Archived entries for economics

That’s Newtons formula for acceleration, the converse of his formula for force, F=ma.

The variables are a for acceleration, F for the force applied to the object, and m for the mass of that object.

Of course, there are a lot more equations that can explain acceleration in more detail, and account for its varied forms (dynamic, constant, centripetal, etc), but this is the one I’m going to use for today’s random thought.

The speed of events in the world is increasing. That’s an irrefutable facts. Things are happening faster, everything, anything, what ever you can think of, it happens faster than it did a century ago, a half-century ago, a decade ago, maybe even a year ago. This is the acceleration of modern life.

We’ll refer to it as aml.

That leaves two parts to the equation, the force and the mass.

The force, is, at the root, the advancement of our knowledge. Both in the breadth of what we know, and the depth of what we know about what we know. The rule of thumb for knowledge is that what we know is doubling every ten years. So, linear growth. That’s not to say that we’re going to make twice as many brilliant discoveries as we did in the last last decade, because a lot of what we’re learning is pointless mundane shit. We’re learning tons about how people interact with digital devices right now, but that’s not going to solve the world’s problems or give us limitless clean energy. It will just make the next generation of iPhone more attractive than last year’s model. But, there are some real advancements, and they compound on existing knowledge.

Discovering lighter alloy metals makes airplanes faster and more fuel efficient, so they can travel farther for less money. Discovering new ways to increase the density of batteries increases the usefulness of everything from electric vehicles to laptop computers to vibrators. And I don’t even know where to begin with the Internet. Things are moving so much faster every year that it is only a matter of time before the entire industrialized world is blanketed under a sheet of high-speed wifi. Right now, from my $99 iPhone, I can download an app that lets me call Korea, for FREE, over the Internet. For less than the price of a nice pair of sneakers, I can talk to some one literally on the other side of the planet.

We’ll call our force the force of knowledge.

Fk

That leaves mass.

The average weight of a human being is around 160lbs. That’s taking both men and women into account. All of the force of knowledge built up by the summation of human existence, and it only has to move less than 200lbs.

I’m not meaning that as a piss answer, either. The reason that Gutenberg printing press was such a big deal was because it enabled more people to have copies of a book, in most cases a Bible. Give a missionary a Gutenberg Bible, a direction and send him off to spread the Word. He’s dead? Eaten by cannibalistic Slavs? Oh well! Print another Bible and get another acolyte!

It only takes one person with an idea to tell another person about that idea. From there, you’ve got the magnifying effect of word of mouth. Bloggers are the modern day Gutenberg presses. They are the individual advocates of ideas that spread them to the masses, who in turn spread word about that blog. Professional news sources are turning more and more to individual bloggers for editorial and news content. Just like a missionary wandering into a town, a single blogger, at the right moment in time, with the right thing to say, can change the world for everyone.

So, for our mass, let’s go with the mass of a human.

mh

Making our final formula aml=Fk/mh

The acceleration of modern life is equal to the force of knowledge divided by the mass of a human.

And the point and impetus to all of this?

The Massachusetts senatorial election last night. Where a Republican swept the Democrats out of a seat that had been under their control since World War II. There is potential for this to be the harbinger of a Democratic slaughter come the 2010 midterm elections. I’m not going to go down the political rabbit hole right now, but I do wonder what is going to happen as the political pendulum speeds up. Just this time last year we were all screaming our undying love for Obama (ok, those of us not decrying him as a demon Muslim socialist), and now we’re already predicting his ideology’s imminent doom. If changes in the political wind can happen this fast now, what happens as they get faster and faster? What if the country can go from Red to Blue to Red in a single week? Or day? Or hour?

Think about this economically, too. The economic collapse of the last three years is more or less over, and we’re digging out from under it right now. Three years it lasted, on the outside. The Great Depression? Oh, about a decade. It might have lasted even longer if the war hadn’t happened. This is entirely due to the speed at which financial transactions can happen now. No more waiting for wires from across the Atlantic. You can have real-time satellite connections to any bank in the world from any place in the world. Give me a satellite phone on the top of Mount Everest and I can apply for a Visa card. There’s an entire business model that revolves around banks of supercomputers making billions of stock transactions a day, buying and selling on marginal increases and decreases in the value of the stock, slowly but surely inflating the market with machine trading instead of human trading. Which is only possible because of the speed at which information moves these days.

