Thursday, December 29, 2011

No wonder we're cynical about politics

When politicians just outright lie so they can get elected, no wonder citizens get turned off from political interest.  A noninterested citizenry does not work well with democracy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tiny houses catching on?

I would say these are a bit TOO tiny, but personally I could live in 400 square feet or so.  But it certainly does make sense to have just enough and be mortgage free, than have more room than you need and be weighed down by a big mortgage payment.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ecological economics catching on

"'Overwhelmingly, growth is seen as the solution to all problems, but growth is failing,' says Herman Daly, a former World Bank economist who is also known as the father of 'ecological economics,' an offshoot of the same field that spawned Adam Smith three centuries ago but challenges many of the assumptions that classical economists hold dear.  
While the term may seem like an oxymoron to some, ecological economics places the economy inside the larger 'ecosphere' that supports all life on Earth, rather than seeing the economy and job creation in direct opposition to environmental protection. That's an idea that has gained ground in recent years as businesses have become increasingly compromised by water and raw material scarcity, extreme weather, crop failures and other problems linked to global warming and environmental degradation."

It's just common sense that an economy can't grow forever.  But people still believe this. That's why people get swept up in housing bubbles, .com bubbles, and all the bubbles that build and pop one after the other.

I personally like the idea of the moral economy, where our success is gauged by how well people are doing, not how much money corporations are making.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

America the Paranoid

"A growing number of U.S. citizens have been mistakenly detained as part of the Secure Communities program. It's a federal effort to detect and deport illegal immigrants who've been arrested by local law enforcement. In Los Angeles recently, four native-born citizens — all Latino — have been held for days at a time."

ICE - the Immigration and Customs Enforcement - uses their Secure Communities program to grab anybody they suspect is in the US illegally. In the process, they grab and hold legal US citizens as if they were criminals.  Why?

"The United States, with a budget of $698 billion, spends more on defense than the next seventeen nations combined. The United States military spending is almost six times that of the next biggest spender, China ($119 billion) and more than eleven times that of Russia ($59 billion)."

What are we so afraid of that we outspend the rest of the world on military expenditures?

"Rebecca Hains said the Transportation Security Administration agent at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas took her cupcake Wednesday. According to Hains, he told her its frosting was enough like a gel to violate TSA restrictions on allowing liquids and gels onto flights to prevent them from being used as explosives."

I could go on. After 9/11 we became the most paranoid nation on earth.  We started two wars that drained our economy to the point of collapse.  We started policing ourselves to the point that even cupcakes are considered a terrorist threat. The infirm are frisked, old ladies are treated like Al Qaeda.  We've spent ourselves into the ground. All because our paranoia grew way out of proportion.

Can't it be said that the terrorist won when we react like this?  They wanted to ruin our economy. They wanted us to live in fear.  They wanted to mess with our heads.  And we let them.

It's time to turn all this down not just a notch, but a lot.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Things you don't hear about that could still ruin your day

"Environmentalists estimate at least 1 percent of Russia's annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year. That is equivalent to one Deepwater Horizon-scale leak about every two months. Crumbling infrastructure and a harsh climate combine to spell disaster in the world's largest oil producer, responsible for 13 percent of global output.
Oil, stubbornly seeping through rusty pipelines and old wells, contaminates soil, kills all plants that grow on it and destroys habitats for mammals and birds. Half a million tons every year get into rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean, the government says, upsetting the delicate environmental balance in those waters."

There are natural oil leaks, such as off the California coast. But holy cow, 5 million tons per year, and a lot of that heading to sea?  I'm not happy about this.

Free places to learn online

And then there's this from MIT:

"Now MIT is looking to strike that balance — with an extra letter. University officials described "MITx" as a non-profit entity established inside the university that will offer an "MIT-sanctioned certificate" for completing various courses or, perhaps eventually, whole course sequences — though MIT emphasized full degrees will not be in the offing.
How exactly will it work? On a conference call Friday, university officials were short on many details — how many courses would eventually be offered, how much it would cost, even the name of the first course for the experiment in spring.
They did say they would focus, at least initially, on science and engineering, where assessment is fairly objective and easily scaled up."

With the cost of a university education skyrocketing, it's good to know there are places to go where you can learn for a decent price, free!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

city view of US economy; Milwaukee

"First, the numbers. From 1970 to 2007, the percentage of families in the Milwaukee metropolitan area that were middle class declined from 37 to 24 percent, according to a new analysis by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. During the same period, the proportion of affluent families grew from 22 to 27 percent-while the percentage of poor households swelled from 23 to 31 percent. In short, Milwaukee's middle class families went from a plurality to its smallest minority...
Late Wednesday afternoon, that was evident in the Jefferson Elementary school of West Allis, a once solidly middle class suburb bordering Milwaukee. In a crowded school gymnasium, principal Shelly Strasser said that fifty percent of students now qualify for free or reduced price school lunch programs. In other local schools, the number is ninety percent."

OWS came about because of the economic inequality building in the US.  If the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, pretty soon you just have serfs and lords.  All the wealth winds up behind castle walls while the populous barely scrapes by.  Devolution.

Friday, December 16, 2011

LEDs for a brighter future

"A field trial of LED light fittings in social housing says the new technology can deliver huge energy savings, reduce costs and makes residents feel safer. The study, carried out by the Energy Saving Trust (EST), measured the performance of more than 4,250 LED light fittings installed at 35 sites. The EST said it carried out the trial because an increasing number of LED lights were now commercially available. It is predicted the technology could dominate the lighting market by 2015."

Talk about win-win!  LEDs are cheaper to run, last longer, and give off a more natural light!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Half of America is officially poor

The latest figures out of the US Census Bureau show that in addition to the 49.1 million Americans who fall below the official poverty line, those that rake in enough to be between that level and the income equitable to double it fall into a new “low-income” category, which counts an additional 97.3 million people. Altogether, that clump of nearly 150 million Americans living in dire economic standing accounts for around 48 percent of the US population.
American officials have deemed the current poverty line to be at around $22,000 for a family of four, but the new category just about doubles that figure to $45,000 and places those that fall between the numbers as low-income. The Associated Press reports that for families that fit in that range, often half of the household income is spent on child-care costs and housing bills."

America is still rich. It's just that the wealth has accumulated with the top 1%.  It took 30 years for us to get here, but hopefully it won't take that long to rebuild a middle class.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marriage going out of favor?

