June 5, 2015

Baltimore PPA organizer’s car shot up — “We will not be intimidated, silenced or stopped!”

The Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly and Southern Christian Leadership Conference Call for Friday, June 5, 2015 Press Conference at 1 P.M. at 2011 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 to Announce and Release the Following Statement in Response to Organizer’s Car Being Shot Up –

“To the Baltimore City Police Department and all concerned: We will not be intimidated, silenced or stopped! Our organizations and organizers will continue to stand strong until justice is won for Freddie Grey and all of the victims of police terror. We look forward to a strong and united Peoples Assembly and Tribunal on Police Terror called for this Saturday on June 6th.”

This past Tuesday, Sharon Black’s car was shot up with what appears to be a 357 magnum weapon, bullets went through several layers of steel from back to front, aimed at the driver’s head rest. The rear window was also shot up. Black, her son Steven Ceci, a guest from South Central Los Angeles, John Parker, were at her East Baltimore row home when all three heard 5 to 6 gun shots several yards from their residence at approximately 11 P.M. Tuesday night as they returned from work at the PPA’s nearby offices.

This attack is combined with a series of threatening phone calls to both the PPA’s phone line and Black’s personal phone, including a barrage of robotic attacks to both phones and disruptions to the organizations communications systems.

Sharon Black, PPA organizer and Rev CD Witherspoon, SCLC President jointly stated, “We take this attack and other threats very seriously and want to send a clear message to the Baltimore Police Department, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and any and all forces that may wish us harm, that we will not be intimidated, silenced or stopped in our continuing fight for justice for Freddie Grey and all victims of police terror. We want to say to all of our concerned friends and supporters: We are stronger than ever and look forward to a vibrant and productive assembly this Saturday, where we will not only hear from the victims of police abuse but plan our next steps toward ending police terror and winning jobs and livable wages now.”

Saturday’s Assembly will take place at New Unity Church, 100 W. Franklin Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 (corner of West Franklin & Cathedral Streets) 2 P.M. to 7 P.M.

April 21, 2015

How much would a $15/hr minimum wage cost?

Why should we have a living wage?  What is the cost of lifting workers out of poverty?

These are important questions that are on a lot of people's minds right now, thanks to the Green Party's campaign for a $15/hr minimum wage in Portland.

If we raise the minimum wage to a living wage, won’t it cause people to lose their jobs?
The short answer is no.  Why?

If you are a businessperson, you don’t break even on the labor of your employees.  (Or if you do, you are bad at business.)  For successful businesses, hiring an employee is only done if the resulting value created by their labor is well above the cost of their labor.  Why?  Because that’s where profit comes from!

But won’t doubling the minimum wage cause the price to the consumer to double?

No.  When you pay for a $5 cup of coffee, much of that $5 you pay is profit for the employer.  Only a small fraction of that cup of coffee goes to pay overhead costs, which can be divided further into raw material costs, utility costs, and labor costs.  So the cost of labor actually makes up a small proportion of the $5 that you’re paying.  So if you were to double that small fraction of the cost, you will see a similarly small increase in the total cost to the consumer.

Perhaps that’s biting off too much to chew all at once.  It’s easy to understand why people think that doubling the wage will result in doubling of prices.  Employees are the people that you speak with on a daily basis, not the owners, and you put your money in the hands of employees, and so it feels correct that they keep most of it.  But that's not the case at all.  A critical part of the equation is missing: employer profit.

Many people don’t realize that the labor that goes into producing a product is necessarily compensated far below productivity.  Profit is the difference between the price of the product to the consumer and the cost to the employer to make that product.  So the cost of labor needs to be less than the cost to the consumer minus raw materials.

Raw material costs vary from product to product, but generally are very low.  Take a fast food meal that costs $8.  With a large soda costing somewhere around $0.07 per cup in seltzer and syrup, and similarly low prices for fries and burgers purchased on massive scales, costs to the employer by way of material costs are very low, like $0.50 per meal.  Labor is the magical ingredient that takes $0.50 of frozen meat patty and french fries, and turns it into an $8 fast food meal.

Now, if we were to reverse the model of compensation, and say that instead of getting a flat hourly wage, instead employees got paid piecework instead, and assuming there was no profit, a worker earning the federal minimum wage would only need to make roughly one meal every hour to pay their wage.  Every additional meal that they make in that hour has only one cost to the employer-- raw materials.

For the sake of making this argument more realistic, let’s say you’ve got a staff of 4 working in the fast food joint.  You would only need to make one $8 meal every 15 minutes to pay the day’s wages.
Over the course of an 8 hour day, that’s only 32 meals per day to pay the labor cost of four employees.

As somebody who has worked in fast food, I can tell you first hand, that in the course of an 8 hour shift, one makes quite a bit more than 32 meals a day.  Granted, it’s not steady, there are some busy times when one makes 100 meals in one hour, and other times where an hour can pass where not a single meal is sold, so given that, it’s safe to assume an average of 32 meals an hour, not 32 meals a day.

