SYNDICATED COLUMN: To Live and Die in L.A.

An Armed, Disposable and Dangerous System

What’s shocking is that it doesn’t happen more often.

When a heartless system refuses to listen or help, when it crushes and grinds down millions of people day after day, year after year, everywhere, it’s illogical and unreasonable to assume that all its victims will pick themselves up, dust themselves off and reinvent themselves. (Job retraining! Start a business! Win the Lotto!) Some people will crack. Others will explode.

It’s inevitable.

Consider the case of the ex-Los Angeles police officer and Iraq War vet who triggered a massive manhunt after he allegedly shot three people in retaliation for his dismissal in 2008. Based on media accounts so far, Christopher Dorner had reason to be angry. After he reported a partner for assaulting a homeless man, a review board concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the other cop. Fair enough. Maybe the partner was innocent. But then they went too far, firing the officer who brought the charge for filing a false report.

Officer Dorner had already taken a chance by stepping forward, risking ostracism and the chance to advance in his career. Firing him – even if he was wrong in this case – is heinous.

Anyone familiar with the behavior of white cops in predominantly African-American neighborhoods and who has seen the LAPD in action has to admit that the accusation – kicking a bum – is well within the realm of plausibility. Anyone who has ever faced off against an arresting officer in court knows that cops lie. And anyone who has filed a complaint against the police and their behavior soon learns that the chances of obtaining redress, much less justice, range from slim to none. (Disclosure: I’ve experienced all three.)

Ruling against Dorner in 2010, a Superior Court judge noted that administrative review panels – in this case, the LAPD itself – enjoy a “presumption of correctness” under state law. Which makes suing pointless.

“I have exhausted all available means at obtaining my name back,” Dorner wrote on Facebook. “I have attempted all legal court efforts within appeals at the Superior Courts and California Appellate courts. This is my last resort. The LAPD has suppressed the truth and it has now lead to deadly consequences.”

Los Angeles police officials spun the wanted ex-cop’s Facebook manifesto, which described the force as brutal, corrupt and racist – “The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse” – as out of date, a relic of the 1990s, before the scandal-ridden “old LAPD” got reformed (by good people like them). Unfortunately for their we’re-nice-guys-now messaging, their trigger-happy ground troops were rocking it old-school in their hunt for their former colleague, twice opening fire with assault rifles on vehicles they thought fit the description of the truck driven by the suspect before bothering to take a look at three people inside two cars, none of whom look anything like him yet wound up in the hospital anyway.

To his credit, or at least that of the Police Department’s publicity office, Chief Charlie Beck announced that the LAPD would re-examine Dorner’s dismissal.

How exactly is this going to work? If it turns out the guy was right, and that he never should’ve been let go, does he get his job back while he’s serving three life terms? Confusing. But it sounds good. That’s what matters.

Needless to say, a shooting spree is an inappropriate response to injustice.  Still, the case of the cop gone rogue is a parable for our time. Authority is unaccountable. Individuals are powerless. Checks and balances, however well they worked in the past, have evaporated. It’s a system doomed to fail.

Fired or laid off? Chances are, you’re an “at will” employee. That means that, no matter how hard you work and how good you are your job, your boss can fire you. There’s nothing you can do about it. Even if you have the money to sue – and if you have that much money, you probably didn’t need the job in the first place – no honest lawyer will take your case. Employers have all the power. Is it any wonder that wages are stagnant or falling? Who would be stupid enough to dare to ask for a raise?

What happens to people like Officer Dorner, who lose everything? The American system – the government, political leaders, gatekeepers in the media – has no answer.

We live in a disposable society. We are disposable. When our skill set or education or personality or serendipity no longer fits the demands of the marketplace, when we suffer an injury to our bodies or our minds that reduces us to uselessness under the cold capitalist calculus of value-added cost-benefit profit-loss, we get turned out. No income, no home. No status, no life. What should you do? Where should you go? Nobody cares, not even about our so-called national heroes, our sainted troops whom the yellow stickers on our SUVs pledged to support. Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide. Tens of thousands are homeless.

Note to the architects of the American political system: if you’re going to build your economy on the blood and crushed bones of powerless citizens, it’s not the smartest idea to pair disposability of the individual with a cult of militarism that sends millions to war. Every now and then, as in the case of fired officer Christopher Dorner, the victims of your brutalist slave-labor approach to labor-management relations turn out to be heavily armed, highly trained, out to kill – with nothing left to lose.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

45 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: To Live and Die in L.A.

  1. Ok. First off hats off to Alex. Especially liked the comment about the starving Ethiopians. I’m on a construction site in India right now and let me tell you the gap between us engineers and the workers is quite unsettling.

    Anyway, I still think the connection you make is a bit loose. Losing your job anywhere is a big deal. The only place I know that really takes care of you if you lose your job is Europe. Europe is capitalist. They are also wealthy. First you need to be a wealthy country. Than you can take care of everyone. How do you get to be a wealthy country? Some might say that colonialism is the reason Europe is so much wealthier than the rest of the world. I disagree. I think Europe is wealthy because of capitalism. That wealth allowed them to become imperialists. Imperialism probably cost them more money than it made them as the USA is discovering today. That said capitalism needs limits. Europe has done a good job establishing those.

  2. @ex: Our economy is not ready for the robust tapestry of coopertives and worker-owned enterprises that would allow a modern economy not to shock itself to death every few years. That is pie in the sky optimism on your part. The nanny state will continue to prop up the fortune 500 welfare queens, who will promise to employ some of us, as long as they don’t have to pay us too much. And the best you and I can do is hope the nanny state we all pay taxes to will be as responsive to the consumers who prop the whole stupid scheme up as they are to the aforementioned corporate welfare queens.

    also,
    Minimum wage plus a buck in NYC is not a living wage (even in the 90s), and there is no way you can survive, let alone survive independently on that in NYC of all places. Most people who think this is possible are simply very irresponsible, deferring periodic costs that all adults must meet until they inevitably fall short, and require help, which they get, and don’t tell anyone about.

