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Not another iPod!
05.24.2010
08:49 pm

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Amusing
Economy

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Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Squattin’ USA
05.12.2010
09:01 pm

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Current Events
Economy

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Squatting

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I read with interest this article from Salon about a new squatters movement starting to manifest itself in New York, obviously owing to our present economic conditions. In 1983-84, I lived in a succession of squats, first in Amsterdam and then London. London in the early 1980s had a noticeable number of squatted houses in certain areas. In the south London district of Brixton, where I was at the time, I can recall entire apartment buildings and even one entire city block being occupied by squatters. It was a very interesting thing to be a part of. (I have actually been awakened by police. I don’t recommend it!)

“If you think a property might be vacant, because its windows are boarded up and so on, you have to stake it out for a while. You check out the address on the Department of Finance database to see who owns it. Ideally, it would be a bank or the city. You have to watch the building, especially at night, to make sure no one’s going in and out. After a couple of weeks you can get a pretty good idea if it’s empty or not,” said Morales, whose thick black hair, slim, fashionable goatee and athletic figure far belie his 60 years.

He expounded on the further steps for successful squatting. Safety is paramount; Morales advises all potential squatters to check the structural stability of any building, to look for rot or drooping ceilings. Only when a building’s structural integrity is verified should a group of squatters take the next steps and put their own locks on the doors and secure other possible entry points, like windows. Then, according to Morales, they should black out the windows.

“For the first month, at least, you want to stay under the radar—go in late at night, leave early in the morning,” said Morales, who also stressed the importance of having mail sent to the address with the squatters’ names on it. “If you’ve had mail delivered there for a month, and the police turn up, you use it as proof that you’ve been living there for a while, that you’re a valid resident. They usually leave you alone if you can show them that.”

There is a lot of empty property all across America and a lot of people without a place to lay their head. A building cannot be left boarded up for a long period of time. The plumbing gets messed up, vermin take up residence and so do insects. Apparently after about 18 months, a house left completely empty will become uninhabitable.

The amount of overbuilding done in America over the past decade—most of it fueled by Chinese loans—was obscene, A lot of real estate is going to get abandoned by “underwater” debtors. And there sure as hell is going to be an awful lot of commercial real estate that will get defaulted on during the next five years. Local governments should start thinking about how they can legitimize the residents’ claims to some of these abandoned buildings, because it’s probably going to get worse before it gets any better. If the squatters keep the buildings and yards up, why not let them stay there as long as they’re going to be empty otherwise? Maybe they can pay a small rent to the government for a license? It’s time to get creative with one in every eight Americans on food stamps!

You don’t know squatting: A movement returns (Salon)

Squatters turn £5m building into art galleries and cinema (London Evening Standard)

Councils show squatters where they can find out how to break in (Daily Mail)

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Pornies vs Piracy
04.30.2010
03:58 pm

Topics:
Economy
Pop Culture
Sex

Tags:
porn
Digital piracy

 
Anti-piracy public service announcement from a group of “all star” pornies, including “hedgehog” Ron Jeremy, a bunch of sluts I’ve never heard of and Sarah Palin porn-a-like, Lisa Ann (I’m no fan of Palin’s but this woman looks like Sarah Palin maybe after she’s been hit in the face with a shovel).

This PSA will have perhaps less of an effect even than anti-marijuana messages, which is to say next to none. How many horny guys dialing up LubeTube will have second thoughts about stealing their product after seeing this? I’d wager zero is the winning answer to that!

Thank you Marc Campbell!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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John Michael Greer: Economic Superstitions
04.23.2010
12:38 pm

Topics:
Economy

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Iceland
John Michael Greer
Superstition

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Archdruid John Michael Greer’s excellent new article on how the Iceland volcano poked some very large holes in our assumptions about the way things run, and how many of our views on economics are the superstitions of the modern age. Very lucid, clear, direct-to-the-point stuff.

The widespread reaction to the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, for that matter, points up what may just be the most deeply rooted of our superstitions, the belief that Nature can be ignored with impunity. It’s only fair to point out that for most people in the industrial world, for most of a century now, this has been true more often than not; the same exuberant abundance that produced ski slopes in Dubai and fresh strawberries in British supermarkets in January made it reasonable, for a while, to act as though whatever Nature tossed our way could be brushed aside. In the emerging postabundance age, though, this may be the most dangerous superstition of all. The tide of cheap abundant energy that has defined our attitudes as much as our technologies is ebbing now, and we are rapidly losing the margin of error that made our former arrogance possible.

