You God Damn Millennials are Killing All of America’s Shittiest Businesses

fabsofNot pictured in foreground: Anything that actually does anything even remotely beneficial for your laundry.

Earlier this evening, Comrade Levine helped ease the pain by sharing this article to his Facebook wall, an otherwise routine piece of hysteria about Those Damn Millennials and all of the ways in which we are unacceptably changing society. Strangely, most of these articles seem to limit the purview of their juvenoia purely to the consumer realm, and this Business Insider shit show is no exception; it surpasses other articles waxing idiotic about The Kids These Days only in its wide assemblage of consumer examples.

Here are the industries this article says are failing because of disinterest from millennials, along with a brief overview of why I think these industries suck, for I have no job, no current classes, and nothing better to do with my time than try to waste that of others. My hypothesis: Maybe we’d stop murdering all of their beloved businesses if all of their beloved businesses weren’t total garbage.

Casual dining chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s: The food at these places is worse for you than fast food and is every bit as factory-cooked-and-frozen halfway across the country and microwaved in the “restaurant” as fast food. (I’ll have the #WordSalad as an appetizer, thank you.) Instead of getting your food at a dystopian counter in what feels like a mess hall, you are served at a sticky table in poorly-lit, beer-reeking, butt rock-blasting shithole with decor furnished by the nearest bottom-shelf antiques shop.

Beer: Tastes like dirty laundry smells, doesn’t get you drunk if you can hold your liquor. Pass.

Napkins: A napkin is cloth and you launder it. These are shitty little pieces of miserably flimsy paper that no sensible person should use in a world where paper towels are just as readily available.

“Breastaurant” chains like Hooters: When your business is failing, whatever you do, do not look into the politics of your youngest target demographic. That would not be rational in the least.

Cereal: I mean, I never cared for the stuff much, probably haven’t had a bowl in over a year. Not having it because you have to clean things afterward is asinine, though. Heartless Industry 1, Millennials 9,682.

Golf: Ah, yes, I’ll just have my driver take me and my caddy over to the cart rental in the Rolls Royce and we’ll cease our murder of this industry forthwith!

Motorcycles: Loud, obnoxious, dangerous, famously associated with violent criminals, horribly bigoted ones in particular. SEE: “Breastaurant” entry.

Homeownership: Hahahahahahahahaha are you fucking kidding me?

Yogurt: Anyone’s guess is as good as mine on this one.

Bars of soap: And I quote, “Almost half (48%) of all US consumers believe bar soaps are covered in germs after use, a feeling that is particularly strong among consumers aged 18-24 (60%), as opposed to just 31% of older consumers aged 65-plus.” Who are we, Howard fucking Hughes? Heartless Industry 2, Millennials 9,685. At least they didn’t try to spin this one to imply that we’re unwashed.

Diamonds: SEE: “Breastaurant” entry again. Literally involves the dismembering of small children and vicious wars.

Fabric softener: “According to Downy maker Procter & Gamble’s head of global fabric care, millennials ‘don’t even know what the product is for.'” Stupid millennials, not knowing what a pointless product is for. There’s an incredibly apt metaphor in here somewhere, but I’m too busy looking at my smartphone to notice.

Banks: I mean, I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard about millennials stuffing their cash in the mattress en masse, but perhaps this includes business lost to people who are joining credit unions that won’t gamble with their deposited money and nickel-and-dime them with fees and charges. Pah! Credit unions! Why would anybody ever join such a foolish thing?

Department stores like Macy’s and Sears: “Who could possibly want to order goods directly to their door?” ponders industry giants who made themselves into what they are by aggressively circulating mail-order catalogs. Why would I rifle through wrinkled clothes and struggle with store employees who are paid so little that it would come off as offensively desperate if they were helpful?

Designer handbags: Forget it, it’s Chinatown! If you need a magnifying glass to tell that a mainly-cosmetic item is counterfeit, then it is, for all intents and purposes, not counterfeit.

Home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s: SEE: “Department stores.”

Football: I won’t go into it at length here, but having read a shit-ton in the last year about the state of football’s popularity, I can say with confidence that this entry is entirely bullshit. Surely they could lament something more specific about football and of which there is more evidence of the uselessness of millennials, like not buying jerseys that cost over a hundred dollars or something.

