Time Flies

June 25, 2009

Life gets busy… really busy at times.   You turn around, and half a year has passed by.

I haven’t posted in recent months for a few reasons.  Mostly because I’ve been really busy at home and work.   For all the pronouncements of immanent economic recovery, I still know more people losing their jobs than unemployed folks finding new ones.  Seeing as I still have a great job, I’ve been working hard to make sure that situation stays the same.

There’s also that issue of burnout.   There are plenty of great sites out there that cover similar topics, and I often felt like I was simply regurgitating and repeating what others were writing versus offering a whole lot of original thinking.   Taking some time off to concentrate on other things has been good for me.   The more I focused on the subjects this blog covered, the more negative I would be in other parts of my life.   I’ve been able to recharge my batteries, so to speak, and it’s felt good.

In the last year I’ve been focusing more on economic issues rather than straight peak oil and sustainability.    As other bloggers are noting, peak oil has changed a lot.  Before, it was assumed that the increasing cost of dwindling supplies of oil would sooner or later hamstring the global economy and we’d all be screwed.   As it turns out, we’ve managed to make a hash of the global economy all on our own, and as a result we’ve curtailed oil usage to a degree that has bought us some breathing room to adapt to different energy technologies as well as different patterns of daily life.  The end result is still the same:  lower standards of living (in both energy and economic terms) and massive debts for the common person.   The difference is that there won’t be the catastrophic ‘liberal apocalypse’ that some peak oil proponents have written on endlessly for the last five years or more.   Instead we’ll see more of a gradual lowering of living standards and unwinding of many components of the global infrastructure as we slowly fail to keep more and more parts of them operational.

The fact that our economy is badly hurt shouldn’t be news to anyone, so I fail to see the point in writing about that fact several times per week.  If your eyes are open, it’s obvious.   I have better things to do that continue to harp on this stuff, and you’ve got better stuff to do that read the same, re-hashed crap multiple times.

Two interesting posts that did catch my eye recently:
Devolution: 20 Predictions

Spin Economics

I’ll try to post ever so often as the muse dictates.   In the meantime, I sincerely hope that all of you are doing as well as you possibly can, and are making your own plans to adapt to the coming changes.


All Your Debt Are Belong to Us

September 22, 2008

Welcome to socialism… for big business at least.   Private profits, but public losses.  The ‘free market’ suddenly isn’t free anymore, and we have become the suckers holding the bag.

No one knows the final dollar amount for sure yet, but I’m positive that by them time everything’s said and done American taxpayers have shelled out at least 2 trillion dollars with all of the bailouts that have been promised in the last few months.   I don’t believe a word that comes out of Treasury Secretary Paulson’s mouth right now.  He asked for all this power earlier this summer claiming it was a good idea, but he didn’t think he’d have to use it, and now look at where we are.

This stuff came to a head very fast.  From what I have been reading, it sounds like this was a combination of a couple things.  Rumors are out there that some of our foreign creditors more or less laid down an ultimatum stating “bail out our investments, or we stop buy Treasury bonds.”   Without foreign banks buying our debt, the government basically stops.   Another rumor was that the Bush team saw the writing on the wall with regard to the elections… namely that Obama was likely to win.   Policymakers in the White House may have decided that the Obama team would be less likely to open the credit floodgates for Wall Street, so they decided to take the pain and bail the big boys out now while the window of opportunity was still available.

So what does all this mean?  I honestly have no clue, but here’s what I’m thinking right now:

  • Get ready for higher taxes.  We have taken on a huge debt load, and anyone who thinks we’ll get away with lower taxes is fooling themselves.  The only other solutions are hyperinflation or debt repudiation.  We may have to take option #2 at some point… option #3 is unlikely short of open warfare breaking out.
  • Get ready for lower standards of living.  Frugality will be the new conspicuous consumption.  Assuming the economy is still standing next year, we’ll be paying so much in taxes and for goods that most peoples’ abilities to pay for luxuries will be down.
  • Debt slavery is a real possibility.    As consumer credit dries up, we’ll spend more and more just to service our mortgages, credit cards, loans, etc…  In my opinion, the government has chosen Wall Street over main street, so we will end up having bailed out the banks and credit card companies that will then turn around and put the screws to us economically.  Choice between food & mortgage?  We’ll make that easy and foreclose you out of your house.  Thank you for playing…    The Democrats are trying to put language in the new bailout plan to forestall foreclosures for a while… we’ll see how that plays out.
  • Keep an eye on your investments.  IMO, nothing is truly safe in this environment.   Your savings are safe only as long as your bank and the FDIC stay solvent.  Money Markets?  Safer, but still an element of risk as was seen last week. I don’t think either the FDIC or Treasuries would ever default… a more likely scenario, IMO at least, is the Fed pumping even more liquidity into the markets.  You will still have your dollars, but thanks to the miracle of inflation they’ll be worth a lot less.   Another form of taxation if you will.
  • Politicians will say “I’ve got a plan” for this mess, but it’s mostly bullshit.  The real fixes are either to let the global economy unwind itself, raise tax rates through the roof, hyper-inflate, cut entitlement programs, or start a major war.   How many of those things would make it into an election stump speech?
  • The USA will start being eclipsed as a world superpower.  We are the king of debtors, and the rest of the world knows it.  Things may not happen fast, but I think we will start to see the waning of US power projection around the world.  Russia & China clearly aren’t afraid of us, and I think more nations will rediscover their backbone in coming years.    It takes a lot of money to keep our military power overseas, and if our creditors decide they’ve had enough of our bullshit, we may see more troops being recalled from overseas.   I’m sure it’ll be spun as ‘Mission Accomplished’ but I don’t know that it will be true.