  3. @Alex not incoherent

    @Whimsical, was actually (nice catch) referring to your post on the other thread; was being a bit sarcastic, cuz I’m in total agreement with your cap CEO pay at 50x base pay. Nice to find common ground here after some of the sparring that went on during the campaign.

  4. @Alex,

    No, you’re not incoherent.

    @Ex,

    A living wage would also include not having to add public social programs to your income. If you need to depend on either private or public programs, you’re not making a living wage.

  5. Alex:

    You’re not only coherent, you’re cogent, which is why ex has replied to you in the way he has.

    Don’t let him get to you. Keep on posting, and treat this person like a case of persistent skin rash: annoying, but nothing that a little calamine lotion (which for you, is simply telling yourself, as often as necessary, that his opinion doesn’t matter) can’t cure.

    Let’s all ignore him – the best way to deal with him is to freeze him out, to refuse to be baited by him. We’ve got bigger fish to fry; he’s small potatoes.

  6. @Alex-

    You’re far from incoherent. I think the plant a)has a serious case of projection, as his responses to your arguing circles around him are far more incoherent than anything else; b) isn’t interested in actual debate because he knows his arguments don’t stand up under scrutiny; c)just wants to piss people off so they’ll try and start a (doomed to fail) revolution; or d)all of the above.

  7. @Alex: not incoherent

    I also think you are on to something about ex dodging questions.

    Me (about ex): “People like Exko don’t believe in luck, good or bad, everything is due to merit. People like that have usually had a LOT of good luck in their lives”

    Ex (to me): “the comments you make about me are completely wrong [no explanation why or how] — but they probably make you feel good”

    Me: “Exko, what are your thoughts on luck versus merit? Perhaps I misjudged YOU, but believe me, I know plenty of well-off people who acknowledge no role of luck in their position at all.”

    Not addressed in his subsequent lengthy post.

  8. Ex,

    Here. I’ll be brief.

    You said ” @Susan:

    1. I mean what I say about Alex, it’s not hyperbole. I find his ramblings very difficult to navigate, and I know I’m not the only one. He meanders all over the place and it’s usually not possible to really understand his point. Brevity and clarity are virtues worth embracing. So is clear logic.”

    Fine. I ask for a vote. Would the people who think I’m incoherent please say so? And would the people who think I am not incoherent also please say so? That means board regulars, not people who ex will suddenly invent for the purpose of rigging the vote.

    If more people side with Ex, I will accept his determination that I’m an incoherent rambler, and promise to do better.
    If more people side with me, Ex, you’ll admit that it isn’t my “incoherence” as much as it is your inability to actually think logically in the first place, a fundamental lack in empathy and imagination that prevents you from comprehending how the world really is outside of your Rand-sphere.

    Put up or shut up, Ex. I’ve had it. You never answer any questions concretely. You engage in the sophomore-level stunt of calling everything you disagree with a strawman or by flipping the original comment back at the poster without actually addressing the question. These are old tricks and I see through them. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    As I said, put up or shut up.

  9. @aaron-

    Not sure if you’re being sarcastic, or referring to my comment in the other thread.

    I buy Ted’s books when he writes on a topic I care about. I wont be bullied or guilted into buying something I don’t care about, like books on Afghanistan. Right now, I’m maxed out on giving thanks to having to give more than usual in the 2012 election season to counteract people like Ted, but we’ll see how it goes.

    As for your technological concerns, sadly I don’t think its anything we have to worry about anytime soon. Thanks to business manipulating the market, its going to be cheaper to exploit people then pay for machines for a long, long time to come.

  10. @Andy

    It seems to me that the connection to capitalism regards the importance of having a job in the USA these days, and all of the benefits that come from that: food, shelter, clothing; social standing; a sense of purpose, perhaps. To lose your job in America is a big freaking deal. To lose it unjustly really sux.

  11. @Ex

    Don’t know where your freeloader rant came from. Talk about ass-u-me-ing. I have bought many of Ted’s books and will continue to do so.

    Whimsical, buddy, nice comment. No really.

    Someone, well done. I like your notion that the system must be broken if there are people who need work and work that needs to be done, but it is not happening.

    But what about my long-term concern, (and Ted had a piece about this a while back, wherein he advocated a minimum basic salary for everyone, whether they work or not), that this whole model of an economy that produces enough quality jobs for everyone is destroyed eventually by increasing computation, automation and productivity? It just doesn’t take 7 billion people working full-time to make all the stuff we need. What do we do with those not needed folks? Let them starve? Give them something for nothing? What? (If someone says job re-training I’ll puke, the point is that there are not, or will not be, enough jobs, no matter what your education, skills and background are).

  12. Ted: I don’t see the connection between capitalism and this incident. To me it looks like a CYA, thin blue line case. Communists, capitalists, islamists none of them tolerate snitches, no organisation does.

  13. @Ted: As you’ve noted, the new reality for freelancers is that they have to derive income from several resources. One of those resources is tedrall.com. People can talk all day about it not having a paywall, that it’s free, etc … But, I reiterate what Gary Null said about NPR: “If you listen to NPR every day going to work in your car, and you don’t donate at pledge time — you are STEALING!”. I agree. Similarly, if people are coming to tedrall.com every day, reading the comics, reading the op-eds, commenting — and they don’t make at least a small donation once-a-year, they are stealing.

    The free market has become the free-loader market.

    How about Alex the Tired: Has he ponied up?
    Susan? Where’s the moolah?
    Whimsical: You’re a bonehead, but I hope you’re not cheap as well. What of it?

    If Ted relies on multiple sources of income, then EVERYTHING counts. It all matters. That includes tedrall.com. Even if it’s just 100 people here, donating $25 dollars a year (which is extremely reasonable, and bare-bottom, really the minimal amount) — that’s $2,500 more a year Ted gets paid for his work. Maybe that pays for his car insurance and a tune up. Hell, I don’t know — but it’s something!

