Friday, December 30, 2016

Electrophobia Part II: TV

RCA introduced Americans to television at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Though World War II would postpone its broad adoption, it wasn’t long before the TV set had taken over the American living room.

By the late 1950s, the US was home to an enormous new industry, and its manufacturers were understandably lured by the domestic market. As one executive at now-defunct Zenith put it, just a small increase in market share in Los Angeles might represent as much revenue as an entire country outside the US. So the focus stayed close to home.

But others saw the opportunities abroad. It was Japanese firms that started taking US technology overseas through licenses from RCA. Pretty soon, they were exporting what they learned back to the US in the shape of TV parts—and later whole TVs.

They were committed competitors. They tested meticulously to avoid quality problems. They were eager adopters of automation—while their American competitors, intent on saving jobs, were reluctant to replace workers with machines, according to Martin Kenney, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who has studied the sector. Japanese products started to get both better and cheaper than what the US produced.

In order to compete, American TV part makers started shutting down their facilities in the US and moving them abroad, setting off a decades-long period of steady job losses.

A bungled response
The US government at the time responded to the losses as Trump is proposing to do some 50 years later, with trade barriers. But the efforts ended up strengthening US competitors. In 1977, the US started restricting imports of Japanese TVs and components. That encouraged Japanese companies to move some production to the US, as intended, but it also gave a boost to Taiwanese and Korean producers by moving their biggest competitor, Japan, out of the way. When the US blocked imports from those countries as well, production moved to Southeast Asia.

In another example of protectionist policies backfiring, the US imposed high duties on television tubes, the kind of sophisticated, high-value component it wanted to keep within the country. At the same time, it set lower tariffs for assembled products than on individual components for the benefit of US manufacturers that were assembling TVs abroad. The result: US companies imported tubes from Asia to their Mexico plants, loaded them into TVs, and exported the nearly ready units to the US. Meanwhile, the American tube makers saw orders collapse.

In the end, the government’s trade-policy tinkering was overwhelmed by the economic rationale of Mexico’s lower wages and proximity to the US. American and foreign companies along the whole TV supply chain eventually migrated to Mexico. The US sector—which employed 130,000 at its peak, in 1966—employed less than 50,000 US workers by 2001. That number would keep dropping as flat-screen displays replaced tube television. Today the industry employs fewer than 20,000 Americans.

Flat panels
The color-tube TV industry was the US’s to lose, but the US never really owned the flat-screen TV industry. The inventions and discoveries that enabled it originally came from the US. But in those early days, the ultimate application for them, flat-screen TVs, was deemed to be too far off to be worth investing in by US companies, according to Stefanie Lenway, who co-authored a 2003 book examining the demise of the US’s TV industry.

The Japanese, however, had less grandiose aspirations. They started using the new flat screen technology in wristwatches and calculators. By doing so, they got a jumpstart on a technology that eventually transformed the whole TV industry. The change wasn’t solely in the way the final product looked and worked, but also in how it was conceived.

As Lenway and her co-authors argue, the flat-screen display industry thrived on the cooperation of researchers and companies from all over the world. Suppliers on one side of the planet learned from sellers in another, competitors from different countries formed alliances with each other, and bought and sold one another’s products.

Most of the learning took place in Japan, because companies there had been experimenting with the technology for longer. But it wasn’t closed off to companies from other countries. US-based Corning, for example, set up in Japan and participated in the knowledge exchange. Today, it remains a key producer of glass, among the highest-margin TV components.

That’s not the model that other US companies adopted. Together with the government, they tried to reproduce what was going on in Japan on US soil. But they couldn’t catch up because they didn’t have the same expertise. In pursuing a “Make-America-Great-Again”-like strategy, they lost sight of the “humility and openness” of the globally interdependent nature of the business that, according to Lenway and her co-authors’ analysis, were required to succeed.

One by one, American manufacturers pulled out of the business, while more sophisticated manufacturing plants kept popping up in Asia.

At this point, attempting to establish a competitive facility in the US makes no economic sense, says Alberto Moel, a Bernstein Research analyst who focuses on the industry. “The US is too far behind in the technology,” he said.

Nor does it make much sense for US companies to get into other sectors of the industry, such as TV assembly, which have very thin margins, according to Moel’s research.

Mexico’s trade balance on electronics should be another deterrent. That country, which exports millions of televisions to the US, has become a net electronics importer in recent years due to all the components it imports in order to build those sets and other appliances.

The economy of yesterday vs. the economy of tomorrow
At this point, the only thing that seems to be bolstering TV manufacturing in the US is the persistent “Made in America” obsession. Element Electronics Corp., for example, is based in Winnsboro, South Carolina, and supplies Wal-Mart under the retailing giant’s initiative to source American products. “Proudly assembled in America,” it touts on its website.

