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Parkersburg, WV, United States

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is The U.S In Decline

In this article the writer covers the basic premise of the life cycle of empire a country a nation. Today in America and in other parts of the world we seem to be moving at light speed, in this  the modern age.
The new becomes the passé almost overnight, concepts and ideas seem to be born run there course and end in weeks or months. Earlier civilizations lasted albeit with transitions and changes for sometimes thousands of years.

We see the examples of the Roman empire, the several Egyptian empires, the Austria -Hungarian empire as well as the examples of china and japan.  All these and more were great civilizations they developed expanded grew prospered then stagnated and died, some were killed by faster smarter and stronger newer nations, others fell due to there very size.

Young nations by their very nature are energetic, they have to be to survive  but when they reach the point of critical mass, too big to change and adapt to new conditions, or they stagnate resting on the laurel's of earlier more capable citizens and topple from the wight of there own inertia.

Many of these empires fell from the weight of there own hubris there own sense of entitlement there unrealistic opinion of there own importance there refusal to believe that they would not always endure, more that they had the right to endure and too late they found they did not.

Will we rise to the occasion or fall into the history of forgotten nations.

 Excerpt :  By Niall Ferguson
February 28, 2010

LA Times America, the fragile empire

Here today, gone tomorrow -- could the United States fall that fast?
For centuries, historians, political theorists, anthropologists and the public have tended to think about the political process in seasonal, cyclical terms. From Polybius to Paul Kennedy, from ancient Rome to imperial Britain, we discern a rhythm to history. Great powers, like great men, are born, rise, reign and then gradually wane. No matter whether civilizations decline culturally, economically or ecologically, their downfalls are protracted.

In the same way, the challenges that face the United States are often represented as slow-burning. It is the steady march of demographics -- which is driving up the ratio of retirees to workers -- not bad policy that condemns the public finances of the United States to sink deeper into the red. It is the inexorable growth of China's economy, not American stagnation, that will make the gross domestic product of the People's Republic larger than that of the United States by 2027.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Many People Are Unemployed in America

I was completely shocked at the total number of unemployed in this country. I listen to the news and the radio and I also read a lot on line as well. I was dismayed that it really does seem that these numbers are presented to us on a daily basis in the most inane and misleading way possible. When is the last (or the first) time you have heard the number of unemployed people.

You haven’t. You have been told the percentage of the new jobless claims, and this usually only for the last week or so. We are told constantly how the first time jobless claims have fallen.

We are never told how many people are still unemployed or given the total number, or even any numbers other than some vague percentage. The way this is reported is obviously meant to be as positive and as harmless as possible.

Unfortunately this does not represent a true picture of what is happening in this country. I don’t believe we can make reasonable decisions if we do not know what the true facts are, so what are the numbers.

Though this seems a simple question it takes a bit of digging and a calculator to come to a solid number. The news media only reports a vague percentage and never never gives a firm total although the numbers are out there easily found from the most recent report from the department of labor statistics. I wonder why the true numbers are not being reported and can only assume that there is a defacto agreement between the white house business and media as to how these events are portrayed. I make no judgment as to the motivation behind this or even imply a negative one and can only hope this is done out of some expectation of a positive effect. I do not think that Americans can make a reasonable informed logical decision about anything not their own welfare or how to vote and what legislation or actions to support or oppose.

I myself was stunned at the total of Americans out of work and the difficulicity and complexity of deciphering the report from the bureau of labor statics. well here it is the total of unemployed as of the 2-5-10 report release date is 17.4 million unemployed I include the link to the labor and statistics report for those more intrepid or skeptical (help yourself). I also include a link to a site that has really excellent charts that more fully illustrate the impact of the unemployment results.

Excerpt forn the Febrauary 5th report from the Breau of Labor Statistics

Employment Situation Summary JANUARY 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010


The unemployment rate fell from 10.0 to 9.7 percent in January

In January, the number of unemployed persons decreased to 14.8 million, and the unemployment rate

Fell by 0.3 percentage point to 9.7 percent. In January, the number of persons unemployed due to job loss decreased by 378,000 to 9.3 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) continued to trend up in January, reaching 6.3 million. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of long-term unemployed has risen by 5.0 million.