    I’m not shilling for Ted here, even though it seems like it. I’m pointing out all these free market complaints don’t really work on me when the people making them are part of the free-loader market. They’re the same people stealing endless amounts of music, books, whatever they can download on a bit torrent. For shame! If you’re going to complain about the free market, at least have the decency to not steal.

  14. @Ex

    “The janitor need not make as much as the CEO, but he should make enough to live on. If the
    market can’t provide that, the problem is with the market, not the janitor.”

    “No, because then people wouldn’t do that job.”

    So are you saying that if we paid janitors a smidge more suddenly all the janitors would quit or suddenly all the CEOs would quit? It is true one must put some cost and reward on the unpleasant jobs to encourage people to do them. But if the essential jobs that we must reward people to do are things like “cleaning shit up” because no one would do it if they were free to do what they wanted, then by that logic alone the free market has failed if janitors aren’t paid more then all the jobs people would like to do (like CEO). By your logic right there we could just let everyone do whatever the hell they wanted to do, and simply have the state offer salaries for the unpleasant jobs and raise such salaries to a price where just enough people stopped playing with crayons or whatever to cover all the fairly minimal basic necessity.

    Why is Russel’s comment in relation to his pay relative to a teacher’s a meaningless generalization? You don’t explain. It strikes me as a very relevant point. I, and everyone I know, makes far more then a janitor does, or a farmer does, and yet you could erase all of us from society, and people would still get fed and shit would still get cleaned. Doesn’t that mean the free market is rewarding jobs that are technically less valuable while punishing the more necessary ones? (The answer is yes). This is actually very common. I would argue that in this day and age, while people may make more within their carrier type then others of the same carrier based on merit more often then not (though certainly not all the time) generally speaking the more useless a job is the more the fee market pays for it. Look at the bottom and top of society: janitors, farmers, plumbers v.s hedge fund managers, corrupt politicians, sports stars. Where does the merit and value to society v.s. pay work out there?

    Also salary isn’t everything that entices people to jobs. You want proof? (I am afraid I won’t be able to give you any “proof” by quoting comedies though). Look at vets, they have to get more schooling and general preparation of the same form as doctors do only to make far less money then doctors on average. Why do they do this? It is because they love their job. They could be doctors (they had to clear more hurdles including familiarize themselves with as much anatomy and biology but across multiple species.) and make more money, but they love their job and do it instead of more lucrative opportunities because they love their job. The same thing is true with teachers in the States. Relative to the credentials they have, and the amount and quality of work that is expected from them, they are vastly underpaid. Doctors in Japan have as much training as US doctors, and yet it is one of the worst paying professions in Japan relative to credentials required – they do it for the love of the job, not the salary. In Bosnia doctors are still just as accredited as they are anywhere, and yet make so little money that it is actually customary to tip them after seeing one, because, like waiters over in the states, they make so little money that they really need the tips to get by on.

    Why work for such bad wages when you have so many qualifications skill and diligence? Again it is love of the job that causes them to do so. I once got a tentative offer at a finance job, and I turned it down to continue working at my sub minimum wage job because finance is boring (and it personally disgusts me) while I find my job to be intellectually satisfying and fun (though many others probably wouldn’t). You can go on and find countless examples in all professions everywhere; salary isn’t everything people do things because they love it, and almost every job is beloved by some people out there. As such if you did let people just go about and do what they wanted, you would probably find that most jobs would be covered on their own out of peoples own willingness and fascination, and people would only have band together to raise a small chunk of money to entice just a few people to cover the unpleasant jobs instead of doing whatever they would naturally do.

    In the end though, close to 20% of the population is un- or underemployed, and they want to work. At the same time there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, and far more still that could be done. When 1/5th of the population wants to work, and there are limitless things to be worked upon (including many very necessary ones like failing and inadequate infrastructure) yet the system cannot remedy these two problems which are each others own obvious solutions, that alone represents a complete failure in the free market. Why not pay to have those people do the work that needs to be done? We would all benefit.

    It is true that all animals die, but in an age when we have more wealth and resources at our disposal then any time prior everyone should be living better then any time prior, and yet most are not. That is a failure of the system, to have much more and yet do much less for most with it. People do die, everything ends and falls apart, but that doesn’t mean we need to make the death and collapse of everything as expedient and awful as possible, unless that is your definition of free market efficiency: “ruin and kill everything faster”. But if that is your definition of free market efficiency then how do you expect other people to share your vision that this is a good thing they should want?

    Okay so lets assume the free market is omniscient, lets completely unregulated it since it is infallible and omniscient. Now among other things murder is legal, because hey that is a potential multibillion dollar industry that the nanny state has been over regulating and thus ruining the chance of employment for millions of people. So when the economy is crappy like it is now, I can easily get someone to off you for $50, and to be consistent with your argument and world view, you must now agree that that is all your life was ever worth because the free market said so. But lets say you survive and get to the doctor, you better hope your treatment is VERY expensive otherwise the free market says it is cheaper for your doctor to finish you off and sell what is left of your good organs to the highest bidder on the organ market.

    “Fact: I lived in NYC in the early nineties, and for seven years I never made more than $18k in a year. For most of that time, I made less. … I never was on public assistance of any kind, …” Well maybe you should have taken some benefits. If you had some SNAP benefits or whatnot it might have helped you save more money or free up more time to help you get established faster so that you could have gone on to whatever it was you went on to do in less then seven years time, thus beneficial to both you and society. But just because you didn’t need it when you were on hard times doesn’t mean you should wish ill on other people with hard times. That is just spiteful, it’s the same illogical emotional impetus that fuels hazing where each generation of hazer spitefully wishes to show the next generation the pain and humility they had to suffer through in full. It really doesn’t help anyone to approach anything life that way.