Those are my gut reactions to the fun & games going on with our economy.  Stay vigilant, and stay flexible.  The radio & papers are already saying that we are entering a new economy with the decline of the investment banks.  They are shying away from stating whether that’s a positive or negative development.

WaPo Columnist Promotes “American Union”

June 6, 2008

Now that Obama has locked up the Democratic nomination, pundits everywhere are starting to give him advice on how to run his administration should he win the general election. Case in point is this column from Washington Post columnist Jim Hoaglund. Pretty standard stuff until you get to this paragraph:

Here’s one example of new thinking he should pursue: The United States should apply to relations with hemispheric neighbors many of the lessons of the European Union and its half-century of economic and political integration. A functioning American Union that pools sovereignty is a goal worth introducing now. But that quest cannot start by tearing down the North American Free Trade Agreement and other hemispheric trade accords. A President Obama has to be willing to sit down with the prime minister of Canada and the president of Mexico without preconditions, such as demands for treaty renegotiations.

(emphasis mine)

By ‘pooling sovereignty,’ I can only assume Mr. Hoagland is promoting the concept of the North American Union that has been floating around for the last few years. As it turns out, Hoagland is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, which has been pushing the union concept for a number of years now. The “NAU” has been a popular topic among conspiracy theorists & patriot radio types for a while. I’ve read about it, but have more or less left it alone. Now that a pundit in a major newspaper is actively pushing this concept, though, I’m going to follow it more closely. What better thing could a new president do than sign away the sovereignty of his nation without consent of the American people? Oh yeah, that process has already started.

For more information:

Adventures in Retail

November 5, 2007

It was my wedding anniversary last weekend. To celebrate, my wife’s parents generously took in our two kids over the weekend, allowing us 24 hours of uninterrupted ‘us time.’ I made dinner reservations at 6PM on Saturday at a new restaurant we were interested in checking out. The meal was excellent, and we were out the door by about 8. We got back to our car, paid to get out of the parking ramp and drove through downtown Minneapolis in search of something to do.

The following is a loose paraphrase of our conversation…

Me: “Well, it’s 8:00. The kids are with grandma & grandpa. We have the night to ourselves. What would you like to do?”

Wife: “I’m not tired and I don’t want to just go home and veg out in front of the TV. This should be a special night.”

Me: “OK… what would you like to do?”

Wife: “I don’t know. Any ideas?”

Me: “Hmm… we could go see a movie, or go get some coffee, or hit a bookstore…”

Wife: “Hmmm… none of those things sound good. We just ate, and I want to do something together with you. Seeing a movie doesn’t really count.”

Me: “Umm… OK. We could go home and play a game. Cribbage?”

Wife: <stunned silence…followed by> “Cribbage???!!! We have a night to ourselves and YOU want to go home and play cribbage?”

Me: <backpedalling> “Hey! It was just a suggestion! And you like cribbage!!! Umm… we could go somewhere for a walk.”

Wife: “It’s cold and dark outside.”

Me: “OK… how about we go to a mall? It’s warm & bright in there.”

Wife: ” OK… so you want to spend our anniversary going for a romantic walk in a #$!#@# MALL?”

Me: “No, but I’m running out of ideas here. You’ve shot down every idea I’ve suggested!”

<A minute or two of silence passes while we drive vaguely Eastward towards home>

Wife: “Our daughter needs a hat & mittens for this winter. Head to Kohl’s.”

Me: “Righty-o! Happy Anniversary, dear.”

Wife: “Shut up”

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Why I Don’t Focus on Sustainability Much…

August 27, 2007

Miranda over at Simple Living has been taking some brickbats recently from readers from the sounds of it. For those of you who don’t read her blog (and if you don’t you should IMO), she and her family have been taking some massive steps towards reducing their energy usage (see her Riot for Austerity post for details) by 90% or more. It’s a laudable goal, and while she’s not there yet, she’s making good progress, and at any rate she’s doing a hell of a lot more than I am on that front.

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Multiple Observations

May 9, 2007

It appears that my plans for the summer vegetable garden may be on hold… I found out last week that I need surgery on my left ankle & Achillies’ tendon, which means that after next week I’ll be on crutches for a month and then in a boot for another month after that. These last few weeks have been very busy for me, so I think I’m running out of time to get the raised beds installed before my surgery date.

Unless I get a perfect combination of free time, daylight and weather in the next week, I’ll be raising a few tomatoes & peppers in containers and that’s about it. I’ll then be able to get the beds in later this year, which means maybe a small fall crop of greens this season. It’s frustrating for me, but that’s life.

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Back From the Road Trip

April 29, 2007

I spent the weekend in South Dakota visiting an old friend of mine. Not much exciting to report other than it’s interesting to see the proliferation of wind turbines popping up in Southwestern Minnesota. I counted a good 20-30 turbines that I could see from I-90, and I know there’s a bunch more in the Buffalo Ridge area north of Worthington.

While I was coming home today, I had the cruise control on and spent a few moments just watching the pavement rushing by my car. Here I was, sitting comfortably doing very little while my energy slaves were conveying me home quickly. What used to be a long journey from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls a century ago was completed in just four hours. The amount of sheer power at my control (at a reasonable price to boot) is amazing when you think about it, and when the price of gas becomes too expensive for many of us to take such car trips anymore, the road trip may join other past forms of travel like flying boats or passenger ships as romanticized icons of ages gone by.