A new report shows that the share of American adults who are married dropped to a record low in 2009-2010 — to just a smidgen over half of population 18 and older. And the age at which Americans first tie the knot has never been higher, according to analysis of U.S. Census data by Pew Research Center published Wednesday.
It’s no secret that the 'market share' of marriage has been in decline for decades — from 72 percent in 1960 to 51 percent today, a trend that has been accompanied by a rising tolerance for single parents, cohabitation without marriage and other alternatives. At the current pace, the share of U.S. adults who are married will dip to less than half within a few years, the Pew study says."

Is this good?  Bad?  Unimportant?  I'm not sure.  I personally think if you're going to have children, a married couple makes the best parents.  But if you don't have and don't plan to have children, it seems to make little difference.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Defunding our schools is not how to improve the economy

"Rappaport's ruling concludes a five-week trial in one of the most provocative education lawsuits in Colorado's history. Lobato v. State of Colorado was filed in 2005, arguing that the state's education system is unconstitutional, by failing to comply with a clause in the state constution that calls for a 'thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state.'"

The U.S. and states have been designed to stress education as one of the most important parts of government duty.  And yet, as here in South Dakota, education takes a big whack whenever the economy suffers.  It's yet another case of the people wanting something that they don't want to pay for.

I just don't see how crippling our education system will help anyone, or any economy.  Without qualified workers and educated voters there's not much hope for a society like ours.  It will turn into something else.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Demand-side economics makes sense

"I’ve never been a 'job creator.' I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate. That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be."

All my life I've heard "supply-side economics" pushed as the most useful economic theory. This means that you stress those companies and people that produce things as the engine that makes our economy works. But this never really made sense to me, because what if people don't buy?  You can wind up with warehouses full of stuff and still if no one buys, what is the point?  So I'm happy to see demand-side economics explained and promoted.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

buh bye phone privacy

"Intelligence officials discovered that when they switched off the tampered phones, two lines would disappear from the network, and when switched on again, two lines would reappear, even though only one SIM card was actually installed in the phone.
The purpose of 'twinning' is to allow third parties to remotely access the data records of the phone, trace its location and eavesdrop on conversations in the vicinity of the phone, regardless of whether the phone is switched on or off.
'The benefits would allow you to eavesdrop on the phone communications,' said Taher. "'f you can also activate the hands-free, you can listen in on what is going on in the room, even when there is no phone call being placed on the phone, so it's an open mike on your target the whole time.'"

Holy crap this is a scary article if you like to have phone privacy.  Essentially if some nefarious person gains inside access to a cell phone system, your privacy is screwed.  They may even be able to use your phone as a microphone to listen in on you whenever they like.

The joys of technology have unfortunately been followed by the fears of spying.  Like the Internet, apparently our cell phone system has not been well designed to prevent infiltration.  What a bummer.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

don't use food to make fuel

"The amount of corn consumed by the ethanol industry combined with continued demand from overseas has cattle and hog farmers worried that if corn production drops due to drought or another natural disaster, the cost of feed could skyrocket, leaving them little choice but to reduce the size of their herds. A smaller supply could, in turn, mean higher meat prices and less selection at the grocery store.
The ethanol industry argues such scenarios are unlikely, but farmers have the backing of food manufacturers, who also fear that a federal mandate to increase production of ethanol will protect that industry from any kind of rationing amid a corn shortage."

A goal  of the industry has been to use biomass instead of actual grain. A plant in the UK will be built soon to use biomass as fuel.  Research into this is ongoing, such as in Wisconsin.  Biomass can be grown in soil and conditions not good for food crops as well.  It's just that biomass is harder to "digest" in order to get energy out than corn or other grains. Research has been done on how animals process biomass to get energy. 

Biomass is the way to go rather than using our food supply to make fuel.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Remember Iceland

"In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt.  The IMF immediately froze its loan.  But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis.  Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.
But Icelanders didn't stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money.  (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)
To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections."

This is much better than the IMF's destroy-the-economy-to-save-it approach.  I hope Greece, Spain, etc. keep Iceland's approach to mind.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Best professor letter EVAH!

"Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our 'Principles of Community' and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing."

   Woah.  Just woah.  This is how EVERYTHING should be done. Straight talk.  No political mushiness.  Just say what you mean.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Has Occupy Wall Street opened up a new beginngin for the US?

"The historian Crane Brinton in his book “Anatomy of a Revolution” laid out the common route to revolution. The preconditions for successful revolution, Brinton argued, are discontent that affects nearly all social classes, widespread feelings of entrapment and despair, unfulfilled expectations, a unified solidarity in opposition to a tiny power elite, a refusal by scholars and thinkers to continue to defend the actions of the ruling class, an inability of government to respond to the basic needs of citizens, a steady loss of will within the power elite itself and defections from the inner circle, a crippling isolation that leaves the power elite without any allies or outside support and, finally, a financial crisis. Our corporate elite, as far as Brinton was concerned, has amply fulfilled these preconditions. But it is Brinton’s next observation that is most worth remembering. Revolutions always begin, he wrote, by making impossible demands that if the government met would mean the end of the old configurations of power. The second stage, the one we have entered now, is the unsuccessful attempt by the power elite to quell the unrest and discontent through physical acts of repression."

I didn't know much about Christopher Hedges before OWS, but I like him.  He sees that OWS is the start of the regular folks gearing up to change the collapsing system we now have.  It has failed us. It is broken. It is not offering any way out of the mess it itself brought us.  So here we go!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We'll either be serfs or lords in the future

"The portion of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods has declined significantly since 1970, according to a new study, as rising income inequality left a growing share of families in neighborhoods that are mostly low-income or mostly affluent."

So this is where we are headed. Back to the time when the few rich controlled the lives of the many poor.  I kind of thought that having a middle class was a good idea, but apparently we seem to think that the olden days were great.  I for one am not looking forward to going back.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

this is why people are disgusted with politics

“If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not.”

This is the kind of stupidity that is rusting away Americans' opinion of our politics.  Even Romney doesn't believe what he said, but because he thinks this will somehow get him into the White House, he says it.  Never mind that it's an idiotic statement that is impossible for him to live up to.  And it's impossible for him to predict that Obama's administration will see Iran with nuclear weapons.

Why do politicians make idiotic statements like this?  Why do they assume Americans are stupid enough to accept such a statement, let alone endear them enough so people will vote for them?  What is happening when our supposed leaders dumb down the conversation to pre-kindergarten lunacy?  This needs to stop.  I don't know how to stop it except to not vote for idiots who make idiotic statements.