    Also, while I am glad things worked out for you, not everyone is quite so self-reliant (and or lucky though I don’t know the situation so for the sake of good faith we will give you the benefit of the doubt at 100% self reliance as improbable as that is). The fact is some people aren’t quite so self reliant, but if given a little more help they can pick them selves up and become self reliant. There are good economic studies that show things like a fairly robust welfare state actually improves economic efficiency, because as long as the benefits aren’t more lavish then average wages, the benefits give people the freedom to retrain themselves as necessary to match market demands, and match themselves with the best possible job to their talents and skills as opposed to the fist job that comes along – regardless of how good or bad a fit it is – out of sear desperation and necessity. ( here is a little fluff piece on the theory: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/blog/2010/oct/15/benefit-cuts-jobless-work If you want something more in depth go look up Peter Diamonds 1980 economics paper on the issue. It is what he eventually won a Nobel Prize for.)

    Also while you were working for less then 18K in NYC were you also raising kids? I have lived on 19K before in LA without taking benefits and was fine, but I don’t think I could have gotten by without government assistance if I had kids. Anyone that poor and trying to raise kids should take the government assistance in my mind, that is what it is there for and needs to be there for. This isn’t about dependency, it does help get people established. Look at congresswoman Gwen Moore
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwen_Moore ) during a desperate time in her life she needed welfare because she was also caring for her children. It helped her get back on her feet, get an education, ect… all so she could take her life to new heights. There are many many other examples in those regards as well. Studies have shown that poverty truly dooms the future of children, and when children go wrong all of society is afflicted with everything from increased poverty through enhanced criminality that becomes generational and positively self-reinforcing. After a couple of generations you end up paying more for cops and prisons and urban renewal then you would have covering a fairly robust welfare stat the whole time, so you are not even saving any money. We all benefit by paying more to help care for kids and those who care for kids.

    “On top of all that, this is all straw men. No one seems to want to address the points that I’ve made. Notably about the free market driving resources to where they are most needed. No one wants to address it, because they don’t like reality — they don’t like the facts.” Actually Russell addressed it quite a bit and made some good points, but you dismissed them by declaring they were irrelevant without saying why. So you want the facts of free market efficiency? In LA in the 1940s GM and Standard Oil bought up one of the worlds largest, most effective, and efficient public transit systems, and destroyed it to build a society that would waste oil and car parts faster as to enhance corporate profits, FREE MARKET EFFICIENCY! Over the last two decades corporations have scrapped as much of their public contact and customer service and help lines saving the corporations tens of millions, while costing society at large billions of dollars in lost hours of productivity, FREE MARKET EFFICIENCY! Studies have shown coal, oil, and most standard energy sources are actually more expensive in quantifiable costs then solar or wind because of the cost on societies resources, such as public health, logging industry (acid rain and residual effects), tourism (pollution, actually quantified effect in tourist trade), ect… but the free market doesn’t factor these externalities in so the free market actually locks in the less efficient and more expensive power supplies, FREE MARKET EFFICIENCY! In the 20th century most major corporations discovered that they can maximize profits by creating inferior products that fail (thus forcing repurchasing) but can overcompensate for loss revue due to increasingly inferior products with the perception of superior products by spending more on advertising then on the products themselves, FREE MARKET EFFICIENCY! The company that makes Crocks didn’t get the memo though. They had a product that was popular (had some fad among the yungun’s), comfortable, and never broke down. So everyone who wanted one (millions sold) bought a pair, and they never broke – and thus the company collapsed. Essentially they went out of business because their products weren’t crappy enough to survive in the free market, FREE MARKET EFFICIENCY!!! People starve in 3rd world countries while wealthy nations have eating competitions for fun, optimal resource allocation via FREE MARKET EFFICIENCY!!

    There are literally endless more examples of “FREE MARKET EFFICIENCY!!!” As such I wonder, can you even provide any examples where the free market has actually done something efficient, where we shall define “efficiency” right here as the maximal benefit to humanity at large for the use of a given set of resources while utilizing them with minimized waste? While even the dumbest, most ill conceived, and poorly executed communist societies might create millions of unused homes or millions of homeless people only the free market can create both at the same time – as it is doing right now. That is a massively inefficient allocation of resources the likes of which boggles the mind.

    Also incidentally I am not a free loader here, as I do donate $50 to Ted every month, pitch into all his fund raisers or kickstarters, and also buy those books of his that I do plan to read. But this is an interesting statement by you where you proclaim your donations and support, because Ted doesn’t make as much money as many other syndicated political cartoonists. By your own logic the omniscient free market has deemed that he is not as good as the more highly paid political cartoonists. Thus, unless you are donating even more money to all the more highly paid political cartoonists then Ted (your not), you are either engaging in double think, or secretly you don’t even believe in the omniscient perfection of the free market yourself (or I guess you could also be lying about your support for Ted, but again I am going to assume good faith). Interesting whichever way it happens to be.

  15. I’ve bought several of his books, donated to his “buy me a Mac” drive.

    I make more money than a teacher because people make money directly off my work. People only make money off the teacher’s work indirectly. My “market” value is higher but society benefits more from having its children well educated than from having more cool widgets to look at on websites.

    Markets don’t pay for indirect benefits. They also don’t pay for indirect costs. Global warming is not factored into the price I pay for gasoline. The market is an imperfect arbiter of value.

    Glenn, can the “insect” stuff. It’s childish.

    Exko, what are your thoughts on luck versus merit? Perhaps I misjudged YOU, but believe me, I know plenty of well-off people who acknowledge no role of luck in their position at all.

  16. @Glenn: Tell me your stories. Make me weep sweetie. Come on, tell me all about it. I know how tough you’ve had it. Tell me about your tough times, bad luck, and how it’s not your fault. Come on sweetie, I’ll listen about how it’s not your fault, you’re just a victim after all … sniffle, sniffle … wipes tears from eyes …..

    bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

  17. And I reiterate what I said about paying Ted for his services. No one commented on that I see. Gee — I wonder why? Oh — I know! People will say they can’t afford it, but since Ted’s giving it away, blah, blah, blah. Excuses, excuses.

