Monday, November 16, 2009

It doesn't take much to change the lives of millions

Cheap, adjustable glasses that could help millions around the world. I wonder if there's some lobby group that will spring up against these?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

a voice of reason in the Middle East

If this part of the world could begin acting rationally and work on how to live together, it would make for a better world. Blaming and retaliating just keep the violence going. It leads nowhere.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What we think we're doing compared to what they think

The Russian invasion of Afghanistan, seen from our perspective, was a horrible travesty of aggression. But the Russians soldiers seem to have seen it as a liberation and protection for suffering Afghans. Gee, kind of like we see our mission now?

Maybe war is not the way to help people?

Also, NPR reported yesterday that it costs the US $1 million per solider per year in our "aid" to Afghanistan. What if we gave just $1 million per school per year and see what that accomplishes?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

let's get rid of corporation personhood

The Supreme Court will soon rule on whether corporations should be treated as persons and allowed to donate as much as they want to political candidates. But for-profit corporations, if they are a "person," are psychotic. By law, their only goal in life is profit for their friends and contributors. They have no concern for the environment or laws except for not getting caught doing something illegal.

The book "The Corporation" by Joel Bakan is a stunning indictment on how far astray this legal entity can go from what is good for society. Once you read this book, you'll probably agree that there is just too much negative compared to positive in having corporations. Partnerships, sole proprietorships, and such work just fine.

Friday, July 17, 2009

what is stopping universal health coverage?

We already HAVE socialized medicine with the VA hospitals and medicare. What's the fear? That we will become a socialist country? Well, then we'll have to say that the entire rest of the world is socialist then.

If we can afford the $1 trillion useless war in Iraq, I think we should be able to afford health care for ourselves.

Monday, July 13, 2009

nice magazine for helpful information

You might not agree with their politics, but there's some good stuff here otherwise.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Iranian protesters face detention and torture, and still they go

I often wondered if Scientology had the power to arrest and torture me, would I still be a critic? Actually, I don't think so. I'm not that brave. But these Iranians are amazing. I hope they succeed in freeing their country.

I read that the revolution that put Khomeni in power took a year. So this is not over yet. Most Iranians are young and educated, and they are learning from other successful protests how best to go foward. I wish them all the best.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

geotagging - locational socializing

When your friends know where you are, that makes planning for social interaction easier to do. But it also can mean that non-friends also know where you are.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Anonymous Iran

Project Chanology, the movement to help expose the Church of Scientology, has partnered with the democracy activists in Iran to provide a voice to Iranians seeking freedom in their country.

I think we'll be seeing more and more of this, where one online community helps another online community, simply because they share a common goal or ideal. There is power in numbers.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

why prop up the system that just failed us?

I like this guy. It makes no sense to me to be propping up the very companies and people who caused the failure in the first place. Plus, trickle down has shown to be a bogus theory anyway.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

it's past time for health care overhaul

60% of bankruptcies in the US are caused by medical bills.
47 million Americans don't have health care coverage.
The US is the only major country on earth without universal health care.

We can be so backward in some things...

Monday, June 1, 2009

crowdsourcing; the new way to get things done

My research on Project Chanology showed me that it's not as hard as you think to have thousands of people suddenly decide that a social project is worth their time and effort, even if there's no monetary gain for them. Crowdsourcing is an alternative to forming or hiring a business to accomplish some task. I love it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another book on surviving hard times

Anybody wanna review one of these? Fortunately, it looks like there are several good books available.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Payday loans are evil

I hate these places. They suck the life out of the poor. Then they claim they're "helping."

Monday, May 11, 2009

we were warned 10 years ago

"I want to sound a warning call today about this legislation," he declared, swaying ever so slightly right, then left, occasionally punching the air in front of him with a slightly closed fist. "I think this legislation is just fundamentally terrible."

The legislation was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (alternatively known as Gramm Leach Bliley), which allowed banks to merge with insurance companies and investment houses. And Dorgan was, at the time, on a proverbial island with his concerns. Only eight senators would vote against the measure -- lionized by its proponents, including senior staff in the Clinton administration and many now staffing President Obama, as the most important breakthrough in the worlds of finance and politics in decades.