And I'm not just picking on Romney;

Friday, November 11, 2011

will it be a passive or an active future? OWS might help answer this

There is so much good coming. We're moving away from polluting oil.  Computers can do dazzling things never dreamed of. The Internet unites us more and more. 

But at the same time, we seem to be dragging down.  Our economies are crap.  Politicians are stuck in their brainwashed divisive one-way thinking that has screeched our government nearly to a halt.  Corporations, whose sole job is to suck money from society, have gained personhood. Financial institutions are so greedy and broken that they will risk long-term financial meltdown for short-term gain (and thus, our financial meltdown).

This dichotomy really bothers me.  Which will the future succumb to, the cool good stuff or the stifling, destructive bad stuff? 

Occupy Wall Street is that movement that hollers and complains that things, LOTS of things, are going wrong.  OWS says we need to work on this stuff NOW.  We need to work out how to stop the things the are sucking us into oblivion. We need to give those bright lights that shine on a better future the boost they need. 

So OWS does have an agenda. They want politicians to put people and community ahead of ideology and party.  They want corporations to treat employees, customers, and this world as being above the almighty buck.  They want banks to be servants of the community rather than destroyers of lives.   And they want people who think this is all impossible to wake up.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More talk on Moral Economy

"Lidia Canha, from the Portuguese association UMAR, an organisation of women working to end gender- based and domestic violence, stressed that the prioritisation of finance capital over social welfare is detrimental to a country, since it breeds a precarious labour environment and effectively dismantles the public service infrastructure. 
In a huge push against these risks, swathes of civil society are striving to inject their perspectives and demands into the G20 process. "

A moral economy stresses the needs of the people in the community.  Our current economy stresses the health of banks and corporations.  Our current system requires sacrificing the social health of a country to save the economic health of banks and corporations.

Friday, November 4, 2011

DIY tools for civilization

Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters building the Global Village Construction Set -- a modular, DIY, low-cost, open source, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

Monday, October 31, 2011

CBO says wealthy making out like bandits

By contrast, look at the top 1 percent of earners. Their after-tax household income increased by an astonishing 275 percent. For those keeping track, this means it nearly quadrupled. Nice work, if you can get it.  This is not what Republicans want you to think of when you hear the word redistribution. You’re supposed to imagine the evil masterminds as Bolsheviks, not bankers. You’re supposed to envision the lazy free-riders who benefit from redistribution as the “poor,” and the industrious job-creators who get robbed as the 'wealthy' — not the other way around."

If trends like this continue, you destroy the system, and wind up with everybody being either a serf or a lord. That's not what the US of A is supposed to be.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I like this guy; the future of economics

"Slovenian-born philosopher Slavoj Zizek, whose critical examination of both capitalism and socialism has made him an internationally recognised intellectual, speaks to Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman about the momentous changes taking place in the global financial and political system."

   My contention is that our economic system has proven itself inadequate for our age.  Some new system, probably one not thought of yet, will have to replace what we have now.  It's time for the world to start working on this.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

bottled water wastes

"Bottled water is often simply an indulgence, and despite the stories we tell ourselves, it is not a benign indulgence. We're moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That's a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 81/3 pounds a gallon. It's so heavy you can't fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water--you have to leave empty space.) Meanwhile, one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water "varieties" from around the globe, not one of which we actually need."

Tap water in the US is almost identical to bottled water. It's delivered efficiently and cheaply.  So if you know you're going to need water someplace, bottle it at home and bring it with you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Geothermal to the rescue?

From what I've heard of geolthermal, it takes a big investment to set up, but then it's pretty cheap from then on. And surprisingly, the reservations in South Dakota seem to be a hot spot.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A place to save $122 billion; stop subsidizing oil companies

"In the current budgetary environment, the United States can no longer afford to give away billions of dollars every year to corporations earning billions of dollars in profits and costing American taxpayers twice: at the pump and through the tax code. We urge the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to consider eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels as an excellent source of deficit reducing savings. According to a coalition of organizations, eliminating subsidies to the fossil fuels industry could reduce our national debt by up to $122 billion over ten years."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

useful ideas for protesters

"1. It's all about attracting more and more people. The way we make change is by gathering together so many people that they can't ignore us.
2. Get information about everyone who shows up. We have to be able to contact people for future events and actions.
3. Give people something to do. Protests and rallies are nice. They get people fired up and they can get some media attention. But they aren't enough. We have to take those people who show up to the rallies and give them something concrete to do that will make a difference.
4. We all, every one of us, have to know what we're talking about. The number one way to lose momentum is for us to allow the media to marginalize us as kooks or crazies. If we are all educated and we only give the media educated, thoughtful responses, then we take away the opposition's major weapon.
5. We have to have a coherent message. The media and the opposition are already trying to paint us as having no real point. If they succeed in convincing the public that is true, the movement will die off. People will go home and nothing will change.
6. We have to walk a thin line when it comes to the law. Civil disobedience is a valid tool and it changes the world. But not if it is violent or disrespectful of the very people the 1 percent are already screwing over. We have to be better than the other side, not fall into their tactics or fall for the traps they are setting for us. And keep in mind that law enforcement and other people who may appear to be our opposition at times are getting screwed over by the 1 percent, too. We should be recruiting them, not antagonizing them.
7. At the end of the day, when the protest is over, we have to realize that just showing up and protesting and occupying isn't enough. It is an amazing start, but protests are never successful if they aren't coupled with actions that can change the world. Lawsuits and elections are the key tools in American history (and beyond) that have changed the way the system worked and created progress. We have to use the mass mobilizations as a way to get politicians elected that will fight the 1 percent (like Alan Grayson and Bernie Sanders, for instance) and we have to fund lawsuits that will enforce laws that already exist that protect our rights. Without these tools we can't win.
8. We have to win the media battle. This isn't going to be easy, because the 1 percent owns the media. But they don't own the Internet. Well they do, but they can't stop us from using it. And we have to use it well enough to force the rest of the media to pay attention and do the right thing. When a reporter lies about how many people were at an event, we need to use the web to tell the truth. When a reporter tries to spin a story to undercut what we're doing, we need to use the web to tell the truth. They won't do it unless we force them to."

Good ideas all.  If you're going to go to all the work to protest, you may as well do a good job of it.  I'd also suggest that your signage is important.  Too many words on a sign and no one will read it. If the letters are so small no one can read it, you may as well have a blank sign. Short, sweet, and neat is the key.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

bankers' income shoots up, while the rest of us not so much

"It shows that the average salary in the industry in 2010 was $361,330 — five and a half times the average salary in the rest of the private sector in the city ($66,120). By contrast, 30 years ago such salaries were only twice as high as in the rest of the private sector."