Oil: SEE: “Breastaruants,” yet again. Also smells bad. Is hard to clean off of plants, wildlife, and out of earth and water. Continued combustion will literally make the Earth uninhabitable for humans. Procurement is ecologically harmful as well. Should be conserved as it is otherwise needed for plastics, of which advancing technology and growing populations will presumably only increase demand for.

I find it curious that all of the articles like this use an active word like “killing” to describe a trend which is defined by a lack of the relevant parties doing anything at all, in this case, engaging with these various businesses. Why, oh why, won’t the best-educated generation in human history, which is also simultaneously the worst-paid generation in the last century or so of American history, exchange money they don’t have for goods and services that make them sick, exploit others, and/or are mainly pompous, ostentatious displays of consumerism?

How can anybody seriously wring their hands in confusion at what is happening here? Businesses that don’t sell things people want aren’t logically supposed to exist in the free market, right? Well, then.

Fuck ’em all.

Money Hates Your Heineken and Wants to Fuck

A perennial favorite, now with the images updated!

Writers Without Money

money-case-163495_1280“You can get money for blood,
Blood money for doing no good,
But they won’t take my love for tender”
-Elvis Costello, Clean Money
“Pimp put on weight from fighting them off,
In the mall, you see it and like it, it’s yours,
Thats a nice fit, you ain’t gotta price, shit,
I pays for it like the mics in The Source”
-J Dilla, Won’t Do
“Defendant testified that even though both Plaintiff and her mother told him that all they wanted was an apology, he called Plaintiff’s home and spoke to her mother to offer money for Plaintiff’s ‘education.'”
“One never could ‘buy’ indulgences. The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms—indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. There…

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On the Sharing Economy

The rise of what has been called, inaccurately, “the sharing economy” presents a number of problems for how we conceive of eventual worker liberation and the establishment of a more sane and equitable society. It requires the nationalization of platforms more than industries.

The psychological model of “platform” based work relies on the schizophrenic split between the identities of consumer and worker; a master/slave dialect that exists within each individual that exists within this economy. The person as consumer feels all powerful and pampered so long as they have money, and in some respects even without money provided they have an internet connection. I can get most of my needs besides food and a place to sleep extremely cheaply or free if I live close enough to an urban area and know how to navigate the system of thrift stores and things like Freecycle. When I do buy things, the standards of customer service have been automated to points where I can, in certain cities, order almost anything on the internet and have same day to within the hour delivery. I’m not sure there’s ever been a better point in human history to be a person with money buying things or living on the fringes of people buying things than the present.

However, as a worker, the environment is chaotic and assaultive. Attempts to dismantle what protections workers have gained over the past hundred years come from all directions; there’s a large portion of the working class in the United States that seems convinced that the primary problem of class tensions is that they haven’t given the bosses enough. Economically the US is in decline and facing tough competition from China and others.

This creates theoretical problems for the engaged Marxist. While a crisis of overproduction is a classic problem that Marxist theory is extremely well-equipped to tackle and the consumer identity side of things makes a lot of sense, the sharing economy is predicated on the bizarre notion of charging the worker for the privilege of…their owning the means of production. An Uber driver owns their own car, etc etc. It could be said that the thing actually being produced isn’t rides but work; that the actual customer of Uber is the driver and that therefore the largest growing market is the market for employment (that, for added absurdist sci-fi flavor, refuses to call itself employment and will fight over that in court.)

In terms of the present, this being the growth market makes some sense. The end point of technological sophistication, one of them anyhow, was always going to be the replacement of human labor by said technology. This was supposed to happen, this was the dream that you see in so many science fiction stories and popular TV shows dealing with the future-flying cars, and, more importantly, robotic servants, always viewed passively as set decoration. The other side of the sci-fi coin were anxiety dreams the robots would enslave the humans. This template isn’t especially far removed from the passive mammy/frightening minority threat coming to destroy “our values/homestead/etc” dichotomy that’s been a hallmark of the movies since Birth of a Nation. The comforting aspect of these films to the technologist or the racist is that they all still presume a strongly bonded community and an other, a stable world where the privilege stemming either from being human or white is a divine right. It avoids the question of whether the problems that would arise from technology wouldn’t stem from the inertia or weakening of man in the face of machines but from where most problems of the past 250 years and many from before then have stemmed-the banal and crushing inertia of the accumulation of wealth to a small minority of the population.

