P.O. Box 230351
Encinitas, CA 92023
December 7, 1993
President Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
Vice President Al Gore
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
I think Clinton and Gore are doing a great job. I give them credit on the Budget Plan for doing something about deficit reduction. It is easy for critics like Perot to carp that it doesn't go far enough, but then I think Clinton got the best plan he could have and still have gotten it passed through Congress. Politics is the art of the politically possible and you or I or Clinton himself could probably have come up with a better plan, but it wouldn't have passed Congress so what good would it be? The pundits criticized Clinton because the Plan passed by the narrowest of margins. I think, for that reason alone, it was a brilliant victory. Think about it. If the plan had been any stronger, it wouldn't have passed. If it had been weaker and more watered down, it would have passed by a greater margin. By definition, the best and strongest plan will pass by the narrowest of margins. Clinton crafted the strongest plan possible that would still get passed and enacted into law and deserves great credit for doing so.
Clinton is becoming a masterful politician. His strategy of letting a big issue such as health care or NAFTA sit out there for weeks and months, be discoursed on and bandied about is at once elucidative, educational, drawing the public into public discussion and involvement, and yet again shrewd politics in that it doesn't give the lobbyists a hard target to shoot at, causes them to expend their resources over a longer period of time stretching them thin while Clinton marshals his own formidable lobbying resources: those of the Federal Government. To think that the public was actually involved in discussing an issue as arcane as NAFTA is to realize how much Clinton has changed the modus operandi from the Reagan Bush era during which such an issue would have been sound-bited and the public treated to a display of smoke and mirrors instead of a serious discussion. Clinton has become in effect the Lobbyist in Chief for his own causes and well he might. He again has turned the Presidency into an effective agency for pursuing an agenda instead of simply an agency for proposing legislation that is a sitting duck for lobbyists to shoot down. For political skills, he gets an A. For pursuing a meaningful agenda, he also gets an A. For doing this in tough times against tough opposition, he gets an A.
Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Programmers
While Clinton has done a creditable job with deficit reduction and NAFTA and will go down as the best President of the century if he can pull off a National Health Care Plan, the one thing that he and his administration don't seem to have a clue about is job creation. But not to feel bad—neither does anyone else. Anyway it's not the government's responsibility to create jobs, right? It's the private sectors. Right? WRONG! Since when does the private sector have a responsibility to anything other than the bottom line? They're in the business of decreasing costs and increasing profits, and that means taking it's labor input—and to business labor is nothing more than that: an input—wherever and however it's least expensive. So wake up Americans, it's really nobody's responsibility to create jobs except your own—that is if you want a job.
The whole developed world—at least Europe and the US—is having their lunch handed to them by the developing world which is flooding world markets with low price, high quality goods. That is why the US and Europe are losing jobs. The low labor costs and high skill levels of the developing world are capturing the developed world's markets and jobs. And it gets even worse from there.
Automation, computerization and robotization1 are reducing the need for labor at any cost and promise to replace even low cost, third world labor. Automated machines promise to replace precisely those jobs that are middle class, blue collar, manufacturing jobs, but not those jobs at the lower rung of the economic ladder such as janitorial work. It may come as a surprise to some people that it requires more intelligence to clean a toilet than to spot weld an automobile. Here's why. Computers and robots are programmed to follow a set of step by step instructions called algorithms. In a carefully controlled environment such as an assembly line, the cars are each spot welded in exactly the same way with no variation. Hence, it is easy to formulate an algorithm and get a robot to do this job. It is not as easy to formulate an algorithm for cleaning a toilet because the dirt distribution pattern varies from toilet to toilet. Only a human can decide to rub a little harder here and not so hard there since there is a really dirty spot here and the toilet is relatively clean there. Therefore, these lower skilled, lower paying jobs are precisely the jobs that will be left in the economy when the jobs that can be more algorithmically formulated (which are the higher paying jobs) are taken over by computers.
The new Macintosh AV computers feature voice recognition which will soon eliminate another genre of jobs: the order taker. When you call an 800 number to place an order, the whole process will soon be automated due to computerized voice recognition. AT&T is already using voice recognition to replace operators since now the computer can understand the word "collect" as well as a number of other words. The advent of the virtual corporation means that there will be virtually no employees. For new corporations starting out, there will be no need to downsize since they will never upsize. A PO Box and an 800 number that can ring anywhere and the virtual corporation will be simply a computer in a room (or a garage) somewhere. The owner could be on the ski slopes at Chamonix and needs only to check his E-mail once a day. The computer will take orders, debit credit cards, add names and addresses to the data base, generate mailing labels, drop the required product (already packaged) into a slot, slap on the mailing label, drop the box into a chute, and have Federal Express pick up the outgoing mail once a day. This type of corporation I also call the "Wizard of Oz" corporation because what seems like a big operation can actually be carried on by one guy behind a control console manipulating the smoke and mirrors. Only he can check in with the console remote. Remember, he's on the ski slopes at Chamonix.
