Vin Crosbie's Personal Blog

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The Oncoming Labor Storm

The rise of ‘right-wing’ politicians in post-industrial countries — politicians such as Donald Trump of the United States of America, Marie Le Pen of France, the late Jörg Haider and his successors in Austria, and others, and similar movements, such as the Tea Party movement in the U.S. — are only the beginning of what will probably be a 20 to 50 years of reactionary protests as major countries (indeed, all countries eventually) now transition from the Industrial Era into the Informational Era. The 2020’s will likely be a particularly tumultuous decade. The Informational Era denotes a period in human history when most economies are based upon performing services rather than manufacturing products. The U.S. have now entered that period and become ‘post-industrial’. Part of that transition has involved low-skilled manufacturing and industrial jobs (such as manufacturing thread or clothing, electronic devices, or simple furnitures and supplies)  migrating to other countries where lower wages are paid. That part of the transition has been occuring during the past 40 to 50 years. However, another major and often overlooked part of this transition from Industrial to Informational involves robotics. For examples, very many manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been replaced by robotics. An industrial robot controlled by someone who has a master’s degree in engineering can replace anywhere from several to a dozen or more manual laborers. These machines pay for themselves in only a few years. This revolution in robotic has transformed manufacturing in many countries. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, industrial jobs in the U.S. have been lost due to robotics replacing workers, yet industrial manufacturing output in the U.S. has risen to record levels, exceeding output during the Industrial Era. Another reason why this new era is being called Informational is that technology has developed machines that can now use information (i.e, their programming) to create actual products in ways light years beyond what the simple Industrial Era mechanical loom could do. Moreover, that robotics revolution has begun to invade those countries were industrial jobs have migrated due to low wages.  Earlier this year, the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong reported that one factory in China’s Jiangsu province used robots to replace 60,000 workers, and that 600 other companies in that province were drafting similar restructuring plans. In Taiwan, Foxconn, which manufacturers computer products for Apple, has spent a total of $500 million on robotics, […]

Heraclitus, The 21st Century Man

“But, Vin, you’re a Progressive,” retorted a Libertarian friend during a political discussion. I was taken aback by his characterization of me! ‘Progressive?’ I’d never thought of myself as that. What did it mean? I’d remembered the term as from the United States history. During the late 19th and early 20th Centuries a progressive was someone who advocated legislation eliminating tenement housing, preventing child labor, and ensuring food safety. There was a Progressive Party founded in 1912 by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Yet my experience has been that whenever someone tries to label you, they’ve already pre-packaged their view of the world. Few people are actually what other people label them. They’re instead more complex. Even people who label themselves, when asked questions that closely examine their values, will admit gaps, some opposite opinions, and plenty of nuances beliefs. I realized that my Libertarian friend in 21st Century meant was not only trying to pigeonhole my beliefs, he was intentionally, inadvertently, or ignorantly trying to gloss over any complexities or nuances of our discussions. He wanted to believe I was either someone who just wants for the sake of change or someone who thinks that government can solve all problems. Neither of which is true. However, the more I thought about he mischaracterized me, the more I realized there is another and newer meaning of Progressive that is unrelated to all those political old labels and characterizations. A meaning with which I agree and do identify. Allow me to explain. During the nearly 60 years I’ve lived, I’ve seen the world change. The end of the Cold War, globalization, diversification, interwoven economies, international pollution and climate change, growing scarcity of resources, and decreasing scarcity of information are only some of those changes. The pace of change in all those things constantly accelerates. Yet so many of our institutions, laws, practices, and lifestyles haven’t or aren’t adapting to these obvious changes in the world. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, change is the nature of things. Unfortunately, people fear or dislike change. So, it is human nature that our institutions, laws, practices, and lifestyles can become perilously out-of-date, particularly as the pace of change has accelerated. No, not everything should change (fundamental human rights, for example). However, the list of things that need not change is remarkably small, as indeed any list of truly precious things will be. There are remarkably […]

Lack of Enforcement is the Real Problem With Nuclear Power

Most of the world’s most controversial subjects tend to polarize people’s opinions: people not only disagree about the subject, but do so by being either completely for or against the subject. Generating electricity from nuclear power is one of these subjects. Too bad, because it’s people’s polarization itself that prevents a solution. Yes, nuclear power is environmentally clean and therefore nuclear power should be used. Yes, nuclear accidents will happen and therefore nuclear power shouldn’t be used. However, the reality of the subject isn’t at all that polar. Among the people who know that is the board of editors of Scientific American magazine. They include people who not only understand both sides of the issues, but realize that the ultimate problem about nuclear power generation isn’t nuclear power but the cases of duplicity, corruption, and incompetence about it. Here is their editorial about it, which appeared in the June issue of their magazine. I applauded the editorial when I first read it earlier this summer:  “…If we gave it up, what would replace it? Pollution from fossil-fueled power plants shortens the life span of as many as 30,000 Americans a year. Coal companies lop off mountaintops, hydraulic fracturing for natural gas threatens water supplies, and oil dependence undermines the nation’s energy security. Then there is the small matter of greenhouse gas emissions. Clean renewable technologies will take years to reach the scale needed to replace the power we get from splitting atoms…. “…The industry and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claim that nuclear power is safe, but their lack of transparency does not inspire confidence. For example, an Associated Press investigation in March revealed 24 cases from December 2009 to September 2010 in which plant operators did not report equipment defects to the NRC…. “…The trouble is that regulations are not being enforced rigorously. The NRC has to mete out stiff penalties for violations and make every action transparent to us all…. “…If exercises showed that residents around a plant could not leave quickly enough, the NRC should consider shutting it down. A good test case is the Indian Point plant 38 miles north of New York City. Evacuating the 20 million people who live within 50 miles staggers belief…. “…If an operator proposes a site that is too close to an earthquake fault, or too close to oceanfront that is vulnerable to a tsunami or hurricane storm surge, or downriver from a huge […]

Osama bin Lauden Lost Islamic Support Before He Lost Life

The Economist today reports that polling by the Pew Research Center showed that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Lauden had lost popular support in Islamic countries years before a US Navy counter-terrorism team took his life.  “This may reflect a genuine change in attitudes after al-Qaeda’s high-profile attacks in places such as Bali and Jordan, as well as its violence in Iraq. But it could also reflect Mr bin Laden’s lower profile in recent years.”

A Prospectus for Tea Party Land

I’m thinking of raising capital for a new venture—Tea Party Land. This amusement park located in Middle America will have little or no government, ban admission to immigrants, and comprise Hannity Town, Old Testament Ingrahamstan , Beck Fantasyland, Coultershire, and O’Reillytopia. All its streets will lead to Fox Castle where every hour on the hour Princess Palin appears from a balcony. Tea Party Land will be the first family amusement park to feature rides engineered according to Creation Science and Supply-Side Economics: such as the Holy Rollercoaster down the mighty Limbaughorn, the Trickledown Waterslide (is your mortgage underwater?), and It’s A Cool Cool Cooling World. What other rides, cuisines, and features should we include? (Photograph, Tea Cup Ride on High Street, Solihull, courtesy of Ell Brown on Flickr.)