Two New Tools For Cops

Have you ever seen a video of a cop trying to handcuff a big guy who is face down and really doesn’t want to be cuffed? The crook wants his palms down so he can push up and fight, the cop wants his arm down, palm up, so he can’t. The cop gets his arm down, the guy gets it back up. The cop gets it down and tries to get a cuff on him. The guy doesn’t allow it, and so on and on. Eventually he gets a cuff on, and then there’s the other side.

This goes on for quite some time, often accompanied by several Taser shocks, until finally, at long last, the guy is cuffed behind his back, and the arrest can proceed. The cop is furious and exhausted.

Unfortunately, the guy sometimes gets shot or strangled in the process.

Here’s an idea for redesigned cuffs for wrists and ankles that largely does away with all the wrestling. The ankle cuffs may become the preferred ones.

Both upper and lower cuffs are constructed the same way. Both are constructed of tough but flexible material such as plastic or nylon. Their operation is similar to standard handcuffs: they may be tightened by squeezing the ratchets, but may only be released with a key.

These cuffs are different from standard cuffs in that they are connected by a tough tape whose end is attached to one cuff, passing through a bracket in the second, and ending at a handle that is used to pull the cuffs together. The tape is then locked to the second cuff with a ratchet device that is only unlocked with a key.

The tape between the handcuffs may be about four feet long, ending in a strong handle. The ankle cuff tape may be six feet or so, ending with the same handle. The ankle cuffs may prove more useful against a resisting prisoner because the ankles are in a weaker position when face down. In fact, if an ankle is raised, the leg is in its weakest position and is easily cuffed. The long tape puts the prisoner out of reach of the arresting officers once it’s on.

In either case, once the cuffs are tightened and pulled together the prisoner is easily controlled. The prisoner can be released and the arresting officers can back away. With ankle cuffs, the prisoner can roll over and sit up, but if he attempts to stand a quick jerk on the tape will seat him again. He can only get relief by accepting hand cuffs, so that the ankles can be released.

With the handcuffs on, the prisoner can easily be jerked into submission if need be with the handle at the end of the tape. It isn’t necessary to put hands on the prisoner except to prevent him from purposely injuring his head on the police car.

The cuffs construction, with a long tape connecting them, will easily overcome most of the resistance a prisoner might muster, and the safety of the arresting officers is more easily maintained.

Published in: on 2016/09/08 at 12:12 pm  Comments (1)  
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Why Aren’t We Talking About the Work Week?

Job flight to poor countries isn’t the only reason so many of our citizens can’t find work. The major reason, aside from greed, is modernization, which has been ongoing since Luddites broke up the new weaving machines with sledgehammers in 1811. Today it’s crucial.

Studies of the longterm unemployed poor find their numbers steadily increasing, along with homelessness, partly because their jobs shipped out, but also because computers and robots do so much of the work today that millions of jobs no longer exist. It’s not just the poor who are affected. Even top corporate officers can lose out.

If you look at the neighborhood corners in most cities you will find small stores every block or two. These were mom and pop stores, mostly empty now. Back in the day, these stores had two employee-owners, mom and pop, and they often lived upstairs, or in rooms at the back.

The store might be open 10 hours a day, six days a week. Customers came in and said what they wanted, mom or pop got it, weighed it, put it in paper and tied up the package with string. When corporate stores came along mid-century the work week dropped to 40 hours, although the stores were open longer than the mom and pop stores, and packages tied with string went away. Mom and pop could not match the hours those stores were open.

Many of the jobs that made a modern store efficient at midcentury have been replaced by software. A store employing 100 people might now need, say, 75, and the other 25 jobs vaporized.

In essence, counting those already unemployed, the de facto work week has dropped to 20 hours. But instead of Congress recognizing that and modernizing, the 40-hour week drags on, exacerbating unemployment. Almost no one is talking about the de facto 20-hour work week. It’s de facto because the total work hours needed divided by the number of people needing work comes to 20 hours or so. That’s just my guess, but it agrees with what John Maynard Keynes predicted would happen back in the 1930s.

