Jul 9 2009

Unemployment is too low

Kal @ 13:37

Last week the official US unemployment rate reached 9.5%. Of course, this includes only those "actively seeking work." Or another way to think about it is those with remaining unemployment insurance benefits to collect. The actual number of unemployed is thought to be between 16% and 20%, and rising.

Given the common belief in "full employment is a good thing", these numbers are pretty depressing and way too high. But that is not the only possible perspective.

From the point of view that mostly those persons engaged in the basics of life should be employed, then perhaps the number should be around 50%. The basics: Food, Shelter, Transportation, Communication, and Security. Of course, there are other important things, but generally speaking they are luxuries. Some people should clearly be working on luxuries, but it is unreasonable to expect all of our excess labor to be so employed.

The main problem comes about because we have coupled the notion that it is necessary to have a job to have a life. As things stand now, to be unemployed is almost a disgrace. Well, maybe for a few weeks but then folks start to see you a bit as if you had the swine flue. Don't get too close, it might be catching. And nasty things start happening to you, your car and house payments come delinquent and soon you are walking on the street. Or maybe lucky enough to have relatives who can help and you are driving an old wreck and living back at home.

But it does not have to be like that. All of the folks who live here have to be supported in one way or another. Even the tea-baggers mostly agree with that. Why not do it with dignity and relieve the pressure on the planet to keep everyone running at full blast just to keep up a decent lifestyle?

Of course, those folks who go to work every day should get more than those who get to go fishing. Maybe we can even find a way to share the fishing time as well as the work time. But do we really want to put our family, friends, and neighbors on the street just because the economy is winding down a bit to a more rational level?


Category: Economics | Employment | Guaranteed Wage | Politics | Recession | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability

Jul 3 2009

Time to recall some republicans in Sacramento

Kal @ 21:00

A small minority in the California legislature, in cooperation with Arnold Schwarzenegger are trying to dismantle California. The model seems to be Calcutta.

If there is not enough revenue to pay for needed programs, the answer is simple, raise taxes.

I wonder how many we would have to recall to break the impass?


Category: Economics | Morals | Politics | Recession | wingnuttery

Jul 3 2009

Crap and tax

Kal @ 20:46

More grist for the wingnut emails series mill, again from Greg. Congratulations Greg, at least this one was original and not just something forwarded.

Just a few links to show what a fraud Gore and the Dems are on this "Crap and tax" bill coming up tomorrow.  These are off of the first page when you Google "how much money does al gore stand to make if cap and trade legislation passes  We effectively will be ultimately taxed for breathing out Carbon Dioxide, which is NOT a pollutant, and only comprises .038 of our atmosphere.  When we breath we exhale, when a plant breathes this "Pollutant" in, it produces Oxygen.  Big brain exerciser here, why should we be taxed for this?  The whole thing is a scam designed to control us and small business, and is another form leading to Socialism.  It has nothing to do with the environment, and everything to do with Gore and his asshole cronies getting rich.

He then includes links from several very questionable sources and one from Bloomberg. Note the query that Greg uses to produce them and it is no wonder the query produces pretty strange stuff.

First the strange ones:

Two from humanevents.com which bills itself as: Headquarters of the Conservative Underground. It is clear we can expect unbiased reporting from there. The lead author appears to be a lobbyist for the defense industry.

One from stopsocialism. Stop socialism? I guess this is about religion after all. If socialism works better than capitalism, perhaps we should adopt it.

One from greenhellblog.com promoting a book of the same name. Everyone knows how the environmentalists are out to destroy the world.

Greg, do you really expect us to take these folks seriously?

Gore Invests $35 Million for Hedge Funds With EBay Billionaire comes from Bloomberg. This one is about Gore having $35 million to invest when he only had about $2 million when president. It is clear he has made more money than me, but what has that got to do with cap and trade or global warming?



Category: Climate Change | Politics | Resource Depletion | Sustainability | wingnuttery

Jun 25 2009

Waterboarding vs Beheading

Kal @ 21:51

This is another in my WingNut Email series; this one came in a couple of days ago.

Doesn’t appear to meet the same criteria that qualifies as torture that Terrorists use such as BEHEADING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Total Fear Factor - 

For those who have never really seen how waterboarding is done, this is an incredible video.  A Playboy journalist bet $1.00/sec that he could withstand waterboarding for 15 seconds.

Watch and see if he won his bet. [the torture porn link was deleted for this post]

P.S. Of the three jihadists known to have been waterboarded, the one who lasted longest was well under one minute.  No injuries, no marks, no scars, and incredibly quick and effective.  Makes you wonder why our enemies resort to the barbaric things they do instead, and you can only conclude that it is because they derive real pleasure out of being the vicious animals that they are.