Trump’s administration could convince other companies to make TVs through political pressure and incentives, like he did with air-conditioner maker Carrier. That kind of negotiated job creation won’t go far in improving opportunities for the workers left behind by globalization, though. What they need, says Robert Salomon, a professor at New York University’s business school, is a social safety net, and new skills to qualify for the high-tech positions American companies are trying to fill these days.

“The US has to create systematic programs to retrain them for that economy of tomorrow, not yesterday,” Salomon says.

But thus far, the US has done little to address the real fallout from the borderless businesses many US companies now engage in: the tens of thousands of laid-off American workers. Meanwhile, makers of a wide range of products—the iPhone, for example—have taken lessons from the domestic TV industry’s demise, namely that knowledge, not factories on the home turf, is where the profits are.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Electrophobia Part I: Dissociation

he philosopher Jean Baudrillard posited in the 1970s that modernity ended when we became obsessed with life simulations, like television. He called the new period “postmodernity,” a time of the hyper-real—when imitations seem more real than reality—and predicted the distinction between fact and fiction would blur until it was gone. Today, the philosopher’s predictions seem to have materialized.

Last year, un-reality reached new levels in a summer spent chasing virtual Pokémon Go characters, sometimes off of real cliffs. In the fall, fake news disseminated on social media influenced US elections, setting off an international crisis of authenticity. Digiday wrote that “Europe is in a state of high alert” as “the spread of false or misleading information via websites and social media is escalating”; in December 2016, the Malaysian government launched a campaign to teach its citizens to tell real news from fake; this month, the Czech government launched a specialized anti-fake news unit to educate the public on disinformation.

Post-truth was the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of 2016, in great part due to the presidential election of Donald Trump in the US. Famously unattached to facts, his run inspired a series of essays in The New Yorker on the untruths that fueled his campaign. But Slate’s Jamelle Bouie pointed out in November—after Trump won—that debunking him missed the point, as his lies are aspirational and “signal what might become reality.”

 So, it's fitting "surreal" was the Merriam-Webster word of the year in 2016. Merriam-Webster said the word's definition was searched significantly more frequently by users in 2016 than in other years. Meaning, "Marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream," the word spiked most during Trump's victory, but also after terrorist attacks in Belgium and France and an attempted coup in Turkey.

In sum, Donald Trump, was the ultimate postmodern candidate, because he was (and is) the editor-in-chief of the fake news movement. He became president because he treats facts as passé, not despite of it. Indeed, on Jan. 16, the Guardian noted, “Trump doesn’t let facts get in his way,” pointing out that his definition of “illegals” contravenes international law by including refugees.
The psychological impact of a post-truth world

Baudrillard’s hyper-real is here. Now. But it still feels like a transition period, as we lose distinctions between real and fake (and cling to them, perhaps futilely).

The effect of the transition is as if what is, isn’t real. This is clinically known as dissociation, and isn’t always an illness; it occurs on a spectrum and happens on some level innocuously when we daydream or perhaps even therapeutically when reading a book. But extreme dissociation—when real life no longer feels real and becomes unmanageable—is a psychological disorder.

In a society that is increasingly simulation-centric, the virtual world is ever more vivid and gratifying, and facing a relatively dingy and unrewarding reality can feel strange. As Rebecca Searles put it in a December story in The Atlantic, writing about dissociation and simulations, “Virtual reality can leave you with an existential hangover.”

In 2006, clinical psychologist Frederick Aardema conducted a study on the emotional effects of VR, and found that after interacting with simulations, people tend to feel detachment, which manifests in physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and fatigue, and feelings of disconnection. Aardema questioned participants about their emotions after exposure to VR and noted that the simulations lessened subjects’ sense of presence in reality; in other words, they did not feel they were exactly in the world.

In the most extreme cases, Aardema says, dissociation manifests in a condition called derealization (DR), which renders life bland, discolored, drab, and emotionally dull. (DR is related to but not the same as depersonalization, where the self feels unreal.) DR can be a disorder unto itself or a symptom of other neurological and psychiatric diseases, as well as a symptom of chronic Lyme’s disease.

Too much unreality apparently makes people sick. In China, internet addiction is a common disorder in children; it’s characterized by apathy in real life. Clinics there reportedly engage in draconian rehabilitation measures, mandating total media withdrawal for the youths for months, until reality is palatable to them again.
Why humans are so fooled by simulations

Still, simulations aren’t all bad. Thinking is a simulation that influences life, as noted in a 2016 study by social psychologists from the London School of Economics and Boston University. They write, “The permeable boundary between thought and reality leads simulations to sometimes produce the same downstream consequences as the corresponding actual experiences.”