It would be unwise to fight job flight by disallowing job migration to poor countries. There are ways to lure jobs back to the US, with new Government terms that would be attractive. Among these might be requiring certain products to be modernized, much the way organic foods are certified. Manufactured goods might be required to have enhanced safety and raw material requirements. (Remember the Chinese baby formula that killed babies?) Such requirements would result in safer and healthier products for US Americans, and would boost employment in the US.

Moving corporate headquarters to Ireland or some other place for tax purposes should result in a requirement that all such foreign corporations pay a duty for their products sold in the US, as well as infrastructure fees. National health care insurance would provide a major advantage to US businesses that compete with places that have national care. Corporations with overseas headquarters should not be allowed to use US national health care. Foreign corporations are already disallowed from exercising political influence in the US. But they do, and ending this lobbying would eliminate a big source of corruption and reduce purchase of legislation by the super-rich.

But the best thing we could do is to make the work week 20 hours. If we did, we would automatically have full employment. In fact we would have greater than full employment, because some people who have been so discouraged they dropped out of the labor market would return. How would we make 20 hours the official work week? Easy, we would require every hour above 20 to be paid at 150% of the employee’s wage, and the same for a secondary job.

To understand how this works, imagine what would happen if we established a longer work week. If the present 40-hour week were increased to 60 hours, each two employees would do the work of three people. That third person, now unemployed, would increase unemployment by 50%. The 20-hour work week takes us the opposite direction; that’s why it makes sense.

A problem immediately arises when the work week is shortened: what should the wage be? We need to preserve some sort of living wage, but can’t suddenly double what people make so they can work half as much. It’s not a new problem. Before the 40-hour week there was the 60-hour week, yet somehow we got the 40-hour week. The 20-hour week is also doable. Failure to adopt it will lead to even more inequality and poverty.

A partial solution comes from the realization that a satisfactory life isn’t entirely dependent on how many dollars we bring home. There is a growing realization that super-sized McMansions, pricey cars, and all the other elements of conspicuous consumption don’t really improve our lives. In addition, we don’t typically make use of our local community. For example, our local “Next Door” internet group regularly features a request to borrow something they will use only once, or wanting to give away something useful.

We already have many ways to assist with housing costs, including cooperative housing, city-financed homes, veteran benefits, and more. National health insurance would cut health costs in half, which is like a 7% raise in pay. Municipal transportation is improving, which has already made a second car unnecessary for many. Self-driving taxis may soon make any car unnecessary. Various other community efforts can potentially reduce other common costs.

A satisfying life is what’s important, and great wealth is literally irrelevant to that. But right now it is the very wealthy who control government, and they do it for their own endlessly increasing wealth, totally useless greed that has the effect of reducing everybody else’s wealth. This should not be the purpose of government in a democracy.

Dying For Lack of Opportunity

The death rate for white males in their middle years has skyrocketed because of suicide and drug overdose. These are people who have been denied the American dream. Their jobs disappeared, along with their house, their medical care, and their retirement. Their very lives.

People who have faced such depressing conditions become depressed, naturally. The longer it goes on, the more likely they will become dependent on alcohol or the other dangerous drugs that are so readily available everywhere. The longer they are depressed, the more likely it is they will kill themselves.

When these conditions affect the black population, self-righteous whites put on their church pins and tell them to man up. Get a job. They are not saying those things now, because the ones affected are white. There are no jobs of any kind in lots of places, other than a few part-time minimum wage gigs. Nothing you can live on.

Where did the jobs go? Many were shipped overseas by corporate bosses, where desperate people are forced to work under conditions that would be illegal here, and for pennies on the dollar.

But the other condition, which nobody is talking about, is the absorption of jobs by new robots and computers that aren’t paid a wage. We can’t even see this huge dilemma, because its onset has been insidious over decades, and it’s ubiquitous.

What began as a novelty is now the norm. Take the job of inventory of stock. Today’s young adults were not around to know that there were businesses whose sole purpose was to take inventory for companies that hired them. They came to work after a store was closed for the day, and a large crew counted everything in the store and wrote it down on paper. Later, the managers tallied these counts and presented their report to the store.

All those jobs are gone. Inventory today is continuous and invisible. Each new item is scanned into the computer, and each sold item is automatically deducted from the inventory count. If an item becomes depleted, the computer tells when to order more, or does it automatically. There’s no such thing as an independent inventory, and computers perform dozens of other business services that used to require employees.