What makes me wonder what’s going to happen as things keep speeding up, but our biology doesn’t. Eventually things happening so fast are going to have a detrimental affect on us. We’ll be overloaded with information and be completely unable to function because we’re drowning in data. You can’t decide if the choice keeps changing, you know?

Just something to muse about. The math of change. The formula for progression.

aml=Fk/mh

Accelerate.

Deep Discount on Space Shuttles

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Here is a recession bargain: the space shuttle. NASA has slashed the price of the 1970s-era spaceships to $28.8 million apiece from $42 million.

The shuttles are for sale once their flying days are over, which is scheduled to be this fall.

When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in December 2008 put out the call seeking buyers at museums, schools and elsewhere, the agency received about 20 inquiries. An agency spokesman, Mike Curie, said he expected more interest, especially with the discount.

“We’re confident that we’ll get other takers,” Mr. Curie said Friday.

The Discovery is already promised to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The Atlantis and the Endeavour are up for grabs. It is possible that the Enterprise, a shuttle prototype that never made it to space, will also be available. The Enterprise is currently at the Smithsonian.

Mr. Curie said no decisions would be made before summer.

The lower price is based on NASA’s estimate of the cost for transporting a shuttle from Kennedy Space Center to a major airport, and for displaying it indoors in a climate-controlled building. The travel cost may vary based on location. NASA has moved up the delivery date to the latter half of 2011, instead of 2012.

Potential customers have until Feb. 19 to put in a request.

As for the space shuttle main engines, those are now free. NASA advertised them in December 2008 for $400,000 to $800,000 each, but no one expressed interest. So now the engines are available, along with other shuttle artifacts, for the cost of transportation and handling.

Assembly will be required, however.

By The AP via NYT.

If there was a $100 million Powerball jackpot on for tonight, and I won it, this would be the first thing I bought.

Anyone want to trade me an even $30m (have to cover shipping) for one slightly used soul? Cash on delivery!

Put this up on the new RebuildGovernment.org site a few minutes ago. Rough idea for targeted tax shelters to encourage growth in rough areas.

I just came out of a dry-run presentation by one of the commission educators, and there wasn’t enough room on the form for a full break down of my suggestion.

From what I learned today, there are at least two tax districts required by law when a metro government is established. But two is the minimum, there could be hundreds of tax districts if the city saw fit. Which if there were, would present the metro government with a very interesting chance to develop blighted neighborhoods without just dumping money on them.

Allow me to explain.

Say the metro area was divided into a hundred or so tax districts. Each of these districts start out at a base line of tax. However, after studying data for a period of time, the metro government decided that there were areas that could use an economic kick-start. These would be areas affected by blight, crime, or some other combination of detrimental forces. The goal of the kick-start would be to drive people to this area both for residential and commericial purposes.

The kick-start could be delivered in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples:

-Passively. As the taxes for the metro area as a whole go up, kick-start areas are excempt from the taxes for a certain period of time or until an economic threshold is reached. People who can prove residency in these areas will pay less than those in other areas, making this a more attractive place to live and do business.

-Actively. Taxes are dropped for areas targeted for a kick-start, and partially raised for the wealthiest areas to balance the books. This will make the targeted areas more attractive to people that might be looking to locate to a new area.

The community could get directly involved with the proccess, as well. Neighborhoods could petition to be granted kick-start status. Home owners and business owners could work together to ensure an improved future for themselves specifically, and by doing so, improve the rest of the city over all.

I’m sure there are other iterations and shapes this idea could take, but it would be a way to both improve the city, and avoid the oncoming fight between the city and the county over old tax issues by fragmenting the metro area into something more than an us versus them.

Thoughts?