Technology’s advance has not led to a more fair or equitable society. Conveniences have multiplied, yes, but these have been trojan horses. The creation of massive quantities of so-called redundancy in the workforce, the speed-up that expedited the process of accumulation, and the powers of control and surveillance that have been handed over to massive tech giants while no one was paying attention all speak to this.

If I was accumulated capital personified, in the long term, what would I want? I would want to replace the specific functions of the federal government that collect money, while leaving the husk of said government to deal with the externalities that cost money. I’d want a couple private towns I had complete sovereignty over that could be designed to use soft-behaviorist techniques to control the activities of especially skilled employees. I would want to collect my employees’ taxes instead of the government. I wouldn’t want my employees to be considered employees so they couldn’t have collective bargaining rights. I wouldn’t want my employees to think of themselves as employees so they wouldn’t think about collectively bargaining. I would want access to massive zero percent interest loans backed by the government.

The above paragraph is not a new analysis. Much has already been said about the point of accumulation where the interests of concentrated capital are in the position to discipline state governments and not vice versa. This situation in some aspects is already happening. The rise of independent contractor “platforms” like Amazon used selling, Uber, etc. are ways for private interests to collect a second layer of sales tax, not land rent.

The platforms need to be seized for the workers.

The automated economy is an assault on the petit bourgeois in the same manner that industrialization was an assault on the artisan class at the advent of the industrial revolution.

 

America is in a trade war with China. It’s losing.

This past week news media outlets around America have been silently editing out the ‘unimportant parts’ of the presidential primaries, particularly those surrounding Presidential Candidate Donald Trump’s comments on Mexico and China. They instead are highlighting the ‘more important’ parts of ‘controversial statements’ (i.e.: the parts where he’s obviously vying for both press coverage and to appeal to the very far right).

We don’t beat China in trade. We don’t beat Japan, with their millions and millions of cars coming into this country, in trade. We can’t beat Mexico, at the border or in trade.

– Donald Trump

A spat of articles were quickly written to challenge the idea that America could be losing to Mexico in trade; these articles all pretty much admitting “yes but not by nearly as much as we have historically”, though you wouldn’t get it from their headlines (e.g. Is Donald Trump right that Mexico is ‘killing us’ on trade?).

But curiously missing were headlines asking “Is Donald Trump right that China is ‘killing us’ on trade?”

Why? Because everyone knows the answer: yes. China is killing us on trade. China has overtaken the United States GDP, though the US media has so far declined to cover this. (1)

Not only is China’s economy larger than the United States, it’s growing remarkably faster. The US media hurrahs every time the growth projections for China are around 7% and even champion 7.5% growth as a significant and important slow down from its historic “10%”. The United States struggles to achieve 2% growth.

It’s not fair to compare numbers out of context like this: China is an emerging economy and about to hit the knee of the curve into a modern import-consumer economy. The growth numbers above are both easier for China to achieve as it continues to industrialize and modernize. These are specific policy targets the Chinese national banks are targeting for reasons we will get to in a minute.

China is the central economic spoke of an Asia-Pacific region of the world. This region is about to crest into financial and economic plenty. In one or two short decades the Asia-Pacific region (comprising nearly half of the entire world population) will transition from second to first world nations. Every prediction from every multinational bank positions the Asia-Pacific region and China especially as the center of the global economy for at least the next half century. These same banks predict that the region will grow to host nearly 3/4 of all global shipping – this causing the United States to double down in investments to the Panama Canal.

China is set to lead the helm of a huge financial windfall. However, they haven’t been merely waiting for natural causes to provide this. Frustrated by inaccessibility to leadership positions denied to them in highly guarded multilateral banks and lending institutions (the World Bank and the IMF), China has developed a series of its own international organizations, forming an alphabet soup including the new BRICS Bank (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa international bank), the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), the ADB (Asian Development Bank), and several others.

