Monday, February 8, 2016

Experts weigh in on Universal Basic Income (UBI)

"My favored model is an unconditional basic income, high enough to cover a person’s basic needs and given to every man, woman, and child as a right of citizenship. There are many good ways to finance it. I favor taxes on resources and rents. Start charging the market rate for the broadcast spectrum instead of giving it away; the Fed should make money off the banks instead of vice versa; land value should be taxed; all forms of pollution should be taxed; and so on. But there are other ways to raise revenue. A wealth tax is a great idea, but you could also finance a basic income with an income tax—even a flat income tax. All of those are workable, good ways to do it, and all of them will effect redistribution from the very wealthy to the middle and lower classes."

"I approach UBI by dividing people into three age groups: You have children, you have elderly, and then you have adults. Children should receive allowance handed out by the parents. Elderly people receive old-age pensions, which are often already a kind of basic income. And adults would get the universal basic income. One approach would be to have it replace all other adult benefits. If you’re going to do that, you could make it pretty high, probably equal to 10% of GDP."

A good starter conversation for this topic.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Does social media help or hurt activism?

"Here is what [Ghonim] concluded about social media today: 'First, we don’t know how to deal with rumors. Rumors that confirm people’s biases are now believed and spread among millions of people.' Second, 'We tend to only communicate with people that we agree with, and thanks to social media, we can mute, un-follow and block everybody else. Third, online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs. … It’s as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars.'
'And fourth, it became really hard to change our opinions. Because of the speed and brevity of social media, we are forced to jump to conclusions and write sharp opinions in 140 characters about complex world affairs. And once we do that, it lives forever on the Internet.'
Fifth, and most crucial, he said, “today, our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. … It’s as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.'”

I think the lesson is that if you have 1 simple goal, social media can help you reach that.  If you have a complex goal, like turning a country from dictator to democracy, that is where things break down.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

How Taiwan activists use technology

"Taiwan has been at the forefront of digital democratization for some time. In 2012, Taiwanese netizens created alternative, crowdsourced .g0v (a number 0 where an O would otherwise be) versions of Government websites where they released data in formats that helped people more easily understand what government ministries were doing.

Audrey Tang (Isis Kang/CC BY-NC-ND)
'Most of the technologies we have deployed in Taiwan were neutral; they were intended to encourage people to talk, that’s all. We had a very strong code of neutrality,' said Audrey Tang, a self-professed 'conservative anarchist,' and member of, now a civic movement aiming for true, participatory self-government.
Youth leaders,, and other hacktivists all came together last year when the Government’s move to limit public debate on a trade deal with China angered citizens upset at the blatant disregard for democracy and potentially adverse economic impacts. In just a few days, this morphed into a mass movement.
Technology played a key role from the very beginning. During the movement, a central web portal was used as a common entry point for information on the movement. A host of mostly open-source, hosted tools were used in the portal to network, engage, and empower activists."

It's good to look around and see what other people are doing.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lords and serfs, that's all that's left

"The wealth of the richest 62 has increased an astonishing 44 percent since 2010, to $1.76 trillion. Meanwhile, the wealth of the bottom half of the world dropped by 41 percent.
'This is terrible,' Gawain Kripke, Oxfam's Policy Director, told The Huffington Post. 'No one credible will say this is good for the world or good for the economy.'
While the wealthy might argue that their rising wealth is just a fabulous sign of economic prosperity (the "you're just jealous" rationale), the disproportionate growth at the top is keeping those on the bottom from climbing out of poverty, Oxfam notes in its report."

There will be no middle class soon. This is going back to the Middle Ages, where the lords in their castles held all the wealth, and the serfs outside the wall toiled in the fields just to survive.  Progress?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Looking for a hot career? Solar might be it!

"The number of solar jobs in the U.S. has more than doubled in five years. In fact, there are more people working in solar now than at oil rigs and in gas fields.
The solar industry added 35,000 jobs in 2015, up 20% from the previous year, according to the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit in Washington D.C.. The group is not funded by solar companies.
In contrast, oil and gas firms slashed nearly 17,000 extraction jobs in 2015 as energy prices continue to plummet. Oil prices are down a stunning 70% in the last 18 months and hovering just over $30 a barrel, a 12-year low."

Wind energy is also growing fast.  Maintenance people are needed as well in this area;

Friday, January 15, 2016

outliers cost society dearly

"Lariat Comes, a 27-year-old homeless Rapid City man, has been arrested 77 times in the last 7 1/2 years, and twice in the first five days of 2016. He has been accused of stealing everything from the boots of a fellow destitute person to the ramen noodles a man had just purchased from a convenience store at 2:30 one morning."

"For a recent grant application to the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, a local consortium attempted to assemble costs associated with “chronic recidivists” and discovered that a few such as Comes cost local organizations nearly $1 million a year. The consortium includes the Police Department, Rapid City Fire Department, City/County Alcohol & Drug Programs, Regional Health, and Pennington County’s Public Defender’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Health & Human Services, and Community Health.
The study, which did not include Comes, tracked 28 repeat offenders ranging in age from their mid-20s to their mid-60s from Oct. 1, 2013, to Oct. 1, 2014, and found costs associated with their arrests, indigent-defense counsel, incarceration, health care and substance-abuse treatment totaled $931,441.27, said Barry Tice, director of Pennington County Health & Human Services."

So this one drunk jobless dude costs the rest of us $1 million a year.  Perhaps it might be better to put him in a jobs program of some type?  Has that been tried?  This is astounding, and I suspect that trying to help him might have a better result than repeatedly incarcerating him.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Universal Basic income (UBI) finds another believer

" The idea is so refreshingly contrary to the petty conditionality that is killing the welfare state that it began to fill me with optimism that there may be a few people lying in this political gutter still looking at the stars. Once upon a time, universality was the underpinning principle of welfare. Every mother got child benefit; every child got free school milk, until that was snatched away by … Oh, I can’t remember – I’m not one to bear grudges.
In Britain we’ve already experimented with a system in which one group of people receive a guaranteed income with no obligation to work for it. But what if this was extended beyond the royal family? Imagine now if everyone in the UK started out with a guaranteed minimal amount of money each week.  All other benefits would be done away with, along with the stigma and entrapment that came with the old system of welfare (and the expense of policing and administering it)."

I like this idea because it takes care of so many problems at once; homelessness, beggars, people between jobs needing a bridge, etc.  I work amongst the poor in my town.  Very few could be called moochers. Some are unable to work. Others are desperately looking for a job every day.  A bit of support could keep them afloat until they do find that job.