    I bet every single person that reads Ted’s comics has $50 per month in expendable income, no problem. Meaning, money they spend on movies, going to bars, buying other crap, etc … For anyone who has that much, which is a bare minimum since most have more than $600 per year in expendable income, why can’t you give $25 per year to Ted if you read his work regularly? That’s only 5% of your yearly expendable income in this scenario.

    But no …. you won’t.

    Why?

    It’s FREE!!

    No one’s forcing you to pay, so …. fuck it, right? Just like all those free mp3s on your hard drive, probably thousands in free music. That’s the NEW economy, right? Wrong.

    Ted has been fucked not as much by the free market, as by FREE-LOADERS. Period.

    • @Ex: “And I reiterate what I said about paying Ted for his services. No one commented on that I see. Gee — I wonder why? Oh — I know! People will say they can’t afford it, but since Ted’s giving it away, blah, blah, blah. Excuses, excuses.

      I bet every single person that reads Ted’s comics has $50 per month in expendable income, no problem. Meaning, money they spend on movies, going to bars, buying other crap, etc … For anyone who has that much, which is a bare minimum since most have more than $600 per year in expendable income, why can’t you give $25 per year to Ted if you read his work regularly? That’s only 5% of your yearly expendable income in this scenario.

      But no …. you won’t.

      Why?

      It’s FREE!!

      No one’s forcing you to pay, so …. fuck it, right? Just like all those free mp3s on your hard drive, probably thousands in free music. That’s the NEW economy, right? Wrong.

      Ted has been fucked not as much by the free market, as by FREE-LOADERS. Period.”

      Well, sort of.

      As itunes proved, people will pay if you tell then how, make it easy and establish norms. People like me are trying to figure out the how’s.

  18. @Glenn: I don’t respond to the deranged. But go ahead, make up whatever reality makes you feel good. Smack up while you’re at it, if that helps. When you come down, reality will still be there waiting for you.

    @aaronwilliams135: Yes I do detest the nanny state. Safety nets and occasional intervention are one thing, constant nanny statism is another. For any entities.

    As for the free market, I’m no ideologue. Though I repeat what I wrote in the other thread. Would you rather have a “pay czar” peg what everyone can make and have the government enforce it legally? I think you would like that arrangement a hell of a lot less than what we have now.

  19. Hey Insect,

    I could tell you some personal stories but they would be easily dismissed by you as lies or ravings of a madman. But they are true, none the less.

    Anyway, I may have already told you these stories. I know it was you I was talking to because of the lower class striving and attempts at distancing yourself from your family’s roots apparent in your rants.

    Granted, I might be mistaken because there are about a hundred people I’ve known who repeat the same lines as you from the same playbook.

    So buzz off.

  20. Ok, first off, Ted, it’s an excellent piece.

    Michael, Alex, Susan; excellent comments.

    Exkio, your faith in the free market, and contempt of the nanny state, overlooks, I think, I hope, at least, one important factor.

    That is, that technological advance in production is making many, if not most, if not all, human workers irrelevant.

    There will come a time when computers and robots can produce everything that your holy Market demands.

    What then? Do we all deserve to die just because a robotic tractor grows wheat just as well as a human farmer?

    Maybe so.

    But I would rather let all of us humans kick back, get high, and have sex all day, and let the robots bring me my dinner.

  21. @Susan: My point in noting my circumstance in the early nineties is just that: I didn’t have to DEMAND a living wage. It was presented to me. In fact, it was — at that time — the minimum wage, plus a buck (I think). I didn’t have to march, protest and demand a living wage. It was already a living wage. So, I don’t understand where all the “demanding” is coming in. The market, plus a minimum wage, seems to be providing a living wage. For the the relative few where that doesn’t cut it, we have a basic safety net (food stamps, medicaid, etc …) to further assist. Again: I don’t know where this “we demand a living wage” is coming from. The market, plus some basic government programs, is meeting it already.

  22. @Ex

    If you know what a living wage is, then you would have to agree that it is entirely reasonable to demand and be given a living wage, since you know damn well that it DOESN’T mean being entitled to a Lexus or Mercedes, or the right to say “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

  23. Oh, and by the way — another point no one wants to address. The fact that people stealing Ted’s work is more to blame for his fortunes than any government bullshit. I’ve bought Ted’s books, have them right here. I’ve sent in donations because I felt looking at his cartoons for free over and over was morally wrong.

    How about the others here? What have you done for Ted in exchange for his work? Don’t respond, just be honest with yourself. Have you paid Ted a fair price for his work? Or did you treat his work the same as most people treat music today: A freebie that you shouldn’t have to pay for?

    Gary Null used to say during NPR pledge drives, “if you listen to NPR regularly and you’re not donating regularly — you are stealing.” Damn right. I say, if you read Ted’s comics regularly — here or elsewhere — and you don’t donate or buy his books, you are stealing. Period.

    My conscience is clear, is yours? If not, then stop blaming the government and denying market rules. Blame yourself. The market doesn’t work when you steal.

  24. @Susan:

    1. I mean what I say about Alex, it’s not hyperbole. I find his ramblings very difficult to navigate, and I know I’m not the only one. He meanders all over the place and it’s usually not possible to really understand his point. Brevity and clarity are virtues worth embracing. So is clear logic.

    2. I never said anything about denying a “living wage”. And please, don’t try to make me weep. Fact: I lived in NYC in the early nineties, and for seven years I never made more than $18k in a year. For most of that time, I made less. Anyone calling me a liar can stuff it, because it’s true. I never was on public assistance of any kind, and I lived fine. I just didn’t live like most people THINK they deserve to. So stop trying to tell me about a “living wage” and food banks and shit like that. You’re not talking to the son of Mitt Romney, no matter what you think, no matter what fantasy makes you feel good.

