Archive for the ‘productivity’ Category

From Grand Coulee to Grand Solar

May 8, 2019

Everybody ought to have something meaningful to do. Wouldn’t you agree?

A job, a volunteer project, or at least some personal pursuit, to occupy one’s time in an activity that is beneficial to one’s self, or helpful to others, maybe even improving society.

Whether it’s a job with a private enterprise—a small business,  a corporation, or a .gov agency, a non-profit foundation, or a personal pursuit . . .

Everybody finds benefit in having meaningful activity,

especially if it may make life better for the rest of us.

Recently I caught wind of some public discussion about maybe combining this need for individual productivity with work that benefits our public purpose. Consider the prospects of projects that would improve our infrastructure.

Infrastructure is, you know . . . roads, bridges, electrical grids, communication networks, parks, public spaces and lands . . . systems and places, etc. that we share—

networks and common spaces that tend to fall apart or degenerate if someone doesn’t take responsibility to maintain or take care of them.

As I was pondering this idea, my mind wandered back in time to an era in our national history–the 1930’s– when people working together got a lot of important work done by teaming up to improve what was our infrastructure at that time.

Back in that day there was a fella who went around lending a hand in public works of all kinds, and he wrote songs about his experiences,

Woody Guthrie.

Woody wrote a good ole song about the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, out west between Washington and Oregon.

It’s an authentic song about a great project. Listen to Woody singing  Grand Coulee Dam, which he recorded in 1941.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vLZOKshJPs.     

And check out this pic of that immense, power-conserving structure, when it was being built, back in 1933: 

CouleeConst

You can find more about the building of the Grand Coulee dam here:

    https://omsi.edu/calendar/science-pub-portland-building-grand-coulee-dam   

As I was a-listening to Woody’s song about the Grand Coulee, the thought occurred to me that we should perhaps take on a similar project, or two, today—construction of a cooperative facility to provide electricity in a manner that is clean and green and maybe even carbon-neutral.

So I added a verse to Woody’s ole song:

In a trillion solar sunbeams of any shining sunny day

flies a steady stream of energy, more watts than man can say.

We oughta build a great collector like the big Grand Coulee dam;

and capture solar megawatts in this great  Grand Solar Land.”

Have a listen and see what you think about it:

    http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/GrandCouleeSolar.mp3

And envision electricity this way:

SolarGrand

King of Soul

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From Enlightenment to Onlinenment

May 4, 2019

Peering way back in human history, we find . . . generally, the battles have indeed been won by the strong, and the races are usually won by the swift of our species.

There are exceptions, for sure, but generally you know it’s true. Them who know how to throw their weight around  usually manage somehow to outweigh the rest of us.

The people who manage to work, or fight or compete, to the top of the heap—those folks pretty much stay on top of things until some group or faction that is lower on the pecking order manages to muster enough money, or strength or discontent or firepower or political power to throw the bums out and usher in a new regime of wealth, or weapons, or wherewithal to take charge of things and call the shots.

Throughout history we talk about this and wonder about how to deal with it in ways that are fair and equitable, and maybe even civil.

In the last 300 years of pondering these issues, we’ve moved from the Age of Enlightenment, through the Age of Development, and now we’ve progressed into the Age of Onlinenment.

Three centuries ago, power was all about royalty. The royal houses pretty much ruled the world. They divided it up. Now and then they fought battles, or even wars, to re-draw the boundaries of ownership and authority and hegemony etcetera etcetera.

The printing presses had gotten in gear back in the 1400’s; over time all those mechanically copied manuscripts began to make a difference in everything that happened.  Ideas got spread around through documents and books, and people began to think more, exchange ideas and information more, think differently about themselves and the world they lived in, and . . .

People got smarter, or at least they thought they were smarter. At any rate, they had more information (more data!) to work with. Many of these smart folks figured out that they could work their way out of indentured servitude or serfdom or whatever royal arrangement had been holding them back.

So they moved off the estate, and into town; there they set up shop, doing business, making goods and services that people needed.

Capitalism was born. . . little people doing business and making it on their own.

Along with capitalism came the age of Enlightenment, a time in history when more and more folks were figuring out that hey! we can do this this thing we don’t need the bluebloods up in the castle to tell us what to do.

Although it took a century or two for these changes to really make a difference on a societal level, eventually the newly emerging middle classes had enough members and resources and smarts and clout to push the old fuddy-duddy royals out of power.

It was a long bloody process. Our American revolution busted out and changed the world forever.

Revolutions (1)

The French did an even bloodier version when they guillotined the Bourbon monarchs. As the proletarian uprisings gathered steam across Europe,  Napolean and Marx and hordes of discontented Europeans got out in the streets to rearrange the economic structure of things into a state more fitting to their demands.

Eventually, the Bolsheviks in Russia managed to run the royal Romanovs outa town. The new revolutionizing proletarians cornered those royals and put  bullets into their fair-haired Romanov heads.

Further down in Europe, the same Revolutionary zeitgeist was burning hot. 20th-century Liberation busted Western civilization out of its old royal antiquities. Along with the supposed modernizing came a bloody mess called the World War I.

Archduke4

When the guns were finally silenced in 1918 and the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the world was a different place.

Most of the royal houses had been run out of their big houses; what was left of them were cornered into ceremonial roles, and a new way of doin’ things became the order of the day.

Our yankee country country here had a lot to do with the way things turned out. After we had sent King George and his reds back to Britain with their tail between their legs, we had a whole, vast, 3000-mile continent just waitin’ to discover what the steam locomotive and the motorized tractor and the combine and the cotton gin and the blast furnace and everything from Pittsburgh to Pacific was all about.

