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Arts for Action's Sake

The Robots Are Coming? Or Are They Already Here?

"Flippy" working the grill
Robots Will Transform Fast Food” reads the headline in the online edition of The Atlantic, and “That might not be a bad thing.

The Atlantic article goes on to describe how Japan—where else?—is already ahead of the curve, with a fully functioning okonomiyaki restaurant that makes a gin and tonic to serve along with the cabbage-and-meat-topped pancakes. Here in the US we’re still in the development and test phase, with “Sally,” a boxy robot from Chowbotics that assembles salads ordered on a touch screen, and “Flippy”—the inspiration for the McRobots in The Piketty Problem—who’s turning out 150 burgers an hour  Read More 
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The "Piketty Problem" Only Gets Worse

courtesy New York Post
“It’s going to be one of the great Christmas gifts to middle-income people,” is how President Trump characterized the Republican tax bill before he boarded a helicopter for meetings at Camp David last Saturday. Like many statements from our president, it falls into that gray area between a self-serving exaggeration and an outright  Read More 
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Jobs for Robots

Better than a minimum wage worker on a bicycle?
Jobs and robots have been making news recently, but in unexpected ways.

Economists and business leaders are finally realizing that the tax bill that President Trump and the Republican congress is trying to ram through as a Christmas present to corporations and the 1 percent, will create more jobs all right—for robots! A provision  Read More 
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Social Protest or Science Fiction?

Venice anyone?
Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, New York 2140, (Orbit, Hachette Book Group, March 2017) presents a grim vision of the impact of a warming global climate. I’m sure Robinson could have easily conjured up a world like that in the lauded, 2016 movie Interstellar, where America’s farmland is sufficiently fried to create a new Dust Bowl and the only solution for humanity is to use gravitational propulsion to escape to a distant galaxy through a recently detected wormhole near Saturn. But instead, a writer who ironically is best known for his own space-escape yarns such as The Mars Trilogy, has set himself a more difficult challenge. Robinson visualizes a world where mankind can’t avail itself of improbable technological advances or convenient astronomical discoveries, and instead must struggle to adapt to a barely recognizable planet. Read More 
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The Law of Unintended Consequences

Perplexed?
There’s no need right now to dive into the details of the disastrous impact of the Republican tax bill on the well-being of the 99 percent. That should be apparent. What may not be apparent is how the corporate tax cut is likely to play out if, as the Republicans claim, the tax windfall  Read More 
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Time to give thanks for...

Puppies anyone?
At this time of year when we’re encouraged to give thanks for our blessings before the commencement of the season of greed, here, in no particular order and with apologies to NY Times columnist Gail Collins, are some of the things I’m giving "thanks" for, hoping they will put a little smile on your face…

…Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, whose principled  Read More 
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Protest Pop? Resistance Rock?

Two of the greats
Can popular music be a force for societal change? What an irrelevant question for anyone who came of age in the 1960s, when most popular music was all about political action. Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, the list goes on and on, from the lyrical soliloquy of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to the anthem of “We Shall Overcome.”

So where’s popular music today on the Resistance spectrum? Ironically, that question was raised by a recent article Read More 
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To Kill the President: The Novel

Cover of UK edition
Sounds like an interesting premise for a thriller, doesn’t it, once you get over your moral hang-ups? Especially easy to do when the president in question is an over-the-top caricature of the current White House resident. Bad enough this fictional blowhard and bimbo connoisseur is distracted from his apoplectic Situation Room rant by the opportunity to grab a tempting piece of you-know-what. (Spoiler alert: he’s intent on launching a first-strike nuclear attack on North Korea and China Read More 
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Hammer-down Economics

In response to the their new tax bill “talking points” released by the Republican solons in Congress yesterday, permit me to quote Suzanne Dealy, the principal female character in my new novel, The Piketty Problem.

“I know all about the extraordinary concentration of income and wealth, not just the ten percent or the one percent but the one-tenth of one percent, and especially the concentration of capital, which is the financial hammer that the one percent and one-tenth of one percent will use to keep beating the rest of us down, because hammer-down works and trickle-down doesn’t Read More 
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The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming

Knowing my concerns about the danger of robots making the already corrosive economic inequality in our country even worse, a friend and former colleague of mine passed on a blog post that is a must read: The Real Story of Automation Beginning With One Simple Chart by Scott Santens. The one simple chart shows that when the number of oil rigs began to rebound after the 2016 decline in oil prices, the number of oil and gas industry employees didn't budge. The reason? Robotic "Iron Roughnecks" now perform the repetitive task of connecting drill pipe segments as the well is drilled deeper and deeper. What once took a crew of 20, will soon take a crew of 5.

The trend is difficult to ignore. And there are so many other good points Read More 
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