    On top of all that, this is all straw men. No one seems to want to address the points that I’ve made. Notably about the free market driving resources to where they are most needed. No one wants to address it, because they don’t like reality — they don’t like the facts. You don’t get to suckle at the nanny state teat just so you can be the ballet dancer you always wanted to be. Sorry, but no. The government’s job is not to make all your childhood dreams come true. You don’t seem to get that includes me just as much as everyone else. Stop taking everything so personally.

    • @Ex: “Notably about the free market driving resources to where they are most needed. No one wants to address it, because they don’t like reality — they don’t like the facts.”

      You’re right. That’s basically how the free market works…or the sort-of version we have.

      Also, you’re right that I don’t like this reality. Which is why I want to change the system. To create a new reality.

  25. @Ex

    ” Alex: You’re so all over the map, so hysterical — you really don’t make much sense. From one sentence to the next, you really don’t make for compelling reading. You are the opposite of cogent.”

    Quit it with the hyberbole, okay? It has a certain amusement value at first, but then it becomes old and tired.

    You seem to have trouble understanding the concept of a “living wage”. A living wage means that you are making enough money to cover your basic needs without having to resort to going to the local food bank or church to get them. There. I summed it up in one sentence for ya. Not so hard to “get” now, I hope.

  26. Soooo, let’ s get this straight:
    1. The LA bureaucracy in charge of street justice, err, I mean, law enforcement, punishes one of its own for the unspeakable felony of honesty;
    2. Said fallen from grace, highly trained ex-killer goes on a rampage, targeting ex-colleagues and their sacrossanct families;
    3. Afore mentioned bureaucracy goes even more berserk than its former associate and shoots granny in the back while she’ s delivering newspapers!
    4. Ex-bureaucrat and his ex-comrades have a showdown in the woods after scaring the mundane civilians half to death;

    And this all supposedly goes to show how merciless capitalism is and how we need even more of the state’ s TLC?

  27. @Russell: Wrong. As usual. Or, at least — as expected. There’s a lot of that around here, mostly because people get very mad when faced with reality.

    “I know perfectly well that what I do isn’t really as important.”

    That’s a meaningless generalization, and in the end it’s irrelevant. At least with respect to what you make, versus what a teacher makes. There’s something about this basic idea that people either cannot grasp, or they do not WANT to grasp.

    At any rate, the comments you make about me are completely wrong — but they probably make you feel good. That seems to really drive people here, saying things that make them feel good.

  28. “Again, assuming [Exko] actually work for a living and [isn’t] some 21-year-old Young Republican who thinks that Ayn Rand hangs the sun and stars”

    He’s in software. Maybe a developer, maybe in security. And he thinks it’s the most important thing in the world.

    I’m a software developer too, and although I make more than any schoolteacher, I know perfectly well that what I do isn’t really as important. I damn sure wouldn’t trade jobs with a schoolteacher, even if I could keep my salary.

    But I know I’ve had a lot of luck. Even high IQ is just winning the genetic lottery. People like Exko don’t believe in luck, good or bad, everything is due to merit. People like that have usually had a LOT of good luck in their lives, starting with who their parents were (genes and money).

  29. Alex: You’re so all over the map, so hysterical — you really don’t make much sense. From one sentence to the next, you really don’t make for compelling reading. You are the opposite of cogent. That said, I’ll briefly address a couple points culled from the incoherent mess that is your response:

    1. “I don’t know where you’ve ever worked (if you ever have worked), but you are not describing reality.”
    A: Yes, I work. Yes, I am describing reality. For tens of millions of people, I have described reality. A very simple, easy to evidence .. reality. People ask for raises everyday. People leave for better jobs every day. This is how the free market works.

    2. “There is no such thing as an irreplaceable person in business.”
    A. I never said there was. This is what’s commonly called “a straw man”. You attribute to me some quote, or idea, that I never said/made. Then, you tear it down. In addition to being nonsensical, it strips you of credibility. Don’t create straw men if you want to be taken seriously.

    3. The “race to the bottom” scenario, while it has some merit, is mostly a myth. This is evidenced by China not being very attractive anymore given their wage inflation, the result being the jobs are staying here, and — in some cases — returning to the US. Apple is one example.

    4. “You make cradle-to-grave protection sound like a nightmare.”
    A. The nightmare is the sense of entitlement people have with respect to the nanny state. Basic safety nets and protections are one thing. Cradle-to-grave entitlement is, in fact, a nightmare.

    5. “There is no free market, because look at all the corporate intervention”.
    A. Yes, all the corporate intervention should be stopped. That’s the solution, NOT extending even MORE nanny state intervention to every last person. We need LESS nanny state, for all entities — not more.

    In closing, I would like to reiterate my main point: The free market ensures we get enough ditch diggers and not an oversupply of ballet dancers. The notion that the nanny state should prop up people so they can do whatever they want, is truly the height of entitlement. Of arrogance. Of real self-serving horseshit. I don’t know about you, but I want janitors, ditch diggers, lettuce pickers, street cleaners, window washers, garbage men, and other undesirable jobs to be filled — and filled consistently. The notion that tax dollars should be redistributed so people can be authors, ballet dancers, actors, reality show starts, and yes — cartoonists, just so they can circumvent the free market? Disgusting. Appalling. Truly the apex of entitlement culture. There was a time when people would have been utterly ashamed of making such comments, much less actually believing them. Not anymore. Not in a time when “The Big Gimme” is in full swing.

    Oh, and as to the personal attacks on me: I could refute them, but it doesn’t matter to me what you think of me as a person. I know who I am, what I’ve done, etc … I can hold my head high. You? I doubt it. No one who was proud of themselves would say the appalling things crawling out of your mouth.