Likewise, robots have taken over large parts of manufacturing in every realm. Even things like certain types of surgery are on the verge of being performed by robots, which are much faster than human surgeons.

This modernization came on over a long period, and the evidence is scattered, so it’s not easily seen with casual observation. But it’s everywhere.

Perhaps skilled laborers are the most heavily affected by this modernization, but in actuality, new machines are absorbing jobs at every level from unskilled labor to CEO, and some of the displaced from every kind of work end up on the street, helpless before the new reality.

This, I believe, is one of the reasons that homelessness is not being solved. Every year there are additional people forced from their homes and their former lives into the streets, into tents.

My belief is that there are two things we could do to help solve the condition. First, shorten the official work week to 30 hours or less, which would mean more people working. This is not a radical change. There were regular reductions of the 72-hour work week before we reached 40 hours. Second, require all employers to pay a living wage for 30 hours of work. High enough earnings to supply everything necessary. Living wage does not hurt business because employees must spend what they earn to survive, which is fed directly into the local economy.

The federal government could greatly help the nation’s people by passing several wise laws, such as improved Social Security and initiation of national health care, like every other nation did long ago. Note, however, that this modernization would make the insurance industry largely redundant. It’s also unlikely to happen any time soon because conservatives have labelled it “Socialism”, which they associate with Karl Marx and the USSR, whereas the proper model is the modern nations of Europe and Asia.

Until the cause of white decline is recognized, accepted, and conditions changed, we can expect more of the same: substance abuse, overdose, and suicide. It won’t go away by itself.

A Robot Will Replace You

In San Francisco a tent city lines the sidewalks under a central highway overpass. There are well over a hundred tents.

tents1  tents2

Who are the people populating these edges of society? Why don’t they just get a job?

An interview with one of them appeared in the SF Chronicle recently. Turns out he’s a middle-aged energy engineer who was in college with Mayor Ed Lee, and is well remembered and liked by Ed and by people at his former employers’ places. He lives in a tent now. And he says he knows several others with such talents now living in similar situations, accomplished, educated people whom society no longer needs.

Some tent dwellers are our best citizens.

I personally know young adults who graduated from college a few years ago, with high grades and marketable skills. You probably do too. They and many others like them are living with their parents, often in the same room they had in high school. They probably have been looking for work for several years. They may have found a bit of temporary work, sometimes in their own field, more often not. If it weren’t for their parents, they would be homeless, because they have no income.

After the crash at the end of the Bush years, large numbers of productive people in their fifties were suddenly without work, and before long without the homes they had expected to retire in. Soon they found their savings gone, their health insurance gone, their careers gone, “retirement” approaching, and they were living in a relative’s basement. All of them had been valued, productive workers.

These are not people from the margins, druggies who made bad choices. These are some of our best citizens. They are victims of the robot revolution. They don’t attract much attention now, but will soon become too numerous and obvious to ignore.

We are not prepared.

Martin Ford documents this trend in The Rise of the Robots. By “robots” he means the machines and computers whose inexorable growth and continual improvement has allowed them to replace increasing numbers of human workers of all sorts, leaving the workers with no place to go. This will change everything we know about the working world, and we are not prepared.

These “robots” have already reached the corner office of corporate headquarters. At least half of the work of top corporate management can already be done cheaper by computers and midlevel analysts in India, particularly since our corporate officers are grossly overpaid. Neither the CEO nor anyone else in a big company is protected. Anyone could be out of work and become unemployable. You have probably read computer-generated sports articles, and never suspected that the sports writer no longer has a job.

How will we accommodate as many as 100 million people for whom there is no work? We have no choice. We must re-define the working world, and soon.

John Maynard Keynes predicted in the 1930s that within a century technology would make possible a world of much less work and far more leisure. That time has arrived, but we have done nothing to prepare for it. All of the benefits of new technology now go to the rich. Mere bragging rights for them, but catastrophe for the victims. Our failure to recognize that Keynes’ prediction has arrived is creating intractable unemployment and poverty for millions of good people.

Forty hours is over and we don’t know what to do.

To change the working world, we will have to battle these billionaires of the far right. They don’t care that their computers put people on the street. They live in a bubble, and think everyone is lazy. Their entire motivation is profit. Their greed will only be overcome by insisting that everyone deserves a decent life.

