Monday, January 30, 2012

How the 99% took over from the 1% in Norway and Sweden

"Although Norwegians may not tell you about this the first time you meet them, the fact remains that their society’s high level of freedom and broadly-shared prosperity began when workers and farmers, along with middle class allies, waged a nonviolent struggle that empowered the people to govern for the common good."

This is a history I certainly haven't heard before.  Time to study up!  If it can happen in other countries, perhaps it can happen in the US?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The US needs reporters like this

You can tell a lazy reporting staff when they just go to the white house or congress and repeat what they were told.  Journalism involves investigation, confrontation, digging where they're told not to dig.  If you think journalism is a cushy job, then you've misinterpreted the role of a journalist.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Earth hairs make electricity

"New York design firm Atelier DNA has an alternative concept that ditches blades in favor of stalks. Resembling thin cattails, the Windstalks generate electricity when the wind sets them waving."

I don't see any downside to this at all!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

free land

"Meadow lark Cooperative – Located a few miles south of I-70 and Agate. With 60 acres of donated land, a couple from Arvada [Colorado] has started the Meadowlark Cooperative and they’re giving away parcels of property for free. Aaron Brachfeld and Mary Choate say with job loss and widespread foreclosures, this future town could be the answer to freedom for a lot of people.

 There is a Remote Recreational Cabin Sites program [Alaska] where an applicant is allowed to stake a parcel of land in a designated remote staking area for recreational use. The parcels are leased for a limited length of time and purchased at fair market value after the completion of a survey and appraisal.

The Manilla [Iowa] Economic Development Corporation offers 15 new single family lots in the New Sunrise Addition Phase II at no cost to qualified individuals or entities that build a new single family residence subject to certain conditions. More info. "

There's always a catch, but it's an interesting article, and you might just fit in to one of these places.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Incan Empire had no economic system?

"The secret of the Inca's great wealth may have been their unusual tax system. Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life.
Of course, not everybody had to pay labor tax. Nobles and their courts were exempt, as were other prominent members of Incan society. In another quirk of the Incan economy, nobles who died could still own property and their families or estate managers could continue to amass wealth for the dead nobles. Indeed, the temple at Pachacamac was basically a well-managed estate that 'belonged' to a dead Incan noble. It's as if the Inca managed to invent the idea of corporations-as-people despite having almost no market economy whatsoever.

One of the outstanding questions for scientists and historians who study the Incas is why this wealthy, sophisticated culture developed scientifically and culturally without ever inventing markets. One possibility is that life was so difficult to sustain in their environment that all their innovations revolved around agriculture rather than economics. In other words, the Inca Empire was optimized to prevent starvation rather than to foster trade."

I would suspect that there could be archeologists who would dispute this interpretation of Incan economics.  Nevertheless, it is interesting to think that an empire could function with no money.  Perhaps we have more options than we know.

Can the All American Store take on Walmart?

"Let's start with the complaint that 'Americans don't make stuff anymore.' Hogwash. Sure, the manufacturing of certain low-cost, low-margin, commodity merchandise has left these shores, and probably for good. AAS tells me it's had no luck tracking down U.S. suppliers for tiny but essential items such as light switches and fuses, and maintains a small display section for such items. But according to store managing member Mike Petro, while it takes some doing, AAS has found plenty of suppliers for the goods it wants to sell.

Indeed, 98% of the products for sale at AAS are made (or at least assembled) in America. Whether it's boots or blue jeans, kitchen tables or power tools you're after, AAS stocks them in spades.

'But what about the cost?' you ask.'Isn't the whole reason American manufacturing fled to China, because it's cheaper to make stuff there?'

Again, there's an acorn of truth here, but don't go mistaking it for a full-grown forest. While 'Made in the U.S.A.' goods can cost more than "Made in China," the price differential is often smaller than you'd think."

I wish them well.  If it looks like a well-run company, it might be worth investing in it for when the backlash against Walmart takes hold.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Benefit Corporations catching on

"But why would public-spirited corporations embrace these exacting duties when they can simply roam free and do a little bit of altruistic good on the side? For one thing, Benefit Corporations can’t be held liable by courts for failing to place profits over everything else. This is an important shift in law. The fear of shareholder litigation has driven many public-spirited businesses, most famously Ben & Jerry’s, to take the high bid rather than the high road in a corporate takeover fight. Becoming a Benefit Corporation declares legal independence from the profits-├╝ber-alles model. More important, having Benefit Corporation status sends a powerful message to shareholders, employees, business partners and consumers about what kind of company you’re running. The signal generates instant branding, internal cohesion, consumer enthusiasm and links to a vibrant national B Corp network that brings in more than $4.5 billion in revenues."

corporations in the US are bound by law to do what is best for their shareholders.  Disney can try to save the Polar Bears, but their had better be a branding advantage to doing it, or the shareholders can force the program to stop for fear that it would hurt their dividends.  This is why it is said corporations have no soul.  They can only serve to make money for those who own their stock.  Period.