So I think the very concept of a job as the mainstream method for earning a living and providing for one's own and one's family's material needs is on the way out. It has only been a mainstream concept for the last 100 to 200 years anyway since roughly the Enlightenment and the advent of capitalism. Throughout most of recorded history, most people were either slaves or self-subsisting farmers with a small class of owners or overlords. Today we're reverting back to the same reality with a difference: there is no need for the vast quantities of manual labor that was necessary during the eras before the Industrial Revolution when most everything was produced by hand. That guaranteed almost everyone a gig (if not a job) as a peasant or slave (virtually the same thing in most societies).
Consider the concept of unemployment. If we considered every individual as basically a self-employed person who contracted out his or her services from time to time to other corporations, then unemployment is just another name for self-employment. It's all in how one perceives one's self. Some people perceive of themselves as unemployed the minute they lose a job; some people as self-employed. I think we're entering an era in which there will be a small class of owners of wealth as in every era up to the modern era, a somewhat larger class of self-employed contractors who will be in demand for their services and who will do well as the stonemasons did in the Middle Ages, and a large class of self-employed contractors (let's call them squeegeemen) who won't do well because their labor will be more or less superfluous—sort of a neo-peasantry. The notion of a job as a mainstream vehicle created by society for individuals to acquire the economic means for survival will lose its meaning. The Third World model of a small extremely wealthy class living among a large class of extremely poor people (private wealth, public squalor) will win out.
(PRIVATE WEALTH, PUBLIC SQUALLOR) max
But I thought this was supposed to be nirvana—the day when computers and robots would do all the work. It is if you're an owner of assets, one whose income is from so-called "unearned income". It's not if you need to make a living from a job—if your income is from "earned income". By the way, I predict those pejorative distinctions will disappear as they are due to Enlightenment biases. The more enlightened countries will spread the wealth from the profit centers around to those who aren't fortunate enough to be owners of wealth through taxation and social programs. The less enlightened countries will let the suddenly dispensable work force fend for themselves thus adopting the third world model of immense wealth amid immense and widespread poverty.
The biggest joke of all is that we're going to keep all the high tech, high wage jobs here while letting the rest of the world do the low tech, low wage jobs. Labor Secretary Robert Reich needs to have his head examined. By what mechanism other than sheer arrogance does he intend to keep the high tech, high wage jobs here? American high tech companies are already bringing third world computer programmers here on dubious visas2, paying them sweatshop wages and laying off the high wage American programmers. Or, alternatively, they are farming the work out to them in the third world countries. Russia and India especially have highly trained and skilled cadres of computer programmers who will work for a small fraction of American wages. I, myself, had the opportunity of hiring four—count em—four Russian computer programmers for $200. a month—that's for all four!
Instead of nirvana we are seeing the menialization, deprofessionalization and trivialization of labor. Labor unions are increasingly irrelevant and a force not to be reckoned with. The recent American Airlines flight attendants' strike is a case in point. Management (among other things) wanted the flight attendants to clean the cabins after they had served the passengers and the passengers had departed. Alright, time to take off your flight attendant's hat and put on your janitor's hat! Double duty! Thanks to Clinton this is one of the very few battles labor has won in recent history in the US. Contrast this with the Air France strike which closed airports in France. As usual in Europe management backed down and labor won.
Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done to increase the number of jobs. We're entering a post-labor world! This would be good news if ownership of the material assets and resources were spread around more or less equally or if income derived from wealth were taxed heavily and these monies spread around. Then we would see a reduction in the work week for everyone and an increase in leisure time for everyone. The sphere of the work world would diminish for everyone. What is clear now is that this is unlikely to happen at least in the US where taxes are anathema, labor unions are weak and private ownership rights are paramount. Whether Europe, where the welfare state is entrenched, labor unions are strong and paid vacations run to six weeks a year, can pull it off remains to be seen. Europe will probably become more protectionist although in very sophisticated ways which don't carry the taint of being labeled protectionist. They will resist developing world assaults on their markets and endeavor to keep their trade in balance even while US trade deficits will continue to increase.
