May 30 2009

BlogEngine Version 1.5 Upgrade

Kal @ 23:17

I upgraded this site from version 1.4.5 to 1.5 and the theme I was using went poof. This one works but is pretty generic.

Sunday night update -

There are a lot of good themes out there, but I wanted one that looked much like the previous one, so I have now customized a theme called Stardust. It still has a few strange elements, but it is at least semi reasonable.


Category: Rss Basics

May 30 2009

Pied Piper Tunes - But the tunes may change

Kal @ 12:48

This somewhat whimsical drawing of the Pied Piper was sent to me in an email without credit to the artist.20090530 pied pipe I blew it up to 800% in an attempt to read the signature, but when it was big enough to read, the characters were too broken to decipher. I believe the first name is Bill, so thanks Bill, I will give you a link if I find out who you are.

The email itself used this drawing to depict Obama as ruining the good old US of A by his proposals to limit the distance between the masters and the slaves wage slaves. It was a clever, nasty, hit piece circulated under the guise of humor.

There were a couple of good points hidden in there, although the anonymous author missed the problem because of focusing on the relief to poor people aspects.

We'll just print more money so everyone will have enough! But our foreign trading partners said, "Wait a minute. Your dollar isn't worth what it was. You'll have to pay more."

Between Bush and Obama administrations, the financial elites have been bailed out to the tune of something like three trillion dollars. And all the indications are that more trillions are in the works. So yes, the market for US backed securities is drying up and the costs will go up. But it has little to do with the somewhat wimpy energy and social programs proposed by the Obama administration.

Meanwhile - The planet is getting warmer.

Potsdam Institute For Climate Impact Research discussing an article in Nature, International weekly journal of science.

On the way to phasing out emissions: More than 50% reductions needed by 2050 to respect 2°C climate target

The Obama administration has lots of good ideas and lots of good and clever people. This administration would have been a vast improvement over Reagan in that time. That was before the impossibility of perpetual growth became so obvious to so many. But the reality is that "restarting the economy" is not such a great strategy for this time. Instead we need to totally restructure the economy to take account of the newly obvious reality that compound growth for ever is not possible.

A friend responded to the pied piper email as follows:

> the heat is rising out there
The heat is rising in the midwest for the same reason it is rising in Darfur and the Caribbean (a little storm over New Orleans, remember?): Global warming. And getting worse because no American politician has had the guts to take on the coal, oil and car industries. At least Obama understands the problem and is talking about it.
Reagan cozied up to Margaret Thatcher (she had the oil at the time), Bush 1 knocked heads in Kuwait/Iraq, Clinton fought a Republican Congress and Bush / Cheney turned a deaf ear, squandering 8 precious years. Where was Jimmy Carter when we needed him?!
Monetary "wealth" won't be worth much when ice slides down off Greenland and Antarctica, and the Amazon goes poof. Physical ecosystems are what make life possible, and we've been ripping them off for centuries. Soon we're going to pay the piper, and he won't look very much like the character in your cartoon.


Category: Climate Change | Economics | Population | Resource Depletion | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability

May 23 2009

Real Economics - Prosperity Without Growth

Kal @ 11:59
There is a report (136 page pdf) out by the Sustainable Development Commission, a British organization, "is the Government's independent advisory body on sustainable development." prosperity I found the reference in The Oil Drum.

According to the report, the current economic system, based on continuous growth is unsustainable. This is because the planet has limits. Resources, including energy, are exhaustible and because of medium-term environmental imbalances caused by growth will make human life more difficult or even impossible.

Therefore, contrary to all that is being advocated in the present crisis, we must find an economic and social system that should is not based on growth. At this time, prosperity is based on “consumption”, and on “property”. But happiness is not necessarily linked to the possession of material goods. The concept of “prosperity” must be reconsidered.

... Returning the economy to a condition of continual consumption growth is the default assumption of Keynesianism.

… that provide the means for people to flourish, and particularly to participate fully in the life of society, in less materialistic ways. And the chances of extending this behavior across society are negligible without changes in the social structure.

In summary, we are faced with an unavoidable challenge. A limited form of flourishing through material success has kept our economies going for half a century or more. But it is completely unsustainable and is now undermining the conditions for a shared prosperity. This materialistic vision of prosperity has to be dismantled.

... Summary in the review:

Growth is unsustainable – at least in its current form.

De-growth is unstable – at least under present conditions. (rising unemployment, falling competitiveness and a spiral of recession.)

The failure to solve this dilemma is the single biggest threat to sustainability that we face.



