Dec 4, 2008

Comments On

I just turned on this blog's comment feature and will see how that goes for a while. It is set such that I get to moderate them for now but that could change.

Another bail-out idea

Unfortunately, I have thought about this one even less than the other. But, what if instead of giving the big three cash to tide them over we treat it as a pre-payment on the design and delivery of massive amounts of mass transit projects?

Theoretically at least, this seems to address the automakers short term economic problem, the putting-people-to-work problem, the general economic stimulus problem and the fuel/global warming problem at the same time. I think that a key part of a fuel/global warming solution would not be hybrid or other cars getting 50 mile per gallon. That only delays the inevitable. Rather, a solution would include mass transit in urban areas that would allow you to go anywhere with the same comfort as, and more convenience than, a car.

Certainly it does not address the fact that the "big 3" need immediate operating capital and the fact that this money will be spent long before any such design could begin.

Nov 22, 2008

Bailout idea

I haven't seen supporting data on this one way or another but I don't see much of downside to this idea.

What if the US instituted a policy that waived the 10% penalty of IRA withdrawal? Currently those funds in IRAs are fulfilling some role in the economy but to the owners of those funds they are not directly stimulating the economy. It seems to me that if people could draw on those funds now it would:
  • help many with urgent needs
  • stimulate production
  • put money into circulation
  • boost tax revenue as those withdrawals would be treated as income
In terms of retirement, a great many people are now experiencing a negative return on their IRA investments anyway, so that purpose is not being fulfilled (at the moment). My thought is that waiving the penalty would be a temporary measure.

Update: Yes - I know that the fund holders who might do this will not be able to participate in the recovery, when it happens. This is an idea for a quick shot in the arm for the economy while helping people access their own money, in time of need, without an additional 10% penalty.

Nov 20, 2008

Peak Everything

Earlier this week we went to a lecture* by Richard Heinberg, the author of Peak Everything.

From what he says you might say that we (civilization) will either have to drastically change soon or we're in big trouble. We are running out of a lot more than oil and water and historically we have just used new sources of energy to increase the pace at which we extract other resources from the earth -- and use even more resources doing it.

So the sudden invention of abundant, cheap and clean energy (say, fusion) would likely increase the pace of other environmental catastrophes. Furthermore, the economics are such that in good times it is not cost effective to develop alternatives and in times like these alternatives may not be able to be developed timely enough for them to help. Another interesting point is that even if there were a sudden shift to an all out effort to develop solar energy, we would run out of essential raw materials (such as gallium) long before photovoltaic sources of energy met our needs.

His point is that the only solution is to replace the growth model of economics with a sustainable steady state model (if maybe even after some scaling back from where we are). That's not something that any population is likely to accept willingly**.

I haven't yet found anything which strongly disagrees with what he says either. Sounds like civilization's response this problem is like the classic case of boiling a frog. Throw him in hot water and he jumps out. But, put him in warm water and slowly increase the heat and he just relaxes...

*Update: The lecture was conducted interview-style and taped presumably for an upcoming episode of Chicago Public Radio's Eight Forty-Eight.

** Update: Professor, author and retired army colonel Andrew J. Bacevich (in spite of being a conservative) said something similar recently during an interview with Charley Rose. The caveat was that -- although true, any president to say this to the public would be voted out of office. He says this was the case with Carter.

Oct 5, 2008

Chicago Handyman

I'm so pleased with the last few repair/remodeling jobs done by this crew, I've added a link to their site in my link area (linkage, on the right).

Anyway, if any of you have had repair and remodeling jobs done you know the typical problems. But now after at least a half a dozen jobs using I'm am pleased that:
  • They always show up at the agreed upon time for an estimate.
  • They always give me a reasonable estimate.
  • They always do the job right.
  • They can handle large jobs.
  • They are willing to take on small jobs.
This is what you would expect but, after years and years of projects, I find that this is a rare thing with contractors.

Sep 25, 2008

Wise Words

Your beliefs become your thoughts.
Your thoughts become your words.
Your words become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your values.
Your values become your destiny.

-- Mahatma Gandhi

Sep 20, 2008

Image uploading test

This image is uploaded to blogger versus the previous test which just linked to an image hosted elsewhere.

Sep 14, 2008

Other Side of the Coin

From --

Fashion Yachts, maker of luxury vessels... is seeing no let up in demand... [says] Fabrizio Politi, the founder and chief executive...

..."in the luxury sector, there's very strong growth in the high end,"

..."the most luxurious, the most costly product in the world ... are going pretty strongly."

...distinguished from their other sleek competitors by the use of unusual materials inside, such as gold leaf and crocodile skin...

Aug 6, 2008

Chase SUCKS!

I just received another of the many Privacy Policy statements I get regularly. This one from Chase (JP Morgan Chase, previously Bank One). The cover letter includes these choice lines:

  • We want you to know what we're doing to protect your privacy.
  • Your privacy is important to us and,
  • protecting your personal information is one of our top priorities.

I decided to thoroughly read the enclosed privacy policy. Here are some highlights.

Information they collect includes:

  • All details we enter on any form for them,
  • Account transactions and balances,
  • for good measure, they get additional information from credit bureaus.

What they do with this information:

  • They share it within their "family of companies"
  • They share it with their "service providers"
  • They share it with companies which have "joint marketing agreements"
  • They share it with "non-financial companies" including auto dealers, auto makers, direct marketers, membership clubs and publishers.