This means prior to the start of the current recession there were only 1.3 Million of long term unemployed and as the result of the recession that number has risen by 5 million persons.

The number of persons who worked part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) fell from 9.2 to 8.3 million in January. A loss of almost a million part time crap jobs e.g. fast food, retail and labor jobs. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

About 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in January, an increase of 409,000 from a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

Among the marginally attached, there were 1.1 million discouraged workers in January, up from 734,000 a year earlier.

Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

The remaining 1.5 million people marginally attached to the labor force had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities

This would be a total of 2.6 million people 1.5 +1.1=2.6 not 2.5 million.

Also since the 2.6 million were not added to the previous numbers the total come to 17.4 million unemployed Not 14.8 million as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

Construction employment declined by 75,000 Transportation and warehousing employment fell by43, 000 due to loses among couriers and messengers.

Employment in manufacturing was little changed in January (11,000) In January, job gains in motor vehicles and parts (23,000) and plastics and rubber products (6,000) offset small job losses elsewhere in the industry.

In January, temporary help services added 52,000 jobs. Since reaching a low point in September 2009,

Temporary help services employment has risen by 247,000.

Retail trade employment rose by 42,000 in January, after showing little change in the prior 2 months.

Job gains occurred in January among food stores (14,000), clothing stores (13,000), and general merchandise

Retailers (10,000).

Health care employment continued to trend up in January. Ambulatory health care services added

15,000 jobs over the month.

In January, the federal government added 33,000 jobs, including 9,000 temporary positions for Census

2010. Employment in state and local governments, excluding education, continued to trend down.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Twisting The Numbers - The CPI And You

The consumer price index is bandied about to no end it is the measure by which inflation of the lack of it is measured. These numbers justify the actions of the Fed and virtually every governmental organization for the determination of benefits from wages and salary's to social security  and VA as well as our ability to pay higher taxes or the amount of benefits you receive for student loans. In short what the the government determines this number to be is absolutely critical to your daily life.

The problem is that the actual number and method they use to arrive at it and what it means, seems to change without regard to what is actually  going on in everyday life. Many of the most significant impacts to the every day American consumer are not factored into the CPI. Food, gasoline and many other consumables are not factored into this cars products and business services are. this means that the numbers for inflation and the cost of living are not true representations of what we spend every day.  I just paid $8.98 for the same can of coffee I have been buying for 15 years, 18 months ago it cost me $4.98.  These and many other costs are not factored in to the CPI.

The fact is that the CPI has been totally re vamped over ten times since it's inception this has led to the manipulation of the facts the numbers and what is and is not counted. Washington continues to spin these numbers to to their benefit and to the cost of millions of Americans whose plight in the normal course of American life  is bad enough but now is all but impossible.

I include an brief overview of the CPI, and the two prevailing views. Basically one says inflation is underestimated, and the other says its over estimated. I will let you be the judge but remember this, any activity of government that cannot be reduced to one clear concise paragraph is hiding something.

History of the CPI Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index was initiated during World War I. Because people's buying habits had changed substantially, a new study was made covering expenditures in the years 1934-1936, but was comprehensively revised in 1940 during WWII. The index was again revised in 1951, 1953 and 1964.

In 1978, the index was revised a new and expanded, A second, more broadly based CPI for All Urban Consumers, was introduced

Perceived overestimation of inflation

In 1995, the Senate Finance Committee, appointed a commission to study CPI's ability to estimate inflation, the commission found in their study the index overestimated the cost of living.

Perceived underestimation of inflation

Critics believe however, that because of changes to the way that the CPI is calculated, and because energy and food price changes are currently excluded from the Federal Reserve's calculation of "core inflation," that inflation is being dramatically underestimated.