The AIIB in particular has garnered a lot of US press because the United States tried at the time of its formation to project the image that China would not be a responsible leader of the initiative and encouraged its allies and defense partners not to join in membership. Alas, the majority of allied parties including the majority of Europe did join the AIIB. This was somehow unanticipated by US statesmen and it took the States by surprise.

The AIIB is one of the tools that will be used by China in its upcoming plan to create a ‘new silk road’ or ‘one road, one belt’. The AIIB will be used to grant internationally sourced investments to building infrastructure in countries that will benefit its lenders geostrategically – similar to how the IMF funds the majority of war costs on the Kiev side of the civil war in Ukraine because it benefits the NATO member countries that contribute to it.

China will be using the AIIB to build oil pipelines, highways and other infrastructure through Eurasia, and ports in countries with access to the Pacific Ocean. With this ‘one belt, one road’ initiative China seeks to develop a large economic zone in its neighborhood and in tandem with the rise of the associated economies. China will profit from the trade, the capital flows, the economic power, the regional leverage and the debt that must be repaid by the borrower countries.

Additionally, much like how the Colonies stole intellectual property from Britain to sponsor their industrial revolution, industrial cyber espionage by China is asymmetrically beneficial (versus the US’s industrial cyber espionage of China) to that China. China has simply more to gain in the cyber espionage war than the United States does on the side of intellectual property. This is even more complicated for the US because there is no international intellectual property law nor any international cyber law it can enforce.

Recently China depegged the Renminbi (Chinese currency) from the dollar, a move that was immediately criticized in US media and caused US officials to go haywire. The dominant narrative in the media was that lowing the currency was manipulation and was done to offset Chinese export losses (around 8%) in the previous quarter. This is partially true but so far from complete as to be dishonest. Missing from the broad media coverage was the fact that a depeg of the Chinese currency was a long standing demand of the US government and was advised by the IMF.

The US wanted China to depeg its currency when it would led to the Chinese economy becoming in the more immediate term a consumer economy on level of the size of the US economy. The strategic depeg this week was criticized because the float of the currency drove its value down, rather than up (as the US wanted). This puts an upward pressure on the US dollar and will encourage US debt to continue to drive the global economy through consumer debt. It will also probably exacerbate the US export problem so much that the Federal Reserve may back out of plans to raise the US bond rates in the upcoming financial quarter.

China did what the US asked them to, but what they did is going to allow China to continue to grow its economy relative to the United States in the short term. It also encourages other countries to take debt from US trade deficits and means that China can be continue to grow larger than the United States before it decides to “balance” and level out. A very good explanation of these details can be found in Patrick Chovanec’s Let the Global Race to the Bottom Begin. Phil Levy does a good Q&A in Let Slip the Dogs of Currency War, similarly noting that nothing specifically implicates China for bad behavior because it did exactly what the US has been asking it to, but in a way that harms the future of the US economy in predictable terms.

Folks in high finance have been warning that the trade war may turn into a currency war. At the Financial Times, headlines read: China devaluation raises spectre of currency wars, rhyming with prior coverage wherein Brazil accused the United States of doing the same to them.

This paves the way for the accusations of alleged US backed coordinated naked short selling that set off the most recent market turmoil in the Chinese stock markets. Intelligence interference of the sort has been seen before in the Libor rate scandals, Iranian financial hacking operations, and others – given the national security stakes, do we think the United States is above this sort of covert action?

The Xi Jinpeng administration wants China to grow into a superpower that can compete with the United States. Already a permanent member of the UN security counsel and holder of atomic weapons, China has officially stated its intention to become a great global nation. So far it’s tried to do this by consolidating financial might, soft power, and increasing regional responsibility. China now spends the second most of any nation of military budget. This is where the United States has a fundamental issue. The United State Grand Defense Strategy, codified in the leaked Wolfowitz Doctrine, is to prevent any other nation from rising in order to preserve its uniqueness as a hegemonic superpower.

