Monthly Archives: July 2009

Local Blogger: Robert Reich

Not as hard-hitting as he could or should be, but here are opinions by former Secretary of Labor under Clinton and now UC Berkeley Professor of Public Policy Robert Reich.

By “hard hitting” I mean arguing for GS and JPM executives to be arrested and for the Federal Reserve to be audited, among other things.

I keep an eye on Patrick.net/housing/crash.html for the latest in real estate and wall street casino fraud news when i have a spare moment.

Other good opinion and commentary sites are listed under “World Econ 101” in the right column, below.

***

In more upbeat news, yesterday I listened to Hayao Miyazaki speak live too a packed Zellerbach Hall full of anime otaku types. I was twenty feet away and it was nice to hear the man speak about his films, who and what motivates him, what he thinks of the world and what his future plans are. He makes Totoro rumbling noises when he’s considering a difficult question. I’d say he is Totoro. The interviewer and translator left more to be desired though. The one asked mostly his own questions, while the other didn’t translate nuances or the real “dish” of many of HM’s responses.

If there is a next time, need a non-Charisma-Man interviewer who asks brief open-ended questions and doesn’t pontificate in long rhetorical questions based on his own theses, and a Japanese native interpreter who’s lived here a while. It’s easy to complain though.

Green shoots! in Oaktown

Woah, look at our local economic recovery. Finally, real green shoots!

My corn children

my corn children

Quick! Someone call Larry Kudlow at CNBC and the WashPost guys! Green shoots found in Uptown! But seriously, it is green shoots in Uptown and Temescal. New restaurants, muay thai kick boxing to replace an auto body shop near MacArthur BART, and another cell phone shop at the corner of 40th/Tele. A nice revival to welcome the can’t-afford-SF set. Brown shoots for Grand Lake and Rockridge.  Theater and retail store closings, etc.

This scene from my balcony and others like it are being realized all over Oakland… I know my old neighbors grew plants and raised bees and chickens. Just this week, an LA Times reporter called me to ask about my old chicken ordinance petition from spring 2008. The interest is there.

And the MSM is covering this relocalized economy because they need some happy face stories. Advertisers and buyers like happy talk. Let’s check out…

See? Good-bye “consumer” and wall$treet paper economy. Hello real economy.

And people whining about the state budget cuts need to wake up. We’ve enjoyed living in a very special time in human history. Fossil fuels (100-200 “free” energy slaves per American) powered cheap education, subsidized schooling (propaganda if you prefer), welfare of all kinds, and paved yellow brick roads in every formerly rich ecological zone in California.

The fossil fuel fiesta — as Chevron ads repeatedly tell us — is ending so we are painfully reverting to historical averages. Only the rich got education. Most people farmed. (95% instead of 5%) Nobody drove a car. Hot baths were a luxury. (unless you lived near geothermal hot springs:)

Get used to it. Let’s make the best of our lot and feed these green shoots to some pandas 🙂

food trucks craze

more on the food truck “movement”:

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-foodtrucks22-2009jul22,0,7542552.story

These were widespread in japan but not as popular as they are in LA. I guess LA/Yelp type people are always seeking new and novel entertainments, and we are as Japanese as the Japanese when it comes to trends (see: pinkberry, coach accessories, etc) and perhaps for all the same reasons. In japan i saw:

—a tiny, tiny crepe truck with a hatch cover, and two guys operated it out of the hatch. and this truck could not have been much longer and definitely no taller than a toy yaris. the ‘cook’ sat cross-legged in front of two crepe diases and made em on the spot. i ordered once or twice out of pity because they were obviously trying to start a new biz which in japan is probably harder than it is here;

—a bigger “melon pan” (melon bread) truck painted green and orange, the size of a dodge/benz diesel truck, posted up outside one of the many multi-story vertical malls outside of a train station, the department store name was OPA;

—another tiny (but older and more busted) truck selling gyoza out the back and on a speaker it blared “gyooou~~~za” which was funny. i chased him down on my bike once and bought some.

there are lots of truck-based food servers in the us now that i think about it…not just taco trucks but also the guys at farmers markets who sell chicken/potatoes, kettle korn. i can only see more of that type of stuff happening since ZONING is so stringent here in the US. and that would really work well in suburbs like LA or smaller ones up here. this is a cheap solution to get around zoning restrictions and all the capital costs of setting up a stationary restaurant space.

i’m curious though…how does LACDPH handle vehicle-based foods? i assume they have all the same licenses.