Some critics believe that changes in CPI calculation due to the Boskin Commission have led to dramatic cuts in inflation estimates.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Market Tumbles

American's are more pessimistic about economic recovery reports CNN business and WSJ market watch today after the DOW drops over 80 points as of this writing there’s still a few minutes left In the trading day so this could change . Reports indicate that the drop was due to the new report out today indicating that consumer confidence sank to 46.0 ther projections were for 55.9. Normaly healthy economy rings in at about 95 points and the experts have again missed the mark expecting only a slight drop. Obviously the experts don’t shop at the same stores that we do. All I have seen is a never ending increase in prices for food clothing and medicines the up down up down of gas prices while a lot lower than last year do not offset all the high prices we are paying for everything else .

The report also notes that consumers remain extremely pessimistic. My question is what exactly we would be excited about. We all know too many people that are unemployed at this time, and in many cases they have no choice but to ride out their unemployment to the bitter end, before they then head out to the fewer and fewer jobs at seven eleven’s, wall-mart, and Mickey D’s.

The report also states that the percentage of consumers, who said that conditions are good, dropped to 6.2% from 8.5%. Who are these people, how they could even find 6.2% of any group who thinks things are good is beyond me. These must be people who were given funds from the TARP.

The government continues to live in a state of denial, the never ending stream of propaganda coming out of the beltway by both party’s continues to be an unending litany of admit nothing deny everything and make counter accusation’s

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cheap Clean Energy May Bloom in Silicon Valley

Bloom Energy one of the new pioneering company's in clean energy technology is all set to unveil its Bloom box electricity generators on Wednesday in advance of the grand event CBS 60 minutes aired a segment on its Sunday show. The brains behind the new device is former NASA scientist Dr. K.R. Shirdhar  who is an entrepreneur and engineering expert. He is the principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. At NASA, he helped develop and design  nanotechnology for use in planetary missions. Such as the now defunct Moon and Mars missions. He has been recognized by “Fortune Magazine”, as one of the top five futurists in developing new technology.  The small device in his hands is the new electrical generator that can power the average home for a total cost Dr. Shidhar estimates of around $3000.00 dollars. The technology is radically new and produces an inexpensive power source that can be fueled by natural gas or just about any other gas the implications of this new technology could be staggering if it works as promised .

Goggle cooperate head quarters has been testing several larger industrial versions of the bloom boxes as well as Wal-Mart, E-bay and  FedEx, Goggle has been testing them since 2008 with great success. One of the disturbing implications here is that GE and some of the other large company's have there eye on this technology as well. Rest assured none of the Mega cooperations have any but there own interest at heart.

This technology or something like it could very well change the face of society as we know it however vast the implications are for the western world. The truly incredible impact of cheap clean efficient electricity not tied to the grid could dramatically reduce  third world energy problems. Now that Dr Shidar has proven the theory others will no doubt jump on the band wagon.

Dr Shidar has partnered with some big names in this project that is rumored to have cost some where in the range of over five hundred million dollars. John Doerr from one of the big venture capitol firms in the silicon valley as well as former Secretary of state Colin Powell who is on the board of directors. Watch the video at the 60 minutes link, its amazing and at the Bloom Energy site a clock counts down to the grand opening of what may be a truly revolutionary idea.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

CA Town Charges $300.00 for 911 calls

Tracy CA a bedroom community in the San Francisco bay area with a largely white population of about 70,000 has decided to charge residents for 911 calls they have a choice, either pay $48.00 per year and call 911 all you want, or pay $300.00 per call. According to statistics Tracy had 31,700 reported crimes between 1999 and 2006 (the last year that has complete data). This is just slightly higher than the national average for the same period. Clearly the local city government has found a way to net a cool $3,360’000 a year, if the residents all pay the new yearly fee. Of course if they don’t then they may face the $300.00 per call surcharge or maybe die. Obviously if faced with a violent crime you would call 911 to save your life, but what about your neighbors, or even better a stranger. The effects of this decision may very well have disastrous consequences for some citizens. Here is just another sign that all over America city and state governments are cutting services and raising fees because of the poor judgment and miserable financial decisions of our local city state and yes even the federal government and as usual we pay the price in more ways than one. Keep an eye out this could be coming soon to a city near you, maybe yours.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