WHY AMERICA MISSED THE BOAT ON THE VAT TAX
The Value Added Tax (VAT) is a tax that's added to every stage of production in Europe and other places. It's one thing that drives up the cost of consumer goods in those societies. When a foreign importer seeks to import goods into those societies, he must pay the whole tax in one fell swoop that was paid in stages for goods manufactured within the society. This does two things: it discourages imports much in the way that tariffs do, BUT without the taint of protectionism thus encouraging domestic production and domestic job creation AND it provides windfall tax revenues for the government so that it can 1) stay out of debt, 2) provide social services for its citizens and 3) decrease taxes on its own citizens. As the world's largest importer, the US is missing the boat in letting importers into our markets off scot free! The trade deficit is a direct reflection of American jobs being transported overseas. The $23 billion trade deficit with China this year is a direct reflection of wealth and jobs being sucked out of the US and into China, a communist country by the way. I guess Marx was right when he said, "Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves."
THE RUSH TO END BOVINE FLATULENCE?
The "Talent on Loan From God" guy, Rush Limbo is ubiquitous. The number 1 radio talk show in 11 major markets, books on the Best Seller List, a TV show—the list goes on and on. There are even designated "Rush Rooms" and "Rush Fests." What next, the Rush Youth?
Now I know Rush has his differences with the "Spotted Owl Types." In his diatribes against saving the forests, Rush (the only good tree is a log) Limbo carries on his exposition against a background of special theme music involving the sounds of chain saws and a guy yelling "Timberrr" periodically. But I do know that Rush cares very much, if not passionately, about the environment. Of course, the Rush Youth will need summer jobs, and knowing Rush's dedication to cleaning up the environment, a project to eliminate one of the major causes of greenhouse gasses, bovine flatulence, might indeed be in order. The project would involve the detection, measurement and monitoring of bovine flatulence in an exhaustive and definitive study to determine the extent of damage done to the environment as a result of the world's appetite for hamburger. First, the ambient bovine flatulence level would be established for a test herd of, say, 1000 individuals. Then the flatulence level per cow would be established as a function of 1) time of day; 2) diet; 3) weather conditions etc. This would involve the placement of an Individual Cow Flatulence Monitoring Device (ICFMD) in the appropriate position for each test individual. This might be facilitated by the use of a personal, propeller-driven VTOL craft especially designed for this purpose. The Rush Youth trainee would hover behind the cow in such a way as to avoid hoof in the mouth disease and endeavor to attach the ICFMD while the cow is still complacent. Of course, as a last resort tranquilizer dart guns might be necessary.
If a cow is especially uncooperative, the trained nose, le nez sensitif, can be used to get a rough gauge of the situation which can be almost as accurate as the sophisticated instrumentation itself. This is also known as the seat of the pants method. At some point, Rush, himself, I'm sure, will demonstrate the techniques required. Hovering behind the cow in his VTOL, le corps corpulent, the instrumentation failing, resorting to la nez sensitif, his Talent on Loan from God marshaled in a prodigious effort to be le chef du pet flaireurs, le plus grand pet flaireur du monde. Il sent bon, Monsieur?
The Rush Youth would have to be divided into echelons in order to teach the ones in the higher echelons the thrill of dominating the ones in the lower echelons and the ones of lower rank to unquestioningly submit to their superiors. Might I suggest the Little Dittos, the Dittos, the Big Dittos and the Mega Dittos as the four different ranks which would give the Youth a taste of hierarchy and power structure?
Apropos, I spoke to the Pope about this Talent on Loan from God business and he assured me that it wasn't really true, that only he, the Pope, really had Talent on Loan from God, that he considered it in bad taste and possibly even blasphemous that a mere talk show host should engage in such numinous posturing, that he had probably struck a Faustian bargain, that saying Talent on Loan from God was equivalent to his placing himself on the same level with God, that God created the universe and everything in it including him so how could God loan him anything, that the word "loan" sort of made God appear to be too market oriented, that here was a man who was really carried away with himself, that Hitler with his campy little torchlight processions and Krystal Nacht couldn't hold a candle to him, that the term, blitzkreig, now applied to mass media market penetration and that God makes grants—not loans—anyway!
Le plume est plus formidable que le sabre, n'est-ce pa?