I'm not sure that the people who crashed our economy should be making so much more than the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Americans moving overseas to find jobs

"U.S. workers are performing the same analysis that multinational corporations have made -- life overseas is cheaper, and in some ways easier, than in America. Reversing a trend that’s perhaps 400 years old, workers are leaving America to find opportunity elsewhere."

While our government apparently is trying to make sure that all Americans are either serfs or lords, some are deciding to try their luck elsewhere.  Does this not suggest that something has changed dramatically in the U.S.?  Is there no concern for how its citizens are fairing, but instead the concern is how corporations are doing?  This new trend shows that we should go back to putting citizens ahead of corporations.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

9 jobs that technology is killing

I remember when I was growing up being told that technology would mean we would have to work less, since the computers and robots would do much of the work for us. Instead, as should have been predicted, it just means that businesses can let the technology do the work so they don't need to hire humans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Poverty changes by state; 1980-2010

This animated graphic shows how poverty in each state changed between 1980 and 2010. You can also gauge the overall poverty level changes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Six lies about the US economy

Robert Reich eloquently exposes 6 lies about the economy that are damaging our national debate.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Americas infrastructure is evaporating

"In the past years Americans have seen their levees fail leading to massive flooding and cracked bridges buckling, not to mention constant water main breaks and costly traffic congestion. In its report card of America’s infrastructure, The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a D grade and estimated $2.2 trillion over five years was needed to bring that up to a B."

An elegant fix to this problem is to work on our infrastructure when the economy is down, like right now. The costs are less, and you are then employing otherwise unemployed people.  I don't know why thisn't is accepted as common sense by many politicians.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Declining US

"The Census Bureau reports the number of Americans in poverty jumped to 15.1 percent in 2010, a 27-year high."

We're falling in education, employment, health, and many other statistics.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The decentralized internet

"And the concept of a decentralized web is gaining traction: more and more people realize something has to change. The cause for this trend is obvious: the number of data security and privacy disasters that were made public has spiked in recent times . In April ’11 for example an update to the security terms of service of the widely used Dropbox tool revealed that contrary to previous claims, Dropbox Inc. has full access to user data.
An analysis of the changes to the Facebook privacy policy over time paints a gloomy picture of how the world’s largest social network changed 'rom a private communication space to a platform that shares user information with advertising and business partners while limiting the users’ options to control their own information'.
With more and more of our personal data moving to centralized servers or 'cloud services' – a term that should be used as an euphemism – we’re no longer in control. But there is hope in sight: there are dozens of projects out there that try to stop the trend of centralization and data consolidation."

Have the days of getting useful resources from big companies in exchange for letting them rifle through your information gone away finally?  Why not just get the useful information without having to have commercial snoops spying on you as well?  Hopefully these new efforts will save us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are jobs obsolete?

"New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures -- from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs."

I don't think Rushkoff has the answer to his question. But I love the question.  I really think the latest world economic meltdown has laid bare the fact that our current economic system is no longer viable. The problem is, what do you replace it with? That I have no idea.  But to me, that should be the burning question on everybody's mind until the answer does come.  Didn't the Star Trek series have this figured out, where everybody worked to some degree but nobody actually got "paid" as we think of it?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The biggest spreaders of Islamophobia in the US

These are the groups spreading Islamophobia in the US.  There are about 5 million Muslims in the US.  The vast majority, just like the vast majority of Christians, are peaceful people who just want to make a good life here and to contribute to society.  There are nut cases and extreme fundamentalists both from Muslims and Christians here.  So spreading Islamophobia simply stirs up useless and wrong hatred and fear.  It should be stopped.

the power of social media, by socialnomics

This is a powerful presentation of the power of social media, by Socialnomics.

I have another blog,  A lot of times I think I should post the same thing on both sites because of the power and influence of social media and the changes that are coming so quickly. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Great article on how the present looked impossible 20 years ago

"Twenty years ago if I had been paid to convince an audience of reasonable, educated people that in 20 years time we'd have street and satellite maps for the entire world on our personal hand held phone devices -- for free -- and with street views for many cities -- I would not be able to do it. I could not have made an economic case for how this could come about "for free." It was starkly impossible back then.
These supposed impossibilities keep happening with increased frequency. Everyone "knew" that people don't work for free, and if they did, they could not make something useful without a boss. But today entire sections of our economy run on software instruments created by volunteers working without pay or bosses."

I love Kevin Kelly.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How about if the university comes to us? For free?

In Fall 2011, The Floating University will launch its first course, Great Big Ideas, a survey of fourteen major fields delivered by one of its leading minds. Each hour-long lecture explores the keys questions in a field, lays out the methods for answering them and makes a case for the relevance to the student and the significance to humanity. As a whole, the course serves as an introduction to knowledge and a primer in the diverse modes of thinking necessary for success in the 21st Century.
Three colleges, Harvard, Yale and Bard, will offer the course for credit this Fall, with distinguished members of their faculties leading the discussions on campus based on video lectures, readings and related content delivered through The Floating University's e-learning platform. At the same time, portions of the course will be made freely available to the general public and interested life-long learners can subscribe for access to the full Web offering."

"The breadth of content and openness of the class is enough to make any online education junkie salivate. The class’s RSS feeds host audio-recorded lectures, class assignments and special discussions. Worth’s Fall course attracted over 10,000 visitors to its website from 1,632 cities in 107 countries and the Winter course is available as an iPhone App. Lectures from the course have been downloaded thousands of times on iTunes."

  I certainly hope this is the wave of the future, where our intellectual resources are available to everyone.  Of course, I got my 2 degrees the old-fashioned way, by attending classes and workshops.  But for any time and any way educational data can be made more accessible, I'm for it.

Update: Stanford kicks in:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Isn't keeping good teachers an important thing?

CNN: Why did you decide to leave teaching?
DeRegnaucourt: I have had to learn how to budget. In those thoughts, I came to the realization that the money I make isn't enough. It isn't enough to live alone. That realization was daunting. As educators, we make what we make, nothing more, nothing less. In industry, if I'm valuable, my company can keep me by making the package they offer me more attractive. In education, the principal's hands are tied. You just never know what the future holds. I still need to plan for the future.