* * * *

Deregulation of our economic system is a green light for greed to run amok. Now we are paying for that. Kudos to those who tried to prevent the collapse.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Urban Homestead; book review

"Ever since I happened upon the Path to Freedom website a few years ago, I’ve been very interested in urban homesteading. I’m eager to drink in as much information as possible for use now, as a renter, and in the future, once I own my own home. So, I was excited to read The Urban Homestead: Your guide to self-sufficient living in the heart of the city, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen of the ‘Homegrown Evolution’ blog."

looks like a useful book.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hero lost; soldier refuses to torture

Allysa Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on Sept. 15, 2003, from a "non-hostile weapons discharge."

She committed suicide, it turns out, because she refused to torture.

This is quite a change from when I was a kid. In movies, news, and TV shows I knew we were the good guys because we didn't torture people, even bad people. I'm not gullible. I know we actually did torture. My step father talked about interrogation methods in Vietnam that Green Berets used. But the cultural norm was that good countries don't torture. Bad countries do torture. We are a good country.

But what are we now?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Aboriginal Living Skills School

I know little about this guy, but it looks interesting. Learn how to survive in hard times.

I heard a story here (Phoenix) of Native Americans wondering about the white man when he first started showing up in these parts. Sometimes the locals would find a dead white person out in the desert and wonder why they died when there was food and water right nearby. Of course, it was because the white guys didn't know what was edible and what wasn't in that environment, and they didn't know the signs of where to find water. All it takes sometimes is a little education.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

vegetable garden seed sales up 30%

•Gardening. Sales of vegetable seeds and transplants are up 30% from 2008 at W. Atlee Burpee, the USA's largest seed company. The National Gardening Association says 7 million more households will grow food this year than in 2008 — a 19% rise. A book on building root cellars is the top seller at Johnny's Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine, supervisor Joann Matuzas says.
•Canning. Jarden Corp. says sales of its Ball and Kerr canning and preserving products are up more than 30% from 2008. Sonya Staffan, owner of The Jam and Jelly Lady commercial cannery in Lebanon, Ohio, is offering twice as many classes this year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3 economists trash bailout plans

Job programs, not temporary tax cuts, for one. This is a thought-provoking article.

Robert Shiller pointed out that economists failed to predict the problem by not considering the psychology behind the housing bubble and Wall Street excess. "We've gotten very speculative in our thinking. There was a psychology that developed... You still have these economists that say it can be explained by building costs, population and interest rates but we say it's more about the culture."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

how to eat during a Depression,0,1456860.story?page=1

Advice from some who went through the 1930's Depression. Some useful information here.

I think we should all start gardening. Our cabin property in South Dakota doesn't get much sunlight because we're in a valley, but I plan to grow a vegetable garden as an experiment anyway. Another problem there is deer eating the plants. Chicken wire will fix that, hopefully.

Monday, April 6, 2009

will smaller, more efficient houses be the new norm?

While a not-so-whopping 881-square-feet might sound too tiny to some, we at Naturally Savvy think it's the perfect sized home for singles, a young couple or a small family. The two-bedroom homes from U.S. national developer KB Home feature an open-concept kitchen/living/dining room on the main floor, with the bedrooms, a laundry room and a full bath on the upper level. There's also a two-bay tandem garage to park your hybrid or electric car.