And by the time we got to the Pacific, by crackies, the world was mechanized.

We had wrought it into a whole New World.

However, as things developed here in the 19th-century in the big wide bustin’-out USA, the ancient hierarchical tendencies of the human race had re-asserted themselves the fray, and before you know it—in spite of all the wide open spaces and new opportunities— we were back into a situation where the rich got richer and and the poor got poorer.

As the tycoons and magnates—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Bell, Edison, Morgan—got America all cranked up on oil and gas and electrical power, they formed companies.

By ’n by, them companies grew and prospered, and—long story short—those little startup corps from our late-19th, early 20th-century developments eventually morphed into giant corporate behemoths.

Even so, every now and then throughout the last century, a big economic reset button gets pushed somewhere and the forces of mankind whack the hell out of all our wealth-gathering institutions.

The biggest Depression hit back in ’29 and hung itself around our necks until the big guns showed up to blast us out of the trenches. After the Second Big War, we had a big round of wealth-spreadin’, middle-class widenin’ expansion with more folks than ever before jumpin’ on the middle and upper-class band wagons.

It went on a half-century or so, with ups and downs along the way but most everybody gett’n’ at least a little better off along the way, until ’08 when another whopper hit wall street; it dumb-struck the powers-that-be for a few weeks until they got their act together and yacked their way into a deal in which We the People baled them and ourselves out of what would have been disaster, or so the tale is told.

Anyway, here we were a century+ past those robber barons and big wheels and under-the-table deals, and the corporations are thought to be running the whole shebang.

19th-century: the Royals, kings and queens, monarchs, dukes, earls, counts, etcetera etcetera

20th-century: CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen of the Boards, etcetera etcetera

All along the way, a whole lotta regular folks have jumped onto the Corporate bandwagon and wiggled their way into some of the booty therof. Out here on the coasts and in Flyover country, a whole lot more of us consumers are in a big way dependent on this Corporatized way of doin’ things.

By the late 20th-century—and now going into the 21st—the upper-middle-class’emites who keep the electrons and the debits and the credits and the assets  hummin’ along through that vast Corporate power Web— they are pretty well fat n’ happy, like their blueblooded ancestors.

Their modern morph-up into class and privileged status was Corporate-fueled, not Royal-based like in the earlier versions.

Especially since ’08 when the whole financial world blew apart again and We the People bailed the Bankers and their kissin’-cousin Corporate mavens out.

In this round of history, the Discontents among us not using the printing press so much to drum up all this protest and pushback we see rising . This time it is more about the the Twit and the Web and the Net.

We’ve progressed past Enlightenment, past Development . . .

to Onlinenment.

DigitHeads

And by means of this digitized Onlinenment, folks are gettn’ all hot n’bothered again, and workin’ themselves into a tizzy about those same ole inequality-breeding patriarchal tendencies, which have forever reared their privilege-seeking heads into positions of authority.

We find ourselves once again passing Go. Roll the dice and collect $2 million. And so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What else is new?

But this time the disruption is not about throwin’ out King George or King Louie or Czar Nicholas or the Archduke of Serbia.

In this round, its about throwin’ out the Corporate mavens and their kissin’-cousin Politicians, and maybe even the Digitheads along with them, and then replacing them with . . .

um . . . with what?

Y’all Discontents be careful now. We don’t want any more Stalins or Maos, or even Chavez. Let’s talk about this.

Go easy on us who are fellow-travelers in this planetary arrangement. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t wanna throw the can-do out with the carbon.

Glass half-Full

Green Money

March 20, 2019

It has been about 200 years since our great American expansion picked up enough steam to really get going full throttle.

From Maine to Miami, from Seattle to San Diego and everywhere in between, in our humongous exploitive thrust westward, southward, and  every whichaway you can think of— we went bustin’ through the Adirondacks, the Appalachians, across the  wide prairies, over Big Muddy, up the Missoura and all the way down to the Rio Grande, through Sierras out to Pacific shores, even leaping oceanward and skyward to Hawaii.

EucTre4

Back in the day, when we got into the thick of that vast continental expedition, we moved over and through rolling virgin landscapes of living green.

Green were the great evergreens of the North. Green were the hardwood forests on coastal plains, on Appalachian slopes, on heartland grasslands. Green were the piney woods of the South. Green were the grains of the far-stretching prairies.

And the certificates by which we assigned value to our works—these too were green.

Dollars—we designed them in green.

Dollar

So, green were the dollars that transacted our nation through thousands of ventures, millions of contracts, compelling trillions of working hands that were capitalized by investing hands, then driven upward in value by speculating hands and traded cleverly by arbitraging wallstreet whizzes.   

Some newly-immigrating Americans moved independently, others collectively, across the continent. All along the way they cultivated green crops and earned green dollars wherever they settled, digging, mining, organizing co-ops, forming companies, building roads and bridges, collaborating, accumulating capital, incorporating, expanding, growing, thriving, burgeoning and burdening.

Burdening the earth. Extracting to the max all along the way. Tow that line; tote that bale. Milk it for all its worth.

By the time mid-20th century rolled around, ole mother earth was bursting at the seams, displaying scarred hillsides, scraped-out open-pit mines, hollowed-out insides, chemicalized sores, oozing green slime. . . but enabling us thereby to whiz along on continent-wide  interstate rides. Hey, let’s pull over for a song break:

  http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/Deep Green.mp3

We grew up with stock-green scenery whizzing by outside the windows at 65 miles per hour— seemingly insignificant landscape sliding through the view on our way to wherever our best-laid plans of mice and men might propel us.