Meanwhile, in Finland, teaching is one of the most respected jobs in the country:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

new long-lasting, ernegy-saving light bulbs will be in your future

"Switch Lighting claims to have solved all of those problems. When I arrived at Switch, Brett Sharenow, the company's chief strategy officer, showed me two lamps. Inside one was a standard 75-watt incandescent bulb. Switch's 75-watt replacement bulb, which uses only 16 watts of power, was plugged into the other. The lampshades prevented me from seeing the bulbs directly—I couldn't tell which lamp contained which bulb. When Sharenow turned on the lamps, the light from each lamp looked identical. The moment was completely undramatic, and that was the point. Switch has spent years developing bulbs that produce something thoroughly unexceptional—light that looks exactly like what we're used to."

Incandescent bulbs are being phased out.  CFL bulbs have mercury in them.  LED lights are the future, using a fraction of electricity required for incandescents.  They even save money in the long run!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cut US defense spending

"By taking a holistic approach, $80 billion could be slashed from the $553 billion the Pentagon has requested for 2012, the authors say. Expensive projects ill-suited for today's wars -- like missile defense and the V-22 Osprey -- would be cut."

Cut from defense, bring back the pre-Bush tax system on the rich, and find savings in medical expenses (such as running hospitals more efficiently).  It IS possible to take care of the deficit.

Friday, June 24, 2011

how does the Internet alter our social lives?

"The findings presented here paint a rich and complex picture of the role that digital technology plays in people’s social worlds. Wherever possible, we seek to disentangle whether people’s varying social behaviors and attitudes are related to the different ways they use social networking sites, or to other relevant demographic characteristics, such as age, gender and social class."

These surveys indicate that people who use social network sites are in real life more social and more trusting than those who don't. Again, we see that the initial predictions that the Internet would isolate people socially have been refuted.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tearing down the Tyrannical facade

Tearing Down the Tyrannical facade
by Jeff Jacobsen 2011

"One must endure the unwisdom of one's masters." [Scott, p. 17, quoting The Phoenician Women, by Euripides]

   The wave of public protests that began this spring of 2011 in Tunisia, dubbed the Arab Awakening, has spread to several countries, including Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria.  Each of these has a popular uprising to alter or replace the current tyrannical government.  Through some particular spark, a large portion of the population was emboldened to publicly protest against the severe restrictions imposed on the people by their overly-long and overly-demanding leadership.  Each of these leaders handled the protests by similar deadly means, invoking similar excuses against the complaints on the street. 

   Each of these leaders had been in power for decades.  Had the people suddenly decided  all at once that they couldn't take it anymore?  The social restrictions had not suddenly gotten worse.  Why, then, since the people had suffered under their leader for so long, yet maintained a silent tolerance, did they begin en masse demanding major alterations of their government?  Why were these complaints bottled up for so long?  What brought them out?

   James C. Scott's book Domination and the Arts of Resistance helps to answer why citizens of a government that subdues the will of its people appear from the outside to be willing participants or at leat tolerant citizens. In fact, an alternate opinion actually circulates through the populace.  This "hidden transcript" as Scott calls the unseen popular political opinion (and Vaclav Havel calls "living within the truth"), is successfully covered by the "public transcript" which is the viewpoint that the tyranny wants the public and the world to view as the real narrative of the country.  There are, then, three "transcripts" or political viewpoints of the country.  The public transcript is the fake, the one the elites create and promote as the "real" face of the country.  This view generally proclaims that the country is united behind the tyrant, is happy with its government, has little or no dissension within, is powerful and stable.  The second is the "hidden transcript" which is what the citizens talk about when it is safe.  When citizens are away from the prying eyes and ears of the government, be that security cameras, police, spies, or the true believers, they may then feel free to speak about what they really believe of their government.  Since discussion of this actual transcript goes against the public transcript, any reference to it in public brings punishment.  Only the public transcript is supposed to actually exist.
   The third transcript is the elite transcript. This is what those in power speak about when THEY are not in the public eye.  Since the public transcript is wishful thinking on the part of the elites rather than reality, they too must speak in a certain restricted way except when they are out of range of camera or citizen.  Thus, both the citizens and the elites in public and in sight of each other promote and pretend to live in the public transcript, while in their private, safe conversations, they speak differently, more truthfully.  "The show is all actors, and no audience" says Scott.  [p. 59] 

    Why does this happen?  Why is everyone promoting and living in a facade?  Vaclav Havel, before he became president of Czechoslovakia, was a dissident under communist rule.  Because he spoke the hidden transcript, and helped form Charter 77 to try to get others to speak the hidden transcript in his country, Havel was often jailed or harassed by the government.  To explain the staying power of the public transcript, Havel wrote of a grocer in communist Czechoslovakia.  This grocer had a poster in the window of his shop, "workers of the world, unite!"  Why, Havel asks, did the grocer put this poster in his window?  Because it represented his acceptance of the public transcript.  The government asked him to put this in my window, and he had done so.  He knows it represents the facade of this government. He knows by putting it in his window that he is forwarding this facade. But he declares by this poster that he doesn't want any trouble. I will play along in order to get along, he thinks.

   The grocer knows that there are penalties for being anything other than enthusiastic toward the public transcript.  He could be reprimanded, fined, lose his job, or if he displayed any dissent, perhaps even go to prison. 

   The grocer could well be your average citizen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the other countries before the Arab Awakening.  The average citizen wants freedom. He wants freedom from the facade of the public transcript and freedom to speak the hidden transcript, which is the real one.  But he also knows that the government wants only the public transcript to see the light of day.  And the government, through its police, spies, and all the other extensive resources at hand, has the power to enforce strict adherance to the public transcript.  What should he do, then?  Put the poster in the window, or not?

   "The practice of domination, then, creates the hidden transcript," says Scott [p. 27].  The choice of the grocer is to decide whether to live as things are and have long been, under domination and living within a lie, or to risk the wrath of the tyranny by speaking the truth as he sees it.  Speaking the truth is an assault on the tyrant's domination.   Even the lowly grocer is a threat because one lowly grocer could entice others to follow suit.  This could lead to a group or mob, which gains power through power in numbers and collectively reinforces the exhileration of speaking what is actually on their minds to others and to the powers that be.  Individuals are easily subdued. Motivated crowds are not.  To prevent anyone from veering off the public transcript, rulers "make subordinates entirely dependent upon their superiors, effectively isolated from one another, and more or less constantly under observation." [p. 128]  Even one person, like the child who stated "the Emperor has no clothes!" is a threat to the public transcript and thus to the tyrant.