To examine the effect of thinking—a simulation—on reality, the researchers reviewed past studies of its impact on perception, performance, consumption, and achievement. They concluded that mentally simulating an experience evokes similar cognitive, physiological, and behavioral consequences as having the corresponding experience in reality. Specifically, imagined experiences were treated like real proof; visual simulations led to physical performance benefits; imagined food consumption reduced actual eating; and visualized goal achievement reduced motivation to accomplish. Thus, simulation substituted for experience and influenced actions, for better and worse.

It seems then that we’re wired to respond to simulations—whether naturally or artificially occurring. In light of this predisposition, and the fact that the line between real and fake will only get blurrier as we advance down the road of postmodernity, it’s time to get comfortable with always feeling a little uneasy.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Election 2016: The Funnies

#TrumpCantRead #TrumpCabinetBand #ResistTrump #PussyGrabsBack #BetterThanBigotry #TrumpBookReport #MuslimsReportStuff #LockerRoomTalk #MakeAmericaBrannigan #TecateBeerWall

But one of Jack Kirby’s most prescient creations was the proto-Trump, Glorious Godfrey. Kirby designed Glorious Godfrey as an evangelist in the Billy Graham model—Kirby is said to have accused Graham of promoting “biblical fascism.” Glorious Godfrey’s parallels to Donald Trump are uncanny—their terrifying, elaborate orange bouffant hairdos pumped full of air are only the start. They rise to power on television, and they both manipulate the emotions of their followers in order to divide, conquer, and oppress.

A video posted by TalkThirtyToMe™ (@talkthirtytome) on

A photo posted by Johan Ekman (@jekman74) on

"Tens of thousands of voters in Texas want Harambe, the gorilla shot dead in the Cincinnati zoo in May, to become the next leader of the free world.

Public Policy Polling released its latest survey on Tuesday, revealing that the Internet famous gorilla is polling at 2 per cent, the same number as Green Party presidential hopeful Jill Stein. And for those interested, Donald Trump is leading Hillary Clinton 50-44, largely thanks to white voters in the state."

A 12-year-old boy is running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign office in one of Colorado’s most vital counties, according to a new report. Weston Imer runs operations for the Republican presidential nominee’s camp in Jefferson County, KDVR News said Sunday. KDVR News said Jefferson County is one of the most populous counties in Colorado, as it includes part of the Denver metro area. Imer is responsible for gathering volunteers and helping get out the vote for Trump in the critical swing state, the news station added.

“Get involved,” Imer said Sunday when asked what he hopes to accomplish in his role. “That’s what I’m going to say. Get involved. Kids need to be educated.

by Luke Choice, velvetspectrum (instagram)

CINCINNATI (The Borowitz Report)—Republican front-runner Donald Trump was crying foul on Monday after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders allegedly dispatched an army of vegan thugs to attack a rally of peace-loving Nazis in Cincinnati. According to Trump, he had begun to address a group of “orderly and civil Nazis” at a downtown arena when his audience was suddenly set upon by an unruly mob of angry vegans, many menacingly clad in Birkenstocks and sustainable garments.

The Sanders supporters, singing an alarmingly militant version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” marched into the arena and began “intimidating and threatening” the Nazis, Trump said. “Make no mistake about who is starting the violence at these rallies,” Trump said. “It’s the vegans.”

Carol Foyler, a Nazi from suburban Cincinnati, said that she feared for her life when one of the vegans “ripped a Trump sign” from her hands and “tried to recycle it.” Harland Dorrinson, a Kentucky Nazi who drove to Ohio to hear Trump speak, said he would never have attended the rally if he had known “there would be troublemaking vegans there. One of them tried to swing an NPR tote bag at my head,” the terrified Nazi said.

Vermin Supreme Says He 'Paved The Way For Donald Trump'
Who is Vermin Supreme and why does he say he "paved the way for Donald Trump"?
Posted by Newsy on Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Donald Trump on Thursday retweeted an insult to Iowa voters, just hours after a poll showed him behind retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson in the state.

"@mygreenhippo #BenCarson is now leading in the #polls in #Iowa. Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain? #Trump #GOP"
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2015

"'@mygreenhippo #BenCarson is now leading in the #polls in #Iowa. Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain? #Trump #GOP,'" Trump's retweet states."

"More than anyone I knew, Ted seemed to have arrived in college with a fully formed worldview,” Butler College colleague Erik Leitch said. “And what strikes me now, looking at him as an adult and hearing the things he's saying, it seems like nothing has changed. Four years of an Ivy League education, Harvard Law, and years of life experience have altered nothing."

Craig Mazin said he knew some people might be afraid to speak in the press about a senator, but added of Cruz, “We should be afraid that someone like that has power.”

And the idea that his freshman roommate could someday be the leader of the free world? “I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States. Anyone,” Mazin said. “I would rather pick somebody from the phone book."

