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.