PSA Announcement From FEMA

This commercial now airing on TV shows a family grabbing a bug out bag and heading out the door it then directs you to a web site http://www.ready.gov/where FEMA has more detailed information on how to plan and prepare for an emergency. This is a little disturbing it reminds me of the old emergency alert films we used to watch in school about what to do during a nuclear attack. Surely if FEMA is putting out this information then there are indeed threats to prepare for. The video is called emergency preparedness the world upside down its on you tube

Friday, February 19, 2010

All Others Pay Cash

South Carolina Congressman Mike Pitts has introduced legislation that would ban federal currency in his state and replace it with gold and silver coins.
The congressman is concerned that the U.S. economy could collapse due to the massive amount of government spening that is happening and the Fed continues to print money at an alarming rate driving the value of the dollar down. Combine this article with other information that has come to light over the last week and we begin to see what is possibly a very grim scenario.

The nearly failed debt auction: The Fed just had and auction and and instead of China, Japan, and other traditonally big buyers or our debt buying, our own banks bought most of it. More distubing a huge chunk went to undisclosed buyers that are probably just a cover for own goverment buying back our own debt.

The problem is the banks are using Taxpayer dollars to buy this debt in the first place, using funds we gave them in the TARP. This is money we printed out of thin air in the first place. Esintially we are printing more money to buy our own debt back . Its like paying one credit card with another on a larger scale than anyone can imagine.

When China stops buying our debt the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. Added to this China has her own financel problems if they start selling off us debt at pennies on the dollar our whole economy will come crashing down.

As of this moment there is not way to stop this crisis from happening at some point there are too many balls in the air its only a question of when now not if.
On Wednesday, February 10 2010, the US Treasury issued $16 billion in 30-year Treasuries. Here are the buyer data points:

Monday, February 15, 2010

European Union On the Brink Of collapse

This article heralds the possible demise of the EU while country's (especially poorer ones) were happy to share in the prosperity of the EU. Now that the global economic depression is widening the crack in the tenuous relationships of the EU country's. Either the EU Will have to cast off it's weaker sisters and brothers creating a distinct rift between the already beleaguered eastern EU country's and the more prosperous.

This basically says that to paraphrase Benjamen Franklin, "we must all hang together or most assuredly we will hang separately. Even the possibility of a break up of even a single country would have disastrous consequences not only for the EU but for the world.

The immediate problem: the entire country of Greece is about to go bankrupt. They've got overly generous pensions and benefits, they've displayed a seemingly petulant unwillingness to consider belt-tightening, and their government sector is veritably Italian in its efficiency and size. This is not the stuff that long-term economic health is made of.

The bigger problem: Greece is part of the Eurozone and, while its long been kind of funny to refer to them as the "honorary member," the other 15 countries who share the Euro aren't amused. The bankruptcy of any individual state would tank the shared currency, cascading across the continent in ways that are totally unpredictable (the upshot of a disaster which was never even a consideration when the Eurozone was formed). If it did happen, most of what we've thought about travel for the last decade—dollar vs. Euro, the long-term stability of the EU, frictionless travel across Europe, etc—would quickly have to be revised.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wall Streeet Prepares-For the worst

I was trolling through the news as I normally do and came across an article at the Wall Street Journal on line magazine Marketwatch. The gist of the story is that Barton Biggs see the Bio at Wikipedia says the economic and possibly societal end is upon us.

A well know and respected wall street investor and fund manager is advising the big money investors to make as much money as they can now and damn the consequences because a complete economic collapse is imminent.

Quote " His advice: Make tons of money. Buy an isolated farm in the mountains. Protect family against the barbarians: "Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food ... It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson."

It is a bit startling to see this opinion from one of the big money wall street guys. Give it a look its an eye opener.

Pallet House Construction

There are pros and cons to pallet construction the low or no cost of the pallets themselves is certainly attractive however this seems to a topic that only we on the fringe are truly considering.