Iceland is in the shitter, big time. The country is on a $2.1 billion dollar economic life support loan from the IMF after the three largest banks in Iceland racked up debt work approximately ten times the size of the country’s yearly economy.

Side-note: For a while the Land Rover was the most popular car in Iceland. Nearly all of them being bought on insane loans that should never have been given out in the first fucking place. During the economic collapse, people took to setting them on fire in hopes of recouping some kind of insurance money to put toward the debt. It was said you could hear a few of them blowing up every night in Reykjavík

Side-side-note: This may be shit for the companies involved, but it is great for their air quality, which was among the worst in the world.

And what happens when everyone is broke? Businesses suffer, sometimes even the most unlikely ones.

McDonald’s Closes in Iceland After Krona Collapse

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) — Iceland’s McDonald’s Corp. restaurants will be closed at the end of the month after the collapse of the krona eroded profits at the fast-food chain, McDonald’s franchise holder Lyst ehf said.

McDonald’s in Iceland, which imports most of the ingredients it uses in its meals, will shut after costs doubled over the past year, Lyst said in an e-mailed statement today. The franchise holder said it doesn’t expect the situation to change in the short term.

“We would have to raise our prices by 20 percent to get the margin needed on our products,” Magnus Ogmundsson, Lyst chief executive officer, said in a phone interview. “That would have sent a Big Mac to 780 kronur” ($6.36), compared with the 650 kronur it costs today, he said.

I view McDonald’s like I view Walmarts and Starbucks. There are so many of them that they can open up right across the street from each other and still maintain a profit because there are just so damn many of them. The strong locations support the weak locations. But, I guess having to import all of your frozen, hormone-injected beef and mechanically separated chicken nuggets to a half-frozen/half-boiling island country on the edge of the Acrtic can get a little costly.

Cold irony of this? I’m willing to bet even if they went to the 6.36 for a Big Mac, the Icelanders would still be playing less than a jackhole who’s forced to eat at one of those hellish fast-food pitstops on the New Jersey Turnpike. Those fuckers are committing highway robbery every day, and they do it with meth-whitened smile.

I saw Paranormal Activity on Friday at a midnight showing as part of Indie Memphis. I’m not going to talk about what I thought of the movie. I am, however, going to talk about the (probably unintentional, and thus, hilarious) subtext that the movie has about Capitalism.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

You have been warned.

Spoilers start….NOW.

So, the movie is about a guy and a girl. Kind of like a normal date movie, except the girl is being possessed by a demon and the guy is a douche-y day trader. Douche-y guy eggs the demon on, and ultimately gets killed for it. But, what’s interesting to me is what you can read into this. The creators of the movie didn’t have to make him a day trader, there could have been some other kind of independently wealthy work-at-home job for him. But, they did it because as a world just coming out of an economic collapse, we’ll find it very, very easy to not like a guy who we can imprint all of our economic angst upon.

And the girl? She’s a perfect counter-point to this. She’s a student, who wants nothing more to better herself and be left alone to work on her beadwork. She is the everyman who suffers at the oppressive, egotistical, greedy hand of the Capitalist day-trading douche of a boyfriend.  She suffers just like we all have. Which makes the finally of the movie, when she kills him, that much more satisfying.

Of course, this is all just a happy accident. Well, except for the guy being a douche, that was needed in the story. But, it is happy accident that makes Paranormal Activity into something else that it probably never meant to be – a topical comedy.

This weekend I planned on making feijoada for our regular potluck. Feijoada (pronounced like drunk would say “fish water”) is a Brazilian peasant dish made up of all the left over bits from a pig stuck into a pot of black beans and spices, then boiled for half a day. It comes out looking like black pitch tar with unidentifiable bits of meat floating in it. I love it. But, one of the key ingredients of feijoada is salted meat – both beef and pork. The cured meat is soaked in water and used as a base for the rest of the soup, and it isn’t the most common of ingredients. People have shifted toward pre-fab food, and it is becoming increasingly hard to find the building block ingredients for dishes like this. But, that’s another matter entirely.