Category: Climate Change | Economics | Population | Resource Depletion | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability

May 19 2009

The Price of Being Poor

Kal @ 09:55

Think about it.  This is by Ian Welsh.

Washington Post hits on how much it costs to be poor - the way that the poor are forced to pay more, not less, for virtually everything; if not in money, then in time.

A friend of mine put it most simply.  Poor people spend time to save money.  Well off people spend money to save time.  That’s how you know where you are, assuming you aren’t living beyond your means.

The WP article isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really get the full flavor of poverty.  When you look poor, and if you’re poor long enough you will, you just get treated worse by virtually everyone.  They know you don’t have money, know you don’t have power, and thus know they can push you around, disrespect you or just ignore you.

My favorite story along this line is when I was barely making ends meet by doing odd jobs helping people move, doing yard work and painting houses.  One day after painting a garage, I walk into a bank with the check from the day’s work (this is in the eighties).  I’m disheveled, covered in dried paint, and look awful.  The teller wants to hold the check for two weeks.  I can’t wait that long, I need the money for rent.  I walk out of the bank.

I go back to the rooming house I’m living in. I shower, shave and comb my hair.  Then I go find my last set of good clothes - gray flannels, dress shirt, blazer, tie.  I put them all on, and I head back down to the bank.

Unlike a lot of people who are poor, I haven’t always been poor.  I went to one of the most elite private schools in Canada (ranked second at the time, after Upper Canada College).

I wait in line, and irony of ironies, I get the same teller.

She cashes the check.


But I don’t say anything, because I know she could capriciously change her mind.  I just walk out.

A couple years later, during the same extended period of poverty, I get to the point where I can’t even pretend to be middle or upper class.  And on occasion I get rousted because, while I’m clean, I look pasty, my clothes are threadbare and my glasses are literally taped up.  One time a security guard throws me off the property of a hotel I went into to use a pay phone.  In another case, I get tossed off the University of Ottawa campus: I’m beyond the point where I can fake being a student, even though I’m the right age, and was one just a few years before.

In the last ten years, since I ascended back into the middle class, I’ve never had any such situation come up.

Odd that.

The worst thing about being poor is the way you are treated.  There is no rule more iron, in my experience, that the less you get paid, for example, the worse you will be treated at work.  Clerks in stores treat you worse.  Government bureaucrats can often barely conceal their contempt.  And so on.

The upside, I suppose, is that people show you who they are.  The rare person who treats you exactly the same as they do everyone else is revealed as the shining gem they are.  In particular the friends who stick by you even when you’re down and out show themselves to be real friends, as opposed to those who follow the rule given in so many self-help books to cut off less successful friends, and thus reveal their complete moral bankruptcy to the world.

You learn who you can actually trust, who actually cares about you, and who is actually a decent human being who doesn’t enjoy being able to kick down on someone they figure can’t kick back.

It changes how you see people.  Oddly, before I was poor I thought practically everyone was scum (I was a cynical teenager).  Being poor convinced me that there were some truly good people in the world–people who would help you, be kind to you, or just treat you respectfully, even when there was nothing in it for them.

In ugliness and deprivation, beauty and kindness are much much more obvious.  All the more so, because so few meet this test and pass.


Category: Conventional Economics | Economics | Employment | Guaranteed Wage | Morals | Politics | Recession

May 9 2009

Reality Strikes Again - The time for climate action is now!

Kal @ 20:29

  Potsdam Institute For Climate Impact Research discussing an article in Nature, International weekly journal of science.

On the way to phasing out emissions: More than 50% reductions needed by 2050 to respect 2°C climate target


Illustrative Figure for free use:

Meinshausen_etal_SimpleFigure_big.jpg   Two possible futures: One in which no climate policies are implemented (red), and one with strong action to mitigate emissions (blue). Shown are fossil CO2 emissions (top panel) and corresponding global warming (bottom panel). The shown mitigation pathway limits fossil and land-use related CO2 emissions to 1000 billion tonnes CO2 over the first half of the 21st century with near-zero net emissions thereafter. Greenhouse gas emissions of this pathway in year 2050 are ~70% below 1990 levels. Without climate policies, global warming will cross 2°C by the middle of the century. Strong mitigation actions according to the blue route would limit the risk of exceeding 2°C to 25%.


April 30, 2009 - Less than a quarter of the proven fossil fuel reserves can be burnt and emitted between now and 2050, if global warming is to be limited to two degrees Celsius (2°C), says a new study published in the journal Nature today (1).



Category: Climate Change | Politics | Solar | Steady-State Economics