At ramping exits we egress to fill-up on the American dream, then cruise control at 78 mph in our lean dream transportation machines. Green, green is just a tucked-away scene behind the gas station.

Still yet are the the dollars green, but only in our minds, because now we’ve digitized them so we don’t actually lay eyes on them $$ any more.

And then, lo and behold, a new thing happened. Motivations morphed. The politics that drives our nation states began to turn green.

Whereas, before, red, white, and blue were the colors that motivated us.

Now we find that the ole faithful red, white and blue of Liberty has run its course through world history. Those other nation-states that had followed our galavanting, capitalizing lead. . . now they have fueled their engines with our money-green currency, and they did park billions of our little federal reserve notes into every marketplace and bank vault across the globe. . .

But what goes around, comes around, and when it recycles, it morphs as something different.

Alas, so now what new Green through yonder Continent breaks?

Turns out that some Keynesizing technocrats have devised a means to turn the whole financialized world around so that the new motive—the re-greening of earth—becomes society’s great purpose and goal. On the old economic scenario of Supply and Demand, Sustainability arises as the new Remand.

Instead of the profit motive! Instead of Go West Young Man, now we find a new clarion call: Go Green Young Band!

     https://www.socialeurope.eu/green-money-without-inflation

Will it work?

Glass half-Full

What about this Post-capitalism?

March 3, 2019

There are a many constructive ideas floating around in the world today.

Some are commendable, others not so much. If people propose plans for making the world a better place, then let’s hear them. Let’s consider those plans.

In our present big picture, the hot-button point of contention seems to revolve around the fate of free-market capitalism, in an age of diminishing planetary tolerance.  Is capitalism as we know it an appropriate framework for just and equitable economic development in our present, allegedly climate-changing world?

Are free-market institutions still appropriate for our collective life in the postmodern 21st-century?

Can free-market capitalism even be retained in our planetary future? Or will it be overpowered by some new 21st-century tamed-down socialism?

Generating from some academic and technocratic quarters, we find revisions of the old Marxian ideology, along with assurances that the world has certainly learned hard lessons through the disastrous failure of 20th-century communist experiments.

At  https://www.socialeurope.eu/postcaptalism-unbearable-unrealism , Paul Mason writes:

    Moving to postcapitalism does not entail eradicating market forces overnight or accepting the command-planning methods of Soviet economics. The aim is to design a controlled transition in which market forces cease to operate as the primary allocator of goods and services on the planet, in which the state shrinks and the debt mountains are dismantled.”

and

   “In the past 15 years we have built a highly dysfunctional system, which is unsustainable on all traditional assumptions. It is a system of permanent single monopolies, with massive rent-seeking and financial exploitation, the creation of low-wage, low-skilled jobs designed to keep people inside the system of credit and data extraction, and massive asymmetries of power and information between corporations and consumers.”

Now, as a centrist conservative American, I read those above words and they somehow ring true. There is a sense in which I feel there is maybe some realistic MainStreet experience  missing there, but I see that Mr. Mason raises valid points, which are worthy of our consideration.

On the other side of the debate, Jordan B. Peterson has a different take on our world problems and how to solve, or at least address, them.

At  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXgZAdaMtS8&t=35s,      he says:

     “If you’re tilting toward the left, and you’re temperamentally inclined that way—and half the population is—then you have an ethical problem on your hands, which is . . . how do you segregate yourself from the radical policies of the 20th century? “

and

“. . . two things exist in a very uneasy (leftist) coalition in the West—there’s care for the poor, and hatred for the successful.  Those two things are not the same at all . . . and it looks to me that one of the things that really happened when the communist doctrines were brought into play , and also by the way we did the multi-national experiment.  It doesn’t matter where you put these policies into play . . . the same bloody outcome occurred. Didn’t matter whether it was Russia, or China, Cambodia or Vietnam—pick a random African country—or Cuba or Venezuela, for that matter. . . it was an unmitigated catastrophe. That has to be dealt with.  The intellectual left in the West has been absolutely appalling in their silence on the communist catastrophe.”           

Dr. Peterson, the speaker of these words just above, is a Canadian professor of Psychology at University of Toronto.

Down here Stateside, we have a sizable number of Americans who agree with his assessment. That supportive group includes the this blogger.

Back in 1989, freedom-cultivating citizens, such as I, thought we heard the ringing resonance of a Liberty bell when the Soviet Union fell apart and the Berlin Wall came down. We were patting ourselves on the back after those historic events, especially because Kennedy had gone to Berlin in 1963 and spoke:

    “There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. . . Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in . . .”

And then later, Reagan went over there and said:

    “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Well, the Germans did tear down that damn wall, and the subjects of Soviet domination throughout that terrible empire wasted no time in tearing down—not only a wall— but much more. . . the Soviet Union itself.

Like Humpty-Dumpty it was.

So the question remained: Would they, could they, tear down all that Marxist communist ideology that had built that wall under threat of gulag imprisonment? Could they expose and dismantle the Statist oppression that had built all the gulag walls? and the Stalin statues, and the tanks and the nukes, etcetera etcetera.

That would take a long time, and it has taken a long time. But in some ways, that early 20th-century tide of Marxist oppresso-utopian wishful thinking is seeping back as a kind of theoretical, kinder, gentler socialism.

So the question becomes: is there any part of the Dr. Jekyll Marxian collectivist ideology that is workable and fair? and, as for the Mr. Hyde alter ego: Is there any part of that disgraced Soviet that would creep back as fierce totalitarian servitude?