My quest for salted meat sent me back and forth across the city. Out east to the suburbs, down south into the poor Latin neighborhoods, up north into the burned out ghettos, all the while looking for a bit of what I was jokingly referring to as “super bacon”. While bouncing around, I started to notice a trend: Hispanic grocery stores were closing. Ones that I’d known for years were gone, others that were supposed to be there weren’t, hell even restaurants that I’d noticed were being boarded over at an alarming rate. Unless you were a shitty Tex-Mex place that foists watered down margaritas on milk-eyed house wives or a culinary keystone like La Guadalapana or Las Tortugas, your prognosis wasn’t good.

By the time I’d formulated the question of why, I’d already had my answer. The economy’s gone to shit, baseline construction and manual labor jobs have vanished as credit lines snapped and building contracts frozen. With no way to pay for themselves, large numbers of Hispanics have gone home, both legals and illegals. They’ve taken with them the support structure for the service business they patronized. Grocery stores, restaurants, and the like have found themselves without a clientele. Which means that I’ve found myself without access to some of my favorite food.

This got me thinking beyond the financial cost of the recession, to the cultural cost of it. America is browning like a perfectly marbled slab of beef in frying pan. Give it a little bit more time, and it’ll be brown all the way through. Hispanics are taking over the nation, by mid-century, they’ll be the majority. Which I’m fine with. More than fine with. I love the food, the culture and the people. I can’t wait for the days when burger joints are replaced by tortas stands. But, because of the economic collapse, looks like I’ll be waiting a bit longer.

It just gives me another reason to look forward to things going back to normal.

(PS: I found the salt pork at the Kroger in Poplar Plaza, never did find any salt beer, though.)

Stolen from Slate.com. Watch what the number at the top does.

After 22 years, GM is ending their support of documentary film maker Ken Burns.

From the article:

GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato calls Burns “the gold standard of documentary filmmaking,” but says the financial crisis “has forced GM to rein in such spending.” A figure for GM’s aid to Burns isn’t known.

But you know what they will be spending their bailout money on? A 1 billion dollar investment in Brazil.

From The New York Times:

Now, like many of the foreign workers who make up 90 percent of the population here, she has been laid off and faces the prospect of being forced to leave this Persian Gulf city — or worse.

“I’m really scared of what could happen, because I bought property here,” said Sofia, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is still hunting for a new job. “If I can’t pay it off, I was told I could end up in debtors’ prison.”

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

…..

No one knows how bad things have become, though it is clear that tens of thousands have left, real estate prices have crashed and scores of Dubai’s major construction projects have been suspended or canceled. But with the government unwilling to provide data, rumors are bound to flourish, damaging confidence and further undermining the economy.

Instead of moving toward greater transparency, the emirates seem to be moving in the other direction. A new draft media law would make it a crime to damage the country’s reputation or economy, punishable by fines of up to 1 million dirhams (about $272,000). Some say it is already having a chilling effect on reporting about the crisis.

Last month, local newspapers reported that Dubai was canceling 1,500 work visas every day, citing unnamed government officials. Asked about the number, Humaid bin Dimas, a spokesman for Dubai’s Labor Ministry, said he would not confirm or deny it and refused to comment further. Some say the true figure is much higher.

…..

But Dubai, unlike Abu Dhabi or nearby Qatar and Saudi Arabia, does not have its own oil, and had built its reputation on real estate, finance and tourism. Now, many expatriates here talk about Dubai as though it were a con game all along. Lurid rumors spread quickly: the Palm Jumeira, an artificial island that is one of this city’s trademark developments, is said to be sinking, and when you turn the faucets in the hotels built atop it, only cockroaches come out.

Beyond the white collar jobs, Dubai also employs an unknown, but huge, number of illegal day laborers from Indonesia. Think of them as the Dubai version of Mexican immigrant workers. They help keep the construction boom going by providing cheap labor, but still make more than they would doing the same work back home. The problem is that with their work drying up, and them not having the money to go home, they are left to rot on the streets of Dubai. If things keep up Dubai will either end up with a starving illegal workforce, or with those people in prison.