   The grocer does have some options.  Instead of directly attacking the public transcript, he can accuse the elites of not llving up to the public transcript themselves.  For instance, if the elites have promised a minimum wage but never established one, the elites themselves are not living up to the public transcript.   While this type of dissent is still dangerous, it is less so since it is a complaint made within the "reality" that the elites have established.   He could also express solidarity with those struggling against a tyranny in another country, thus safely demanding freedom from repression, even though it isn't his own repression.  The grocer could also hide his speech indirectly, such as in a play or a painting with dual meaning, where he could insist that the innocent meaning is his real intent, while the tyrant is stung by the second meaning.  

   Tunisia was the first country to rise up this spring.  A young man named Mohammed Bouazizi had been mistreated and downtrodden by his government, enough to make him set himself on fire.  The incredible frustration demonstrated by Bouazizi hit a chord with many other Tunisians, who decided that they, too, had had enough.  They went into the streets to peacefully protest for better government and more freedom.  The government responded by beating, tear gassing, and even shooting protesters.  Many were arrested and tortured.  Still people protestsed.  The regime  was put in a dilemma; they could not legitimately say that their country was united behind the tyranny at the same time as the huge demonstrations agasint the government were going on.  There was a limit to the number of protesters they could jail and kill without collapsing the entire society.  Also, there is a limit to a tyrant claiming legitimacy at the same time he is torturing and killing his own people for simply demanding better government.  After several weeks of protests and many needless deaths, President Ben Ali resigned. 

   Egypt followed next with a very similar outline.  President Mubarak, who had been president for 42 years, capitulated after 9 weeks of protests.  As of this writing, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya are in a struggle to free themselves from longtime tyrannies.  The tyrant, of course, wants to remain.  His regime claims that the protests are outsiders stirring up trouble.  This facade is to maintain the fiction that the citizens are united behind the dictator and would have no reason to seek change.  Any dissension, therefore, cannot come from within.

   It is clear that the subjects of a tyranny privately chafe at the chains the public transcript traps them in.  As the Arab Awakening shows, people desire freedom from repression enough to risk even being killed at a protest.  If you decide to speak out and want to break through the public transcript, you have a large audience that already understands the issues, is on your side, and perhaps is even willing to to risk working with you.  But can you know that if YOU risk confronting the regime that others will also come forward?  That is difficult, and generally speaking the answer is no.  In Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi , who set himself on fire, apparently felt that no one would back him up.  But his death is considered the tipping point  that led to the downfall of Ben Ali's 23-year reign.  Havel blames the public transcript for hiding how ripe the citizenry might be for a revolt.  "And since all genuine problems and matters of critical importance are hidden beneath a thick crust of lies, it is never quite clear when the proverbial last straw will fall, or what that straw will be.  This too, is why the regime prosecutes, almost as a reflex reaction preventively, even the most modest attempts to live within the truth." (Havel, p. 42)

   We remember the times when revolution toppled the tyrant. Those brave ones who were crushed before any movement could form behind them are mostly forgotten or even unknown.

    We have not yet solved the grocer's dilemma.  Should he put the poster in his window?  The solution is an individual decision.  There is no formula.  He has to decide whether to keep his head down and survive in the lie he and his country are living.  Or he can choose to risk and stand up for his conscience.  It is not an easy nor a light decision.


Vaclav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, M.E. Sharpe, 1985.  Johne Keane, editor

James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: The Hidden Transcripts,  Yale University Press, 1992

Thursday, May 26, 2011

chart shows where our massive debt came from

"The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has updated and refined a widely cited chart, laying out the origins of the country's current fiscal trajectory. And as before, the lion's share of the problem comes from ongoing George W. Bush-era policies -- particularly deficit-financed tax cuts, which eliminated Clinton-era surpluses and left the Treasury poised for a huge hit when the financial crisis and economic downturn further eroded federal revenues."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Did Bin Laden succeed? To a degree, yes

"Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do — and, more to the point, what he thought he could do — was bankrupt the United States of America. After all, he’d done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before [USSR]. And though it didn’t quite work out this time, it worked a lot better than most of us, in this exultant moment, are willing to admit."

The U.S. is indeed in great debt and a dangerous fiscal position. Perhaps that can be laid more at the greed of Wall Street and the lax oversight by the feds.  But certainly Bin Laden, by raising our paranoia level to a boiling point, contributed mightily to our current financial problems. Why did we go insanely crazy after 9/11?  It was an incredible terrorist attack to be sure.  But it was a tiny group led by  a multi-millionaire that pulled it off. Yet we treated it not as a crime but as some monolithic gigantic army of millions just waiting to go after many more targets of the United States.

We know now that Al Quaeda had little support in actuality around the world. Yet we now spend more on our military than all the other nations of the world combined. We now submit to groping and unconstitutional searches of our persons just so we can fly. We have our own torture center at Guantanamo.  Our own president said that "enhanced interrogation" or, more accurately, torture, was necessary from the great threat of terrorism.

Bin Laden scared the crap out of us.  He made us spend incredible resources on our paranoia.  So to that degree, he succeeded.  Maybe now that he's gone we can get our spine back?

"By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the US at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down."

Friday, April 29, 2011

it costs a lot to be poor in the US

Amazing information on how many in the US are in very weak financial positions.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Movie: "The Power of Community" on how to live without oil

"When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. It is an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call "The Special Period." The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis – the massive reduction of fossil fuels – is an example of options and hope."

I just saw this movie tonight. It's very thought-provoking. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba was suddenly taken off its lifeline.  At the same time, the US put more and more sanctions on the country. It was time to become much more self-sufficient or die. 

Because Cuba had to go through this wrenching transformation, which included a huge reduction in oil imports, the country had to learn how to live with a drastic reduction in oil. This now stands as a mini-laboratory for the rest of the world when oil runs out for us as well.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pentagon says, dump the paranoia already!

"In one sentence, the strategic narrative of the United States in
the 21st century is that we want to become the strongest competitor and most influential
player in a deeply inter-connected global system, which requires that we invest less in
defense and more in sustainable prosperity and the tools of effective global engagement."

This is a great paper.  It fits nicely with my belief that the US needs to stop wasting its money and effort on its own paranoia and start living in the current world.  As the author notes, "The 21st century is an open system, in which unpredictable external events/phenomena are constantly disturbing and disrupting the system. In this world control is impossible; the best we can do is to build credible influence – the ability to shape and guide global trends in the direction that serves our values and interests (prosperity and security) within an interdependent strategic ecosystem."  That's another contention of mine, is that chaos is ok.  You don't need to worry about stability so much as just having an overall view of where you're going.  If there are sidetracks and diversions well, that's the world we live in now. 

