How We Are Manipulated #1

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

220px-John_Boehner_official_portraitWhen I awoke a short time ago my mind was in its usual morning fog that slowly dissipates as I go through my wake-up routine which includes laying out the 35 or so pills that I take to stay alive. That fog mentally is usually a jumble of wide ranging short thoughts that are later forgotten as the fog lifts after my first coffee. On the way to the bathroom for my morning ablutions I found myself thinking about the biggest news all week which had been the shutdown of the government and the crisis that ensued. Suddenly, as an idea arose that woke me from the fog. Political Theater, it is all political theater. The threatened shutdown by the Republican Congressman, led by John Boehner et. al. was merely a show whose purpose was to destroy the publicity that would have surrounded the inception of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dubbed by the conservative PR geniuses “Obamacare”. How obvious this was took my breath away and also gave me some chagrin that it took me so long to see this con job in the making, while I mulled over the ramifications of a government shutdown. As the President has said and as some Republican have opined the GOP’s great fear regarding “Obamacare” is that it will succeed. Since enrollment was scheduled to begin on October 1st, without the shutdown speculation dominating the news cycle there would have been much publicity on the beginning of people enrolling in the plan. There would have been actual discussion of the plan and not just the cacophony of misinformation deftly spread by well placed conservative rumor mongers, broadcast blaringly on FOX News and flacked by the innumerable leaders of the “Tea Party”. Our mainstream media would play their continuing game of false equivalence by blithely accepting all information as being equal and not bothering to supply context when lies are told in the service “informing” the public.

Instead we have a manufactured crisis that sends the ACA to the back pages of virtual news media and we have faux layoffs and service loss endlessly debated. Now in truth this thought make me even a little sad for those “Tea Party” congresspeople that haven’t been let in on the nature of the game, nor their role as pawns in the manipulations of some the wealthy elite in this country. As I explained awhile ago in these guest blogs: and  the so-called “Tea Party” is not a grassroots movement, but the creation of the Koch, via an organization known as “Freedomworks” which they fund. On the Bill Maher show last Friday night one of his panel guests was the President and CEO of “Freedomworks” Matt Kibbe. From my perspective he was debunked by the panel, particularly Congressman Alan Cranston. What caught my attention though, was that Kibbe was at one point railing about how big government was run by insider lobbyists. None on the panel, or Maher, were perceptive enough to call him out on this since he is the quintessential lobbyist for the Koch Brothers.  To my mind there is nothing to see here folks, move along and allow yourselves to be distracted by yet another manufactured crisis, designed to prevent you from actually evaluating the health care plan that is now available to you without adequate health care, or who are paying far too much for what should be a basic right of citizenship, health care. The Affordable Care Act is not my ideal of what American health insurance should be about because I believe in the “single payer” system used in most civilized nations. However, it is far better than what we already have and because of that should be fairly evaluated by the public. Perhaps though that fair evaluation will never get a chance since there are those who consciously work to distract us through propaganda, mythology and political theater into supporting what is in our own worst interests.

After I had written and posted this to my surprise I discovered this article in The New York Times. “A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning” .  A short excerpt:

“WASHINGTON — Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.

It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.”

Perhaps my subconscious was channelling, but it seems that my idea through the morning fog has some weight to it.

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

285 thoughts on “How We Are Manipulated #1”

  1. To put that another way, you cannot directly and objectively measure creativity or pleasure, and say “The Stand” is 103 units of creativity, and the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is 81 units of creativity. Since you cannot directly and objectively measure those things, you cannot create a standardized unit of creativity or pleasure that everybody agrees upon.

    What you can directly and objectively measure is energy. The relative and subjective value of how much energy (meaning time and energy of work) a particular person will sacrifice to listen to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” can then be measured, by them.

  2. Bron: I make more now than I did as a janitor because my work is more valuable now than it was when I was a janitor; it saves people more time and more energy and more money (which represents a unit of energy).

    Whatever you think money is, you have to start with the dollar being a standardized measure of something, so that a greater quantity of that something means more dollars. If you think that something is “creativity” then more creativity is worth more dollars. But that would not explain why a man would pay for a horse: A horse has zero creativity, it has muscle power and nothing else. That is useful for plowing a field or carrying a load to town, it is the equivalent of an engine. If money represents creativity, why would I pay for an apple? It is picked from a tree, maybe by me, there is no creativity there.

    Creativity is a poor choice for the object of standardization. Energy is a better choice; energy takes many forms. It makes sense that an apple is a small amount of energy, a horse represents a larger amount of energy, and what I exchange for an apple or a horse is my OWN expended effort and energy, as represented in the dollars I was paid for work.