Cmnism

On the other side of 21st-century civilization, at the same time, and as long as we’re at relative peace in a cooperative globalist attitude, another question arises: What parts of FreeMarket Capitalism are still workable?

Tiananmen talk

Advocates of our free-market democratic republic must admit, for instance, that yes, Virginia, Freedom and free-market capitalism does have its problems. It always has, although those troubles do not necessarily disqualify the free market as a model for economic well-being.

The weak spot in our capitalist framework was exposed in 2008-9, when our financially engineered wall street perpetual profit, speculative machine flew apart, and sent all of us free-marketeers high-tailing it for the exits.

Statistics reveal that since that disruptive correction in the fall of ’08, a stubborn stagnation has taken hold of our economy. Even though the Fed cranks out statistics to reinforce the notion that we have recovered . . .we have not recovered.

You call this a recovery?

No way!. I grew up in the ’50’s; I know what a real recovery looks like, and I worked my way through the ’90’s.I know what a truly busy, productive economy feels like.  And whatever we got now—this ain’t no real recovery.

  This is stagnation.

The Feds got all their numbers trying to convince us that all is well, but the truth is: So many folks are not making enough money to prosper. They’re just gettin’ by. Meanwhile so many speak of a widening inequality gap, and although I don’t really see the world in those “class warfare” terms, I suppose that, in some sense, yes Virginia, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

But then, hey, hasn’t that always been true? We shall see. At any rate, let’s not get all commie-bent out of shape about it. Just keep busy. Find something helpful to do. As Jordan says, responsibility gives life meaning. You can start by cleaning your room, and thereby making the world a little bit better place.

Glass half-Full

Where to now, Homo Developus?

January 16, 2019

Everybody knows that a few years ago we had a big economic breakdown. There were many reasons to explain  what happened in 2008.

Let’s step back in time a little and consider what has taken place on Planet Earth.

During the 1800’s and 1900’s our developed nations undertook a vast, worldwide surge of industrial development, which was accompanied by a universal expansion of business and corporate prosperity. This hyper-expansive phase of human development required very large-scale extractions of natural resources, which were then transformed into mega-stocks of consumer goods.

An abundance of consumer goods brought forth an abundance of consumers.

Consuming.

Consuming the goods, consuming the planet.

The end of the 20th century brought a vast slowdown. It happened in the fall of 2008, and regardless of what the bullish analysts and stimulus-chasers declare, we are still mired in that big slowdown of ’08.

And will continue to be. This is going to morph into a vast leveling out. The industrial age is over. Our planet will not tolerate another 200-year extraction expansion.

Now we have entered into the Age of Sustainable Technology and Appropriate Industry.

And herein a question arises.

Who will run the world?

Is there a cartel of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Edison and JPMorgan-types out there who will forge a new system to transform the old Industrial Infrastructure into the new Sustainable Society?

As the next surge—the post-industrial phase— is being initiated by a new breed of Industrialist . . . the Gates, the Jobs, the Bezos and Buffets . . . the industrialized Civilization stumbles into a new Electronified Zone.

A digitized twilight zone, as it were.

In the wake of the great ’08 Slowdown, we encounter a host of questions that define the logistical problem of where to go from here.

During the Investment Segment’s breakdown of ’08, a lot of very complicated financial engineering became unwound.

One financial analyst, John M. Mason, recently offered an explanation that includes this analysis of what happened in the financial world during the decline of our industrializing phase:

But, in the developed world, the presence of lots and lots of liquidity means very little in the way of corporate capital investment. The environment of credit inflation, built up over the last fifty years of so, has created a culture of financial engineering in the business community and, consequently, corporations act differently now than they did when most of the current economic models were constructed. Government stimulus gets built into greater risk taking, greater financial leverage, and financial investment, like stock buybacks.

   (https://seekingalpha.com/article/4233178-supply-side-world-europe-well-united-states?ifp=0&app=1.)

So it seems to me that the financial guys—the wallstreet wheelers and dealers, etc—having running out of real new industrial infrastructure to invest in, turned to MBS schemes and CDO games in order to keep their game going. Instead of their oversized financial whirligig running on old Industrial Growth stimulants, they rigged it to run on the fumes thereof.

Now in a post-industrial age, we find ourselves as a species, Homo Developus, scratching our heads and wondering where do we go from here?

It just so happens that, in the wake of the Great Industrial Expansion of Planet Earth, there emerges a vast bureaucracy of Smart People—number crunchers, economic theorizers, technocrats, academics, programmers, bureaucrats, not to mention the mysterious ghosts of AI —who propose to reconstruct the detritus of the industrial age into a systemic quasi-social Union that will make sure everybody is taken care of.

And so I’m wondering, what’s the best way to administrate such a civilization?

What’s the best system for governing a federation of post-industrial nations?

What’s the the most effective strategy for managing a cushy, highly-developed Society?

What’s the most humane political structure to assure income and health for all citizens?

Should Europeans, for instance, appoint multiple layers of bureaucracy to enforce labor laws so that every person has a guaranteed income?

Should the State take control of business so that everybody gets a minimal piece of the pie?

And these philosophical, or sociological questions arise:

What motivation compels some individuals to seek opportunity and then develop that opportunity into abundance and prosperity?

What drives the go-getters to excel in economic pursuits? What motivates them to acquire work, money, property, resources, and then manipulate those assets into an overflow of wealth?

What incentive impels them to take care of themselves and their families?