At $8 a meal, 32 meals an hour generates $256 per hour.

Accounting for the raw materials of those 32 meals, at $0.50 per meal, the cost is $16 an hour, leaving $240/hr left over for the employer.  Pretty good so far.

So now we need to pay our workers. Those 32 meals an hour, remember that less than four meals pay the wage of the 4 employees. Together those four employees cost $30 per hour, leaving $210 an hour left over for the employer.

$210 an hour, over the course of an 8 hour workday, is $1680 a day in profit for the employer.  Granted I’m not adding other costs like rent or utilities, but those costs are monthly not daily, so I’m going to ignore them for the sake of simplifying this hypothetical.

If you double the wages of the employees so that they are earning $15 an hour individually, or for the four of them together they would cost $60/hr. That would leave the employer with $180/hr in profit, or $1440 in profit per 8 hour shift each day.

That’s still quite good.  The employer may take home $240 a day less in profit, but now those employees can afford to participate in the economy in ways that they would never have been able to earning $7.50/hr.

Let’s say though, hypothetically, that the employer must earn $1680 per shift in net profit, and thus would pass 100% this added labor cost on to the consumer.  We can easily calculate that cost to the consumer by dividing the cost of labor over the average number of meals prepared in a day.
32meals per hour X 8hrs per shift = 256 meals a day.

The additional labor cost of $240 per day / by 256meals  = an additional $0.93 per meal.
So you’d see your $8 meal increase to $8.93, and now the employees have been lifted out of poverty and are earning twice as much.

So the short answer is not noticeably, at least not if a business is following the pure economics of supply and demand and all that jazz.  A business could double the prices to $16 per meal and say that it’s because of the minimum wage increase, but such an increase would not be a sound business decision-- it would be a political move by a greedy business owner, who wants to turn their customers against doing the right thing.

If it costs an additional $1 per meal to double the wages of low income workers and raise an entire population out of poverty, why not do it?  

April 20, 2015

Additional Votes Green Party candidate JIll Stein Could have Earned in 2012 without affecting the Electoral College

So I get pissed off whenever I hear about how the Green Party is a spoiler. Mathematically that's just total bullshit.
I went to wikipedia and took down the numbers of votes that both Romney and Obama got in the 2012 election, in the states where Obama won, and since there's only two states where the electoral college isn't "winner takes all" I was able to calculate how many additional votes Jill Stein (Green Party) could have earned without even changing the outcome.

The answer? 11.5 million additional votes. That's just in states that went Blue.
If you didn't vote Green in 2012, and you're wondering if you should in 2016 because of the bullshit spoiler argument, fear not.
Mathematically speaking, every state is a safe state to vote Green in.

March 11, 2015

Jacob Augustine - Salvation

Salvation” is out today alongside PhiladelphiaBad Braids on a split 7” released by the aptly titled Pretty Purgatory collective. The split is absolutely loaded with guest appearances from current & former members of O’Death, Tredici Bacci, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, The Milkman’s Union, Cowboy Band, Family Planning, and others. Augustine will be performing 3/23 on the UMass Amherst campus in Amherst, MA.

Into it? Download the single or order the 7″ at Pretty Purgatory’s bandcamp.

Directed by Jeremy S. Collins

"Salvation" is one half of a Jacob Augustine/Bad Braids split single, available on 7" vinyl from Pretty Purgatory. Download or order it at: https://prettypurgatory.bandcamp.com/



Written & Directed By: JEREMY S. COLLINS


First Assistant Director: MICHAEL FICARA
Director of Photography: DAN KENNEDY
First Assistant Camera: JEFF OLIVE
Editor / Colorist: JEREMY S. COLLINS


Thank You:

March 8, 2015

The Sacred Purposelessness of ‘Art for Arts Sake’

by Asher Platts

I recently attended a lecture by economist Dr Richard Wolff at the University of Southern Maine (USM). He was there to talk about marxist economics, the rejection of the false narrative of austerity, which played directly into the present crisis that university systems  such as USM, are experiencing around the United States of America-- budget cuts, slashing of funding, consolidation of departments, layoffs of teachers, retrenchments of faculty with tenure, the breaking of teacher’s unions-- all in the name of Austerity.

The economics of the lecture were sound.  He rightly pointed out that the New Deal era ultimately did not go far enough, because though it made many advances to improve the condition of the working class, it ultimately left the capitalist class in charge of the economy. 

The only way that we can stop the theft of control over our destiny by the economic elite is by restructuring our society to be truly democratic-- not meaning just political democracy, or representative democracy, but workplace democracy, and educational democracy.