Benefit Corporations bypass this problem by saying up front to potential shareholders that they are NOT built simply to feed the greed of their shareholders.  I like it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Technology is destroying jobs faster than it's creating them

"Consider Amazon. For all the jobs created by Amazon’s online sales model, I suspect there were significantly more jobs lost at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and the countless smaller bookstores that closed their doors across the nation.
Of course, disruption has always been a part of business, but I believe the exponential increase in computing power along with the rise of the Internet have brought us to a unique turning point.
Instead of the normal evolutionary rise and fall of industries, our economy is now at something analogous to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event (the end of the dinosaurs). Going forward, those who will prosper will be characterized by their ability to leverage technology, while everyone else will find themselves relegated to obsolescence by exponentially more powerful machines."

I'm currently reading a book on how our economic viewpoint today is screwed and leading us down the wrong path.  I really think we need to have a completely new way of looking at our economy.  We need to put the welfare of the citizenry against some false front like "economic growth" or "progress."   Progress should be where more and more people have sustainable income and education that helps them fit into our current society.  It should not be whether our entire economic output was greater this year than last.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Fracking; more oil, but also earthquakes?

"Ohio has suspended operations at five deep-well hazardous fluid disposal sites after a series of 11 earthquakes in the Youngstown, Ohio, in the past year, including one on Saturday with a magnitude of 4.0, officials said. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said Sunday it was halting operations at five Mahoning County wells owned by Northstar Disposal Services LLC as a precaution, citing concerns of a possible link between well activity and the quakes."

"The biggest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma struck on November 5, a magnitude 5.6 temblor that buckled a highway and ruptured water pipes. This quake is part of a skyrocketing rise in seismic activity the state has seen in the past three years, leading many to wonder—and worry—about its cause. Might the practice of fracking, a controversial method of fracturing rock to help get at fossil fuels, be to blame?"

"Nine quakes in eight months in a seismically inactive area is unusual. But Ohio seismologists found another surprise when they plotted the quakes’ epicenters: most coincided with the location of a 9,000-foot well in an industrial lot along the Mahoning River, just down the hill from Mr. Moritz’s neighborhood and two miles from downtown Youngstown.
At the well, a local company has been disposing of brine and other liquids from natural gas wells across the border in Pennsylvania — millions of gallons of waste from the process called hydraulic fracturing that is used to unlock the gas from shale rock."

Ok, looks suspicious. Here in the Black Hills a company wants to use something similar to fracking to get uranium from underground.  The locals fear that this process will infiltrate underground aquifers and destroy their water supply.

Fracking is forcing open fissures deep underground, lubricating and holding open the new fissures.  Many places where this relatively new process has been used, there have been earthquakes.  In England a company there admitted that their fracking was causing earthquakes.  Most articles I've read, however, seem to indicate that cause-and-affect have not been totally proven yet.

Contaminating aquifers hasn't been proven yet either, as the dispute about Pavillion Wyoming shows.  However, once contamination happens, it's almost impossible to clean up.  So it's definitely worth investigating what exactly fracking causes.  I believe we need clean water and stable ground more than we need oil and gas.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

OWS considers how to reform our banking system

"One evening in Zuccotti Park, I somewhat rashly, and without much forethought, stood up and announced that I wanted to set up a working group to explore alternative systems of banking. I did not have a clear plan but felt that we had to get to the heart of the problem. If we could change banking and make it embody the values of Occupy—equality, transparency, democracy—we might not only change the financial industry for the better, but also change the very nature of the economy—and thus society itself.
Other members of the group share this ambition. Those who have joined the group represent an extraordinary and eclectic mix. There are army vets and unemployed students, but also a large number of financial experts: former derivative traders, SEC regulators, bankers, financial analysts and bloggers and even a professor of financial law. We have no shortage of expertise, and no shortage of determination either."

The comments are worth reading too.  Actually I agree with one commenter, to just switch to credit unions for the time being. Redesigning the entire banking system is a pretty long-term project.  Credit unions are designed to help the local community and are more responsive to members.  They're already established, so the move from banks to credit unions is simply one of taking the time to do it.

At any rate, it's nice to see people working on this.