  30. Ex,

    “If you think you merit a raise, then you’d have no problem asking for one. If your employer deems you worth a raise, you’ll get one. If not, you won’t. That’s called ‘the free market’ and labor is subject to the free market like anything else.”

    Where to begin? Okay. First, I don’t know where you’ve ever worked (if you ever have worked), but you are not describing reality. Example: Bill Gates. Now, if there were ever an instance of someone being uniquely qualified and successful at running a company, I think we can all agree on Gates as being pretty high on the short list. If not, that’s okay, because the question I’m about to ask still holds.

    When the unique, brilliant, iconoclastic genius who starts a company drops dead, how often does the company shut down (not counting instances where the owner left instructions in his will to close the place down)? When Steve Jobs dropped dead, did anyone SERIOUSLY think there was going to be a line of people trundling out to their cars with cardboard boxes of knick-knacks? “We don’t know what we’re doing anymore. I mean, there’s no one there to come up with new ideas, no one knows how to restock the candy machines, the coffee makers are out of those little cups you put in them …”

    There is no such thing as an irreplaceable person in business.

    Second, there is no such thing as a free market. Let’s go to wikipedia: “A free market is a market structure in which the distribution and costs of goods and services, wage rates, interest rates — along with the structure and hierarchy between capital and consumer goods — are coordinated by supply and demand unhindered by external regulation or control by government or monopolies.”

    Please list the businesses that don’t avail themselves — even if they’ve paid zero in taxes, like Exxon — of the public roads, the public electricity grid, the court system (officer, he stole a tank of gas, please process him through the courts, which I will have to pay nothing for), etc. There is no such thing as a free market. The government is there holding it all together. The “free” market? That’s propaganda.

    “A couple months later, you’ve been replaced be someone else — and the company is doing just fine. In fact, the new employee is more productive for a lower, starting wage. Your worst nightmare has just come true. YOU are not so important and valuable. Why? The free market just told you so. Is it any wonder liberals always want the nanny to step in and rig things? When the facts hurt, run to the nanny.”

    Ex, take a deep breath and follow your scenario through to its conclusion. Everyone getting replaced because there is always someone more desperate willing to take the job for less. Is that how YOU work? Is that what happens at your performance review each year? (Again, assuming you actually work for a living and aren’t some 21-year-old Young Republican who thinks that Ayn Rand hangs the sun and stars.)

    “What really baffles is the notion the ‘the system’ (there’s that word again) somehow OWES you a cradle-to-grave existence of comfort and certainty. You should ALWAYS have a well-paying, satisfying job, a nice house, nice cars, all the accoutrements of an upper class existence, and then die a comfortable death at a ripe old age.”

    Ex, again, you are just cherry-picking argument points. No one is saying that whole thing. There is a big difference between saying that a janitor should make a living wage and saying that he should be given the keys to a Mercedes. As I mentioned once before, you need to read Rousseau. I know, I know, you don’t need to read anything, you know all this by inspiration. But Rousseau is kind of like Darwin. Without his premise of the social contract, nothing else really makes any sense. You start getting crazy theories that require all sorts of mumbo-jumbo (God, the “free” market) to make it work.

    You make cradle-to-grave protection sound like a nightmare. Oh, heavens, he broke his leg and was able to get it fixed, instead of limping along in agony until he died. What, exactly, do you hate so much about the idea of pooling resources for maximum benefit? It’s what insurance companies do. It’s how stocks function. How the hell do you think smallpox got eliminated? A corporate initiative? No. The government, taxing people and using that money.

    If the government cannot provide cradle-to-grave protections, then the government is not functioning correctly (see Rousseau). The government is broken, not the lazy good-for-nothing people.

    Seriously. I really think an answer to what, exactly, you despise so much about no one starving to death or freezing in a gutter, would be instructive. Because all you keep coming back to is this lottery/survivalist/bunker mentality that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. You don’t just want the fancy meal for yourself, you want to have a bunch of starving Ethiopians watch you stuff it down your throat. But, you assure us, if the tables were turned, you’d just starve until your pluck and determination got you something?

    Jesus wept. What a horrific world must unspool between your ears.

  31. In economic terms, part of what goes to the rich is called ‘rent on the means of production’ (for Marxists) or ‘rent on capital’ (for non-Maxist economists). Clearly, a person is given control of one of the means of production strictly based on merit, and every cent of that rent is earned, along with the right to hire and fire at will the members of the labour force who use those means of production to produce goods and services. The New York Times Disunion blog (back in 2010) had a link to a 19th century chart showing that 1/6 of the value of the coal a miner produced went to the miner and 5/6 went to the mine owner (I failed to bookmark the link, sorry), and 5/6 is clearly the minimum share of the revenues generated by a means of production that should go to the person who controls that means of production. (Today, the means of production are usually owned by millions of small shareholders who get tiny dividends and have no say in how those means are used, while most of the money goes to the CEO who controls those means of production, so we can no longer talk about owners, but must talk about the controllers.)

    The other part is salesmanship. Someone who can buy DOS for $10,000 and lease it for trillions gets rich. Someone who can create CDOs out of nothing, write up what they promise in legalese making no (legally) false promises, and then sell them for trillions gets rich. (Selling stocks you don’t actually have but promise in writing you DO have is easier, but you end up like Madoff.) Clearly, this job is just as important and technically demanding as being in control of the means of production, since these people can earn just as much, and in so doing provide great benefits to the rest of us (unlike the people who just wrote DOS but couldn’t convince anyone to give them more than $10,000 for it, showing their skills were only worth the $10,000 they were justly rewarded for those skills and their labour).

    Some people like Mr Rall question whether either of these two very profitable and high-paying positions is really worth the money they pay and whether these two classes of people are really the most meritorious. But exkiodexian knows they are, and that they clearly earn every cent they get.

  32. “How can you say that with a straight face?”

    Simple. Because it’s true. For instance: Hostess. The workers said they would rather lose their jobs than take a further pay cut, because it just wasn’t worth it.

