Amazon’s planned obsolescence for its workers

In an ideal world, products would be made to last as long as possible and companies would strive to keep their workers content because such workers are more productive and you want them to stay because training new people to do jobs is disruptive and inefficient. But with unbridled capitalism that demands rising revenues and cutting costs, such a model no longer works.

First came planned obsolescence. Instead of making things to last as long as possible, some items are now built to last for just a limited time so that people have to periodically go out and buy a new item. This is not only expensive, it is bad for the environment, using more raw materials than necessary and filling up landfills.

Then came the attack on workers. Companies realized that long time workers cost more because their wages had risen over time. It became to be seen that profitability could be increased by forcing out older workers and replacing them with entry level people. The temporary loss in efficiency and continuity could be compensated for in lower wage costs. It used to be that the older workers who were forced out were at the higher rungs of the work force, those earning much more than entry level workers, while the lower level workers were spared.
[Read more…]

The need for double-blind methods in police lineups

One of the methods that police use to identify people they suspect may have committed a crime is to put them in a lineup with other people and have eyewitnesses pick them out. But Laura Smalarz writes that the way this is often done is fraught with problems.

On the strength of six eyewitnesses’ lineup identifications, Lydell Grant was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for the murder of a young Texas man, Aaron Scheerhoorn, who was stabbed to death outside a Houston nightclub in 2010.

All six of those eyewitnesses were wrong.

Thanks to the work of the Innocence Project of Texas, new DNA testing on biological material collected from underneath the victim’s fingernails cleared Grant and implicated another man, Jermarico Carter, who police said confessed to the killing. Carter has now been indicted for the murder by a grand jury, and Lydell Grant was released from prison.

But faith in eyewitnesses runs so deep that despite the overwhelming proof of Grant’s innocence, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals initially refused his exoneration request. Instead, they asked that the six eyewitnesses who originally testified against Grant respond to his claims of innocence. Finally, almost a year later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared Grant “actually innocent” on May 19, 2021.

[Read more…]

The perpetual Cold War rhetoric

Russia and China are major powers with vast nuclear arsenals. Hence one would think that it would be in everyone’s interest if the those two countries, along with the US, had good relationships with one another. And yet we have the spectacle of, at least in the US, the media and the political and pundit class demanding that the US take a hard line against the two, particular with Russia. Almost any negative news that could be even remotely connected to Russia is amplified to make Russian president Vladimir Putin into some kind of malevolent Rasputin-like figure, constantly scheming to undermine the US, and US presidents are constantly urged to talk tough and take a bellicose attitude in any negotiations.
[Read more…]

Forgetting the Alamo

I take part in a weekly online trivia quiz contest that was organized by skeptics during the lockdown but has proven so popular that it will continue even after the lockdowns end. The format involves five sets of ten questions, each set covering a particular category. Recently one set of questions was on the topic of the battle of Alamo, a site in what is now Texas. As the legend goes, a plucky group of less than 200 people then known as Texians heroically resisted thousands of Mexican troops for nearly two weeks before they were finally overrun. “Remember the Alamo!” has since become a rousing battle cry for Americans going into battle.

Since I did not grow up in the US and did not study the arcana of American history, you would expect me to be of no help whatsoever to my team in this round. But it turned out that I knew many of the answers and that is because country and western singer Marty Robbins was hugely popular in Sri Lanka and one of his songs called The Ballad of the Alamo released in 1960 was played frequently on the one English language radio station, so often that I ended up knowing the lyrics by heart by a form of osmosis. I was surprised how I could recall almost all the words. You can listen to the song.
[Read more…]

On not calling myself a feminist

In a recent post, I mentioned in passing that I do not call myself a feminist even though I consider it to be an honorable label and would like to think that I am supportive of the causes that feminists advocate for. Kat Stoeffel writes that it is a good idea to refrain from doing so.

I have a handful of straight male friends I consider to be feminists. They know when to speak up on behalf of a female friend or colleague, and they know when to sit down, shut up, and listen. They’re working through their issues about women without foisting them upon the women in their lives. They gently explain feminism to other men in the woman-bashing conversations that happen behind even the most progressive closed doors. And they would all sooner die than call themselves feminists.

I can’t say I blame them. There’s something suspicious about anyone eager to identify with the oppressed. Many men seem to reach for the “feminist” label first to shore up their sensitive-dude bona fides and, second, to get a little female validation.
[Read more…]

Ilhan Omar attacked for stating the obvious

The congresswoman from Minnesota has been subjected to fierce criticism for a tweet that she put out. What did she say that was so reprehensible?

All she was saying is that given that Israel and the US do not investigate the crimes committed by their own forces and since they object to the International Criminal Court investigating them, where are the victims supposed to go for justice? Are you puzzled as to why there is outrage? Here is the clue. You must never, ever, accuse the US and Israel of committing atrocities. And to include them along with Hamas, Afghanistan, and the Taliban is to compound the offense. That is enough to cause the Israel lobby and US imperialists to come out in full force to attempt to silence you.
[Read more…]

A dangerous police tactic

I was not aware that the police learn a technique known as the precision immobilization technique (PIT) by which they can cause another car to go out of control and even flip over. You would think that such a dangerous maneuver would be used only in extreme situations when it is essential that the car be stopped and there is no other alternative. But we see in this case an Arkansas state trooper doing this to a car that it had targeted for speeding and which had slowed down down and turned on its flashers when it saw the police lights, a sign that the car driver was planning to stop and was looking for a safe place to do so. But after waiting less than two minutes, the police did the PIT maneuver and as a result, the car flipped over. It turned out that the driver Nicole Harper was pregnant.

Watch.
[Read more…]

Magnetism can make you crazy

Ohio, the state where I lived for over thirty years, seems to be a breeding ground for nutcases and we saw them on display at recent statehouse hearings where several people peddled all manner of nutty theories about covid-19 and vaccines.

Here is anti-vaxxer named Dr. Sherri Tenpenny giving her two cents worth.


[Read more…]

How the rich avoid taxes

The report by ProPublica about how the very rich pay almost no taxes shows the problem with the tax system that taxes income and not wealth. As a result, the wealthy use devices to massively increase their wealth with things like stock options and other assets that do not get taxed until they are sold and get converted into income. But we know that the wealthy live a lavish lifestyle. So where does that money come from? Don’t they have to sell assets to get money and thus be liable for taxes on that amount? Ha! Such things apply only to peons like us.
[Read more…]

The curious business of process serving

In the US, if you file a civil lawsuit against someone, that person is not legally required to respond until notice of the suit has been personally given to the person, a process known as ‘process serving’. Usually this is just a formality. There are people whose job is to serve the papers and they come to your home or office or other place where you are known to hang out and give you the papers and that’s that. The rules for properly serving the papers vary by state but there are some common general ones.
[Read more…]