Our paranoia since 9/11 has caused us to create the TSA where we pat down 6-year-olds from our fear of airplanes exploding.  We have created Homeland Security because we don't trust foreigners or even ourselves anymore.  We have a higher precentage of our population in prison than any other nation.  Our military outspends all other militaries in the world combined!  What could we have done with the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq for a war that was never needed?  Where would we be if we'd seen 9/11 as what it was, a diabolical strike by a handful of insane people, rather than the spear tip of some huge conspiracy to wipe out the United States?  Where can we go from here if we drop our unrealistic fears and learn to live in the 21st century, where history moves fast and those afraid of their shadow get left behind?

The Pentagon also says that "we have to focus first and foremost on investing our resources domestically in those national resources that can be sustained, such as our youth and our natural resources (ranging from crops, livestock, and potable water to sources
of energy and materials for industry). We can and must still engage internationally, of course, but only after a careful weighing of costs and benefits and with as many partners as possible."

We are not a broke country. We are a country that has let fear steer us completely off course.  We need to rethink what we stand for, who we are, and where we want to go.  Right now we are aiming downward, cutting school and health funding, at the same time we are granting more and more power to corporations, like granting them personhood.  It IS possible for us to be a caring nation as well as a strong nation. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

1/3 of US taxes go to security and military

Are we really this paranoid?  Are we still over-reacting from 9/11?  We also hold the most prisoners in the world.  Why?  Are we the worst people in the world that we must incarcerate such a large number of our fellow citizens?  Is the rest of the world so bad that we must maintain a military larger than all other militaries put together?  Is this the kind of world we want?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

100,000 empty homes in Phoenix area
"We can't overestimate the impact of vacant homes on everyone who is part of the Valley's housing equation," said Jay Butler, the group's director. "Buyers aren't drawn to the blocks with too many run-down, empty homes. Homeowners surrounded by empty homes often feel trapped and even depressed about their situation."
    It's going to take several years to sell that many houses, especially with Arizona's new draconian laws on citizenship that have angered the large Hispanic community. 
   I sold my house in Scottsdale in 2005.  The speculator who bought it put probably $30,000 into the house before reselling it.  Today it's listed at $80,000 less than I sold it for.
   Lack of regulation, greed, and hype caused this.  There is no easy solution.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Useful tools for getting around net censorship

"Though we still have far to go in developing easy and effective ways of getting around a complete shutdown of the Internet such as the ones we saw most recently in Egypt and Libya, there is a growingly sophisticated toolbox for getting around the restrictions put in place by authoritarian governments of countries such as China as well as some democracies such as South Korea, to use two examples from my own experience."

Useful tools for some ICA actions, Tor and VPN.

Friday, March 18, 2011

smaller houses the wave of the future?

Since moving back to Rapid City, South Dakota, I've noticed there are a lot of tiny houses. I even thought of buying this cute log cabin that is all of 500 square feet. 

Now comes a guy who thinks 612 square feet is all you need.  Some activities can just be done in common buildings: "For example, in a development Weimer is working to get approved through the city, the owners of smaller homes would share outdoor space and common buildings with space for parties, guest rooms and meetings, managed by a homeowners association."

Having lived in a 400 square foot cabin during the summer, I've learned to live with less.  It actually works out pretty well for me.  But a single guy is different than a couple, or a family.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

software helps in time of disaster to know what to supply

"EMMAs can point out when a cash-based initiative (giving loans or vouchers to buy local goods) could be more effective, allowing relief organizations to spend less money and ultimately giving the local population more choice as to how they re-build."

This is about a software program that analyzes the needs of a disaster location, so donations and organizational efforts can be more efficiently utilized to provide just what is needed in the best way.  This sounds like an amazingly useful process.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

No Raising Taxes meme hurts the U.S.

Republicans claim they get this idea of not raising taxes from Ronald Reagan. But Reagan raised taxes four times.  They claim taxing us is taking "our money" from us.  Well duh. That's why taxes are whined about always and forever. 

The better question is, what are we getting from our taxes?  If it's useful and good things, with little waste, then we should be ecstatic.  If not, then we try to cut out the waste.  But meanwhile, we have health care (most of us now, anyway), good roads, military protection, a court system, and on and on.  These are things that citizens collectively do better than private business.

So now we've had a recession and our governmental income is way less than our expenses.  The Republican meme pushes them to avoid tax increases, so they are planning to cut things that are not wasteful. Like tsunami warning systems, for a current example.

This is a nice infographic that shows where we could get more governmental income without hurting the economy, and save some important programs.

If you put a child on a diet, that's different than starving him. Starving him brings damage, perhaps permanent damage.  If you starve some programs, you might permanently damage or destroy them. Let's not act like cavemen and just whack away with an axe. Let's consider what is worth paying for, and pay for it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

world protest blog

This blog keeps track of protests around the world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"From Dictatorship to Democracy" how-to book

"In situations in which the population feels powerless and frightened,
it is important that initial tasks for the public be low-risk, confidence building
actions. These types of actions — such as wearing one’s
clothes in an unusual way — may publicly register a dissenting
opinion and provide an opportunity for the public to participate
significantly in acts of dissent. In other cases a relatively minor (on
the surface) nonpolitical issue (such as securing a safe water supply)
might be made the focus for group action. Strategists should choose
an issue the merits of which will be widely recognized and difficult
to reject. Success in such limited campaigns could not only correct
specific grievances but also convince the population that it indeed
has power potential."

You can download Gene Sharp's "From Dictatorship to Democracy" for free, in many languages.

This is a comprehensive and careful how-to book.  It gives a nice general overview of the steps and tools needed to bring down a dictator (or cult perhaps?).  Sharp demonstrates where many revolutions go wrong and how to avoid those pitfalls.  It's clearly written and covers most every situation that could arise.  Supposedly this book was used in Serbia to great effect, and elsewhere.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Is war becoming outdated?

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.

It gives one pause to wonder whether, if the U.S. had left Iraq alone, it too might be on the current list of countries going through regime change.  One could also wonder if the trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost was worth it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ok, you won. Now what?

This is a great look in Libya about the instant problems that arise once the power of the dictator is gone. I heard Gene Sharp say on NPR that kicking out the dictator is only the beginning.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Would Iraqis have kicked out Hussein on their own?

When I started this blog I figured economic forces were the main thing changing the world quickly.  But now with the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Morocco, Yemen, and elsewhere, there are other forces at work here as well.  The people have risen up to overthrow dictators who have been in place as long as 40 years.  Why did this happen now?

