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Take the Pledge

Nov 02, 2014
Someone (Mark Twain?) once famously commented, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Of course, the remark was intended to be a facetious one. What, after all, can one do about the weather? Precious little, as we are coming to realize in the face of global warming and increasingly dire episodes of out-of-control climate change.

Everybody (it seems) also talks about our current political situation, and have been talking about it eloquently for a good many years now, in films, books, newspaper columns, magazine articles, speeches, podcasts, tweets, and what-have-you. But nobody is doing anything about it.

Well, I am.

After attending to much of the material noted above, and after six years of blogging and considerable thought, I conclude that there are two bedrock issues we must address before we can do anything about all the others with which we are confronted. And those issues are poverty and education.

See The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty, 2000 to 2008-2012 and Poverty in the United States.

Poverty, always a problem in this, the richest nation in history, is getting worse. And as FDR told us, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

It is time to provide enough to those who have too little. And the only way I can see clear to doing that is through work. Men and women need to work, for their food and shelter, for their self-esteem, and in order to take their proper place in a society where, for better or for worse, we are dependent upon one another. And their work needs to earn them a living wage. It is immoral to take an adult’s full-time labor and compensate that adult with less than a living wage. It is immoral, and it ought to be illegal.

So I pledge to expend my precious vote only on candidates who themselves pledge to support the following: That any adult 18-65 who is able and wanting to work will be provided with a job that pays a living wage.

Education. No Child Left Behind is a wonderful sentiment. However, as anyone who is today associated with the education establishment, the public welfare bureaucracy, or the prison system knows all too well, it is a sentiment which is far from becoming a reality. We waste our human capital by the millions in this country, and the burden which an unemployed, uneducated, and all-too-often imprisoned citizenry places on the rest of us is unacceptable. If we are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, then no child can any longer be left behind to grow up in neglect, poverty, and ignorance.

This will require a reallocation of resources, a makeover of our public education system, and long-term devotion to the betterment of each and every individual member of our society.

And so I pledge to expend my precious vote only on candidates who themselves pledge to support the following: That we as a nation will do whatever it takes to assure that every child will grow up in a sufficiently nurturing environment so as to optimize their potential for leading happy and productive lives.

And you out there, will you join me and take the pledge? Because you know that today your vote is wasted, that representative democracy in this country is no more, that even the best of our “public servants” are captives of corporate money and influence.

If you will, send me your name, town, and state, and I will add it to the list of others who have so pledged. If the list grows sufficiently, one day it will make a difference, and perhaps we will be on our way to reversing our present descent.

And if you won’t take the pledge, just what will you do? I hope it is something worthwhile, and I hope to hear about it, because I will want to do it, too.

tags: Domestic Unrest | Politics | ATN

The End of Libraries, Part 18

Nov 01, 2014
Amazon has introduced the Kindle Unlimited (KU) service. For $9.99 a month, subscribers can download and read an unlimited number of books on Kindle and Kindle-enabled devices from a collection of over 700,000 titles (up from 600,000 when it was first introduced). Subscribers also have access to thousands of audio books from Audible.

This takes the one-book-a-month service to Amazon Prime subscribers a giant step further on the road that may one day see libraries replaced with a for-profit subscription service. For less than $120 a year, readers can now read their fill—no limit to the numbers of books they read, no due dates, no late fees. I wrote in Part XVII of this series about Scribd and Oyster, two other subscription services whose offerings are similar in scope and cost to KU. Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla, however, and KU is a more serious threat to public libraries than other subscription services. Of course, 700,000 titles are a small portion of the millions of titles available in digital format today, and you can bet that many of your favorite authors and newest bestsellers will not be any more available on KU than they are today, digitally, at your public library.

However, who can doubt that if and when Amazon finds an acceptable way to recompense publishers and writers equitably based upon actual circulation, we won’t see that package expand exponentially? “Actual circulation” today can not only track downloads, but methods are even available to determine whether someone actually read a downloaded book, a portion thereof, or none at all. And in Part II of this series, I outlined a method for public libraries to recompense publishers and writers which Amazon could easily adapt to its purposes.

As noted in Part I of this series, “If libraries cannot begin to serve their patrons’ eBook reading needs—and they don’t come close to doing so today—and an Amazon or another commercial endeavor steps in to fill that need, libraries are finished.” Public libraries are not doing a significantly better job of serving their patrons today than they were doing back then, over three years ago.

Amazon Prime’s book lending feature is insufficient to threaten libraries; KU’s is not. A recent article in Forbes, for instance, advocates closing all the libraries in Great Britain and purchasing a KU subscription for every citizen, arguing that such numbers could warrant a low “bulk rate” from Amazon that would save the country money. I have no doubt such thoughts are rolling around many a publisher and writer’s head, and you can bet Jeff Bezos is thinking the same thing.

I’m a big fan of Amazon and always have been. If they manage to kill libraries, I won’t blame them. They are doing what comes naturally. We aren’t. We (publishers, writers, readers) are sitting by and watching the privatization of our dearest resource, and the passing of it into the hands of a monopolistic entity whose only concern is maximizing profit.

tags: Books and Libraries

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