What are my options regarding this sharing:

  • Nothing. Actually, they state that I can fill out some forms but that they might still share my information "as permitted by law" anyway!

Again, from the cover letter they claim that this communication is to tell me:

  • We want you to know what we're doing to protect your privacy.
  • Your privacy is important to us and,
  • protecting your personal information is one of our top priorities

At no point do they mention ANY INFORMATION they they will NOT give out to ANY ORGANIZATION willing to pay them for it.

An Observation

Living here in Chicago my whole life I would say that I have noticed media people, by chance, within a few feet of me at least 15 times. Mostly these are people in the news media and in one case a rather famous talk show host (her name starts with O).

Anyway, in nearly every single case where I noticed one of these people they were already looking directly at me when I first noticed them. For a weird split second I'm starring eye to eye with someone I'm used to seeing on television -- and nobody else is noticing. I tend to think that most other people wouldn't notice me even if I were wearing an ostrich plume hat.

I think this must be a characteristic of journalists (and I'm including one sportscaster). They have their eyes open and are looking at what's going on around them. They are looking at everyone, and my "encounters" occur only when I happen to notice them.

Jul 5, 2008

"Final Solution" for wax figure

Today was opening day of the new branch of Madame Tussauds* wax museum, in Berlin . Leading up to this day there had been a growing controversy over the fact that the museum was to contain a wax figure of Hitler.

It looks like one of the first people through the door already had a solution to the problem in mind. A final solution you might say.

When the museum opened this person went directly to the Hitler statue, pushed the guard out of the way... then ripped the figure's head off it's body.

* It goes against my grain to write it that way but neither their own website or the Wikipedia article use the possessive apostrophe-s here. There was a person named Tussaud so the apostrophe is called for. I cannot find a reason why but I can find many references to the fact that there is no apostrophe.

Jun 20, 2008

Grant Park - It gets better and better

An excellent blog post over here points out the following facts:

Mayor Daley and the City Council recently approved a $277 million increase in property taxes and fees. Meanwhile, taxpayer subsidies for Children’s Museum at Allstate Place include:

  • $51 Million – Value of the 1.75 acres of parkland the museum will control
  • $99 Million – Taxpayer subsidies from the Museums in the Park Fund
  • $36 Million – Replacement cost of 400 demolished parking garage spaces
  • $353 Million – Value of free rent in Grant Park

It gets MUCH better:

The museum’s agreement with the park district allows them to transfer their 99-year lease to another private corporation without any oversight from the City Council. What does that mean?

“The inclusion of a liquor license in their zoning application means that this could be a 100,000 square foot restaurant and mini-mall just in time for the 2016 Olympics.”

Jun 18, 2008

Grant Park

"Power is not sufficient evidence of truth".

--Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Mr. Johnson knew something about the abuse of power.

If you are interested in this issue you can
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Time, per the Subdudes

I want some fast food,
                       and eat it slow.

I'm gonna have some high times
                       and live 'em low.

--The Subdudes, From: All The Time In The World

Jun 17, 2008

Land Grab - Additional Focus

The more I hear about this the more clearly I can see the disgusting ulterior motives that are involved.

This project calls for the REZONING of Grant Park. This rezoning will allow for multiple restaurants and a LIQUOR LICENSE WITHOUT LIMITATION.

Meanwhile, the mayor and alderman are beating their collective chests over how they are doing this for the children. In actuality, they are EXPLOITING children to satisfy their own GREED. For good measure, the mayor is calling opponents racists.

I'm so glad that there is organized resistance to this.

Jun 16, 2008

Grant Park Land Grab

If the assault on Grant Park concerns you at all, you might want to check out

The neighborhood site for the area Grant Park is in is

Both sites have additional links to more information.

Politics - Chicago Style

Grant park is a large bock of undeveloped land in downtown Chicago - situated in a fantastic spot between the hustle and bustle of the city and Chicago's famously beautiful lake front. This is not by accident. In 1839, the plat of the area east of Michigan Avenue south of Randolph was marked "Public Ground—A Common to Remain Forever Open, Clear and Free of any Buildings, or other Obstruction Whatsoever" The temptation to develop the spot began immediately thereafter.

In the 1800s, as various civic buildings were sited there but Chicago businessman Aaron Montgomery Ward ultimately fought four court battles to prevent the development. Grant Park's protections were enshrined by Illinois Supreme Court justices of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Now, fast forward to the 21st Century where an incredibly brazen and disgusting assault is taking place to reverse this legacy of stewardship. The Chicago Children's Museum is currently located on Chicago's Navy Pier -- less than a mile and half from Grant Park. The museum says it needs more space and that space has been made available to it at the current location. Apparently, that's not good enough. The mayor and the museum feel that the only solution to it's space problem is to build a new museum in Grant Park.

Although the museum claims that it studied other locations it has been unable to produce a list of those other locations. Although the park has been designated a "Public Ground—A Common to Remain Forever Open, Clear and Free of any Buildings, or other Obstruction Whatsoever" the museum's plan for the spot includes construction of (what on one plan shows as) a structure 51 feet above grade. Although the there is overwhelming opposition to the plan by the citizens of Chicago, and although the plan is clearly illegal, and although it is public land and the museum is not a public space (they charge admission), the museum is so sure of their plans they have apparently already sold the naming rights to Allstate -- for $15 million.

Two of Mayor Daley's most interesting statements on all of this:

why he wants the museum in this location and no other location:
  • "I have fought for children my entire life, and I will continue to fight for children"

what he says of people defending the legacy of Grant Park:
  • "Racists"