As that change unfolds, it might be worth suggesting that it’s time to discard our current superstitions concerning economics, energy, and nature, and replace them with some more functional approach to these things. A superstition, once again, is an observance that has become detached from its meaning, and one of the more drastic ways this detachment can take place is a change in the circumstances that make that meaning relevant. This has arguably happened to our economic convictions, and to a great many more of the commonplaces of modern thought; and it’s simply our bad luck, so to speak, that the consequences of pursuing those superstitions in the emerging world of scarcity and contraction are likely to be considerably more destructive than those of planting by the signs or leaving a dish of milk on the back step.

(Archdruid Report: Economic Superstitions)

(The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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The iPad will save print? Yeah right!
04.04.2010
05:39 pm

Topics:
Economy
Media

Tags:
iPad

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With all of the iPad hype going on this week, I was surprised that so few pundits were saying what I felt was glaringly obvious: No way in hell is the iPad going to save the ailing magazine and newspaper industry. Did anyone really believe that for a single second anyway? Gimme a break! I already get more than enough distractions for free—no, really guys, my infotainment cup has been runneth overing for a very, very long time now—that there is no way, not a chance—none—that I’m going to subscribe to your magazine or newspaper now that a device I never asked for in the first place has been caused to exist by Steve Jobs. I don’t care what your new iThingee is or how great your marketing people are telling me it’s going to be. If you think what you’ve got is so unique and must-read that I should pay for it, I’ve got news for you, it’s not. It’s a very big Internet out there and as long as 99.99999 percent of it is free, your subscription fee is a self-imposed death sentence, and will not even constitute a revenue trickle let alone a stream.

Witness the recent paywall experiment at New York Newsday. It did not go very well. During the first three months of the paywall, exactly 35 people opted to pay for what they had been previously getting for free. Raise your hands, readers in Long Island, NY, how many of you who plan to buy an iPad also have plans to tap the digital ass of New York Newsday for a monthly fee?

About what I thought: None of you.

Every morning I scan dozens of newspapers around the world for my job at the Los Angeles Times and believe me when I tell you that much of it looks like all the rest of it. Take a gander at the blog rolls at Huffington Post and the Drudge Report. They differ but only slightly. Together they list almost all of the top-flight, “world class” English entrants in the “must read” daily category of news producers and aggregators.  (And no, I don’t seriously include World Net Daily or News Max amongst them just because Matt Drudge does, I’m speaking generally here).

My point is that there are only really a few dozen news organizations worldwide—a hundred tops—that have any real import. Only the ones at the top of the Christmas tree of each day’s information cascade really matter. Everything else follows these sources. Of course there are rogue newsmakers like Perez Hilton who can break a story, but the likes of him are few and far between. There are but a handful of credible, well-run daily news organizations worldwide and beyond them are professional speciality magazines and more or less second-rate information sources. By this I mean the copycat news organizations of the Middle East, Asia and India that largely just regurgitate the Western news organizations output a day later and also the blogs that parse the very same information, dice it and slice it, opine about it and then point back to the original source. It can really start to look quite same-y the more of them you read. In the vast stew pot of information out there, should one chunk drop out behind a paywall, the flavor will remain exactly the same overall, whether or not that chunk is the New York Newsday, US Weekly or Wired magazine.

The $150,000 full page print ad has no equivalent in the online world and THIS is, very simply, the problem defined. Randy Michaels of Tribune hit the nail squarely on the head when he said that the magazine and newspaper industries had traded dollars for dimes in the transition from print to digital. Historically we know how it happened (the infant online ad industry sold very cheaply—they had to starting out—and got stuck with the fee structure), but why in 2010 when everyone has got their face in front of their computer all day long, is online advertising still only worth a fraction of the print equivalent? The static advertisement when displayed in the medium of yesterday that only over 50s read anymore is worth more than the dynamic electronic version? Why is this still the case?

If you ask me, this is what the industry needs top be concentrating on: getting their advertisers to foot the bill, not the public. The public has already spoken on this matter and they are not going to budge on the issue of paying for content on the Internet. That inconvenient yet incontrovertible fact is by now well-established, so what methods remain to monetize news content? If a media cartel formed of News Corp, Time-Warner, the New York Times, Tribune, Gannett and other of the major newspaper players (and indeed many of the online resources linked off the Huffington Post and Drudge Report blog rolls) with the goal of standing together to raise the prices of their online advertising to actually reflect the fact that, as I say, but a few dozen corporations are in the main responsible for the creation of 90% of all news, this might have an astounding effect.

We can say conclusively that the public will not foot the bill, so what is the alternative? I just told you. The worldclass news gathering organizations out there are performing tasks which are of great value to mankind and between them. they have the world’s attention. Should they all stand together and institute a form of collective bargaining with the very same vendors who pay them $150k for print ads and demand the same for access to their online audience—which constitutes a far more valuable aggregation of attention than their geriatric print readership—the industry could survive and even thrive. The subscription/paywall route is one of sure—and swift—extinction.