Our Year of Being Sick; plus, the OAC *IS* Sick

A lot of us were well-adjusted to a sick economy I guess… you know, the one where everyone was living high and getting high off our credit (debt) bubbles….

I haven’t been more sick any other year (except maybe overseas) than this year. I think it’s partly due to work and personal stresses. It’s also from traveling overseas and down to LA (note to self; never go back to the south coast shitter again), not getting enough sleep and not eating well. (workaholic and net addict) Seriously, there is NO good tasting tap water in LA/LB. This must be Brita’s largest US market. (my friend there who i stayed with has one.)

Of course, it’s also the macro economy. Everyone looks for a scapegoat when things are going badly. It must be in our genetics. As I said, we were all well-adjusted to being happy, well-fed, flying to Vegas or Disney every other weekend (okay, not me, but many people) and that sort of all ended for what’s left of America’s so-called egalitarian “middle class” in 2007-2008.

Lately I’ve had the flu, a cold, and now strep. All in less than two months. The receptionist at my doctor’s office recognizes me now. Every time I start working out and getting into better shape, I get sick, which negates any gains I had. Sound like the stock market to you? Perhaps your 201k? Or is it a 101k? (I have zeroed out my ‘k’ — not playing in the wall$treet casino ever again, even though I had a really great phd fund manager and was not losing very much… check out Hussman Funds on google.)

Now, about the OAC BOONDOGGLE

Sooo… expect more posts this season since I am sick at home. Do check out TransBay Blog’s post about the Metro Transportation Commission’s evil “oakland airport connector” proposal… you see, since there’s not enough money to fund this Airtrain-to-Nowhere, BART will have to take out a “TIFA” $150,000,000 (150 million) LOAN which is utter insanity.

We are in triage mode as a region/country right? (Everyone nods their head except Gold Man Sacks execs and their puppet Obama-man.)

So a much easier solution would be to grade separate the AirTrain BUS lane into a bus-ONLY lane. Make that a 6″ tall/wide cement “curb” or berm to separate the bus-only lane from the car lanes so car drivers (I know how you are on market street in SF) don’t jump in-n-out(TM) of the bus-only lane.

You know how cheap that would be? $10MM at most? A $490MM savings?? No kickbacks??? And saves travel times by the same amount.

Then start charging solo private auto/suv drivers $2-3 for the privilege of schlepping their ‘rides’ in circles around the airport while waiting for Their Precious to appear outside the terminal gates for pick-up.

http://transbayblog.com/2009/07/21/disconnect-the-connector/

Go read it, and write an appropriate letter to YOUR ‘MTC Rep’ today ahead of the MTC’s meeting where they will decide how much of OUR tax dollars to waste on this Airtrain-to-Nowhere!

The only people who benefit from this $500 million lame “OAC” project are the contractors. They are very highly likely wining and dining each and every MTC Board member. The one who voted AGAINST this asinine proposal was Mayor Tom Bates, for who knows what reason. Good for him for that bit of good behavior though.

***CAVEAT***

The ONE good reason to build the OAC long-term is that fuel prices will go up because of peak oil. If you don’t know what that is, click here.

However, that also means that hardly anyone will be able to afford to fly, either. Which means OAK will be a used parking lot with no future, except as perhaps Oakland’s version of Alameda’s monthly go-go Antique Fair.

Finally, we have a DOT Commish blogging that “not only does this country want high-speed rail, but also that this country is ready for high-speed rail. And it demonstrates a pent-up demand in America for the kind of fast, reliable, and sustainable transportation option people in Europe and Asia already experience every day.” — and we don’t have the money or energy to build it now. Too bad we paid for GM and all this car crap for 1945-2008 and have nothing to show for it. It was a wonderful life?

Flip the scrip’: NO currency at all baby!

I’ve been harping about local currencyfor a while . Yes, it is an ivory tower type idea which doesn’t work well, and can’t compete very well with the dominant currency. It is not our savior, just as “Obama” and mere hope is not our savior.

Money causes problems. It enables loan sharking, bribery, extraction of “capital” from a community, and makes many of us work wage slave jobs. Local money would still be money. And few people would accept it.