Well yes, beheading is not nice either.

There is no obvious reason to think beheading is practiced as an alternative to waterboarding, rather it is a slightly more gruesome version of the capital punishment that many conservatives find so attractive. The general idea seems to be that it is a deterrent. I am not aware of any research that shows that capital punishment actually deters anyone. Properly done, beheading does not appear to be more barbaric than any other form of capital punishment.

This email seems to imply that torture is fine as long as there are "No injuries, no marks, no scars, and incredibly quick and effective". It entirely misses the point that the reason we do not torture is because we do not choose to be "the vicious animals that they are." It is not about them, it is about us.


Category: Morals | Politics | wingnuttery

Jun 9 2009

Al Gore - Putting his house in order

Kal @ 16:32

This is another in my WingNut Email series, and once again, hat tip to Greg for sending it along. Another came from Murray yesterday, but it was just to bizarre to even try to make sense of so I did not bother to write about it. Something about how the Obama Cairo speech failed to indict all Muslims for the invasion of Europe in 732.

The email lays out in great detail various facts about Al Gore's large house in Tennessee, including that it is large and old and uses a great deal of electricity and natural gas to keep it going. I have not been able to find the date of building. Or of the email either, it is also apparently badly out of date.

The email then points out that the former Bush ranch near Crawford, TX is very energy efficient. What it does not mention is that the Bush ranch was purchased just in time for the presidential election as a stage prop, was never lived in by the Bush family, and was abandoned/sold even before the Obama inauguration. It was used for vacations and photo sets.

The point of this and other attacks on Gore seems to be that 'if Gore is not a saint, then global warming is a hoax', and besides, Al Gore warmed up the planet single handedly, so na, na, na-na, na. Of course global warming is not about Al Gore, or even George Bush, but it is still kind of fun to poke holes in the hypocrisy of pieces like this. 20090609 gore solar panels

This photo is of the solar panels on the roof of Al Gore's house and was found in Tree Hugger dated 6/12/2007. So anyone circulating the current email has had plenty of time to get it right.

The following is from Drew Johnson On Al Gore’s House

The Gores honored Earth Hour by shutting off the lights at their residence. The heating and air conditioning were turned off as well. But more importantly, the Gores live in a Gold LEED certified home, powered by geothermal power. They have undergone renovations to put solar panels on the roof and participate in all of the renewable power programs offered by their local utility. They aren’t perfect, no family is, but they do their best, year-round to try to make a difference at home and across the country to make a difference on the climate crisis.



Category: Climate Change | Morals | Politics | Solar | Sustainability | wingnuttery

Jun 5 2009

From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy

Kal @ 10:15

Excerpted from a post on The Oil Drum.

A steady-state economy is incompatible with continuous growth—either positive or negative growth. The goal of a steady state is to sustain a constant, sufficient stock of real wealth and people for a long time. A downward spiral of negative growth, a depression such as we are entering now, is a failed growth economy, not a steady-state economy. Halting an accelerating downward spiral is necessary, but is not the same thing as resuming continuous positive growth. The growth economy now fails in two ways: (1) positive growth becomes uneconomic in our full-world economy; (2) negative growth, resulting from the bursting of financial bubbles inflated beyond physical limits, though temporarily necessary, soon becomes self-destructive. That leaves a non-growing or steady-state economy as the only long run alternative. The level of physical wealth that the biosphere can sustain in a steady state may well be below the present level. The fact that recent efforts at growth have resulted mainly in bubbles suggests that this is so. Nevertheless, current policies all aim for the full re-establishment of the growth economy. No one denies that our problems would be easier to solve if we were richer. The question is, does growth any longer make us richer, or is it now making us poorer?

I will spend a few more minutes cursing the darkness of growth, but will then try to light ten little candles along the path to a steady state. Some advise me to forget the darkness and focus on the policy candles. But I find that without a dark background the light of my little candles is not visible in the false dawn projected by the economists, whose campaigning optimism never gives hope a chance to emerge from the shadows.

We have many problems (poverty, unemployment, environmental destruction, budget deficit, trade deficit, bailouts, bankruptcy, foreclosures, etc.), but apparently only one solution: economic growth, or as the pundits now like to say, “to grow the economy”-- as if it were a potted plant with healing leaves, like aloe vera or marijuana.

But let us stop right there and ask two questions that all students should put to their economics professors.