Knowing this themselves, China has sought to eject the United States from the Asia Pacific region. It has gone on the record internationally claiming that the US is not a legitimate Pacific power and need not patrol these areas with aircraft carriers when other regional powers can provide the services the US claims to provide. Crucial to this effort, China has been developing exclusive trade deals with ASEAN (regional powers) and has excluded the participation of the United States despite great enthusiasm on its part.

So it makes sense that the Secretary of Defense has said “passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier“. Or that Thomas Friedman has publicly called the Trans Pacific Partnership a national security imperative on multiple occasions. Or that the historic address by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the US Congress on mutual security (re: extending NATO into Asia) saw him answering questions about the TPP almost exclusively in relation to the national security benefits it would foster in the face of a rising China. It explains why Obama, during his last State of the Union Address, urged the US to pass TPP as a means of “writing the rules” in Asia, rather than China.

The TPP is a protectionist trade deal that enshrines benefits and provisions meant to exclude China. It would create a trade bloc through the Asia-Pacific region composing 40% of the world’s GDP. The draft chapters leaked through Wikileaks reveal a slew of international laws that work against China. If China were to want to be allowed into the TPP’s trade bloc, it would need to adopt a slew of castrating laws the United States has long sought to establish over China. It would benefit regional adversaries and neighbors of China in a way that might keep them from being entirely under China’s economic shadow. It codifies partnerships and mutual benefits between nations that might otherwise be divided and conquered by soft or financial power. If the TPP passes, China will be faced with a choice to be excluded from huge capital flows or to agree to international law that will end many of the tactics it currently employs in its bid for global prominence.

The United States media has mostly been worried that a cabal of rich neoliberal capital monopolists and international corporations would be armed by TPP to further control and to accrue wealth, ideas, labor and productive capacities: that the economic benefits will go primarily to the few while the many are left hoping some of this wealth will make it into their 401k – or that somehow they will marry a daughter of one of these moguls and launch themselves into riches. This is a tangential issue to the one covered in this article but I’ll cover it briefly:

The United States does not have state owned enterprises (though much of its enterprise happens to be owned privately by the same elite circle who hold positions as defense and public officials). When a country in a trade war creates a weaponized trade deal for its industry and security, the few private individuals that own these enterprises will have their power and wealth magnified by that trade deal. The question is: which country’s elites will reap the benefits?


  1. It depends on how you measure and diehards will stick to obscure measures but most estimates agree that the US has been overtaken in price-parity adjusted gross domestic product..

Of the Force of Economic Identities

Economics texts are stories. A work initially written to describe the world exactly as it is will, because of the seeming exactness of its resemblance, paradoxically reshape the world in its distorted spectral echoes. Karl Marx wrote Capital while buying potatoes on margin and pretty much living in the London public library. Within 80 years of its initial publication, nearly half the world had reshaped itself attempting to live up to a thing supposedly describing itself. Truth is chased and chases ominously in return; felt as much in its implications of the present’s lacking as its seeming descriptive powers.

As Montaigne wrote in “Of the Force of Imagination”:

Simon Thomas was a great physician of his time: I remember, that happening one day at Toulouse to meet him at a rich old fellow’s house, who was troubled with weak lungs, and discoursing with the patient about the method of his cure, he told him, that one thing which would be very conducive to it, was to give me such occasion to be pleased with his company, that I might come often to see him, by which means, and by fixing his eyes upon the freshness of my complexion, and his imagination upon the sprightliness and vigour that glowed in my youth, and possessing all his senses with the flourishing age wherein I then was, his habit of body might, peradventure, be amended; but he forgot to say that mine, at the same time, might be made worse. Gallus Vibius so much bent his mind to find out the essence and motions of madness, that, in the end, he himself went out of his wits, and to such a degree, that he could never after recover his judgment, and might brag that he was become a fool by too much wisdom. Some there are who through fear anticipate the hangman; and there was the man, whose eyes being unbound to have his pardon read to him, was found stark dead upon the scaffold, by the stroke of imagination. We start, tremble, turn pale, and blush, as we are variously moved by imagination; and, being a-bed, feel our bodies agitated with its power to that degree, as even sometimes to expiring. And boiling youth, when fast asleep, grows so warm with fancy, as in a dream to satisfy amorous desires…

The US at present is fascinated at the moment with things that, like the great books, don’t seem to be either dead or alive but possessed with supernatural powers for being neither-werewolves, vampires, ghosts, Frankenstein’s monsters…

And at a house party in Seattle where attendees dressed as zombies a shooter came, and for a time the partygoers were unsure what was happening, unsure who was dead and who was exceptionally good with a makeup kit. In the Treblinka death camp the first woman to escape and return to warn the others of their intended fate was only able to do so by pretending to be dead and then sneaking out by cover of night, and when she told them they didn’t believe she was who she was or that what she was saying was true.