As of today, I will no longer push for this idea. It’s a dead end.

Better idea: NO money. Trade goods via barter instead.. Trade whatever you have for what you want…

Our enemy is money. We should rely on the earth, gifting of essential goods/services and personal relationships instead. These will make us all stronger.

I’ve seen the phrase “trust is the only real currency.” To that I would add, the things we really need to survive — water, food, clothes, shelter, security — are also real currency.

  • Air – required
  • Water – required
  • Food – required
  • Security – nice to have
  • Clothes/Shelter – optional, nice to have
  • Relationships – semi optional, great to have

Are you with me?

When money is worthless and your credit card / home equity line are shot to hell, personal relationships and the land are all you have left. Build those up now and at the very least, you’ll have a healthier life.

Cheers.

State invents own currency; why can’t we in Oakland?

Commentary on Oakland/CA/US/World this week…

I’d bet that not many of you would like to be paid in California IOU bills. But how about Oaklandish Oak Leaves?

This would be barter of time/effort made official, and tradable. And, I’d make this Oakland “bill” usable only in the current calendar year. Year 2009 Oak Leaves must be used up during 2009.

Better for local businesses who accept the payments. Better for everyone. Annual jubilee!

Now for other stuff. Mostly related.

  • A great quotation! From Dmitry Orlov, whose book Reinventing Collapse I suggest you all go read at the earliest opportunity. (It may save your life later!)
    • “What actually happens to an economy and a society under such circumstances? With oil in short supply, industrial production plummets, the economy stalls, there is a financial crisis because of debts going bad, followed by a commercial crisis because of falling demand and lack of credit, followed by political collapse caused by dwindling government revenues, followed by social collapse as unemployment rises and crime becomes rampant. After a while of this, the idea of you and your friends going out to the oil field and pumping some more oil starts to seem rather odd, and so oil production heads to zero.”
  • What is “Freedom”? Yeah, the old J5 song. Wrap your mind around this fact: our American “freedoms” are all based on ancient sunlight we burn daily, representing $4million of human labor PER AMERICAN PER YEAR. Yes, fossil fuels are our free “energy slaves” — about 200 slaves for each of us. Until the oil runs out that is… (think of the phantom oil and coal slaves heating and cooling your shower water, pushing your car/bus/train to work and back, growing, fertilizing and transporting your food for you, etc…)
  • Former CA Gov Gray Davis reflects on past & present.
  • For Vivek on the CIA’s Iran machinations–check out this story. Anybody who changed their twitter icon to “green” last couple of weeks is a Complete Tool.
  • Please call Con-gresswoman Barbara Lee and ask her to support an audit of the “Federal” Reserve, which Texas Rep. Ron Paul is pushing for. This ought to rankle Oakland OBAMA adorers… I voted for him myself, but he isn’t a “hero” by any means.

Obama the anti-hero, economic janitor

As someone else has said, Big O’s job is economic janitor — turning off all the lights in an orderly manner, and keeping the powerful and rich banking elites happy.

Is it any surprise that Obama is emphatically NOT going after our dastardly evil banking elites when “investment” bank Goldman Sachs employees were Obama’s largest pool of campaign contributors?

No really. Obama was the elite’s pressure release valve. We still have 500,000k+ newly fired and layed off workers evey month in the US. The government under-reports inflation and CPI using “Core” CPI; why wouldn’t they then under-report our unemployment rate?

Yes, BLS reports “U3” unemployment now, discounting discouraged and no-longer-looking unemployeds (“U6” unemployment) since the Clinton  days.

ShadowStats.com shows that we are already at 20% unemployment:

ddh

ttp://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data

Chart of U.S. Unemployment

Freedom in Uptown

Happy 4th?
We have the…

  • freedom to be taxed more than “socialist” EU countries, for less benefits
  • freedom to be fleeced by our government to pay corporate robber barons who are “too big to fail” (TBTF) — aka freedom-from-failure
  • freedom to avoid nasty chemicals in everything we use and eat and drink

Color me half empty!

I was happy today though to see a man and his two dogs freely using public property.

The empty Uptown lot, for a span of 15 minutes or so, became a dog run for someone’s two manicured poochies.

And I loved it. Finally, someone is using the empty Uptown lot!

Taggers are also busy making their mark on the -inside- of the green “temporary” wall.