A small home automatically requires less heating and cooling, so you're already saving energy and the environment by opting for a smaller space. Other eco-friendly features that makes these homes Energy Star qualified include:
-Low-e windows (the "e" stands for emittance or emissivity) feature a metallic oxide coating that doesn't let heat or UV-rays pass through, which will keep warm air in during the winter and prevent heat from the blazing summer sun from turning your home into a sauna in the summer.-Energy Star certified air conditioners. Cooling systems are almost a necessity in Houston, so these small spaces are equipped with 14-SEER air conditioners. (SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which basically rates the efficiency of cooling systems; the higher the number, the more efficient the system.) A 14-SEER system is the cutoff for Energy Star heating and cooling systems, which are the 25 percent most efficient units.-Water-saving Moen faucets and low-flow toilets that aid in conserving H20.-low-VOC paint by Sherwin-Williams and KB Home (an exclusive co-branded product) is used throughout the home.-Energy-efficient appliances are standard and extra-energy-efficient models are optional.-Eco-friendly carpet that meets the Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus low-VOC standard, and that contains post-consumer recycled content--diverting old carpeting from landfills.-Programmable thermostats helps home-owners keep their energy usage in check (so long as they keep the house a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter months).-Upgraded insulation prevents heat and cool loss.
Tankless Water Heaters, Bamboo Flooring, and more!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Roosevelt's Fireside Chat #28

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, or race or creed. Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of farmers to raise and sell their products at a return which will give them and their families a decent living;
The right of every business man, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, and sickness, and accident and unemployment;

And finally, the right to a good education. All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

how bankers game the system

"[T]he way that you do it is to make really bad loans, because they pay better," he told Moyers. "Then you grow extremely rapidly, in other words, you're a Ponzi-like scheme. And the third thing you do is we call it leverage. That just means borrowing a lot of money, and the combination creates a situation where you have guaranteed record profits in the early years. That makes you rich, through the bonuses that modern executive compensation has produced. It also makes it inevitable that there's going to be a disaster down the road.

William K. Black, professor of economics and law with the University of Missouri

Saturday, April 4, 2009

more on our overcrowded prison system

The United States has by far the world's highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. In addition, more than 5 million people who recently left jail remain under "correctional supervision," which includes parole, probation, and other community sanctions. All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. This all comes at a very high price to taxpayers: Local, state, and federal spending on corrections adds up to about $68 billion a year. ..

With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different--and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter.

Friday, March 20, 2009

a more rational approach to a New Era in economics

Niall Ferguson makes sense to me:


There is something desperate about the way people on both sides of the Atlantic are clinging to their dog-eared copies of John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory. Uneasily aware that their discipline almost entirely failed to anticipate the current crisis, economists seemed to be regressing to macroeconomic childhood, clutching the multiplier like an old teddy bear.

The harsh reality that is being repressed is this: the Western world is suffering a crisis of excessive indebtedness. Many governments are too highly leveraged, as are many corporations. More importantly, households are groaning under unprecedented debt burdens. Average household sector debt has reached 141 per cent of disposable income in the United States and 177 per cent in the United Kingdom. Worst of all are the banks. Some of the best-known names in American and European finance have balance sheets forty, sixty or even a hundred times the size of their capital. Average U.S. investment bank leverage was above 25 to 1 at the end of 2008. Eurozone bank leverage was more than 30 to 1. British bank balance sheets are equal to a staggering 440 per cent of gross domestic product

The delusion that a crisis of excess debt can be solved by creating more debt is at the heart of the Great Repression. Yet that is precisely what most governments currently propose to do.

The United States could end up running a deficit of more than 10 per cent of GDP this year (adding the cost of the stimulus package to the Congressional Budget’s optimistic 8.3 per cent forecast). Nor is that all. Even before Barack Obama entered the White House, his predecessor’s administration had already committed $7.8 trillion in the form of loans, investments and guarantees. Now the talk is of a new “Bad Bank” to buy the toxic assets from the banks which, despite the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme, are still in deep trouble. No one seems to have noticed that there is already a Bad Bank. It is called the Federal Reserve System, and its balance sheet has grown by 150 per cent—from just over $900 billion to more than $2 trillion—since this crisis began, partly as a result of purchases of undisclosed assets from banks. .."

efficiency is the name of the game

Aprovecho Research Center is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization whose purpose is "To research, develop, and disseminate technological solutions for meeting the basic human needs of low income and impoverished people and communities in third world countries, in order to help relieve their suffering, improve their health, enhance their safety, and reduce their adverse impacts on their environment."