    Creativity is worth something, even pleasure is worth something (like eating an apple instead of the equivalent calories in insect paste) but what it is worth can be measured in units of energy, it is worth what people will sacrifice for it; what they sacrifice is dollars, hopefully (but not always) dollars that represent work they did.

    But money is necessarily representations of something; a piece of paper is a note that is worthless unless it represents something, and it cannot just represent other notes. It has to represent a unit of trade, and the most basic units available that is flexible enough to both be directly measurable (unlike creativity or pleasure) and to cover all the ways money is used is a standardized unit of stored energy.

    In zero AD, people literally worked for bread and forms of food, and traded what they did not eat for goods. Sacrifices, tributes and taxes were frequently paid in food, such as the “King’s Share” of your grain or crop.

    The dollar is a standardized representation of a single unit of something. Some people’s time and effort are worth more than others, that is true and I am not arguing that point. My argument is about the nature of the something, and my best candidate for what that something actually is: A store of energy.

  3. tony c:

    If we are just talking calories and all calories are equal, how come you dont charge what the janitor charges? The energy expended is the same, maybe the janitor expends even more calories than you. He should be paid more because he needs to eat more to maintain his weight.

  4. Gene H:

    Yes I understand the brain uses calories. All I am saying is that the calorie is just a unit of measurement. I am pretty sure that we all use the same amount of energy to think, however Newton and Einstein and Andrew Carnegie had a bigger reward than most of us mere mortals from those calories.

    An amoeba uses calories as well, it doesnt write The Tempest, invent calculus or create steel.

  5. Gene: Cooking is attributed to that need as well; cooking food (vegetables or meats) can triple the calories extracted by digestion (if memory of a Discovery channel show a few years ago serves me accurately.)

  6. Bron: The converse is more true: Mental effort means nothing without expending some energy to make the thoughts real, on paper, or manifest in some way. That is what a dollar is, a unit of energy; that is how we measure value. When I work, I have to give up something; namely some of my finite life and my mental focus on more entertaining pursuits. I have to expend energy exercising my brain over a period of time to invent something that solves their problem.

    I happen to have the creativity they need (by the time all the standard and routine solutions have failed them), and I charge a premium for it, but that is just more dollars than the routine workers charge them. What the dollar represents is still a unit of energy. Human energy, machine energy, kilowatt hours, whatever; it is a unit of energy and we trade it for things priced in units of energy. That is the beauty of dollars, almost all products and services can ultimately be priced in units of energy, one incarnation of which is which is an individual’s work effort measured in their time and energy they expend on somebody else’s goal.

  7. You seem to labor under the false assumption that thinking doesn’t burn calories, Bron. The brain is an energy intensive organ.

    Although the average adult human brain weighs about 1.4 kilograms, only 2 percent of total body weight, it demands 20 percent of our resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the total amount of energy our bodies expend in one very lazy day of no activity. RMR varies from person to person depending on age, gender, size and health. If we assume an average resting metabolic rate of 1,300 calories, then the brain consumes 260 of those calories just to keep things in order. That’s 10.8 calories every hour or 0.18 calories each minute. (For comparison’s sake, see Harvard’s table of calories burned during different activities). With a little math, we can convert that number into a measure of power:

    —Resting metabolic rate: 1300 kilocalories, or kcal, the kind used in nutrition
    —1,300 kcal over 24 hours = 54.16 kcal per hour = 15.04 gram calories per second
    —15.04 gram calories/sec = 62.93 joules/sec = about 63 watts
    —20 percent of 63 watts = 12.6 watts

    So a typical adult human brain runs on around 12 watts—a fifth of the power required by a standard 60 watt lightbulb. Compared with most other organs, the brain is greedy; pitted against man-made electronics, it is astoundingly efficient. IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer that defeated Jeopardy! champions, depends on ninety IBM Power 750 servers, each of which requires around one thousand watts.


    Most evolutionary biologists attribute our ancient shift to an omnivorous diet to the increased energy needs of our rapidly developing brains demanding a more efficient uptake of caloric energy, i.e. meat.

  8. RTC:

    Ok, change mammoth to deer.

    Yes in the distant past where there were small tribes, it made sense to help because you were probably all related.

    That familial tribe wasnt going to feed the tribe across the river.

    Tony C uses calories because it has no real meaning, every living being expends calories to live, from an ameoba to a man. So what?

    Tony C isnt well off because of calories used to exist, he is well off because he has a brain which allows him to understand the world better than others.

    He was lucky to be born with a good mind. But he trained and worked hard so that he could be good at what he does. There are many smart people driving buses or doing some other task that is too easy for them because they did not expend the energy required to learn a skill/profession.

    Those expended calories mean nothing without mental effort. To be a good doctor or ditch digger takes mental effort. It means using what you are born with to the best of your ability.

