much of your life passes through a cable smaller than a pencil and resides in a box smaller than a suitcase.

As a complete outsider only observing this horror from a distance, I can nonetheless imagine how hard it probably is for anyone to break such an addiction. Still, I urge you to try to do so.

Begin by resolving to draw the line at any further incursions. SEE the pattern - the "twitters", the Facebooks, the MySpace so-called pages, the "chat rooms" ad infinitum as a series that will not stop. They are a constantly escalating takeover of your humanity.

Move back down the scale; try consciously to use the computer and internet for less and less. If you can eventually break the habit entirely, good, though I'm not saying computers are somehow mystically evil. If you can get their use down to a small reasonable level, that's good too (though the moneyed interests and misguided pushers will never be content to let you alone at that low involvement).

Even if everyone reading this dropped out of the modern obsession next week it probably wouldn't make much difference; but on the other hand a vast social healing has to start somewhere - if it isn't too late already.

Fred Woodworth

And by the way, if you like good reading, that constitutes barely one page of the Spring issue, which consists of 71 pages. Well worth the time.

But I call that food for thought, Fred (not that he'd ever be reading this). I've never liked online banking, for instance. It just seems too easy to get to for anyone determined enough. I know some people for whom that would be a game just to see if they could do it.

My growing suspicion of the internet is tempered by the knowledge that at least one evil cult has been ruined by the device, and yet my involvement with that is easily traceable.


June 08, 2012

Do You Send Him?

When they had the strike that killed the World Series, and then the steroid thing, and all of that, I lost it on baseball like a lot of other people. For years I spent my summers just waiting for football to start up again. Spent the summers barely paying attention to the game. And if the teams that made it to the World Series were interesting maybe I'd watch then. Maybe. But that was it.

You know when I was 6 it was 1959 and of course that was the year the city of Chicago blew the air raid sirens on the night the Sox won the pennant in Cleveland. And I was big into baseball cards. Baseball cards were spread out on the front porch, divided up into teams, carefully rubber-banded, and if a guy was traded during the season he'd get moved to the right team. You'd trade your "doubles" for cards you didn't have and on some summer days you'd put the cards in order of the lineup in the newspaper. Then the first place team was put on top and so on.

There'd be pick-up games every day. Basically three or four guys on a side; pitcher's hands out, right field is foul. No walks. Yes strikeouts. We'd get a white rubber ball from Harold's candy store and march on over to the concrete school yard at St. Mary's and get into it. "I don't want Joey on my team." Etc...

In those days WGN did all the home games for both teams. The Cubs and Sox were never in town at the same time (they still schedule it that way) and whoever was in town the WGN crew with its cheesy video overlays and dorky Jack Brickhouse would call the game, capturing "baseball headlines as they are being made." WGN radio always started their broadcasts (Cubs) with this thing (don't spend a lot of time on that, it's really 50's schmaltz). So there was always a ball game.

My Dad played shortstop for Lane Tech and was in the same high school infield with Phil Cavaretta. My dad played short and I'm told he was scouted, but he had to drop out of school because of the Depression. Cavaretta went to the Hall of Fame. But my dad was raised in a tavern his father owned. So he knew all the bartenders in the neighborhood, and one gave him this Hamm's Beer scoreboard with turn dials for all the innings and teams, and the Hamm's bear with a baseball cap - the kind of thing they'd put up in locals taverns for decoration or something. And on summer days we weren't playing a game I'd have the ballgame on and keep diligent track of the inning-by-inning score so that I could show him when he got home.

Of course I played little league when we moved out of the city - and that was where I saw the first signs that maybe I'd be a better fan than a player. This was later confirmed my freshman year in high school. Couldn't hit a curve OR a fastball. So I joined the theater group instead. But baseball was always there.

As years went on the games were broadcast home and away on different channels And before I was married when I was working nights if they were playing in California I'd get home and just pray the Sox (or, okay, Cubs too) game was still on so I could catch a few innings. Yes, even stoned out of my mind. Toking up just got you more into the strategy of it, see?

I could hang on every pitch like a true denizen. Do you send the runner on 2 and 1 or wait for 3 and 1 when you know he's got to put one in there. 2 and 1 is a little surprise. Better be a good base stealer. I'd sit there like the manager - every pitch count meant a different turn of possibilities.

And this was what I lost when, as cynicism and out of whack salaries and cheating and the true story of the assholes who owned clubs came to light, and expansion seemed to dissipate the talent on the field. I let it spoil all that I had once. I let it creep into my psyche and destroy my heritage and a whole entire part of my childhood. Maybe the biggest part.

And now I'm back. I've been back since around 2000 but even then it wasn't like now. In 2000 i was just getting my feet wet again. Now I'm all in. If there's a game on I'm watching it. I catch a few innings of a game if they're playing a day game (Cubs or Sox, so shoot me) before I shlep in to work.

And I find that the people who also used to have baseball in their lives, and no longer do, are as bitter about it as I was - but something else too. They miss it. What's more they know they're missing it. I'm not talking about people who were never in to it, I'm talking about guys like myself who did nothing but baseball between the ages of 6 and 11 and then dropped it. They know they're missing something even if they can't put their finger on it.

And the funny thing is that baseball forgives. You show up at a game and it's like you never left. The players go about their business of setting themselves in the box, tugging their shirts, wiggling their pitching arm and all the while you're sitting there... "If he can't bend that curveball he's going to get popped." "One more in that spot and this guy's going to crush it." "I don't get why the outfield is shaded to the left so much on this guy. That's a tip-off they're going to keep the ball outside." "Well he's not a dead pull hitter." "The count's 2 and 1, do you send him?"