14latvia-600

From the NYTimes:

MOSCOW — Violent protests over political grievances and mounting economic woes shook the Latvian capital, Riga, late Tuesday, leaving around 25 people injured and leading to 106 arrests.

In the wake of the demonstrations, President Valdis Zatlers threatened Wednesday to call for a referendum that would allow voters to dissolve Parliament, saying trust in the government, including in its ability to deal with growing economic problems, had “collapsed catastrophically.”

For years, Latvia boasted of double-digit economic growth rates, but it has been shaken by the global economic downturn. Its central bank has spent a fifth of its reserves to guard against a steep devaluation of its currency, the lat, and experts expect a 5 percent contraction of the country’s gross domestic product in 2009. Salaries are expected to fall substantially, and unemployment to rise.

The violence followed days of clashes in Greece last month, over a number of issues including economic stagnation and rising poverty as well as widespread corruption and a troubled education system. In Bulgaria on Wednesday, separate riots broke out in the capital, Sofia, after more than 2,000 people — including students, farmers and environmental activists — demonstrated in front of Parliament over economic conditions, Reuters reported. Mr. Zatlers has long been aligned with the governing coalition, so his threat to dissolve Parliament came as a surprise — and was testament to nervousness about how economic troubles in the region could intersect with simmering political grievances.

The long and short, while the rioting is indicitive of an economic problem, the rioting that is starting to spark off across Europe is actually indicactive of potentially much more severe social upheaval.

Have some crazy economic theory you want to test? Head to Europe, they’re poised to burn down all walls and rebuild the city.

From the Telegraph -

US porn industry seeks multi-billion dollar bailout

The Hustler magazine founder has teamed up with fellow adult entertainment mogul Joe Francis, creator of the Girls Gone Wild video series, to approach Congress for the same kind of financial assistance recently approved for car manufacturers.

The pair have asked the 111th Congress, which convened on Tuesday with the economy at the top of its agenda, “to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America” with a bailout.

“Congress seems willing to help shore up our nation’s most important businesses, (and) we feel we deserve the same consideration,” Francis said in a statement.

“In difficult economic times, Americans turn to entertainment for relief. More and more, the kind of entertainment they turn to is adult entertainment.”

“The take here is that everyone and their mother want to be bailed out from the banks to the big three,” Owen Moogan, a spokesman for Flynt, told CNN.

“The porn industry has been hurt by the downturn like everyone else and they are going to ask for the $5 billion. Is it the most serious thing in the world? Is it going to make the lives of Americans better if it happens? It is not for them to determine.”

In an interview with entertainment news website TMZ, Francis admitted the move was more of a “precautionary measure” than an emergency rescue, “but as long as the government is handing out money, we want to be there to take it.”

Yes, that is what you think that is.

From CBN:

In January of this year, Cindy Jacobs was in a worship service when the Lord spoke to her, “Cindy, the strongman over America doesn’t live in Washington, DC – the strongman lives in New York City! Call My people to pray for the economy.”

This word so shook Cindy; she knew she had to call the people of God to converge on New York City the week of October 29 for an emergency prayer rally to cry out against economic collapse in the midst of shaking.

—–

Many people are fasting and praying for the upcoming elections, Cindy says. We don’t want to let up in this final press, we need to P.U.S.H. (pray until something happens) to avert financial judgment. On September 29 last month, the US stock market went down 777 points in one day. Cindy says it was no coincidence that this happened on the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

“This is so severe in the economic area because we are facing judgment from the actions, not only for our stance towards Israel, but our blatant sin against Him in passing laws such as the one allowing homosexual marriages,” Cindy said.

—–

For these and other reasons Cindy is calling for a Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. They are calling for prayer for the stock markets, banks, and financial institutions of the world on the date the stock market crashed in 1929. They are meeting at the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, and its 12 principal branches around the US that day.