Aprovecho Research Center is especially dedicated to creating effective and widely usable appropriate technology solutions to problems such as cooking and heating with biomass (wood, charcoal, dung, crop residue). We also provide technical assistance to related appropriate technology projects worldwide. Go to the Projects page to learn more about our current activities.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A huge expense from the war on drugs

Reagan started the war on drugs and look at the incarceration rate zoom up. Intense probation is cheaper and has a lower recidivism rate than incarceration. But politicians want to appear to be "tough on crime" by making punishment more harsh. This is the result. Let's save money and get better results by switching from incarceration to intense probation for nonviolent drug abusers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BBC explains how the bubble burst

This is one of the clearest explanations I've seen on why the economic system collapsed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the Growth of the Home Garden

Home gardening is the cheapest way to get food other than stealing. It's a good skill to have and isn't that difficult. But note that it's becoming so popular, some seed companies can't keep up with the demand!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Slow Money Alliance

A sustainable economy makes more sense in a growth economy, don't you think? I mean, there IS a limit to growth, as cyclic economic downturns should be showing us if we'd just listen. Plus, you can't grow forever (ignore google). Interesting ideas here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

ex-Republican blames republicans for our mess

This is a very powerful article, not just from what it says but from who wrote it. Frank Shaeffer was deep inside the shaping of the current Republican party.

"You Republicans are the arsonists who burned down our national home. You combined the failed ideologies of the Religious Right, so-called free market deregulation and the Neoconservative love of war to light a fire that has consumed America. Now you have the nerve to criticize the "architect" America just hired -- President Obama -- to rebuild from the ashes. You do nothing constructive, just try to hinder the one person willing and able to fix the mess you created. "

Thursday, March 5, 2009

FINALLY! An article about spending less! Go!

Some wise ideas on how to save hundreds of billions of dollars from the federal tab. Why isn't SAVING money a bigger disussion point?

Monday, March 2, 2009

save money by reforming prison population

Here's one place to save money and get people productive instead of a drain. What happened to talking about the government spending less? I heard Obama once talk about cutting back on defense spending (Yay!). But come on. There's a lot of waste and dumb spending going on. Certainly we can do better by spending less than bailing out more?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

even the experts can't figure out this market

Warren Buffet, who's Berkshire Hathaway stocks have tumbled dramatically, tried to put a brave face on his missteps in not seeing the recession that has now hit us. I bought one share of Berkshire Hathaway and have seen it's value drop by about 1/3. I was trying to decide whether to keep the money as cash or put it in some solid investment. Oops.

So, everywhere you turn, you can find financial experts like Buffet who completely missed what's going on now. Even the experts don't know what's going on. And if that's the case then I think the prudent thing to do is to quickly move to simplicity, security, and oversight. Keep the system simple enough that humans can understand what's going on (no inventive crap like derivatives). Be convervative with investments and don't run after the Bernie Madoffs promising grand returns. And make sure there is government oversight of the economy.

Capitalistism has shown its soft underbelly. Now it needs to show that it can repair its weaknesses.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Whole Earth Catalog archived online!

If you want a butt-ton of DIY (Do It Yourself) stuff, here's your treasure-trove.

The non-future of some of our treasured media types

Cory Doctorow covers the future of movies, newspapers, and other media. This shows that many aspects of our society are changing drastically, not just the economy. I'm beginning to believe that this is such a unique structural change going on throughout our society and culture that the experts will not have a handle on what's going on either. This may just be a huge shakeout that we'll have to ride instead of control.

Friday, February 20, 2009

non-hierarchical organizations cause confusion in court

Pirate Bay is being sued over copyright issues. In court the prosecutor couldn't wrap his head around how Pirate Bay is organized. I wrote about the non-hierarchical group Anonymous:

I believe this style of organization will grow more and more as it is more flexible and cheaper than top-down hierarchical structures.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The News Business is a Harbinger of the Future

Who would have ever thought that the New York Times would be in financial trouble? This demonstrates that the economy is changing rapidly in ways that aren't being addressed. It's not just that derivatives are hard to understand, it's that the way the entire economy is changing that is hard to understand. I really think the things our economic experts learned just don't apply now, but then, that means nobody knows just what's going on.

