Tokyo Damage Report

the readers speak, part 2

Last year, I posted  something about all the rad fan-mail I get which accidentally gets caught by my spam-filter.  It turns out,  my stupid spam-filter is still broken: here are a dozen MORE totally amazing fan-mails I got, which I almost threw out on accident. Luckily I saved them and, what's more, this time I am actually going to REPLY to them!


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2 comments Tags: , ,

yet another lacuna in the discourse: unions

I don’t know about your country, but in America, it’s impossible to have a rational discussion about unions. Conservatives hate them all, and lefties fall into one of two types: a) academics who like unions in theory because they “stick it to corporations” (but have no real-world experience dealing with unions’ bullshit), and b) union members who have no incentive to snitch on union corruption.

America is so dummin’! On the left, you can find reports decrying mis-treatment of  military or corporate whistle-blowers. And, while there’s not a lot of exposure of corporate or government wrongdoing, you can find it if you look.  Unions don’t have a tenth of the money or political clout of giant military-industrial corps, AND YET you CAN’T find whistle-blowing on THEM. Fucking weird, man.

You can’t find anyone who says, “OK, this industry’s union is pretty good, but that union over there is a bunch of   – as Zappa said – flakesssssssssssssss.”

Union corruption isn’t just mob involvement. There’s other kinds:

 INEFFICIENCY
You work in an office and need to fix a jam in a printer (or plug in a new computer). But you’re not allowed to do it yourself, you have to call the official union Maintainance Guy. Not only that but you have to fill out a request form in triplicate, and then wait 3 hours for the Maintanance Guy to show up and plug in your PC or fix your paper jam and charge you $20 for it. If you do it yourself for free in 3 seconds, the whole union goes on strike. Things like that are bad for efficiency.

WASTING MONEY
Like the guy that gets paid $100,000 to sit in the boiler room and make sure the boiler don’t explode. Like probably he checks it 2 times a day and spends the rest of the time doing ebay to make even more money.

BEING DICKS TO THEIR OWN PEOPLE
Or, some unions are cool to new members, but other unions are assholes about seniority: giving all the perks to old timers even if the old-timers are total burn-outs or fart-knockers, and screwing new guys/gals who bring a lot more energy and new ideas to the job. Again, the degree of welcome extended to newcomers is vastly different from union to union, but you’d never know it by listening to the “unions are all good”/ “Unions are all bad” pundits.

COLLUDING WITH MANAGEMENT

The degree to which union bosses represent their rank-and-file or just represent themselves. AKA are the union officials respected by the workers? AKA The degree to which bosses are willing to fight the employers.  Hmm, maybe that should be two different categories?  I mean you could go by a popularity contest: have the union members vote on how much they liked union bosses, but probably the most corrupt unions would wind up with the most popular rankings!

RECRUITING VS. FUCKING WITH NON-UNION LABOR

 some unions go out of their way to fuck with non-unionized labor all “We don’t WANT  more workers in our unions because they’ll depress wages. Get the fuck out of here!”, and other unions try to RECRUIT the non-unionized labor and HELP them.
 

 

KNOW WHAT I WOULD LIKE????

  A fucking  graph! A line, a continuum of all the major unions by industry, from most corrupt to most sincerely trying to help the rank-and-file.

This would mean taking all the metrics I detailed above (mob involvement,  standing up to management,  wasting efficiency, wasting money, seniority issues, and non-union labor outreach) and making some kind of math equation that would add them all up and generate a single number that would place them somewhere on the line.

Since all these things are deliberately secret and off-the-books,  any attempt at a ranking them would, of course, involve some guessing, un-named sources, and arbitrary opinions about how to weight the various variables of the equation. But so what?  respectable newspapers and NGOs use these kind of “best guess” rankings all the time!  From things like  GNP to national corruption index, state transparency index, quality of life rankings, etc. . .  there’s nothing new about “best guess” rankings. The only new thing would be to get one for unions.

Unfortunately,  since this doesn’t suit the interests of the American right OR the American left, it will never happen.

In other countries, is there something like this?

 

3 comments

kanjidamage updates!

Tooting my own horn:  KANJIDAMAGE, my other site, where you can learn 1,700 kanji with Yo Mama jokes, is getting a little update! The nice guys at Mobalean improved the design, and I'm about to update the content with new lookalikes. If you're interested in learning kanji, check it out.