The most contentious issue and decisive initial choice made in any economics text is how to gerrymander and prioritize the various archetypal performative roles one sees in an economy. None of these roles are historically a given, a thing that always-already existed on clean lines. So the most convenient starting point for deconstructing any work of political economy usually begins with an analysis of this decision. It’s the single fuse that can be cut to turn off all the lights in the house or modified to make them switch on and off interchangeably in brilliant displays…

So we see the shift in cultural adoption of Smith toward Marx towards Keynes towards the Chicago School and beyond as what they are; a shifting series of parts to be played with varying degrees of revisionism or shrinking senses of disappointment, imaginary men conjured in a seance whose image we’re taught to squirm under in our failure to embody or avenge…

The primary shift from the classical economists toward the neoliberal ideologues of the present was the shift from the self-conception of the…let’s call them the eternal 99%, from the identification as the worker toward the identification as the consumer. The neoliberal text always frames liberation in terms of the drop in price of goods and their continued increase toward providing the imagined perfect consumer with the peak of convenience. They state these imagined narratives mostly in the most simple, calm fashion the new “folksy”-the literature of pats on the back, the literature of free cookies-can provide.

We should be immediately suspicious of any person too eager for us to understand them; underneath the clean simplicity of a prose can lurk the demanding neediness and need for control that it seems to cover up. Emerson gives a helpfully unspecified warning:

Theoretic kidnappers and slave-drivers, they esteem each man the victim of another, who winds him round his finger by knowing the law of his being, and by such cheap signboards as the color of his beard, or the slope of his occiput, reads the inventory of his fortunes and character. The grossest ignorance does not disgust like this impudent knowingness.

And so the new definition of man as consumer wriggles and squirms in and out of various incarnations and social formations within and around these constraints, as have others. It is said “You can’t use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house”. But isn’t the lesson of the dialectic that the master’s tools will dismantle the house of their own accord? So the man of prolific consumption becomes the learned master and vice versa; the roles melt into each other around a violent and awkward dance toward validation or revenge for having not been validated.

We find the imagined self of many people most easily in what it is they take offense at. I recently was embroiled in an argument on Twitter regarding my essay on superheroes. The person tweeting back at me claimed that Alison Bechdel was “redefining the superhero” and spoke of seeing the Broadway production of Fun Home. I claimed that, for what wonderful things Bechdel is doing, they don’t have much of anything to do with superheroes besides a shared form in the comic book. She grew angry and inquisition-like demanded to know if I’d read any of Bechdel’s work. I’ve read most of it; this is why I feel confident in my assertion as such. We go into conversations wanting something. She wanted her self as a consumer validated. I’m not especially sure what I wanted out of the exchange. But then, it’s easier to observe a thing from the outside.

This need for validation as consumer defines much of the internet discourse surrounding media, most of which is a flimsy runaround for the act of gatekeeping by means of shaming or validating the person for their exploring whatever regions of the world of words and pictures are considered off-limits. The consumer can never be satisfied lest they stop consuming, and if they are disturbed in their dream of this self this may well happen. Think of the “DVD extra”, which usually just consists of more “legitimate” persons than the viewer patting the viewer on the back for having viewed. The advertisement for a thing the person already bought; an advertisement for the continued legitimacy of the self as consumer. On the internet, people seek out something resembling the DVD extra and exhort the producers of discourse to provide this and scream bloody murder when they don’t. The invisible fence words build around themselves to keep other words out as though they were the Cliven Bundy of things we tell ourselves.


Guest post by Daniel Levine. Check out his first book here. His comedy album wants you to listen to it; he could honestly care less at this point. Anyway, whatever, it’s here.