cheap goods and nasty working conditions, brain waves write on computer

Every generation probably takes the progress, frequently hard fought for progress, for granted. Unless you spend a lot of time around a retirement community or history professors, there are few who remember a time there was not a forty hour work week, weekends off ( or two days off anyway), workman’s comp if you’re injured or a minimum wage. All those steps in social progress and economic justice did not come about because unregulated free markets hold such virtues in high esteem. Left to their own devices the idolaters of unregulated capitalism have a history that is hyped up on Scrooge and low on George Bailey, Cheap Clothes and Nasty – Charles Kingsley, 1850

‘Another of the reasons for the sweaters keeping more hands than they want is, the men generally have their meals with them. The more men they have with them the more breakfasts and teas they supply, and the more profit they make. The men usually have to pay 4d., and very often 5d. for their breakfast, and the same for their tea. The tea or breakfast is mostly a pint of tea or coffee, and three to four slices of bread and butter. I worked for one sweater who almost starved the men; the smallest eater there would not have had enough if he had got three times as much. They had only three thin slices of bread and butter, not sufficient for a child, and the tea was both weak and bad. The whole meal could not have stood him in 2d. a head, and what made it worse was, that the men who worked there couldn’t afford to have dinners, so that they were starved to the bone. The sweater’s men generally lodge where they work. A sweater usually keeps about six men. These occupy two small garrets; one room is called the kitchen, and the other the workshop; and here the whole of the six men, and the sweater, his wife, and family, live and sleep. One sweater I worked with had four children and six men, and they, together with his wife, sister in law, and himself, all lived in two rooms, the largest of which was about eight feet by ten. We worked in the smallest room, and slept there as well – all six of us. There were two turn up beds in it, and we slept three in a bed. There was no chimney, and, indeed, no ventilation whatever. I was near losing my life there the foul air of so many people working all day in the place, and sleeping there at night, was quite suffocating. Almost all the men were consumptive, and I myself attended the dispensary for disease of the lungs. The room in which we all slept was not more than six feet square. We were all sick and weak, and loth to work. Each of the six of us paid 2s. 6d. a week for our lodging, or 15s. altogether, and I am sure such a room as we slept and worked in might be had for 1s. a week; you can get a room with a fire place for 1s. 6d. The usual sum that the men working for sweaters pay for their tea, breakfasts, and lodging is 6s. 6d. to 7s. a week,. and they seldom earn more money in the week. Occasionally at the week’s end, they are in debt to the sweater. This is seldom for more than 6d. for the sweater will not give them victuals if he has no work for them to do. Many who live and work at the sweater’s are married men, and are obliged to keep their wives and children in lodgings by themselves. Some send them to the workhouse, others to their friends in the country. Besides the profit of the board and lodging, the sweater takes 6d. out of the price paid for every garment under 10s.; some take 1s., and I do know of one who takes as much as 2s. This man works for a large show shop at the West End. The usual profit of the sweater, over and above the board and lodging, is 2s. out of every pound. Those who work for sweaters soon lose their clothes, and are unable to seek for other work, because they have not a coat to their back to go and seek it in.

[   ]…But it is so hard to deprive the public of the luxury of cheap clothes! Then let the public look out for some other means of procuring that priceless blessing. If that, on experiment, be found impossible – if the comfort of the few be for ever to be bought by the misery of the many – if civilization is to benefit every one except the producing class – then this world is truly the devil’s world, and the sooner so ill-constructed and infernal a machine is destroyed by that personage, the better.

But let, secondly, a dozen, or fifty, or a hundred journeymen say to one another: ‘it is competition that is ruining us, and competition is division, disunion, every man for himself, every man against his brother. The remedy must be in association, co-operation, self-sacrifice for the sake of one another. We can work together at the honourable tailor’s workshop – we can work and live together in the sweater’s den for the profit of our employers; why should we not work and live together in our own workshops, or our own homes, for our own profit?

“Sweaters” is slang for sweat shop owners.

new reflects old

I watched Surrogates this weekend so this recent press release seems a little more prescient then i would have thought last week, Brain Waves Can ‘Write’ on a Computer in Early Tests, Researchers Show

Neuroscientists at the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Fla., have demonstrated how brain waves can be used to type alphanumerical characters on a computer screen. By merely focusing on the “q” in a matrix of letters, for example, that “q” appears on the monitor.

Researchers say these findings, presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, represent concrete progress toward a mind-machine interface that may, one day, help people with a variety of disorders control devices, such as prosthetic arms and legs. These disorders include Lou Gehrig’s disease and spinal cord injuries, among many others.