On the other hand, what compels some other people to, instead,  take charge of bureaucratic agencies in order to administrate a Society that assures everyone a minimum of economic assistance?

What drives some analytical people to write laws and devise policies for systematically managing governmental bureaus to assure that everyone is taken care of?

Who is in charge here?

Who is going to run the world?

Will it be the go-getters, the pioneers, movers and shakers, developers, entrepreneurs, rule-breakers, industrialists, business mavens?

Or will it be the wonks who manage the world—the academics, the specialists, bureaucrats, rule-makers, policy-crafters, the tweakers of governmental largesse?

EURomeHdq

Consider Esther Lynch’s observations:

The ETUC has watched the rise in precarious working conditions in Europe—platform working, zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment and so on—with deep concern. Research in the UK found that young people on zero-hours contracts, for example, were far more likely to report mental and physical health problems than their counterparts in stable jobs. A study by the University of Limerick in Ireland warned that people on non-guaranteed hours could become ‘trapped in a cycle of poverty which strengthens employers’ control’, generating a fear of being penalised if they raised grievances about working conditions. In response, the Irish government has taken steps to prohibit the use of zero-hours contracts, unless the employer can show a genuine business need. Guaranteeing transparent and predictable working conditions would have wide-ranging benefits, in terms of workers’ health, work-life balance and employee retention.

  (https://www.socialeurope.eu/tackling-insecure-work-in-europe)

What does the peaceful development of Civilization require? Management by one, or the other, of these two types? Or Both/and?

Is Civilization founded upon a principle of every man/woman for hmrself?

Or will it settle into BigBrotherSister administering a vast Guarantee for All?

Or something in between.

Keep your eyes open to watch what develops.

Smoke

From Digging to Digitization

October 26, 2018

The history of mankind has consisted of humans pulling stuff out of the ground and reworking it to suit our own survival purposes.

As people became more and civilized, and organized, the underlying survival instinct took a back seat to other motivations—gathering surplus, tribal organizing, development of skills and trades, cooperation and competition. . . eventually industry,  government, education, business, recreation, sports, entertainment.

The progressive developments of all these human activities required something that was necessary and common to all of them:

Resources.

Stuff from the earth itself. Raw material. Basic stuff:

Water, dirt, plants, rocks, ores, animals, hides.

As civilization moved forward, these basics were refined by us— reconstructed, manufactured to fulfill the requirements of human development.

Locomotv copy

The list of basic stuff (above) was revised to include:

Drinks, processed foods, fertilizer, livestock, leather, pets, tools, machines, lumber, metals, trains, cars, planes, appliances, telephones, radios, televisions, computers.

Computers–aha! With these, human development embarked upon a new phase.

Information itself becomes as useful (or at least we think it is as useful. . .) as all the other stuff that we’re using to make the world a more convenient place since the beginnings. Knowledge itself has became a resource. Yeah, though I dare say it—a commodity.

So we notice that over the course of human progress we did move steadily from pulling stuff out of the ground, and reworking it so that we could improve our life, to—

Pulling information out of our data machines.

Like it or not, this is the outcome of human history. We have come to this. Now development is largely about retrieving and using data files to improve life or capitalize upon its developments.

In the same manner as we traditionally removed natural resources from the ground and turned it into our good stuff.

And bad stuff. Let’s not forget that part. Our progressive high-tech life now generates bad stuff. Pollutants, toxins, noxious substances and, of course, shit itself, which still happens every day on a very large scale.

A consequence of our globally massive improvement project is that more and more persons are being driven into knowledge jobs.

Instead of all that plowing, digging, mining, constructing that we did all through history—more and more of us are typing, cataloging, programming, sitting at desks and watching computers do our so-called  work for us. Such activity (relatively, it is inactivity) becomes the order of the day for us as far into the future as many of us can see.

This digitized transformation of human development will bring us to some huge changes. I read an article about it this morning:

  https://www.ips-journal.eu/regions/global/article/show/the-false-hero-called-digitalisation-3050/n

Seeing as how we now have entered the age of information retrieval slowly overtaking natural resources recovery. . . seeing as how we gaze collectively at what seems to be the setting sun of human physical toil, I offer a tribute to the noble enterprise of Human Labor.

RailEngn

This tribute I offer in the form of a song. Gordon Lightfoot wrote it years ago.

It is one of the best songs ever written about the glory of human labor. You may listen to the songwriter’s rendition here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXzauTuRG78 

I also offer my own rendition of Gordon’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”, a song that I dearly love to sing.

    Gordon’s Railroad Trilogy

As you listen to both versions, imagine you are watching a sunset—the disappearing brightness of human labor accomplishment, being supplanted by a foggy dawn of. . . whatever is ahead for our collective endeavor.

King of Soul

The European Project

September 19, 2018

The Beginning of the End of the Royals running Europe started with an upstart French officer named Napolean and a musician from the German outback named Beethoven.

The End of the Beginning of the End came when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, the event that ignited the First Big War.

Archduk4

The End of the Royals running Europe came when the appointed Generals, elected Presidents and Prime Ministers of a war-crippled Europe assembled in Versailles, France, in 1919.  The secular Leaders began trying to pull the pieces of Europe back together again, to reset Euro Civilization on a new Democratic/Republican game-plan.

StreetValncia

Since that time, the Europeans have had a rough time of pulling themselves together as a political entity. To begin with, the rubble-heaps of post-WWII Europe ended up  in a new polarity of two distant controlling hegemonies—the US and the USSR. These two emergent political empires  were centered  far outside of the fanciful entity we know as Old Europe, which existed in previous history as a continental area governed mostly from these ancient Capitols:  Athens, Rome, Madrid, Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and—a most honorable mention—Geneva.