Republican consultant Rick Wilson denigrated supporters of Donald Trump on Tuesday, painting them as anti-Semitic lacking ambition, Crooks and Liars reported.

“The fact of the matter is, most of them are childless single men who masturbate to anime,” Wilson told MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “They’re not real political players. These are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity.”

The GOP, Wilson insisted, is still being driven by the belief in a limited-government platform.

“I don’t think that this other stuff that Trump is toying with is part of the mainstream conservative movement by any stretch of the imagination,” he added.

» 7 Ways Hillary Clinton Is Just Like Your Abuela (Because we all love #hispandering right?)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Monday said he plans to introduce legislation banning all Muslim refugees from Syria from entering America. Christian refugees from Syria, however, would be allowed.

“There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror,” he said. “If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation.”

Fellow candidate Jeb Bush had just finished answering the question, bragging that he's 7-0 in his fantasy football league before saying that “there should be some regulation” with fantasy sports betting.

"Are we really talking about fantasy football," an incredulous Chris Christie yelled after the question was asked. "Wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt, people out of work, ISIS and Al Qaeda attacking us and we're talking about fantasy football?"

"Amid his outburst, however, Christie may forgotten an email his own campaign sent supporters just weeks ago, equating the 2016 presidential race with fantasy football. 'Have you set your lineup this week,' Christie campaign Digital Director Lauren Fritts wrote in the Sept. 24 email. 'This is a friendly reminder to double check and submit your lineup before the start of the Giants ... game tonight at 8:25 p.m.'"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hurray for the Riff Raff - "Rican Beach"

In “Rican Beach,” frontwoman Alynda Segarra sings a dedication to the Standing Rock water protectors. In a press release, Segarra says:
"This is dedicated to the water protectors of Standing Rock – thank you for your bravery and giving us hope. Also, to the people of Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, who are demanding an end to the AES dumping of coal ash which leads to water contamination – we are with you.

All over the world there are heroes, who, despite suffering generations of oppression, are protecting the land and the future of our humanity. Rican Beach is a fictional place, but it was written with my ancestors in mind. It’s time to call on yours and to always remember: this land was made for you and me."

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Michael Jordan Workout

Live Strong:
In 1989, no championship rings yet decorated the fingers of Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan. He was in his fifth year as a pro and able to pour in 30 to 40 points most games, but the Bulls hadn’t been able to get past the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference postseason. Personal trainer Tim Grover saw an article on Jordan’s frustrations with the physical, strong play of the Pistons and contacted the Bulls’ team physician, leading to his being hired to train Jordan in 1989. Added strength in his upper body, core and legs helped Jordan propel the Bulls to six championships from 1991 to 1998.


Grover’s workout for Jordan focused on core strength, on the theory that a solid core is essential to helping an athlete run faster, jump higher and reach his athletic potential. While athletes and gym goers typically presume that core training means abs strengthening via crunches, these can neglect your oblique and erector muscles, Grover told “Stack” magazine. Strengthening all the core muscles increases athletic performance and helps you to avoid injury.

Balance and Resistance Work

Jordan’s workout included the anterior reach on one leg, involving extending the arms forward and extending the nonplant leg straight back. His Airness worked on squats on an unstable object, such as a balance board, holding the squat with his thighs parallel to the ground. Walkouts required bending at the waist and walking forward on the hands with the legs straight until the body was fully extended and then walking the hands back to the feet. Jordan is also shown in a rare video on performing dumbbell and bench presses, as well as biceps curls with an EZ bar. Grover suggests extra attention to the shoulders and legs for basketball players, including deadlifts, squats and power cleans, as well as good mornings -- forward bends performed with an unweighted bar on the shoulders.

Medicine Balls

Jordan had to do pushups on medicine balls and medicine ball situps, holding the medicine ball above his chest with both hands throughout the entire motion of the situp. He also did 6-inch leg raises that involved lying on his back and raising his straightened legs off the floor, holding the position for two to three seconds and returning to the starting position.

Time Frame

The core workouts occurred twice a week and involved two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. On other days, Jordan worked for an hour on agility, quick repetitions and light weight lifting as part of an early morning workout plan, beginning by 8 a.m. and lasting for one hour. He completed his strength workouts before going to the Berto Center in Deerfield, Illinois, for the Bulls’ two-hour practice beginning at 11 a.m.


Teammates, including Scottie Pippen, began to join the morning strength and agility sessions. Jordan’s chef would cook the players breakfast afterward, and thus they became known as the Breakfast Club. The results were especially clear at the foul line, where Bulls players displayed some of the most developed biceps and deltoids in the NBA, and in the scoreline, as the team became capable not only of defeating the rival Pistons and Celtics with superior strength but also besting the Western Conference champs in the NBA Finals.