Monday, January 31, 2011

Why the Surprise?

Where children are an economic liability:

i. The rate of replenishment is low.
ii. Culture declines.
iii. One society is replaced by another.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Numbers

Numbers will bury everyone.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lateral

The lateral path may take longer, but is often easier than the vertical solution to a problem.

Fire

Starting a fire does not always require a match.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Education

  1. Education does not teach creativity; it teaches conformity.
  2. Education does not teach one how to think; it teaches absorption.
  3. Education does not teach independence; it teaches obedience to authority.
  4. Education does not teach one to be awake; you have to learn that for yourself.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beyond

Fiction is beyond morality.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's the Oil, Stupid!

(Post #1000) by an Un-Civil Engineer:

Forget gold, oil is the driver of the U.S. economy.  The entire economic system is based on cheap oil.  In my other life (i.e. the one I take seriously because it pays my bills), I work as an (un-)civil engineer.  After 10 years, I am proficient in many aspects of the profession.  I am probably most successful as a cost estimator.  My specialties are heavy civil and structural construction cost engineer's estimates, and materials costs in general. As a consequence, it is necessary that I closely follow Construction Economics.  I also write about it.  Today, for reasons that will become obvious, I will do so here.

As a huge employment sector in the U.S., the construction industry has been particularly hard hit by the "Depression" in the construction market.  The residential and commercial real estate markets are in the toilet.  Heavy civil is limping along.

Construction workers have an official unemployment rate more than double that of the country as a whole.  As many workers in this sector were either self-employed or working under the table, in addition to the numbers being skewed by statistical manipulations (such as not counting those whose unemployment benefits have expired as no longer "unemployed), the number is surely far higher.

The competition for work is brutal.  Many construction firms are not currently bidding to make a profit, but merely to stay in business.  This weak economic climate is a period where it is definitely advantageous to be in an "owner" role, as bids are falling to 2003 or earlier levels.  This situation has only been made possible due to the low cost of oil and other commodities brought about by demand destruction in late 2008.  A combination of low bids and suddenly rising commodities prices will stall many construction projects and/or force firms to "eat" the difference.   (Contracts that contain materials escalation clauses can help to mitigate this problem and can even work as a two-way street: if prices fall the owner keeps the difference.) Weaker firms will eventually fail, thus raising unemployment in the sector even higher.  The  result will be a few large firms standing, and costs will again rise due to lower levels of competition.  The big boys will dominate the market.

Although the escalating cost of oil dominates the headlines, other construction related commodities, such as steel, have risen rapidly in the last three months.  Is this due to higher demand in the US?  The AGC says no.  Although there is increased demand from some foreign markers, it appears that speculators are moving back into commodities from the bond markets.  However, the cost of oil plays a factor.  If energy is more expensive, then production, fabrication and shipping costs rise as well.

Oil is rising for several reasons beyond speculation.  Many countries realize that it is a finite resource (at least as far as easily accessible oil is concerned), and are reacting accordingly.  However, this does not explain the huge jump in the last 3 months.  I (and many others) believe this is driven by the so-called QE2 instigated the Federal Reserve at about that time.  QE2 is an attempt to stimulate the economy by lowering the dollar in an attempt to increase US exports.  (Some might ask, "What exports?!?")  As commodities are priced in dollars, any move to weaken the dollar will inevitably raise costs.   Hence, QE2 will only serve to batter the construction industry even harder.  At least the stimulus, for all its glaring flaws, kept it from sinking entirely.  And, of course, the rising cost of oil will sink others as well.  The incompetence of the likes of Bernanke is amazing...  (If I was as wrong as he is, I would be out of a job.)

So what's so controversial about what I wrote above?  In my view, absolutely nothing, but I have found it almost impossible to get anyone involved in setting policy to listen.  They don't want to hear that the Federal Reserve is undermining a large US industry.  Even as the data tells them otherwise, they would rather smoke the dope of some imaginary recovery.  I once even started a serious blog (under my real name), which included alternative sources beyond the MSM of economic analysis, but gave it up.  At first interest was high, but once it became obvious that I did not tow the line of "recovery," I lost most of my readers.  (Yet none of my posts were beyond the above in tone.)  I quit soon thereafter.

Hence, it is better to have fun with art (even if nobody cares) than scream at a wall (where nobody cares), and I will certainly "keep on keepin' on" here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy MLK Day

From One Big Birmingham Jail:
Today we need nothing less than to build a whole new way of life. Alternative to the corporate- dominated system, counter to it where possible, in resistance to it where necessary. This is a permanent necessity, whose goal is the eventual complete replacement of this world of crime and malice by a world of democracy and universal prosperity. I have no doubt that if MLK were here today he’d see the need for this movement. Before his death he was already seeing the need to expand the civil rights movement to encompass labor issues in general and the war. I doubt it’s a coincidence that after all those years of death threats, they actually killed him only when he wanted to make the movement more comprehensive, more of a fundamental criticism of the basic structures themselves
See Also.  Well stated. As shown again and again, the Left's best instincts have often been blunted by liberal "reformers." Talk is not action.

I also came across the blindspot (updated).  It basically asks why there are no real classical Leftists in the world of blogs.  The answer is that there are, but just not in the US.  Note how, despite English being commonly read throughout the world, very few comments on US based political blogs are posted by those identifying themselves as not being US citizens.  The US is a powerful country, yet its political blogs don't merit attention.  Why?  There are several reasons.  In the US, the populace generally does not understand the classical meaning of Right and Left.  It is portrayed to be primarily cultural.  Historically, in Europe, the distinctions, except regarding religion, were never about culture issues.  The fundamental question were regarding wealth/property, its form and whom should own it.  Both the Right and Left had authoritarian (statist) and anti-authoritarian (libertarian) factions.  In part, corporate entities have a vested interest in deflecting these issues elsewhere, but it also is a genuine cultural issue.  The early Leftists did not consider cultural differences to be of much concern.  The concept of the International Proletariat was supposed to transcend tribal identifications, but as WWI proved, it does not.

The early Leftists failed to take into account culture.  The ideology is an imprint of European social realities that are not generally applicable to much of the world.  In the US,  if our personal economic situation needs a change, we have historically picked up and moved elsewhere.  Due to language barriers, Europeans are more closely tied to closer locales.  European Leftist ideology had no such parallel upon which to build.

In addition, many classical Marxists viewed racial issues as some sort of mystification.  Unfortunately, as attested by pogroms and oppression, these things do matter.  (Especially for those on the receiving end!)  As such, there is no place in classical Leftist theories for the Civil Rights Movement, let alone one lead by clergy.   In Europe, religion was often a instrument of state power.  In the US, religion is separate, therefore dissident religious figures can and do emerge.

Before his death, MLK was trying to unite Civil Rights and Labor.  He was trying to so as an American.  His plan was not recycled from Europe.  He was a bigger threat.  He paid for it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Poverty 2

Unless living off the land, poverty forces one to eat what one can find.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Poverty

Poverty is a great liberator from social norms. One simply has something better upon which to focus.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wisdom

Wisdom is knowing which things really don't matter.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Silencing

Silencing is not just about shutting up.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Wholesale rejection

Wholesale rejection is a sign of a weak mind.