As a result of this I have been unable to find any plans that take into account the variations in pallet size and composition of the materials that are used to make them. As I haven’t found any suitable plans I assume I will have to come up with some of my own. I do fully intend to make use of these cheap easily acquired materials to at least build a work shop garage and possibly fencing around some areas of the house.

Finding pallets: You can find pallets usually at any business just by asking most are still thrown away and you can even buy used ones from pallet recyclers if you have one local in your area you can buy them for as little as a dollar a piece.

Having loaded and transported loose pallets before it’s a dirty sweaty job that requires a strong back and a good pair of leather gloves. Beware pallets that have been treated chemically with preservatives’ many of these are toxic.

Chemically treated pallets are most usually used for goods that are transported at sea and or for use in coastal areas so if you’re on the coast be aware of this. This is really only an issue if you are using the wood for interior construction or are burning the wood for fire wood never burn chemically treated pallets in the stove or fire place. Pallets get around the country as they are used and re used sometimes over and over again so it’s possible to find just about any type of pallet in any area.

A word about the wood the pallet is made of: pallets are not only made of poor quality woods. Pallets are made from woods normally local to the area they are built in. In some cases yes this means that many pallets will be made from culls that have issues such as grain of knots however some pallets are meant to be re used and are soundly constructed of local woods.

Types of woods range from white and red oak, hickory, maple. Pallets from the South and West are usually made of soft woods and are normally a bit larger due to the inherently weaker characteristics of the woods involved.

So look for durable \reusable pallets for building and construction and use the soft wood pallets in the wood stove.

Ring Nails and staples: Ring nails have round ridges along the entire length of the nail this gives them an extremely good hold on the wood which is necessary because the pallet would come apart through normal use and heating and cooling from being exposed to the elements.

Commercial ring nails have a very thin head, the round flat part you hit with the hammer. Since it’s so thin and the fact that the nail is ringed this means that if you try to remove the nail normally with a claw hammer or nail puller most likely the head of the nail will just pull off.

Staples: this usually means the pallet is soft wood, however this does not mean it’s a total loss sometimes the stringers, the 2x4s or 4x4s holding it together will be hard wood, and worth salvaging.

Using pallets: Once you have found your pallets, they will usually be a variety of sizes. Unless you are truly fortunate and have been able to get all your pallets from one manufacture this is par for the course. You got them for nothing so the little extra effort and creativity you have to use in accommodating these variations into you design are a small price to pay.

Disassembly: If you are not going to use the pallets as they are, you’re going to have to take them apart remember the ring nails? Ok the simplest easiest way to do this is with a saw-zaw or reciprocating saw. If you don’t have one you can get one cheap from Harbor Freight tools for about $30.00 bucks. I have also used a jig saw for this with a metal cutting blade but it doesn’t work as well. Yes you can take the pallet apart with a hammer a pry bar and some blocks of wood but you’re going to lose about 50% of the boards so, just buy the saw if you don’t have one and you do any projects at all around the house it will pay for itself just in time saved on the first job you do.

Take the saw and put the blade in between the cross piece and the 2x4 cut carefully through the nails. I some times use a wedge or small pry bar to lift the board just enough to get to the nails without gouging the wood. I cut all the nails on one side first on both the top and bottom this frees the 2x4 on one side I then do the other the same way this gives me room to get into the middle to cut the nails from the center of the cross pieces start at one end work all the way down, flip the thing over and do the same on the other side.

I can have the whole pallet apart in about 5 minutes. Staples are done the same way and are easier to remove usually.

This leaves the heads of the nails in the cross pieces, depending on what I’m going to do with the boards I either leave them in there or I take a small punch and drive them out. It’s up to you if you don’t take the nails out keep in mind where the nails are when your cutting the boards to length, you do not want to run into one with your circular saw or even a hand saw as this will dull the blade and or the set of the saw in nothing flat.

You now have about 10 to 14 1x4s give or take to use as you would normally. The three (usually) 2x4s still have the ends of the nails in them. Again depending on your application you can take them out of just leave them in place. Taking out the stubs of the nails is a real chore and there’s no good way to do it.