  9. Bron: money is a representation of hours of work and effectiveness.

    I addressed that in my earlier post; no it isn’t. Those judgments and determinations are accomplished in the transaction; money has standardized away anything about the effectiveness of the time or effectiveness.

    If my time is more valuable to buyers as an engineer than it was as a janitor, I just get paid a lot more money; the individual units of money itself (like $1) does not represent any particular effectiveness of my work, or the janitor’s work. Or how long it took to earn. But it DOES still represent, in the abstract, some unit of time and effort expended; we shouldn’t lose track of that. In the market place, some people’s time and effort is worth more units than that of other people.

    The reason we shouldn’t lose track of that is because the units, like property, can be stolen, or may be the result of exploitation, fraud, coercion, unfair trade, etc. The person holding the unit or receiving it did not necessarily “earn” it, their time and effort may actually be worth very little in the market place, they may be receiving large amounts of money by virtue of ownership control making them the recipient of exploitive gains. Like Paris Hilton.

  10. Bron: A horse expends calories to carry a man or pull a cart, and that effort is worth something; people will trade many of their own calories for the horse because of that equation, and the ability to exploit the horse’s labor.

    A dog is valuable for a different reason; it can be taught (by expending time and effort; investing value) to be a hunter and exploited as a source of calories in its own right; chasing down and killing small game, herding or smelling out larger game.

    Brain work alone does not accomplish that, but the exploitable efforts of those animals have value and can be priced.

    I do not argue that planning skill and the ability to anticipate the future (in the sense of knowing “what will work” and “what will fail”) has no value, I argue its value is in avoiding the waste of time and energy, or in devising new ways to save time and generate energy, or accomplish something (like accounting with pen an pencil vs. a computer) with less time and less energy.

  11. Bron:

    “But money is a representation of hours of work and effectiveness. I dont see much of a difference. Except that a dog expends calories to dig a hole to bury a bone and a man uses….”

    You’re whiffing on this and you might want rethink your response. Tony has given you something of value and you’re just not getting it. Money isn’t a even a measure of effectiveness, let alone a representation of it.

    And, no hunter ever brought down a mammoth alone. It required the coordinated efforts of a group. And when they were successful, they took the meat back to share with the rest of their people, who didn’t participate in the hunt. They even fed the elderly.

  12. tony c:

    “The “value” is the hours and calories somebody else is willing to expend in trade for the results!”

    That is right. But money is a representation of hours of work and effectiveness. Just like some ancient hunters were able to drop a Mammoth and others could only manage a couple of rabbits.

    I dont see much of a difference. Except that a dog expends calories to dig a hole to bury a bone and a man uses his brains to dig a hole to build a building. I could also say that most anyone can dig a shallow trench to bury a cable line but to dig a 30′ deep trench takes knowledge which most people dont have.

  13. Bron: “In 1998, when my daughter was in fourth grade, she complained daily that her back was hurting.”

    By 2000 when I returned to campus, I already saw frequent usage of the carry-on sized luggage carts being used on campus. I am not sure when those were introduced, but I doubt it was post-1998, and the Zuca appears no different from my own wheeled suitcase (which is specifically designed at the maximum dimensions allowed for carry-on luggage), retractable handle, wheels, a strap to hold a briefcase or additional item on the handle when it is extended, the whole bit. I sincerely doubt the basic form of the Zuca is an original idea with this woman. When I saw it being used on campus in 2000, I already knew exactly what it was being re-purposed.

  14. Bron: Calories are units of energy and life that people can understand. From before biblical times, people “worked for their daily bread,” even as hunter-gatherers 100,000 years ago, work and productivity could be measured in excess calories produced (more than expended).

    I think it does not apply to just primitive man. Or even if it does, I am a bottom-up thinker and teacher whether it is economics or calculus, circuitry or genetics, physics or business. I think when people understand where something came from and the problem it solved, they have a deeper understanding of what it grew into. I think you do not really understand the tree unless you understand the hidden roots.

    I said calories was a simple metaphor; because originally money literally (for all intents and purposes) represented a store of calories; what you traded for money was food, or goods produced by physical labor or hunting and gathering. More generally money represents, not life, not ownership, but some kind of directed labor or effort (physical or mental, simple or complex).

    Your contention that money is somehow tied to life or ownership of one’s self is wrong, money is ultimately tied to hours of labor, or directed energy. Even slave labor had value, that was true 5000 years ago and remains true today. That is why the are slaves, so that value can be stolen from them.

    When people work, they expend hours of their life and calories (beyond the basal metabolic rate), energy, to add “value” or create “value,” but what is “value?” The “value” is the hours and calories somebody else is willing to expend in trade for the results!

    That is also how we assign value to “effort.” Stephen King’s efforts in creating fiction are far more valuable than most, considering the amount of calorie hours voluntarily traded for copies of his work.