5 comments

ANOTHER LACUNA IN THE DISCOURSE: MODERN TIMES


 
Modern times brought us a lot of good shit , including: jazz, rock, rap, movies with rad special effects, Minesweeperseparation of church and state, Nina Hagen , the Simpsons, medicine besides leeches, feminism and civil rights, heavy metal, and comic books.
 
But there are a lot of bad things about it: pollution, atomic bombs, materialism that tells you “you are what you buy,” the idea that everything goes back to normal after a 30 minute episode, shallowness, the homogenization of local cultures, a mentality that everything is a plastic throw-away, the idea that training hard and spending years to achieve a goal is dumb (you should just buy the goal now and charge it to your card! Anything you can’t buy with a click is worthless!!!!), that Ronald MacDonald is more well-known than Jesus or Mohammed, the commodification of every single thing (turning everything into a product, the market is the only valid way of measuring worth), the fact that no one knows who the people in their community are, but we know details of celebrities’ sex lives or that Emma Stone has a wrinkle, the fact that we pay millions to guys that throw a ball or sing a shitty tune, but pay no attention and give no support to hometown heroes who help the homeless or volunteer at the old folks’ home. Oh, and 12 year old girls dressing like hookers and 10 year old boys spending all day killing things on the tv.
 
And underlying all these: that people under 90 years old can't even conceive of things being any other way. The older, more community-oriented or spiritual, non-market forms of thinking have been erased more effectively than the word for "freedom" was from the newspeak society of 1984. People don't even know what they are missing, they just feel fragmented inside and try to fill the void with plastic crap and internet porn.
 
That  laundry list of complaints is nothing new. Here is what is new:
 
The above critique of Modern Culture is actually shared by hippies and radical left people, AND radical right people ALL OVER THE WORLD (even racists and crazy Japanese nationalists = “Our young people are losing the traditional ways and all they are getting in return is Macdonalds and heart disease!”), and  what’s more, this critique is also shared by muslims (who are hated by both the left AND right) . . . .
 
 .. . and yet. . .
 
 There is NO ONE who is even trying to unify these groups to make a  counter-attack on Modern Times. There is NO ONE who is even interested in brinigng together the left, right, and muslims on this issue that they all totally agree on.
 
WTF man.
4 comments

ANOTHER LACUNA IN THE DISCOURSE: GLOBALIZATION


 
It’s impossible to have a good discussion of globalization for two dumb avoidable reasons and one very good reason.
 
The two dumb reasons misconceptions which are shared by both the left and the right, which guarantees that no one has an incentive to challenge them.
 
Misconception one: globalization is one thing. The fact is, the word “globalization” is so broad it encompasses like 100 different phenomena, some good and some bad. It’s not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition! We should be able to break it into easy-to-digest pieces and then debate them individually on their merits. I like this bit but not that bit. (the same problem applies to political parties in general: if you’re anti-abortion you have to be anti-envrionmental-regulation and pro-handgun. Huh?!?!?)
 
And yet, I have yet to see ONE fucking spreadsheet that analyzes globalization this way: tallies all the good shit on one side and all the bad shit on the other side.
 
Misconception two: globalization is something you can be for or against. It’s fucking not. Asshats like Thomas Friedman aren’t in favor of globalization. They’re in favor of one particular dickhole WAY of doing it. Which they present as the only way, saying things like, “Globalization is a trend that has been steadily building for 1,000 years so you can’t fight it, it’s a force of nature.” Bullshit, Einstein. Increasing trade and exchange of information between distant lands has been steadily increasing, yes. But! Things like the IMF, World Bank, neo-liberal economics, and  the network of Shadow Banks have only been in place for 50 years. So fuck you!!!
 
And protestors who say they are against globalization, aren’t in fact against it. They are against the particular way in which it’s being done these days. In fact a lot of third world countries (the ones that the western protestors are trying to “save”) really WANT globalization, but they just want the contracts and treaties to be written more fairly.   The fact is there are hundreds of different possible ways to do it, but the way the issue is framed prevents people from even beginning to think about that.
 