If it was me, because of this uncertainty, I'd go back to basics as much as possible; buy sparingly, keep funds handy in case of problems, don't get giddy when things are going well.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

neo-liberalism has failed, let's pick up the pieces

KEVIN RUDD has denounced the unfettered capitalism of the past three decades and called for a new era of "social capitalism" in which government intervention and regulation feature heavily.

In an essay to be published next week, the Prime Minister is scathing of the neo-liberals who began refashioning the market system in the 1970s, and ultimately brought about the global financial crisis.

"The time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed, that the emperor has no clothes," he writes of those who placed their faith in the corrective powers of the market....

Saturday, January 31, 2009

We don't need repair of the economy, we need a complete re-evaluation

There is an aspect of our economy that is revolutionary and inescapable, yet it is not being addressed. Professional jobs are being lost to software and Internet tools that are so easy to use there is no longer a need to hire an expert. Internet connectivity makes communication so easy that there is no longer the need for some media specialists. Amateurs now have easy access to tools that used to require special training to use. So why hire someone when you or your kid can do it now easily and cheaply?

Take photography for example. Learning how to use the camera, how to develop the film, how to frame and set up a shot, made photography a specialty. Now, you buy a nice camera, point and shoot, maybe tweak it a little in Photoshop, and voila. Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody mentions an example where a company sought photos from a professional and was quoted $100 per photo. Competitive photos were found on for $1 per photo.
The speed and easy access of the Internet makes for competition for information providers like newspapers and TV stations. Bloggers have developed into serious contenders for readership in the journalism field. and are two examples of news web sites that are getting serious traffic.

Videographers and editors are getting serious competition from kids in their bedrooms with their own video cameras and computers. The group Anonymous, for example, has made some stunning videos about their war with Scientology, one of which has received almost three and a half million views. As Shirky says, “If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.” (Shirky, p. 79)

While many professions now struggle with equally-equipped amateurs for customers, so also the normal methods of product purchase is set to be turned on its head. Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired Magazine, says that “Very likely, in the near future, I won't 'own' any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won't buy – as in make a decision to own -- any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won't own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to 'own' it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.” ( Salesman jobs are going to change or be eliminated.

So while it is essential to work on shoring up our economy after the recent collapse, it is also important to see that a large portion of our system of how we earn a living is changing before our eyes. It's not just time for repair, it's time for a complete re-evaluation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saving billions by legalizing pot

Sounds good to me. I'm going to compile all the ways we could SAVE money. Why isn't Obama talking about NOT SPENDING SO MUCH instead of SPENDING MORE???

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Your new home, for only $1000!

For people who work online and don't need to be in any particular geographic location, this looks like a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Maybe a physical community of bloggers will develop?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I guess money really is everything to billionaires

Another billionaire commits suicide over the economic downturn. Is there really nothing more to live for if your portfolio dives? If that was the case, I'd be heading over to the train station myself. But it seems to me family, friends, and just life itself are worth much more than money.

If these millionaires keep commiting suicide over the economy, then we'll know that homeless people are tougher than rich people.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A billion here, a billion there...

Bush already got $700 billion for a bailout, now says Obama wants $775 billion to stoke the fires of the economy. This seems to me like tearing up the train cars and throwing the wood into the engine. Sure, you get farther down the track, but what do you have once you get there? The government seems to have decided that money can be produced out of thin air with no repercussions. But all this money will have to be borrowed from somewhere and paid back at some time.

I think the smarter thing is to cut the size of government (especially the defense department), hunker down and ride this recession out, not invite huge inflation and bankruptcy in the future.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My article on Internet social activism

I got 3 hours of college credit toward my Political Science degree, so it's kinda bland. But it shows the power of community online and the amazing power such communities can have if they hit on a subject that persuades the hive to rumble to life.

Project Chanology, the collective action that formed from the Anonymous community, is a glimpse of the future.