Liberation of the Instincts Meets the Litigious Society or Why NAFTA is Like Sex
Last year I was against NAFTA because I too could hear that giant sucking sound of jobs going to Mexico and the equally giant sucking sound of Third World labor being sucked up here. But now I've relaxed and learned to go with the slurp. Nobody really knows what is going to happen with NAFTA, but it at least increases the good will between the US and Mexico which is not an inconsiderable asset especially if Europe retreats into a Fortress which I predict it will because they're not going to sit back and let their markets be assaulted with cheaply produced foreign goods. Look at it this way: We will have a $23 billion trade deficit with China this year. That represents goods consumed by us that weren't produced here. If those goods were produced here, that $23 billion would translate into x number of jobs that don't exist because those jobs have been effectively exported to China. A communist country is literally eating out lunch!
There will have to be 10 times as many pages of regulations to regulate "free trade" as there were when we didn't have free trade just as there are 80 pages of documentation at Antioch College to define what is appropriate sexual conduct in every conceivable situation while, before we were sexually liberated, we didn't need pages and pages of regulations. Just one basic rule: Don't get the girl pregnant.
It is a new era in relations between the sexes. I can see the following scenario or something like it being enacted in the near future.
Senator Perkwood: Mrs. Wiggins, would you consider it sexual harassment if I jumped up out of this chair and planted a big smacker right on your mouth?
Mrs. Wiggins: Why no, Senator Perkwood.
Senator Perkwood: Let the record so state.
Senator Perkwood: Now Mrs. Wiggins, would you be offended if I chased you around the room grabbing at your breasts and buttocks?
Miss Jones: Why no, Senator Perkwood.
Senator Perkwood: Let the record so state.
Senator Perkwood: Now Mrs. Wiggins. If I got up on my desk, dropped my pants and whistled Dixie, would you consider that sexual harassment?
Mrs. Wiggins: Now, Senator Perkwood, you've gone too far. The very idea that you think that I would sit here and let you do something so abominable, so obnoxious, so humiliating, so degrading..... Do you know "Battle Hymn of the Republic?
Or this scenario:
He: May I have your permission to touch you here?
She: Yes, but not an inch lower.
He: May I have your permission to touch you here?
She: Yes, but not an inch higher.
15 minutes later...
He: May I have your permission to touch you here?
She: No, an inch higher.
He: May I have your permission to touch you here?
She: An inch lower. An inch lower!
AlGore-ithm for the Information Interstate
Some people say Al Gore ain't got no rhythm, but I disagree. They call him "wooden," the perfect pejorative because it doesn't have an antonym. What would its opposite be? If you said plastic, that would have negative connotations. If you said malleable, that would have an unpleasant ring. If you said pliable, that wouldn't work so there's nothing to say but he's NOT wooden. He's serene, composed, thoughtful, in-charge, and I bet Perot thinks so too.
If the new information superhighway were a road, it would resemble more a network of privately owned turnpikes where one would stop every few miles to pay tolls. Well, what the hell, if the interstate system had been built during the Reagan era, that's what it would have resembled. Pretty soon we'll have 500 channels of TV and a wealth of information at our fingertips. Computers, TVs and telephones will merge into an information appliance which will allow us to dial up movies, order pizzas, take a walking tour of the Louvre and have the evening news personally tailored to the topics we're interested in and shown on demand. The trouble is what is the market for these kinds of services. In other words: is anyone really interested? We already have two information appliances: the radio and the TV. Have you ever tried to find any information on the radio lately? With the exception of the token PBS station, there is scant information available. There is no lack of grunge rock, rap music, shock jocks and other garbage but hardly anything one would call information! Oh sure, there is a token classical station in every market and perhaps a jazz station that fades out during the Charlie Parker solo.
With 500 TV stations available one might think that one station could be devoted to walking tours through the Uffizi, the Kunst Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one to science, one to nothing but classical music, one to the Smithsonian, one to the Library of Congress, one to legal information dial-upon demand etc., etc. What we are really likely to get are one station devoted to nothing but football where the viewer gets to choose among a variety of camera angles, one devoted to topless tractor pulls, one to medieval jousting, one to drag racing, one to female mud wrestling (heavy), one to female mud wrestling (light), one to motorcycle jumping, one to professional wrestling, one to nude bungee jumping etc. etc.
Here's some stuff which is sort of a grab bag of unrelated items.
Item 1) Prediction: The Baby Bells will put the answering machine manufacturers out of business by answering the phone after a few rings and taking a message. Voice mail will become just another adjunct to the home phone like call waiting and call forwarding.
Item 2) Here's an idea for somebody to patent and make a bundle on. One of the biggest water wasters is when you turn on the hot water and then wait till the water actually turns hot. All that water just goes down the drain and is wasted. Since fresh water from aquifers is only a partially renewable resource, water conservation is important. Hot water pipes could be constructed with a return path to the hot water heater. There would be a temperature sensor at the faucet so that, until the water temperature was high enough, the faucet wouldn't open but instead the cold water would be routed back to the hot water heater. Millions of gallons of water could be saved this way.