Moving on to the good but unavoidable reason it’s impossible to have a productive discussion about globalization:
 
As you start breaking it down into 100 bite-sized aspects, you at some point will find that you are now talking about the even more nebulous phenomenon of Modern Times In General.  Which is a concept so vague, so all-encompassing, it’s like asking “what is the meaning of life?” or “what is art?” . . . .in other words a real useless time-waster! There’s no real border between Globalization and modernity. Or whenever I start talking about it, I wind up complaining about neo-liberal economics instead.  It’s not even a venn diagram . . . it’s more like a fucking casserole where everything got melted together.
 
 It’s like trying to look directly at air!
 
 
POSTSCRIPT:
 
If I had to break globalization into bits and then arrange them on a scorecard, it would look like this:
 
Bad:
 
 
Super-national treaty organizations that allow unelected bureaucrats (appointed by big business) to overturn the member nations’ own labor or environmental laws without the public voting for it or, in most cases, even knowing that their own sovigreinity has been usurped. “Yeah, that Chinese beef you bought was genetically mutated, irradiated, hormone-fed, full of feces, and slaughtered by slave labor, but we’re not allowed to put a sticker on it explaining any of that, since that would be A VIOLATION OF THE TREATY and an INFRINGEMENT OF FAIR TRADE.” Informed consumer choices are so anti-free-market!
 
A “race to the bottom” where every country has to lower wages, lower corporate taxes, lower environmental and work safety rules in order to keep jobs.
 
Now people can move a billion dollars from Switzerland to the cayman islands and then to dubai with the click of a button in one second. This makes it easier for local warlords, dictators, terrorists, mafias, and large “respectable” corporations to avoid regulations and launder money. It also makes it easier for financial wall street types to destroy the economies of countries who don’t play ball: just a click of a button and all the capital goes somewhere else.
 
By assembling their goods in 5  foreign countries (as opposed to their home country), multinationals can cheat tax by using a technique called transfer mispricing. This hurts the third world especially, since that is where most of the raw material and labor is. Basically the corp. tells Bangladesh or Belize or whoever, “Yeah, you supplied the raw material and the non-union factory to assemble it. . . but wouldn’t you know it. . . that factory actually lost money! Because we sold the cars for 3 pesos apiece (to our OTHER subsidiary in the Bahamas. (Who then sold the cars in America for  $40,000 each)). So we don’t owe you any tax. Plus actually our corporate headquarters is in the Cayman Islands, so we only pay tax to the Caymans. The Cayman government charges us $5 a year. And that is totally legal! So, smell you later, Jose!”
 
Instead of torturing dissidents at home, America can set up torture rendition camps all over the globe! Where suspected “enemy combatants” can be tortured by 24 hours a day loops of It’s A Small World After All.
 
Good:
 
easy for me to visit America, cheap underwerar at walmart, big Macs taste the same in Uruguay!
 
The thing is, I know this list is only about 10% complete, because I’m not an economist, I’m a jerkoff  metalhead with some free time. So why don’t actual economists make a real list? Why is it up to me?!??
 
So I’m asking you people reading this: have you seen any lists of the good and bad aspects of globalization?
 
And, can anyone do a venn diagram that untangles globalism, modern times, and neoliberal economics?
 
1 comment

american school reform: a real heartbreaker

This is not a “how to reform schools” rant. That is another web page of mine. This is more like WHY IS IT SO EFFING HARD TO EVEN TALK ABOUT REFORM IN THIS FUCKING COUNTRY.
 
All discussions of reform seem to get hung up on 2 issues, both defined by the American right: unions and religion in schools.
 
These polarizing issues are enough to stall any meaningful discussion, so the other 98 aspects of this very difficult problem never get talked about!
 
My parents are teachers. And not just any teachers: my Dad taught at a institutional foster-home for kids who had basically been thrown out by their parents. I really respect him for that, since it would have been much easier for him to teach public school kids without so many issues.
 
And yet at the same time some of the people I most want to get revenge on are also teachers. Still. Right-wingers complain that teachers get paid too much, and yet support wars and private insurance companies. But just because right-wingers are insane doesn’t mean they are wrong. Wait, yes it does. Because the problem isn’t that certain teachers need a pay-cut, the problem is certain teachers need to be fired. Because they are assholes.
 