The way I do it is: I made a small hollow drill bit out of a 4 in piece of tubing the diameter is just slightly larger than the shank of the nail. I use a hack saw and needle file to cut teeth into the end of the tubing. It looks like a tiny hole saw. You simply drill down over the shank of the nail to a depth of about 2 in usually the nail comes out when you pull the drill bit out of the wood if not, you can easily pull it out with a pair of needle nosed pliers.
Note: all these tiny holes do affect the structural integrity of the wood so plan for that. To fill the nail holes or the holes from your little hole saw, just mix up some wood glue with the saw dust from your cuts this fills the holes and if your painting the wood anyway you can’t even tell they were there. I sometimes leave the holes even on finished pieces it gives them a really rustic look

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Family Living

Given the ever dwindling amount of resources’, and the increased demand for them. The disastrous economy and the high cost of living. The idea that each separate American house hold can active the bench marks of home owner ship, new cars and the endless buying we all seem to believe our due , is ridiculous .
Better that family’s pool resources maximize the incomes rather than attempting and failing to live our separate lives. We need to step back, back to the more 18th 19th century model of communal living at least within our families, possibly as a society.
With the decrease in incomes and the high cost of consumer goods it is imperative that we maximize the impact our limited resources’ can have. Looking at the future economic outlook and the really disastrous possible scenarios it is not a day too soon to change the way we all work and live.

Pooling our resources within family’s e.g. Cars homes goods, shared economic responsibilities and goals.
The family group together can achieve many things that would be impossible alone. It may even be possible to achieve a higher more enjoyable standard of living refreshing the bonds of family and restoring a level of family support and community not seen since the end of WWII. The implications of pooling common resources’, money homes vehicles and time are obvious and in fact have been the more traditional form for living in nearly every society at least at the family level for thousands of years.The result is that we are by and large becoming disassociated loners with only the vaguest relationships, the introduction of social networking is a poor second to meaningful human contact.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

World View

In the face of past and ongoing events it seems clear that our current societies here in America and also society’s around the world are not tenable. The issues of the day, weak global economy (the fact there is a global economy in the first place) global warming pollution yes no maybe? The dehumanizing effects of the modern city and modern culture indicate that as the song says change is gonna come. With the fall of communism, socialism and implosion of capitalism it seems clear that the era of big government is over. It may kill us all with its death throes but it’s over.
Regardless on which side of the global warming issue you’re on. No one can deny the effects of polluting our water supply. The toxic sludge we pump into the water air and soil, or the irresponsible actions of all industry. To name a few, Oil and gas companies, logging industry the chemical and petro chemical industry. I make no exceptions here, American, German, Russian, and Chinese, it’s all the same.
Do what you must to make the mighty dollar or euro as the case may be and dam the consequences the environment, the worker, the consumer and the country (insert yours here). Money and power are the coin of the realm. The amounts of money obscene to any ordinary reasonably sane person. To whom much is given much is expected and the golden rule no longer applies, if they ever did.

We have become a society of locusts here in America. We can’t imagine for the most part the end of the lifestyle we enjoy or the end of the resources that provide them. Let’s face it we have been raping this continent from the moment we stepped onto it. I know, I know not what we white bread conquerors want to hear but it’s true.
We are the descendents (many of us) of people who carved lives out of the wilderness of this continent who knew no other way than to battle the environment into submission. We culturally, almost in our bones have a belief that we can achieve anything, and that we should be allowed to and we can produce engineer or build our way out of anything. The fact we have had fantastic successes over the last 234 years only reinforces this conventional wisdom.
We have also infected, or inspired the world depending on your viewpoint, of our way of doing things. They way we talk the way we dress the way we do business the way we live our lives. Countries and cultures around the world decry our way of life, our choices and even in the poorest community’s a higher standard of living than most of the word enjoys.

The myth that big brother will save you has ended, it didn’t save the people in the towers or the people in New Orleans or the people in Indonesia or the people in China or Rwanda or the Congo or Burma Pakistan India France England and they will not save you. We have given an undeserved and ill advised amount of power to government’s that are unable to deliver.

There are no answers here just questions and hopes and fears.