I call Geneva  honorable  because it is the City  on that grand network most associated with a very important concept: Peace.

The Peace of Europe had been, for 1900 years, an elusive State of Affairs, which somehow managed to survive as a glimmer of hope in the Heart and Soul of a quasi-mythical Europa.

Europe is very old, but contemporary Europeans have taken on a venerable Project to form a European Union. Exactly what that is, is a matter of political evolution, politics, compromise, and of course, Money.

This EU is a logical step forward, because the formerly long-hoped-for Peace of Europe has been flourishing since Allied victory was won at great cost of blood sweat and tears, in 1945. By the grace of God and Man, Europe has been at peace with itself since that time, 73 years.

But the next step beyond the Peace of Europe– European Union– is a prospect as elusive as finding the Holy Grail, or Valhalla, or Arcadia, or Elysian Fields of Camelot or Heaven itself.

But its political success is nowhere as easy as the Prospect for Unity that we Americans had back in the day. We had a vast, undeveloped continent as a frontier, which was populated originally by primitive tribes who were unorganized and unprepared to deal with our transplanted European development Mindset.

Most of us Americans had ancestors who wandered via Ships across the Atlantic to—as it turned out— find and construct a New World. Our forebears were confronted only by those undeveloped tribes who were already here, and a bunch of competing, mostly-poor immigrants like ourselves from different mostly-Euro traditions.

We certainly had some problems along the way, getting it all together as the United States of America. We even had a goddam Civil War trying to get it all worked out but we managed to get through that and keep the Union going, and expanding all the way to the Pacific shore.

Yes, we certainly had some problems getting it together, but our USA has been, relatively speaking, a light-duty Project compared to what the Europeans have been dealing with since the Collapse of the Old Roman Empire.

We New Worlders had advantages. We did not have, you see, all that  2000-year-old institutionalized sociological, economic and ethnic baggage that the Europeans have had and still have that keeps them caught up in differing National Purposes and Visions.

Presently, between the Teutonic bean-counters and the Mediterranean lay-backs, Europe just cannot get it together to decide how all the Expenses of governance and economic maintenance can be Paid-off.

Now we Americans don’t necessarily pay our Public Deficits either, but at least we are United in our rhetorical affirmation of equality and justice and Credit for All.  So we just keep running up the Tab and nobody gives a dam, because we have been, for a awhile, the, you know, new kid on the block and king of the hill and all that and we can get away with it.

Whereas the Euros are presently arguing about Who is going to pay the bills—the Teutonic bean-counters or the Mediterranean lay-backs.

We Americans cast a trans-Atlantic glance at them and express our deepest concern and well-wishes for a continuing Progress toward the elusive European Union and we say wholeheartedly:

Good Luck with that!

Now here’s the good news.There is a bright lining that envelopes this present Cloud of Complex Cooperation in Europa.

French President Emmanuel Macron has now proposed a new plan whereby the burdens of EU Debt, Expense, Governance and Administration of the EU are Dealt-With according to (as my American online ignoramus self-satisfied cyber-awareness would understand it) gradations of Participation, Responsibility and WhothehellCares-Responsibility in the EntitiesUnited of Europa.

These levels of Participation will be most heavily taken Seriously and Attended-To by those State/entities that are closest to the Center of Power and Influence. The peripheral Nations/States will be garnished according to their relative positions in the  outgoing Concentric Circles of Europe.

These Circles are most likely actually Parabolas. Because the actual Working Center of Europe consists not of one Point, but rather, Two Points, where the real Movers and Shakers (Bankers) of Europe run their Industrial/Financial Empires.

The Two Points are Berlin and Paris. There is a Third Centric point between them: Brussels, which is the errand by for Paris and London.

So we see that, with  Monsieur Macron’s proposed plan for the widening Circles of Influence, Europe has great Hope for the Future.

It may be a plan worthy of implementation. The Europeans have achieved Success in the Development of an essential condition: Peace.

Now it’s just the Money that’s hanging them up.

This American believes that the pesky Arguing about Who pays the Bills is actually Progress, because it is qualitatively better than Bombing each other! So they must have gotten something right, beginning back in ’45.  They have indeed  come a long way since Sarajevo in 1914.

TrainBarc

One more thing, very important. This American notices that, in spite of all the different member nations with different languages and politics and values, their system of Trains and Metros puts ours to shame. With just a mention given to their impressive High-Speed, Efficiency and Clockwork Precision, the most endearing characteristic of the Euro rail is Ease and Comfort. Taking a Euro train trip from one city to another is a much easier and far more comfortable Prospect than doing the yankee airport runaround, with sardine-contortion seating and  limited passage in the aisles when you may have to pee. Most important of all–the train seats are comfortable, roomy, easy to get in- and out-of, and less pricey than planes.

Maybe we can teach them something about Debts Pretension, while they teach us something about Running the Trains.

EuroTrain

Smoke 

Solar Tech–what needs to happen

January 24, 2018

When I was a young man, idealistic and foolhardy, I attempted to start a newspaper.

I was in Asheville, a progressive southern town that was collectively trying to morph itself into a sort of Santa Fe of the South.

The year was 1977, and the gas-rationing effect of the so-called Arab oil embargo was still fresh in American minds. We, the generation who had convinced the gov. of the US to get the hell out of Vietnam, were convinced that we could also make a constructive impact on the way business and industry was conducted here in the USA.