While advocates for free market economics seem to think that their economic mode of organization provides more freedom to individuals in society, the drive for profits tends towards a society in which a small group has just as much social control and censorship as the politburo of the Soviet Union had.

Under Austerity, the departments that are always first to be cut, are the things that don’t make exorbitant amounts of money in the marketplace.  The arts, literature, languages that aren’t economically “in vogue” (Mandarin is now, Latvian is not, for example) liberal arts, critical thinking, and so on, are all them are deemed to be unnecessary and unworthy of funding.  By artificially limiting the number of possibilities for study, we eliminate an exponential number of possible future societies.  Unregulated markets tend towards monopoly. Similarly, by deciding what is not offered at the University, the capitalists pushing the agenda of austerity are creating a monopoly of thought.

But I digress.  The lecture was, on the whole, fantastic, and while I respect Dr Wolff as an economist, there was a moment that did have me wincing.

One of the formerly tenured professors from the USM school of music who has been retrenched asked the question, “in the new society that you are looking to build, what is the purpose of the arts, of music?”

And this is a question that I had myself in class 8 years prior when a professor was going on about the efficiencies and justice of a marxist economy, how when freed from the slavish drive towards profit, the economy could instead work towards that which provides value to society.  But who decides if art is of value to society?

My sociology professor was unable to provide a satisfactory answer.

The answers that both my sociology professor did then, and that Richard Wolff gave more recently, both made obvious that questions of art and culture should be left to artists and culture makers, not economists or sociologists, who spend less time creating arts and culture (or thinking what they mean) and spend more time thinking about their function.  They both went on about the pragmatic function of art, especially in service of the revolution.  Which left me feeling a bit flat.

Whether it’s under socialism to glorify the proletariat uprising, or providing a speculative market for investors under capitalism, requiring art to serve some sort of narrowly defined purpose in order to have value is an act of violence against freedom of thought.

Looking at the way that many indigenous societies are structured, the most important jobs are not the jobs which Maslow’s hierarchy of needs deems primary, the things vital to survival like gathering and preparing food, nor building structures, or creating clothing. Able to keep the entirety of the fruits of their labor rather than working for a wage, each of these tasks only take up a fraction of societies time, leaving them with ample unstructured free time, which they fill with recreation, art, stories, and interpretations of the world around them.  It would seem that interpreting the world around us is more important and valuable to society than the supposed bedrock of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

While the revolution needs anthems and propaganda to propagate it’s message of an alternative way to structure society, the difference between a commercial jingle and art music is that one exists for the sake of selling a product, and another exists purely for the sake of existing.  

The society that I desire to build respects, with a sort of holy veneration, the purposelessness of art for arts sake.  The black box, the question mark of what an art object means, challenges us to explore ourselves as individuals, and as a society.  

The unknowable nature of what art means forces us to experiment making new connections between unlike objects, ideas, and sensations, in an act of interpretation.  It’s from these new associations that new ideas arise, take hold, and grow; It’s from these new ideas, through which the mental evolution of our collective consciousness is accelerated.

For this reason, I would advocate that art should never have an external force placing on it any requirement to serve any purpose whatsoever.  This is not to say that art is without purpose, but it’s purposelessness needs to be respected, because it is an arena of experimentation.  And with experimentation comes failure.  And small scale failures should be encouraged as a part of the process of building towards large scale success.  

A society that is structured so that everybody has access to the most basic necessities of housing, healthcare, food, education, and clothing is possible.  It is not only possible, but it is more and more close to being achieved through automation. Even if unable to completely eliminate the need for human labor, we can drastically reduce the need for human labor.  Under capitalism that means that humans have no value to the economy.  Under socialism, that means that we are free to spend our time with recreation, art, story telling, and interpreting the world around us, as indigenous societies do, and as our own indigenous ancestors once did.

By decoupling the value of a human being to society from the amount of time spent working for a wage or salary, we create a society where human beings are free to explore their interests, to expand their knowledge, to pursue, as hobbies, specialized fields such as engineering of the electrical, mechanical, computer, or biological varieties.  We are free to pursue the creation of culture; art, music, theater, literature.

To drive the point further, I would also argue that, without any external reference or framework, that our time spent on earth is entirely pointless and without value.  However, by structuring our society in such a way that our basic needs are met, eliminating the suffering caused by poverty, and freeing ourselves from tedium, we create an opportunity to explore a vast universe of knowledge-- thus making our time on this earth meaningful. We can, through our own action of will, give our lives value. 

We can create our own meaning.  That ultimately is, and always has been, the purpose of the arts.

Asher Platts is a musician, artist, videographer, politician, lay economist, Green Party activist, and blogger at PunkPatriot.com

February 24, 2015

Obama, Giuliani, and The Use of Dog Whistles to Obscure the Real Problem

By Zachary C. Sneddon
24 February 2015

It is my considered opinion that President Obama should be impeached for taking the unprecedented step of openly authorizing the drone strike assassinations of natural-born American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan without due process of law, in direct contravention to Article III Sections 2 and 3 and the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution he swore an oath to uphold when he took office.