Item 3) Switzerland generates a lot of its electricity hydroelectrically and then runs its excellent train system with the power. So not only is electricity generated without pollution by a renewable resource but the trains operate without producing pollution. The best of all possible worlds. Nikolai Tesla, the great electrical engineer who invented AC electricity, the AC polyphase electrical motor, radio and many other things had an idea for the transmission of electrical power through the atmosphere. We should look into the idea of cooperating with Canada to harness the mighty rivers that flow north into the Arctic Ocean, generate hydroelectric power and then transmit it to the US.
Item 4) It takes ten times the energy to ship by truck than it takes to ship by rail. Truck tag fees do not pay for the maintenance of the interstates. Truckers are subsidized at public expense whereas railroads have to pay for all the maintenance and construction of their own track beds. Another example of an industry successfully shifting it's cost of doing business onto the public. The public then has the pleasure of driving hemmed in by half a dozen big rigs, happily motoring next to trucks containing hazardous chemicals, nuclear wastes and God knows what. Doesn't it make sense to have these types of products transported over their own separate rights of way? Europe has an excellent rail system most of it powered by electricity much of which is produced hydroelectrically, an excellent use of a renewable, non-polluting resource. BRING BACK THE RAILROADS!!
Item 5) In the words of my relative, the immortal General William S. Rosecrans, the man who should have been in Grant's shoes receiving Lee's surrender at Appomattox, "It's the logistics, stupid!" Seriously, the man who won the Battle of Iuka anyway, after Grant (rumored to be drunk in his tent) failed to show up to execute his half of the pincers movement and then dared to criticize Grant and Secretary of War Stanton who then proceeded not to send him reinforcements and supplies and ordered him into battle where he got his ass kicked at the Battle of Chickamauga following which Grant signed the orders relieving him of his command, deserves to have his story told. It is in a 500 page biography, "The Edge of Glory." But, how about a movie?! Well, having a major street named after him in both San Diego and LA is some kind of glory, isn't it? And he was in Congress speaking against a bill to reinstate Grant's pension after Grant had gone bankrupt. (It passed anyway.)
Item 6) If I legally changed my name to Snoop Doggy Dogg and then tried to cash in on Snoop Doggy Dogg's million dollar name recognition by some ruse or other like publishing a slim volume of, er, doggerel perhaps?, could the real Snoop Doggy Dogg, who probably never legally changed his name to Snoop Doggy Dogg in the first place, sue me? I wonder.
Item 7) The overall tax burden actually increased during the 80s_ since the decrease in Federal income tax rates touted so highly by the Republicans was more than offset by the increase in FICA taxes and an increase in state and local taxes with the result that, when you add together the sum of all three—Federal, state and local taxes—the American taxpayer who thought he was having his taxes cut, was actually having them increased. Joe Sixpak says, "Whoops! Forgot about those state and local taxes, and what the hell is FICA?"
There are just a few copies left of "East West Synthesis: Towards a Global Synergy," by John C. Lawrence, published by Clearview Press, 500 pages.
Have you been bored lately? I mean really bored. You haven't? Then this book is for you! Here's your chance to experience boredom in a way you've never experienced it before. The boredom induced by this book is so intense that it'll literally knock your socks off! Especially recommended for insomniacs. Guaranteed to put you to sleep within 1 hour or your money back.
Full of pompous poppycock, bewildering balderdash, pusillanimous palaverings and pretentious preachiness by a person with No Formal Training in the Field, a total dilettante! Jabbering jibberish, circuitous clap-trap and meandering mumbo-jumbo. Social Engineering to the max! Long on bombast, short on pith, this book is barely literate, semi-incoherent! If you value clarity of thought, precise use of the English language and an authoritative command of the facts, then DON'T READ THIS BOOK.
If you want one anyway, send a check for $14.95 to Clearview Press, POB 230351, Encinitas, CA 92023
1. Kennedy, Paul, "Preparing for the Twenty First Century," Random House, 1993, Chapter 5—Robotics, Automation and a New Industrial Revolution," pp. 82-94.
2. "Creating High-Tech Sweatshops," by Leslie Helm, LA Times, November 15, 1993, p. A1.
3. Phillips, Kevin, "Boiling Point," Random House, 1993, Chapter 5—The Great Tax Misrepresentation of the 1980s, pp. 103-128