Solar tech was a rising star in everybody’s minds, or so we thought at the time. With leadership from Mother Earth News and other early sustainability advocates, many of us free-thinking boomers thought we could shift American Big Business interests from dependency on costly oil to a widespread earth-changing acceptance of Solar, Geothermal and Wind technology.

Solari

So the fledgeling “newspaper” that we were promoting did a center-spread on Solar Energy and Solar Collectors. One of our fellows was a fellow named Jim Samsel; he was from Oregon, or had lived there, and seemed to know more about the subject than most us. He included some diagrams that, as I remember, helped us and the readers to get a visual on what solar collectors looked like and how they were supposed to work. We felt good about our tentative thrust into progressive energy conservation.

That was 41 years ago. Since that time, my life has shifted toward more down-to-earth activities such as loving my wife, raising the children, educating them and living as a Christian family. So my interests drifted away from quasi-experimental pastimes such as dreaming of solar tech, which was known to be expensive to install and maintain.

Since that time, my wife and I have purchased and lived in three houses. On none of them have we installed solar collectors. The expenses of of life and a growing family overtook my nascent interest in alternative, home-based, power installations such as solar.

Now we live in Boone, which is home to Appalachian State University.  Here at ASU, the alt-tech professors and students have put together a noteworthy Sustainability curriculum, with appropriate technology workshops and experimental projects that I occasionally hear about. I haven’t been keeping up with it, but I do know there’s a lot going on out there pertaining of improvements of solar collectors and storage cells.

And that is good. I say more power to them. I hope they can make a big  earth-friendly dent in the massive oil-based infrastructure that has for so long held us all in hydrocarbon bondage.

Solar1

Over the years,  I have occasionally pondered the plight of solar pioneers who have stayed with it, and I formed a little scenario in my mind that posits what needs to happen for solar to really get a significant foothold in our American infrastructure, by way of John Doe’s household and Jane Smith’s homestead.

My scenario starts with a fantasy: a widespread societal/economic attitude shift that inspires homeowners to install solar-panels on a massive scale—millions of homeowners thinking (believing) they can actually save money on their electrical bills by gathering energy from the sun on their very own rooftops. Makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

And the scenario works something like this:

Joe Blow has a few extra hundred bucks in his paycheck this week, so on Saturday he decides to go to the local Lowe’s or Costco or Sam’sClub and pickup another collector or two. He hauls them to the house and mounts them on the roof with a hardware system that has been patently engineered for simplicity of design and installation. The electrical connections below—hooking up to the panel and thereby the household electrical system—have previously been done by his electrician friends Wayne and Bryan.

Solarj

Then, after the connections and installation of the new panels have been accomplished in a half-day or so, he settles into an evening of relaxation with the surety that next month’s electric bill will be lower a a result of his incremental investments up on the roof. As time goes by, Joe uses a few extra bucks here and there to consistently repeat these simple periodic installations and thereby save $ by lowering his household’s power consumption.

Now what would it take for such a scenario to be reality instead of my tech-fantasy?

Starting with a look  back into history, back in the day, over a hundred years ago . . .

Henry Ford figured out how to actuate a new idea called mass production. Within a few decades, a Ford “in every garage” began to be a reality in American development and life. Every Joe Blow now understands that the reason this could happen was because Ford’s mass production assembly line enabled the company (and ultimately the wider automotive industry) to get the unit cost down to an affordable number that Joe and Jane Sixpack could actually spend to purchase a a car or truck for their family.

Now this is what we need for the solar industry in America–mass production and mass-market.

Who will take up the mantle? Who will heave the solartech excalibur out the stone of oil-dominance?

Tesla? GE? Some as-yet-unknown Startup in Phoenix, Detroit, Boone or Montgomery?

That remains to be seen, when and if it ever happens.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .in a brand new 2018. . .

Now suddenly appears an Omen that  perhaps the previously-thought-to-be-conspiracy Industrial Establishment has finally gotten a hold of the Solar vision! The next new expansion manufacturing industry!

What omen is that? The President announces a 30% tariff on foreign-manufactured solar collectors (and washing machines.)

Does this protectionism portend a willingness of American Industry to, at last, leap into solar production because they can now, with a little gov. help, compete with the Chinese and South Korea?

Or, more cynically, does it indicate the continuing Establishment denial of Solar development on a large scale for the sake of continuing oil hegemony?

We shall see in the days ahead what the effects of this tariff will be on our still-nascent Solar industry in America.

SolarStLuke

  Glass half-Full

The Tweaking of the Technos

September 2, 2017

‘T’was about two hundred year ago that the world tilted toward changing at an exponential pace.

The advent of the steam engine had a lot to do with this. Imagine, for instance, what native American tribes, living primitively, must have thought about the first locomotive when they saw a big huffn’puff thing speeding toward them along the steel track.

It was a terrible sight to behold– belching steam and screaming along across the landscape like it owned the place.

Locomotv

And in terms of world history, that wasn’t so very long ago. We humans have definitely picked up the pace of our progress.

We’ve come a long way since those groundbreaking days of the steam locomotives. Back in those early techno times our big deal was extraction. By means of steam-powered locomotion we extracted vast amounts of resources from vast landscapes for a vastly long time and then we transported those extracted elements vast distances, to industrializing cities where they were converted into vast products that were sold and distributed to vast markets of people whose consuming habits were fastly becoming vast.

All this vastness was enabled because our new powering technologies made everything happen on vastly larger scales, and in vastly faster timetables.