You can’t run a daily newspaper on 35 paid subscribers. No matter what shiny happy iPad apps the digital strategists are coming up with, no one subscribes to shit anymore under the age of 50. The newspaper media needs to get hip to this fast and not let the supposed iPad revenue model become a distraction.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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John Michael Greer: Riddles in the Dark
04.01.2010
10:47 am

Topics:
Economy

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John Michael Greer

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Author John Michael Greer (who concerns himself with something close to “paganomics”) just wrote this essay on the continuing decline of the American Empire—and argues that in a third-worldized America where a middle class family making $40,000 a year will likely be spending half of that on rice and beans, the labor of groups—not machines—will become the primary means of keeping society afloat.

This was pointed out many years ago by Lewis Mumford in The Myth of the Machine. He argued that the revolutionary change that gave rise to the first urban civilizations was not agriculture, or literacy, or any of the other things most often cited in this context. Instead, he proposed, that change was the invention of the world’s first machine – a machine distinguished from all others in that all of its parts were human beings. Call it an army, a labor gang, a bureaucracy or the first stirrings of a factory system; in these cases and more, it consisted of a group of people able to work together in unison. All later machines, he suggested, were attempts to make inanimate things display the singleness of purpose of a line of harvesters reaping barley or a work gang hauling a stone into place on a pyramid.

That kind of machine has huge advantages in an world of abundant population and scarce resources. It is, among other things, a very efficient means of producing the food that fuels it and the other items needed by its component parts, and it is also very efficient at maintaining and reproducing itself. As a means of turning solar energy into productive labor, it is somewhat less efficient than current technologies, but its simplicity, its resilience, and its ability to cope with widely varying inputs give it a potent edge over these latter in a time of turbulence and social decay.

That kind of machine, it deserves to be said, is also profoundly repellent to many people in the industrial world, doubtless including many of those who are reading this essay. It’s interesting to think about why this should be so, especially when some examples of the machine at work – Amish barn raisings come to mind – have gained iconic status in the alternative scene. It is not going too far, I think, to point out that the word “community,” which receives so much lip service these days, is in many ways another word for Mumford’s primal machine.

(John Michael Greer: Riddles in the Dark)

(The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Logorama
03.29.2010
08:57 am

Topics:
Current Events
Economy
Politics

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Logorama

A brilliant (and terribly droll) commentary on consumer culture, “Logograma” is an Academy award-winning short film directed by the French animation collective H5 (François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain). First shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, “Logorama” also opened the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. I especially like the scene where Ronald McDonald holds a gun to the head of the Bob’s Big Boy mascot.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Americans (finally) have healthcare reform!!
03.21.2010
08:21 pm

Topics:
Current Events
Economy
Heroes
History
Politics

Tags:
USA

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Proud to be an American today! This is a wonderful thing for the people of this country. What a great day to be alive.

The Republican Party has been routed for a generation—or forever—and they know it. Now onwards to financial reform!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Anthem Blue Cross: Screwing Californians for Profits

 
Effective short film from Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films (who I know through my days at Disinformation, of course) that exposes the evil, predatory practices of the very insurance company where I have my own individual policy, Anthem Blue Cross of California. Each month I pay an exorbitant fee—which is about to be nearly doubled—and I’ve not been in the hospital since I was born. And it doesn’t cover anything, not even name brand prescriptions! I plan to switch over to Kaiser-Permanante as soon as possible. I hate Anthem Blue Cross. It’s run by a bunch of vile assholes.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Greece is the word
02.25.2010
10:50 pm

Topics:
Current Events
Economy

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Am I just missing it or has the situation in Greece—2 million people, which is about 40% of the workforce, walked off their jobs in protest over cuts in governmental programs—gotten precious little press coverage in the American media? (I know, I know, healthcare and the Olympics). Considering that this is literally a crisis that could split the Eurozone—and have terrible consequences in Spain, Portugal, Italy and beyond—shouldn’t Americans be paying more attention to this?

It certainly seems more dangerous than the Asian Contagion crisis of 1997.

And Greeks know how to riot properly:

Tens of thousands of striking Greek workers took to the streets today, some throwing stones at police, in a defiant show of protest against austerity measures aimed at averting the debt-plagued country’s economic collapse.

Riot police responded with teargas when, in sporadic bursts, masked youths charged them in Athens city centre. The violence coincided with a general strike that shut down public services and closed off Greece to the outside world.

For trade unions the mass show of force was a warning shot to a government struggling to satisfy its eurozone partners with policies deemed vital for the nation’s fiscal health while appeasing angry workers at home.

“This is the red line,” said Nikos Goulas, head of a union that represents 20,000 workers at Athens international airport. “Greece is not Ireland. If the government does not back down there will be huge unrest,” he added, holding a banner that proclaimed: “As much as you terrorise us, these measures won’t pass.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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