    Money is not gold or diamonds or anything precious, money is an abstract representation of stored labor and effort. In a generic or standardized sense, because rarer skills (like Stephen King’s) are valued more highly at the time of trade. “Value” is a measure of how much of that standardized stored labor and effort you will trade for the product or service being valued.

    That standardization is not actually, but in principle could be represented as calorie-hours, kilowatt-hours, or joules of energy. We actually have a rough idea of the exchange rates for that, when we pay our electric bill. You could measure your income and the price of goods in kilowatt hours.

    The reason I look at in terms of calories, or from the bottom up, is to dispel the very kind of mysticism I think you engage in. Money is a standardized unit of effort and efforts can be stolen, in whole [slavery, fraud] or in part [exploitation, overcharging, underpaying].

    Money doesn’t represent creativity. Creativity is something that can be assigned a monetary value depending on how much money [standardized units of effort] people that enjoy or need creativity will pay for it.

  15. tony c:

    why do you look at it in terms of calories saved? That might apply to primitive man but now?

  16. Sorry to interrupt this smackdown, but I was looking upthread and was wondering what line of business Abraham and Job were in. Was it communications, maybe? .

  17. tony c:

    “In 1998, when my daughter was in fourth grade, she complained daily that her back was hurting.”

  18. I said: “Money is an abstraction of caloric energy expended. It has nothing to do with whether man owns his mind, or his body, or his effort.”

    Bron says: Then let a monkey invent a transistor.

    That doesn’t follow. A transistor isn’t money. Thinking requires the expenditure of calories over time, some number of calorie-hours were expended in the path to the creation of a transistor (perhaps many billions considering the many thousands of scientist-hours laying the background for the invention). What makes the transistor valuable is that combined with other ideas it reduces the calorie hours required to perform computation and increase the accuracy and reliability of such computation, which itself is leveraged into the management and manipulation of all sorts of information. Instead of scientists toiling away with pencil and paper or chalk and slate (which took X calories), or accounts laboriously adding columns of figures by hand, we now do much of that work a billion times faster for a million times fewer calories. Hence the explosive growth and value of the Information Age.

    The transistor was a valuable idea, that is true, but it was the result of time and labor (to understand materials), and what makes it valuable is that it saves time and labor. So much so that it causes paradigm shifts; video games (and many other industries) would not exist if computation was not virtually free.

  19. Bron: So some people earn their money in a bad way, I am not talking about them.

    “Some” is a minimizer you cannot prove, and in my opinion much more than “some” of the wealthy earned their money in a bad way, so when you talk about “the wealthy” you are indeed talking about them.

    I did not deny creativity is deserving of reward, even rewards that qualify as “great wealth,” and in fact I endorse that position, since it is the way I earned what comfort and financial independence I have (creatively solving problems that others had already failed to solve).

    So I think that argument is a straw man. My argument is that creativity is not the only route to wealth, and in fact is one of the least traveled roads to wealth if we exclude the “creativity” of finding new ways to rip people off, defraud them, exploit them, betray their trust, endanger them and steal their equity without getting prosecuted.

    I greatly admire the parade of product innovations and great new ideas. (But the Zuca you mention is hardly a new idea, I saw students on our campus using rolling carry-on sized luggage for books and supplies at least 12 years ago, and thought that was a good back-saving idea back then. It is quite possible your heroine saw the same thing and just reworked some student’s good idea, and kept the origin to herself).

    But when you talk about “the wealthy” you aren’t talking exclusively or even primarily about creativity and invention; they are a small part of the routine routes to wealth that involve no creativity or invention whatsoever, just the deployment of capital. The people that invented the Mall do not get any money when a new Mall is built, even though it is their ideas and innovations that are being exploited. No real value-generating creativity or new solutions need to be found to build a mall, just a few hundred million in capital that creates an environment that can be rented. The same thing goes for an oil well, or wind farm, or a shipping business, or a for-profit hospital. The business plans are well known and work great, and the people that first developed them are exploited in the sense that their creativity produced a business plan that works great and others with deeper pockets use it without paying them a dime.

    Wealth creation is seldom about creativity, Bron. Capital is leveraged into the Control that ownership affords, and that Control is leveraged into taking an unearned commission on the profits produced by workers (workers produce more value than they cost and the excess goes to the owner). I say “unearned” in the sense that no actual labor must be accomplished by the owner to receive the commission; for example Paris Hilton has absolutely zero duties or responsibilities in receiving her profits from the Hilton empire.

    Those unearned commissions, what is essentially a markup on labor, then accumulate by the thousands or tens of thousands to create wealth.

    The impact of people actually inventing new solutions and products is relatively small, for the most part the rich get richer because we tend to follow the cynics Golden Rule: Those with the gold make the rules.

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