Traitors the al-Awlakis and Khan may well have been, but the Constitution guarantees even traitors due process of law, which consists of more than just executive fiat.  It bewilders and dismays me that more people aren't outraged and incensed by this unprecedented subversion of Constitutional authority, but nobody else seems to give two shits because the assassinated natural-born American citizens in question were ethnically Arabic Muslims.

Then again, I don't harbor any suspicion that Barack Obama loves America any less than Rudy Giuliani.

At a recent fundraising dinner with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former New York City Mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said, and I quote:

"I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."

That isn't the considered argument of a rational statesman; that's the inflammatory polemic of a chicken hawk with a war boner pandering to a xenophobic base, playing up the apparent 'otherness' of the President on no basis other than his own narrow personal definition of what it means to love this country.

You know who Giuliani sounded like? He sounded like Joe fuckin' McCarthy.  Who the fuck is he to tell me what it means to love my country?  I served honorably for more than seven years on active duty in the United States Navy, don't you DARE presume to tell me what it means to love my country.  I don't respond well to this line of polemic.

You know who does respond well to this horseshit?  Racists.

I'm not a fan of this administration, but trotting out a white supremacist dog whistle to rile up the bigots who suffer from an utterly irrational anxiety born of living under the administration of a black President with a non-Anglo-sounding name--as Giuliani did--does nothing to advance the nation's political discourse.  Meanwhile, the drone war continues unabated and unremarked upon by the establishment bloc of either major party.

Relevant Links

The Atlantic:
Obama's Execution of the Drone War Should Terrify Even Drone Defenders

American Civil Liberties Union:
Blog of Rights: Anwar al-Awlaki

The New York Times:
The Drone That Killed My Grandson

Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute:
United States Constitution, Article III, Section 2
United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3
United States Constitution, Fifth Amendment
United States Constitution, Sixth Amendment
United States Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment

Rudy Giuliani: President Obama doesn’t love America

The Guardian:
We dream about drones, said 13-year-old Yemeni before his death in a CIA strike

January 22, 2015

Dadaist Response to the 2015 #SOTU

How to shoot a video that doesn't completely suck, with no $

Before the A/V nerds go postal on all the fine arts and technique that I am not talking about: this isn't a tutorial on how to make a high quality video.

Not remotely so.

This is a tutorial on how to make a video that doesn't completely suck with no money.

So with that in mind, let's start:

STEP ONE -- where are you shooting?

Is it neon pink? Then paint the walls or hang up some sheets, because otherwise you're going to reflect neon pink off your face in the shoot.
The best color walls are neutral colors, like white, off white, beige, brown, or black. They won't really affect the color of your shot, which is helpful.

STEP TWO -- camera angle. Make sure you are actually in the shot, for starts. Then you want to make sure that you are shooting from above, for a more flattering shot. (nobody wants to look up your nose at your boogers)

Shooting from below is weird. Don't do that. I think people have better posture, breath control, and chin definition when they are standing.  So if you're going to stand up for your shoot, put your laptop on a box or something so that it's level with your face, and so that the camera is a little higher than you are.

If you're taller, like me, you may have to sit down.  That's okay.  Put a pillow behind your back and sit on the edge of the seat.  Plant your feet firmly on the ground.  Don't slouch, you'll look like you're falling asleep.  Nobody wants to watch you fall asleep.

STEP THREE -- Lighting. Lighting is important.
Don't light yourself from behind, unless you're in the witness protection program.

HOW TO AVOID: Make sure there are no light sources behind you. Common nuisance backlights are room lights on the ceiling positioned behind you or between you and the camera (or behind you), open windows curtains that are bleeding in light, etc. Try to film with your back to a wall, or even better, a light-killing black curtain.

DO NOT LIGHT YOURSELF FROM BELOW. No matter how good you look in daylight, you will almost assuredly look like this when lit from below:

HOW TO AVOID: Don't light yourself with a desklamp that is sitting below your camera.
Don't light yourself with the cold lifeless glow of your laptop.
Make sure you don't have a flashlight in your lap pointed at your face.
Make sure your lighting is above your head (like where the sun is in the sky), or aimed at the ceiling to diffuse the light and reflect it back down onto you.
Just don't have a source of light that is below your field of vision, or if there is one, make sure to balance it out by having another light source that is stronger.


You can't afford proper lighting if you have zero $.


You should probably light from more than once source.
If you do that, you'll have two lights, a "key light" which is the stronger one and provides definition and shiz, and your "fill light" which is diffuse and fills the shadows on your face with a softer more diffuse light.

Or you can just put a couple lamps in the room behind the camera and call it good.

OH wait, you only have one lamp? Yeah, you can probably make that work too.