When we as a nation finally wake up to this new reality, we will realize that the era of the 40-hour work week is long gone, and we don’t know what to do about it. Major social adjustments will be necessary to preserve the dignity of the millions of people who are unable to find work, while providing them with a way to live decently. To do that, we will have to find a better way to distribute the blessings of the modern age.

The Republican mindset claims that all of the unemployed are addicted black people who are too lazy to get a job, and would rather luxuriate on overgenerous government assistance. This ludicrous and blatantly racist claim has been around a long time, and has repeatedly been proven false. But reality means nothing to Republicans these days. 

They are unable to explain the productive fifty-somethings who live in the basement, or a tent. Or the former executive who took early retirement when he was forced out, and now lives in a modest condo. Or the sons and daughters who graduated, yet find themselves living in their old bedroom, sleeping in their single bed beneath the old pennants and posters.

What Personal Independence Really Means

The Europeans who came to the New World were a hardy and ingenious lot. For centuries there were no stores where they settled. If you wanted something you had to either make it from raw materials or grow it. We even had to build our own houses. The few manufactured things came from the Old Country, and tended toward the very practical. Axes. Calico. Hunting guns. This is where the ideal of the strong and independent American came from.

Half a millennium has passed, and everything we could conceive of wanting has become available to us without having to chop down a tree or plow a furrow to get it. Most likely it came from China, or some other place in the poorly-paid world. But as this sea change occurred we lost much of our ability to survive on our own.

Most of us don’t know how to roof a garage, rewire a lamp, or grow and can tomatoes. Many of us couldn’t change the oil, poach a fish, install a new pane of glass, or make beer. Instead of fixing something easily repaired, we buy a new one, which is possible because so many consumer goods are inexpensive on the global market, where fair pay is rare.

Independence is the Republican ideal, one they take pride in and wrongly presume nobody else does. The Republican belief in the centrality of the nuclear family is supposedly based on the Bible, with a dominant father who makes all the decisions, a supportive and submissive wife, and obedient children. There are things to recommend this scenario. But most of those that are commendable are not specifically Republican. They are just common sense. You may never need to change a tire, but if you are stuck in a wild place with a blizzard coming on, you want to know how to do it. Politics has nothing to do with it.

Times have changed since biblical days. For one thing, the modern world knows that women are not inferior help-meets, but their abilities are fully equal to men’s in almost every way. Women have become a powerful strength for the modern world, one that spells the difference between modern and antiquated. Only in the conservative Muslim world are women viewed as worth some fraction of a man’s value. And among simplistically minded Republicans.

The more extreme conservatives imagine a world in which government is minimized to the point that almost nothing is supported by taxes except a powerful military. We the people are required to be independent and strong, as our pioneer ancestors were. And it’s true that we could certainly as a nation cultivate more of that can-do independent attitude. After all, even if our parents didn’t teach us how to install a new toilet or how to dry fruits for winter, we can easily get books and DVDs that tell us how.

But when we get really sick, being independent may not help. Only professional medical care may be enough. And where do we get that, if our job doesn’t give us enough income to pay for health insurance, and the bill is going to come to $100,000? And what will happen to us when we can no longer work, if our income barely covered common expenses our whole life, and we simply couldn’t save enough for retirement?

The value of independence comes to an abrupt end there. Your neighbors and your community may help, but only the concerted effort of everyone acting for the common good will be enough. That is, as a nation. The classic need, of course, is medical, but there are many other reasons that only community action, state action, or national action is the only reasonable course. What does government give us for our taxes? Thousands of things. The very thought of each family being responsible, for example, for the street, sewer, and water supply in front of our house is ridiculous. Imagine yourself digging in the street with a pickaxe to repair a water line.

The essential reason that we cannot rely on ourselves individually for all these things is that to do so is not economically efficient. It is far less expensive and far more practical to pay for street services from a tax-supported work crew that uses city-owned machinery. This is true for thousands of services that only the government can supply efficiently. That goes literally double for health care.

We pay double what good national medical care programs cost, and for the same reason: our health care is private, non-efficient, and for-profit. There is efficiency in size, and national plans provide the largest possible funding base. National plans also have the power to regulate and control costs. They also simply do away with most insurance costs, which presently consume one out of every three dollars we spend on health care without providing any benefit at all.