First, there is a deep theorem in mathematics that says when something grows it gets bigger! So, when the economy grows it too gets bigger. How big can the economy be, Professor? How big is it now? How big should it be? Have economists ever considered these questions? And most pointedly, what makes them think that growth (i.e., physical expansion of the economic subsystem into the finite containing biosphere), is not already increasing environmental and social costs faster than production benefits, thereby becoming uneconomic growth, making us poorer, not richer? After all, real GDP, the measure of “economic” growth so-called, does not separate costs from benefits, but conflates them as “economic” activity. How would we know when growth became uneconomic? Remedial and defensive activity becomes ever greater as we grow from an “empty-world” to a “full-world” economy, characterized by congestion, interference, displacement, depletion and pollution. The defensive expenditures induced by these negatives are all added to GDP, not subtracted. Be prepared, students, for some hand waving, throat clearing, and subject changing. But don’t be bluffed.

Second question; do you then, Professor, see growth as a continuing process, desirable in itself-- or as a temporary process required to reach a sufficient level of wealth which would thereafter be maintained more or less in a steady state? At least 99% of modern neoclassical economists hold the growth forever view. We have to go back to John Stuart Mill and the earlier Classical Economists to find serious treatment of the idea of a non-growing economy, the Stationary State. What makes modern economists so sure that the Classical Economists were wrong? Just dropping history of economic thought from the curriculum is not a refutation!

It is well worth reading the full post.


Category: Accounting | Politics | Population | Resource Depletion | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability

Jun 3 2009

Torture US Citizens - The goose and gander question

Kal @ 11:25

From Jack M. Balkin in his blog, Balkinization on June 1, 2009.

The assassin who killed Dr. George Tiller at his church, murdered Tiller in order to keep him from performing therapeutic abortions for women. The murderer is one of a long line of religiously inspired radicals who have tried to shut down abortion providers through bombings and murders. They are not the mainstream of the pro-life movement; they are a fringe sect who are not content to protest abortion or even to engage in non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, they believe that they are justified in bombings and killings to prevent great evils that they regard as contrary to God's fundamental law.

Using violence-- like bombings and murders-- to intimidate people in this way is terrorism. It is so in common language, it is so defined in U.S. law. The terrorist in this case and the terrorists in previous abortion clinic bombings and murders are, as far as I am aware, not foreigners. They do not have Arabic or Islamic names. They are American and they live in the United States. However, just like Islamist terrorism, this terrorism is driven by fanatical religious belief. Many religiously inspired terrorists live in other countries; some, however, (who include both Christians and Muslims among their number) live in the United States and are U.S. citizens or resident aliens.

...In particular, consider the following questions:

(1) Should the United States be able to hold Roeder without trial in order to prevent him from returning to society to kill more abortion providers? If we believe that Roeder and other domestic terrorists will plan further attacks on abortion providers and abortion clinics if we let them free, can we subject them to indefinite detention?

(2) The Obama Administration is currently considering a national security court to make decisions about the detention of suspected terrorists, with the power to order continued preventive detention. Should this court be able to hear cases involving U.S. citizens, whether they are Muslim or Christian?

(3) The U.S. government has argued that at least some terrorists should not be tried through the criminal process with its various Bill of Rights protections but instead can and should be tried through military commissions, where the standards of proof and various procedural protections are lowered. If Roeder is a domestic terrorist, can the U.S. government subject him to trial by a military commission instead of a criminal prosecution? Although the current version of the 2006 Military Commission Act does not bestow jurisdiction to try citizens, could we or should we amend it to include citizens who we believe are likely to commit or have committed terrorist acts?

(4) One of the most important reasons for detaining terrorists (suspected or otherwise) is to obtain information about future terrorist attacks that may save lives and prevent future bombings. To procure this information, can the government dispense with the usual constitutional and legal safeguards against coercive interrogation? Should it be able to subject Roeder to enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and other methods, to determine whether Roeder knows of any other persons who are likely to commit violence against abortion clinics or against abortion providers in the future? Would your answer change if you believed that an attack on an abortion provider or a bombing of an abortion clinic was imminent?

(5) Terrorists and terrorist organizations need money and resources to operate effectively. Often the only way to stop them is to dry up their sources of financial and logistical support. Can the U.S. government freeze the assets of pro-life organizations and make it illegal to contribute money to a pro-life charity that it believes might funnel money or provide material support to persons like Roeder or to organizations that practice violence against abortion providers? Can the government arrest, detain, and seize the property of anti-abortion activists who helped Roeder in any way in the months leading up to his crime, for example by giving him rides or allowing him to stay in their homes?


Category: Morals | Politics

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

Apr 25 2009

Graphic Statistics

Kal @ 20:43

I think these are fun. I wonder how accurate they are?  I found these through a long article at the Peak Energy site named The Fat Man, The Population Bomb And The Green Revolution. In it Big Gav is somewhat disparaging about The Limits To Growth projection. However I saw an article just a couple of days ago at The Oil Drum that paints a somewhat different picture: Limits to Growth Model Worth Another Look.




Category: Climate Change | Politics | Population