Eventually, the trains went the way of the buffalo when our cars and trucks began to roll off mass-production assembly lines and then all across the globe. Before you knew it, everybody and their brother were driving around via internal combustion vehicles of one type or another, spewing carbon emissions and additives and whatnot all around the globe.

Because so many people had jumped onto the industrio-techno bandwagon we found ourselves with vast labor markets which consisted of vast numbers of people cranking out all these vast inventories of consumer goods and services.

That whole industrial revolution thing wrought the humanic world into being a carbon-belching machine. After a century or two it has become an emissions-emitting perpetual motion device. But nowadays our whole vastly spinning automaton of techno progress is being re-evaluated. For the sake of equality-based prosperity, those vast labor markets are being tweaked by office-loads of technocrats who want to do what is best for mankind. But in a world of expending (used to be expanding) resources, it becomes more and more problematical to keep everybody busy in production.

By ‘n by, for management purposes more and more folks have become involved in producing information, so we can be smart about stuff. Information  used to be stored in libraries, but now is stored in digitized files. Our terminology has morphed. As we used to shovel dirt and ore and coal and whatnot we now move vast loads of information. For simplicity sake we now call it info. Furthermore, as our  exponential changes are happening at a vastly stepped-up pace we have  spun into calling it “data.”

We notice that, while the world economy used to run on vast extractions of elements, it now runs on vast iterations of data. And if you believe that, I’ve got some swampland in Houston I’ll sell ya.

But I digress.

In our 21st-century techno-world we have generated vast hordes of data-analyzers, experts, number-crunchers and technocrats, whose mission is to  keep everything cruising along on an even keel.

Their informed consensus is that we need  a steady state, which eventually morphs into a steady State. Old style capitalism is dead, y’all.

The most potent example of this trend is the Fed.

A century ago, we had banks that were fervently financing the great industrial expansion. Now all the banks have become mere bit-players; the real mover and shaker is the Federal Reserve, the financier of last resort, as they are moving vast file-loads of reserve fiat currencies around the world the way JP and John D used to move their earth-shaking  investments.

Now the Fed keeps it all humming along on an even keel, not too fast not too slow. No more boom or bust, no more depressions, but rather one long macro-recession/expansion whereby we perpetually power the world economy at a predictably stable theoretical 2% expansion rate so as to assure that the main characters have assets to pass around  like peace pipes and, along with that, generally everybody has a job to do so we  don’t have too many folks fall into non-productive dependency on the system.

Good luck with that, y’all.

Therefore,  let us henceforth have everybody producing something, but not anything that will aggravate the emissions hockey-stick curve. Let’s keep the proles fat n’ happy—or, excuse me—fit n’ happy, if possible without deepening the carbon footprint, lest we fall into deep sh_t.

A good way to do that is convert everybody to being producers of data instead of them being producers of carbon-spewing autos and such.

In olden days we had vast factories where workers cranked out trains and trucks and autos and washing machines and TVs and then microwaves and computers and now data and data and data and more data.

So now the world runs on data, don’t you know. And if you believe that I’ve got some swamp land in Houston I’ll sell you.

But I digress.

How ‘bout I give you an example of what it means to be living in a blahblah new world where our collective assets are studiously maintained by  tweaking  technocrats.

Check out this data from an analysis of labor/welfare incentives in Europe, posted  last week by Daniel Seikel.

https://www.socialeurope.eu/activation-work-poverty  

“If it were true that employment is the best route out of poverty, including in-work poverty, then, logically, the share of working poor should at least not increase if there is significant employment growth. The combination of employment growth and increasing in-work poverty suggests that activation policies might shift poor jobless persons/households to poor working persons/households. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse the effects of different labour market policies on in-work poverty. In particular, what impact do the different elements of activation policy – conditionality, re-commodification and active labour market policies – have?

In theory, two effects are possible. First, active labour market policies can improve the qualification of job-seekers and enable them to get better paid jobs. This can lift formerly poor households above the poverty threshold (disposable household income below 60 percent of national median income). Second, the demanding elements of activation – strict conditionality and a high degree of re-commodification – can force unemployed individuals to accept job-offers even if the pay-levels are low. In this case, the income of the successfully activated might be too low to lift the household above the poverty threshold – poor unemployed would become working-poor.

That’s true, Daniel, I suppose. I’ll take your word for it. But whatever happens, however all this turns out, I can see we’ve come a long way from

Locomotv

to

TweakTek

In the olden days, the command was:

Move that barge; tote that bale!

The new program is:

Tote that phone; send that file!

This is progress, and this is what progressives have called for. It’s no wonder the outcome is Twitter, in which all the complexity of former times is dumbed down to 140 bits or pieces per event.

Good luck with that, y’all!

Glass Chimera 

What’s a Republican to do?

March 26, 2017

Lincoln

Donald Trump thought he could use the Republican party to enforce his bully twitter program.

However, if Republicans will work smartly, holding steadfastly to the classic values of individual liberty and collective strength, we can turn this situation around.

The Republican party can use Trump, instead of (the other way around) him using us.

This regimen makes more sense for retaining America’s greatness than letting one strong man steal the show just for the sake of gaining advantage over the other party (the party of whines and poses).

As for ole Mitch, he just needs to, at this point in time, do whatever is necessary to facilitate the Gorsuch appointment.

Lastly,  here’s a word of encouragement for our Speaker, Mr. Ryan: keep up the good work. We can see you have a burden for governing the entire nation of USA, not just the conservative part of it. This is what a true statesman will always do, instead of allowing politics to perpetually trump governance.

In other exhortations: Centrists unite! Save America from the extremists who strive to dominate us from both sides.

Glass half-Full