My other blog,, is about the influence of the Internet and other technology on social activism.  The Internet makes connecting to like-minded people not only easy but instant.  Organizing, distributing work, and staying in touch are simple, cheap, and instant.  This is not the only ingredient, of course, that makes today different than before. But it is the tool that makes such protest easier and cheaper to accomplish, and thus more likely.

The influence of this wave of change is powerful and will last for a long time. China is concerned that they may be next for large protests.  And how will relations between other countries change once a new government has been established in places like Egypt? 

Getting rid of Mubarak, Gaddafi, and the other dictators is only the start of these revolutions.  It's difficult to establish a stable democracy.  Prepare for change.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nonviolent protest is not only morally correct, it works!

Egypt, Tunisia, and probably another country or two soon, have thrown off long-time dictators, using peaceful methods.  Gandhi got rid of British rule in India with nonviolence.  Many other examples since then show the power of nonviolent protest.

The New York Times' article about Gene Sharp is interesting, and has some nice links as well.  I've never heard of Sharp, so now I'll have to read his "From Dictatorship to Democracy" and find out what the fuss is about. 

The most amazing thing about these recent protests is that they are efficient.  There has been a lot of thinking and planning ahead of time.  This is in contrast to 1989 when the Chinese protested at Tienanmen Square, and were crushed by the military.  Shen Tong's book Almost a Revolution tells what happened there.  They were not prepared for their small protest to blow up into such a huge demonstration. They had to organize and improvise on the fly.  This caused all kinds of problems when the protesters tried to negotiate with the government, because it was difficult to present a united front and concrete demands when the protesters were so splintered.

On February 22 PBS will broadcast an inside look into the organizing and running of the protests in Egypt.  This should be enlightening.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

how should collective action fit into our economy?

"As an entrepreneur/programmer who makes a good living from writing and selling software, I'm dumbfounded as to why developers write applications and then put them up on the Internet for free. You've found yourself in one of the most lucrative fields in the world. A business with 99% profit margin, where you have no physical product but can name your price; a business where you can ship a buggy product and the customer will still buy it."

I've been puzzling over this for a long time. How does our economic system deal with the many areas of our economy that have gone over or are going over to collective action?  Journalism is an example of this, where you can get good reporting from activists and bloggers for free. Video production that used to require a college degree can now be done by your 4th grader. Programming is of course a big one.  Who needs Microsoft when you have Linux?  

What is this doing to our economy?  It is draining jobs over to the volunteer side of our country.  Dammit, people!  Why are you doing all these things for free when you should be charging and keeping our economy healthy!  Money needs to circulate!  What does this say about what kind of a people we are when we're willing to give away our work... oh, wait.  That actually says something pretty good about us.  We want to share freely, even though it's a product of our work.

But what happens to all those journalists, videographers, and programmers who can't compete with the free work of hobbyists, activists, and the like?  What kind of hit to our country's economy does this make?  Is there a way to incorporate the product of volunteerism and collective action into our economy?  Do we need to make a big alteration to account for this stuff?

And after writing the above, I found this great video:

From this, then, collective action and volunteerism should be incorporated into a business.  I'll have to ponder that a while.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

U.S. deficit

The U.S. is hobbled with a political party that puts ideology above economic sense.  "Shrink the government" and "taxes are evil" do not fix what is wrong with our economy.  Besides, as this article shows, the Republican Party does not even follow it's own ideology when passing laws.

I don't see an easy solution to this when common sense takes a back seat to political memes.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Technology's impact on democracy

This looks like a great site for information on how technology influences democracy.  We can communicate and deliberate so much more easily with so many more people on the Internet.  This must be helpful in so many ways.

Micro loans; help or scam?

I  heard a segment on micro loans on NPR this morning. An 18 year old committed suicide, apparently because her parents, with whom she was living, had 8 micro loans out.  They had spent the money on essentials and other items rather than on the vegetable farm they told the loan company they were starting, and now had no way to repay the loans.

Micro loans are loans of small amounts, such as $100, to poor entrepreneurs.  For instance, a woman might take out a loan to buy a sewing machine so she could make clothing to sell.  Generally, there are social aspects to the loan as well,  where the applicant has to go to monthly meetings to get education and support from loan officers as well as fellow loan takers. The goal is to make poor people self-sustaining by helping them start their own business.

A recent study claims that 10 million people in Bangladesh have been helped by micro loans [] .  But there are also companies that are misusing the micro loan procedure to make money on the backs of the poor.  So, it seems to depend on whether the loaning agency is reputable or not how well this works.

Grameen Bank [] was one of the first promoters of these loans.   Muhammed Yunus won a Nobel prize for his work in micro loans. is another reputable organization.  There are even micro loan programs in the U.S., such as ACCION USA.

So it seems that the process is sound, so long as the loaning agent does due diligence to make sure the loan is being used for its actual purpose, and the person taking the loan stays in the program to stay on track.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

we are now capable of weaning ourselves off oil

"The researchers approached the conversion with the goal that by 2030, all new energy generation would come from wind, water and solar, and by 2050, all pre-existing energy production would be converted as well."

Germany has been making a huge investment in solar energy, and generates about 18,000MW from wind.  Denmark gets about 1/2 its energy from renewable sources.  But recent economic downturns have started to pinch investment in renewables, so we'll have to see, and insist on pushing renewables.  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

not really a brain drain, but a bad sign

"Already, 70% of engineers with PhD’s who graduate from U.S. universities are foreign-born. Increasingly, these talented individuals are not staying in the U.S – instead, they’re returning home, where they find greater opportunities."

I have two degrees in the social sciences. I was never that good with math, though I did ok programming for a while.  But nowadays a social science degree gets you a job at Burger King.  The hard sciences seem to just not be popular in the U.S.  This does not bode well for our reputation as the innovators of the planet.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tunisia; technological collective action at work

"People risked their lives in the street, with some getting a bullet for their troubles, but the internet played a significant role in organizing these protests and in disseminating news and pictures of them to the world."

Group action is easier when the technology to easily interconnect and interact is there.  Collective action is much easier when so many people are able to share information and planning in an instant.

I started a blog about Internet Collective Action here,  I believe this is the wave of the future.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gates to cut defense spending

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced cuts in defense spending, including cutting some forces from Germany.  So far he's taking small nibbles, but at least this is finally a beginning. 

U.S. defense spending has risen every year since 2001.  It's time for it to go back down now so we can stop denying health care to our own citizens.

[defense spending chart 2000-2010]