(ALSO:  why all the repubs concentrating on TEACHERS’ salaries? We should concentrate on firing all the extra administrators. Who knows what the fuck those people even do all day! That’s the way to save money: either fire the pencil-pushers or reform the education bureaucracy so that there is not a NEED for 1,000 forms to be filled out in the first place)
 
But unions can’t say “OK we’ll allow you to sack the burn-outs, the bullies, and the incompetents, in exchange for more wages for good teachers.” They can’t say this because there is no way to measure who is a good teacher.
 
That’s the central problem. And this sets teachers totally apart from other government bureaucrats, who are supposed to be interchangeable parts. As long as the dude from DMV knows the manual and all the rules, he is a good employee. But teaching is not like that! There is no manual for motivating students to have self-worth and aspire to go far in life!
 

 
How to separate good teachers from bad?
 
You can’t use standardized tests because, as the last 10 years of No Child Left Behind has shown, a) teachers will just help the kids cheat, b) they will force problem kids to drop out or put them in jail , because they drag down the average class test score, c) the teachers just “teach to the test” instead of teaching the non-quantafiable life lessons which , let’s face it, are what all of us remember about our favorite teachers.
 
 
How about popularity with students? All really good teachers are popular, but some of the most burn-out teachers are also popular, because they let you fuck around in class and give everyone a B.
 
Should we let the administrators and principals decide? Hell no! since the life-changing teachers almost universally stir up shit and are hated by the school administrators, who will use any bureaucratic tool to get rid of them?
 
How about we let the parents decide. Are you nuts? The bible-thumpers would flip out and within a week there would be no science or literature teachers left in the country.
 
 
At the unspoken center of the debate: what makes a teacher really life-changing and inspiring for students is NOT RANKABLE OR QUANTAFIABLE.
 
 

FUCKING SPUTNIK
 

 The race to space! (aka the race to have LRBMs). Back in the ‘50s, when Russia launched sputnik (demonstrating it had the technology to lob a fucking nuke missile at us from across the ocean), science and smarts became an immediate matter of national survival. It’s difficult to imagine, but  it used to be the most right-wing, General Jack D. Ripper type Crusty anti-commies that were pushing the HARDEST for more education.  Smart kids were seen as vital for national defense. WWII vets got the GI bill to repay them for being good warriors. If a modern right-winger went back in time to the ‘50s and started talking about reducing teacher salaries and sending all the kids off to private religious schools to learn about Jesus, they would be laughed out of the fucking Republican party, if not called a Commie agent!

 
 

WHY DOESN'T OUR TAX MONEY BUY RESULTS??
 
Liberals like to point out that “we spend more on each prisoner than each student.” But the fact is: USA still spends more on education per-pupil than most industrialized countries. The problem is, we aren’t getting good results for the dough. So why the fuck is that????
 
Throwing more money at a problem without finding out who is wasting the existing money is just gonna guarantee that the culprits will simply have more money to steal!
 
you can’t teach poor kids who are mostly worried about having to quit school to get money, or if their parents are sick and the insurance isn’t covering it, and they have to take care of their parents. Or if they ‘re mostly worried about doing all the household grown-up stuff their parents don’t have time to do because the parents are working 2 jobs each. You can’t teach kids who are mostly worried about gang violence, or their family being in jail.  Or if the parents are on drugs and they have to deal with that. They have other shit on their minds. But because of our separation of bureaucracies, the school system doesn’t have the power to fix poverty. And the social welfare bureaucrat says, “It’s not our problem if poor kids can’t learn, it’s the schools’ problem.”  
 
In other words: When you try to fix schools, you quickly run into half-a-dozen systemic problems that you have no power to fix: poverty, the penal system, the drug-treatment system, the  health-care system, religion,  labor law, and so on. And then when the kids don’t learn because the welfare system, penal, health-care, labor, and drug-treatment systems don’t work and the kids can’t concentrate on schoolwork, who gets blamed? The school systems! Better cut their budget, since they are crappy teachers!!!!
 
 
And when I say poor neighborhoods, I don’t mean Compton or Detroit. for every Compton or Detroit there are like a dozen white towns in the middle of nowhere, where there is nothing to do and all the jobs left because factories move to china, and so the parents re unemployed hillbillies strung out on meth.
 