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.  “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”

From CNN, last Friday:

Fannie Mae said it will set aside the loan of a woman who shot herself as sheriff’s deputies tried to evict her from her foreclosed home.

Addie Polk, 90, of Akron, Ohio, became a symbol of the nation’s home mortgage crisis when she was hospitalized after shooting herself at least twice in the upper body Wednesday afternoon.

On Friday, Fannie Mae spokesman Brian Faith said the mortgage association had decided to halt action against Polk and sign the property “outright” to her.

…..

Neighbor Robert Dillon, 62, used a ladder to enter a second-story bathroom window of Polk’s home after he and the deputies heard loud noises inside, Dillon said.
Don’t Miss

“I was calling her name as I went in, and she wasn’t responding,” he said.

He found her lying on a bed, and he could see she was breathing. He also noticed a long-barreled handgun on the bed, but thought she just had it there for protection. He touched her on the shoulder.

“Then she kind of moved toward me a little and I saw that blood, and I said, ‘Oh, no. Miss Polk musta done shot herself,’ ” Dillon said.

He hurried downstairs and let the deputies in. He said they told him they found Polk’s car keys, pocketbook and life insurance policy laid out neatly where they could be found, suggesting that she intended to kill herself.

…..

“I’m glad it’s not too late for Miss Polk, because she could have taken her life,” Sommerville said. “Miss Polk will probably end up on her feet. But I’m not sure if anybody else will.”

In many ways, I am a pragmatist when it comes to capitalism. I realize that the system works, but in order for the system to work properly, you must have no empathy or sympathy for those around you. You can’t care if your actions destroy some one else’s life. After all, there are limited resources and limitless competition for those resources. Some people aren’t going to win, and you have to accept that.

But, in many other ways I am a humanist who believes that everyone deserves an equal chance, and that a helping hand, offered at the right moment, can make all the difference in the world. I believe that suffering can and should be alleviated for people that are willing to work to better themselves. Pretty much I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the government responsibility to help their citizens achieve those goals.

The pragmatic capitalist in me realizes that the best thing that could happen to the market is all of this money, this “bad debt”, just disappears. The natural forces of capitalism remove all of the false inflation and a huge chunk of perceived wealth disappears. Sure, thousands, if not millions, of people well be ruined beyond repair. Most of them will be homeless, a lot of them will starve. An entire generation of people will be lost. But the system will survive and life will go on.

The humanist in me isn’t about to let this happen. For all the hate and bile I spew from my little corner of this glowing web of lights, I do not wish to see anyone suffer who does not inherently deserve it. Sadly, the best solution we have is to break capitalism. Introduce morality, ethics and feeling into it. Dilute it and mix in safety blankets and government bailouts, the thing still looks the same from the outside, but it doesn’t work the same way on the inside anymore.

Capitalism by itself is sustainable as long as there are resources for it to package and sell, but this new thing we’ve made is different. It is like a high school football player who gets stuck at a desk job in his twenties. By the age of thirty, he’s fifty pounds over weight. By forty, he’s a hundred and twenty. By fifty five, he’s dead of a massive heart attack. He kept consuming like he used to when he was a football star, never thinking that the fat would need to be cut away to keep him healthy. He just kept going until his years of lean muscle and athleticism couldn’t hold back the laziness and gluttony.

In my mind, we’re not far from that massive heart attack. We’re rapidly approaching the point at which the debt owed, and the interest due on that debt will outstrip the revenues of the world. We’re entering a point where you could never hope to do anything but accrue more debt. And at that point, everything will collapse.

From RottenTomatoes.com:

This
Week
Last
Week
Title Weeks
Released
Weekend
Gross
Total
Gross
Theater
Average
# Of
Theaters
T-Meter
1 new Beverly Hills Chihuahua 1 $29M $29M $9k 3215 44%

The whole country is collapsing into a pile of its own fiscal shit, and you fuckers spent TWENTY NINE MILLION FUCKING DOLLARS to go see Beverly Hills Chihuahua? Are you fucking kidding me? You all deserve to starve to death and have your faces gnawed off by your house pets.



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