Being strong and independent is a good idea, and something we have lost too much of. But the value of personal independence ends with the many things that require expertise and cooperative effort. There are many such things, virtually all of which are most efficiently paid for with taxes. The most important of these, the one that costs us double, the one we don’t currently pay for with taxes, is medical care. National health care would save us many billions, and save many lives that are presently lost because of unaffordable cost. Even more, the loss of any American to an untreated medical condition costs us more in social costs than it would have cost to save her.

We remain the only nation in the advanced world that lacks affordable medical care for everybody because we have no national plan. This is a national tragedy that is completely unnecessary.

Sorry, Folks. You’ve All Been Replaced by a Robot.

Replacement of workers by technology isn’t new. The original Luddites destroyed the mechanized looms that replaced their labor. But the new looms came anyway. New technology has always won out in the long run.

That has caused crises among those displaced, but never the downfall of society, because when new technology came, it also brought improved productivity and lower unit costs, as well as new kinds of jobs. In the longer run, everyone was better off.

Until now.

Now we have run up against the brick wall that some were warning about long ago. In 1949 the mathematician Norbert Weiner wrote that the shift to machine labor would create an “industrial revolution of unmitigated cruelty”, when human factory workers would “not be worth hiring at any price”. Alas, that time is upon us, and not just for factory workers.

Human workers will not be
worth hiring at any price.

The process of mechanization, especially in recent decades, has accelerated astonishingly, as more and more new robots and computers have been able to do ever more kinds of work. They are learning how to perform the most complex actions that humans can do, and teaching other robots and machines how to do it.

Technology that is brand new may well be obsolete in just a few years, replaced by machines with even more astonishing abilities. Increasing numbers of workers, even highly skilled workers, are made redundant. So many, in fact, that great danger waits in the not-distant future, when robots do almost all of the jobs that formerly required workers. Not just unskilled workers, but highly skilled workers, and even professionals like lawyers, teachers, doctors, and top level managers. Writers. Composers.

Here is the difficulty: This new technology, as always, is owned by the rich. The profit from these machines goes entirely to these same people, who are unlikely to willingly surrender even a small part of the wealth their machines create, not even to taxes. Almost all of the wealth generated will go to a very small cadre of the extremely rich. Virtually nothing will be available for the great majority of the population, who will have no job and no income. Not only will the rich have virtually all the money, they will want to keep it all.

Robots will do the jobs
that highly skilled and
white collar workers did.

Unless something changes, the inevitable outcome will be an increasingly unequal society and ever greater poverty, because the rich already control the political process. The very rich owners of new technology will accumulate ever increasing wealth, and everyone else will lose wealth until they are very poor. More and more, the greatest wealth will become inherited wealth, even further insulated from the rest of us. More and more, society will come to resemble the feudal system of centuries past, with a few extremely rich and the vast majority very poor.

What will be the value of education when it no longer is related to occupation or income? When no one can afford it? I and many others have said that we place far too much emphasis on education as occupational training. When education can no longer be valued as occupational training, will people value it at all? Why spend scarce money on school when it will do you no good financially? The rich already manipulate the ignorant. What will happen when the whole populace is ignorant?

Will people value education at all?

Republicans have been trying to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and other essential programs for ages. Without a population to pay into them they will get their wish, by default. What will result is obvious: The aged will be thrust into deep poverty. Even minor illnesses will carry people away, as they did in the 19th century, before vaccination and modern medicines were available. Republicans believe only the poor and the black will suffer these fates, but Republican white collar jobs will vanish like all the others.

If we are not to have this radical inequality and mass poverty, we must begin now to find ways for the mechanized bounty to be more equitably shared. But if more than half of the country has no income at all it’s obvious that the money must come from where the money is, the deep pockets of the ultra-rich, whose taxes have been falling for half a century because they control Congress. Corporations too have found ways to avoid their public responsibilities, many paying no tax at all. It’s obvious that neither the rich nor corporations will volunteer to part with even a little bit of their money, even to save their country or their fellow humans. Since they also control the political process, the question becomes, What conditions short of revolution will make it possible for the American people to live a decent life?