But on the other hand, a lot of kids are assholes, too. They need to go to that special school where they will be the bullied, not the bullies. Talking about juvie. Later for all that “he is just misunderstood” crap. Remember that rolling stone article about the Michelle Bachmann school where the gay kids kept suiciding one after the other? It didn’t even mention penalties for the bullies. Not even to argue against the idea. Just not even on the fucking table. Can you believe that shit?
 

 

SCHOOL REFORM WITHOUT CURRICULUM REFORM?!?

 
Also: even when someone tries to reform schools, like michelle rhee, there is a lot of controversy. She’s great! She’s a fraud!  The righties scream “But more kids are graduating, barely!” and the lefties scream, “But she’s firing teachers!”
 
But even given all the media time debating it and all the public, grass-roots protests, NOT ONE MENTION ON EITHER SIDE of the actual CURRICULUM!! No one on either side cares what THE KIDS ARE ACTUALLY SPENDING ALL DAY LEARNING UNDER MS. RHEE.
 
And yet that subject is not even up for discussion in the media. It’s like reporters and pundits were never kids themselves, who never had to sit for 5 hours a week memorizing the exports of Chad or the life cycle of the common fern. Fucking adults, man.
 
 
 
“YAYYY!! OUR KIDS ARE GRADUATING AT A SLIGHTLY HIGHER RATE!!! THEY ARE JUST BARELY SMART ENOUGH TO PASS THE GRADUATION TEST WITHOUT BEING SHOT DEAD IN CLASS!! USA #1!” 
 
What the fuck. Is that where we are at, as a country?
That is just sad. It doesn’t matter if you are a indie, repub or dem,. . .that should be saddening.
 
Is our shit that small-time now? Cmon. Let’s talk about curriculum. Parents should ask themselves (regardless of politics) ARE MY KIDS LEARNING THE SAME RANDOM OUT OF CONTEXT FACTOIDS THAT I PROMPTLY FORGOT AS SOON AS I GRADUATED, OR ARE THEY LEARNING THE SHIT ABOUT LIFE THAT I JUST LEARNED AT 30 AND WISHED I HAD LEARNED SOONER?
 
Who wouldn’t want that for their kids?????
 
 
Fucking weird as hell . .. unless you remember exactly how much work it is being a parent!
 
Every parent, whether repub, dem, or indie, knows damn well that 90% of the shit they were forced to learn had no practical application and they forgot it as soon as they graduated. You’d think that being loving parents , preventing their own kids from undergoing these 10,000s of wasted hours would be a huge priority! And yet by the time people get older and busy and spend 5 years changing diapers, they are so worn down! By the time their kids are old enough to go to school, the parents say JUST TAKE THEM OFF MY HANDS FOR 8 HOURS A DAY, I COULD GIVE A FUCK WHAT YOU TEACH THEM. JUST LET ME HAVE SOME QUIET TIME.
 
And that’s sad.
 

 
TO SUM UP
 
 Repubs are like FIRE all the teachers!  Public schools are government socialism! Everything kids need to know they can learn from goldman sachs and jerry fallwell!!
 
Dems are like union power! Never fire any teachers!
 
And yet, ALL the adults had that one teacher: that taught much more about life than what their official state-mandated course was. That opened their eyes to new ways of thinking. All the adults had that one teacher that gave them more self esteem that taught them: you are capable of so much more than what your environment expects you to be. You have so many unique qualities that can be a boon to you an those around you. And ALL the adults had like 5 or 6 teachers that were burn outs bullies or just plain didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about, teachers that deserved the sack. 
 
I’m pretty sure if a person on one political side talked in detail about the teachers who changed their life for the better, the people on the other side would be like, “That teacher sounds great. We can agree that the system needs more people like that.”
 
 And if a person on the other political side talked about a teacher who was a dick or a waste-case, I’m sure their political opponents would remember the asshole teachers from their OWN youth and say, “Hey I agree with you too! That teacher was a clown! We need less teachers like that in the system!” And then we could fucking get down to business. 
 
And yet adults grow up and pretend everything is black-and-white, and use crappy schools to make political points about unions or privatization, rather than trying to help the kids. 
 
And then we wonder why kids hate adults.
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