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/16/news/companies/hostess-workers/index.html

    So there — I’ve provided evidence. Can you?

    “I would be happy to run a corporation for $100,000 a year.”

    Then put yourself in the CEO market. If a company finds that you have the skills to run their business and will do it for a competitive price, you’ll get the job. Considering you think it’s easier than the janitor’s job, I don’t think you’ll cut it. I know the CEO of my company works his ass off, and is quite smart. Sorry to burst your bubble with reality.

    “Personally I think that the goal of any advanced society should be to let everybody do whatever they want”

    No. Total bullshit. Easily dispatched with a quote from Office Space:

    “If everyone listened to her, there’d be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars.”

    In your world, there’d be no one to clean up shit because everyone would be a ballet dancer, or reality show star, or novelist, or musician. Nothing that needs to get done, would get done. The market ensures resources — including human resources — are allocated to their best use. As Ted Knight says in Caddyshack, “the world needs ditch diggers.” Well said and very true. The free market ensures we get enough ditch diggers and not an oversupply of ballet dancers.

  33. “No, because then people wouldn’t do that job.”

    That depends on what their other choices are. Is unemployment 1% or 10%?

    A lot of places pay such low wages that their employees are eligible for food stamps. This is a nanny state for corporations, and one reason why I’d prefer a WPA (as well as a higher minimum wage) rather than the kind of welfare we’ve got.

  34. “The janitor need not make as much as the CEO, but he should make enough to live on. If the market can’t provide that, the problem is with the market, not the janitor.”

    No, because then people wouldn’t do that job. And it appears the market IS working. Salary.com lists the median salary for a janitor at $25k per year, which is well above minimum wage, and is enough to live on. I know, because I’ve lived on much less, in NYC no less. Add to that the fact that married people will bring in two salaries, and now you’re at $50k — for jobs that require very little skill. Very, very little skill — yet two people can have ~$50k per year. The free market is working just fine thank you. We don’t need a salary czar destroying people’s lives, enforcing egalitarian outcomes, and allowing people to do what they want (like avant garde ballet, or underwater basket weaving) instead of what the market demands. Life is work, not a game where you get to do what you would like to do — and have the nanny state make that possible. No way, not here. Never.

    • Ex: “No, because then people wouldn’t do that job.”

      How can you say that with a straight face?

      Even if the CEO earned less than a janitor, I would rather be a CEO. A CEO doesn’t work nearly as hard. He has a lot more social status. I never understood the argument that you wouldn’t be able to find people to work in the executive suite unless you paid them millions of dollars a year. I would be happy to run a corporation for $100,000 a year. Thrilled, even. You wouldn’t even have to pay any health benefits.

      “Life is work, not a game where you get to do what you would like to do”

      Why not? Personally I think that the goal of any advanced society should be to let everybody do whatever they want and figure out a way to ensure that they can eat and put a roof over their heads.

  35. We had totally free markets at the beginning of the 20th century. That gave us 8 year old working 12 hour shifts in garment factories.

    There has to be a balance- enough market freedom to motivate, enough nanny state to catch those who fall. Because a market economy needs someone to loss. We need more janitors than CEOs. Businesses prefer 5% unemployment to 0.5%.

    In a decent society, people who want to work can find work and people who work full time can lead decent lives. The janitor need not make as much as the CEO, but he should make enough to live on. If the market can’t provide that, the problem is with the market, not the janitor.

  36. @Ex

    “If you can’t get a higher paying job, perhaps — just perhaps — it’s because that’s what the market deems your value to be.”

    The “market” does not exist as a sentient being, and therefore does not have the capacity to assign “value” to actual sentients, i.e. human beings.

    If you want to believe in some omnipresent, all-seeing deity called “The Market”, then that is your prerogative. I, and most people, I would hazard, don’t believe this deity really exists. But if you want to convince me that it does, then by all means, try to convert me to it’s worship.

  37. “Is it any wonder that wages are stagnant or falling? Who would be stupid enough to dare to ask for a raise?”

    What nonsense. Here we go again, blaming “the system”, or “Harvard MBAs”, or whoever else can be blamed. Just don’t point the finger inward, no sir!

    If you think you merit a raise, then you’d have no problem asking for one. If your employer deems you worth a raise, you’ll get one. If not, you won’t. That’s called “the free market” and labor is subject to the free market like anything else. If you don’t like your pay, look for another job. If you can’t get a higher paying job, perhaps — just perhaps — it’s because that’s what the market deems your value to be. In short, you’re being paid fairly — you just don’t think so because you want to drive a Lexus and not a Hyundai. Tough.

    Here’s the worst nightmare for people: They demand a raise. They don’t get it. They leave the company, thinking “I’ll show them. NOW they’ll know my true value. They’ll regret losing me because I’ll MAKE them regret it, by my leaving.”

    A couple months later, you’ve been replaced be someone else — and the company is doing just fine. In fact, the new employee is more productive for a lower, starting wage. Your worst nightmare has just come true. YOU are not so important and valuable. Why? The free market just told you so. Is it any wonder liberals always want the nanny to step in and rig things? When the facts hurt, run to the nanny.

    “We live in a disposable society. We are disposable.”

    Is that news? Guess what — people die. All animals die. All life dies. Sometimes young, sometimes old. Sometimes comfortable, sometimes in dire circumstances. What really baffles is the notion the “the system” (there’s that word again) somehow OWES you a cradle-to-grave existence of comfort and certainty. You should ALWAYS have a well-paying, satisfying job, a nice house, nice cars, all the accoutrements of an upper class existence, and then die a comfortable death at a ripe old age.

    Sorry, doesn’t work that way. This nanny state bullshit HAS to end. It’s astonishing just how enamored liberals are with the nanny state, always looking for cradle-to-grave protection. Everyone is disposable and no one is special. That’s reality. Trying to circumvent it with an ever-present nanny is deranged.

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