WHY I DON’T HAVE A “SMART PHONE”

9 05 2021

I’m going to be looking at the numerous down sides of so-called “smart phones,” but I want to start by acknowledging that there have been benefits from them, as well. It’s not just the spectacular results of billions of people having a video camera and a way to share their recording with the world. We would be in sorry shape  without all those cute cat videos.  But, seriously–from the horror shows of murders by police to strange statements and behavior by authorities that would be comic if imagined in a satirical sketch, but that, as reality, expose their incompetence and venality, and sometimes cause them to lose elections, get fired, or at least be overruled. There’s also the millions of people who have been able to reach out for needed assistance, whether for their broken-down car or their broken-down self-esteem, just by reaching in their pocket and texting or making a phone call. Not having to search for a pay phone in the middle of the night or the middle of nowhere is a wonderful convenience. However, that convenience, and the ability to catch fools and felons in the act, comes with a higher price than most people recognize, and that’s what I’m going to be exploring in this piece.

Let’s start with the fact that the pay phones we no longer have to search for are now more or less extinct, which means that, when leaving home, in order not to be cut off from the long distance communication network we have come to take for granted, one needs to have a cell phone.

That last statement raises three of the themes I’m going to be examining: a more complex technology (cell phones) replacing a simpler one (pay phones and, for that matter, communication via sending each other pieces of paper through the United States Postal Service).  The second theme is our tendency to take easy, fast long-distance communication for granted, and the third is the way cell phones have become a must-have item if one is going to fully participate in our culture and economy.

I’ll return to those issues a little later, but let’s begin this exploration with some other concerns:

Read the rest of this entry »





A DEEP GREEN LOOK AT “THE NASHVILLE TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT”

11 04 2021

updated May 7, 2021

Last month I wrote/talked about the similarities, and differences, that can be found in a broad spectrum of social movements, from Antifa and Black Lives Matter to working-class Trump supporters and Boogaloo Boiz. This month, to illustrate what I mean, I’m going to examine the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, an initiative supported by  a civic group here in town that calls itself..well, it doesn’t seem to call itself anything other than “The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act,” or maybe its web addy, which is  https://4goodgovernment.com/ .  This somewhat anonymous group–not only does it apparently not have a formal name, but there is nobody named anywhere on the website, although Nashville attorney  James Roberts, who has, shall we say, a checkered ethics record, seems to be its primary spokesperson. Roberts and his supporters, including, he alleges, 40 individuals he identifies only as “downtown business interests,” want to limit Metro’s ability to raise property taxes more than 3% per year without a referendum. This was sparked by Metro’s recent 37% property tax hike, which, understandably, upset a lot of people in the year of The Great Covid Economic Collapse.

Small-d democratizing approval for tax hikes is certainly an idea that a left-wing populist would support just as much as a right-wing one would. Another measure “4goodgovernment” is advancing would make it easier to recall elected officials. (Note: I have learned since writing this that I didn’t fully understand this proposal. Apparently, while it makes it easier to successfully petition for a recall election, also forbids the recalled official from running in that election–in other words, 10% of the voters could, merely by signing a petition, effectively remove an officeholder. That strikes me as, to use a technical political science term, “dirty pool.” I emphatically do not support such a measure.) Other broad-spectrum populist proposals would forbid the city from amending referendum-approved charter amendments, except by another referendum. Others call for referenda on the sale or lease of Metro properties valued at over five million dollars, and for Metro to be able to take back any land that was given to a sports team that is no longer functioning. The one measure that a left populist would not support is the one that mandates that “No elected official shall receive any benefits at taxpayer expense without a voter referendum.” Although its wording is vague enough to be legally questionable, it is aimed at denying Metro Council members one of the perks of the job–Metro-covered health insurance for them and their families for the rest of their lives. Perhaps in response to this, Metro recently voted to shift much more of the expense onto the former council members. While those who win Metro Council elections tend to come from the portion of the population that can best afford to pay for their own health insurance, this stricture seems rather gratuitous, since paying for the health insurance of current and former council members takes up 0.034% of Metro’s budget. Yeah, that’s right. Thirty-four thousandths of Metro’s budget.

So these proposals, to be voted on separately, are what this referendum drive is about. We will be examining how, and why, we finance local government , as well as looking at what makes this proposal right-wing populism rather than left-wing populism, and, to take things into the “deep green” realm, considering the how and why of the “value” of the land and buildings that are the basis of that financing. But I am going to start at “the surface,” by looking at what The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act proposes, the political and economic philosophy of those who are proposing it, and, of course, why Metro Nashville’s government is utterly horrified by it. Read the rest of this entry »





DIVIDED, WE FAIL

14 03 2021

I promised in January to take a “deep green look” at the Capitol riot. In February, the weather intervened, and so now we’re looking at the Capitol riot from two months out. I’m glad to have had that time to put it in perspective, because the more I examine the riot, and its roots, the more I understand the devious ways our ruling class works to keep us divided and at each other’s throats, rather than united and going after theirs. That may seem like an odd conclusion to reach about a bunch of right-wing Republicans making a clearly hopeless attempt to prevent the formal recognition of right-wing Democrat Joe Biden as our duly elected President. Understanding the connections I am going to make involves nuanced thinking, at a time when we are being heavily propagandized to see events, people, and beliefs as either good or bad–not that that propaganda campaign is new. The only way to keep from being taken over is is to take active control of our own minds.  Widespread ignorance of our ability to do this is the main reason why so many Americans are so easily hoodwinked by lying politicians and media–and I’m not just talking about Republicans and Fox News. Adam Schiff, MSNBC, and a whole lot of other “liberal”  people and news outlets, I’m lookin’ at you.

I’m not going to pay much attention to the second Trump impeachment and all the questions around that, because I think that focusing on Trump misses the point that what happened is not some weird anomaly that can be prevented from ever happening again if only we disqualify Trump from ever running for office again. I’ve pointed out plenty of times that he’s a symptom, not the source of the problem, and that, absent Trump, our diseased system will just present us with somebody a lot like him, but who has learned from his mistakes, and who will be that much harder to stop.

So, why do we have a society in which the Capitol riot was the logical next step for so many people? I think the proper place to start is with some statistics about income that I ran across on Charles Hugh Smith’s Of Two Minds blog, summarized in this chart, which, for the benefit of my radio audience shows “a relentless 50-year decline in wages’ share of the economy’s total income” from a high of nearly 52% in the early 1970’s to its current low of 43%.

Here’s what Smith has to say about the meaning of the decline:

1. Wages’ share of the national income has continued a five-decade downtrend. …. National income since 1973 has shifted from labor (wages) to capital and more specifically, to debt and speculative gaming of the system, a.k.a. financialization.

Total household income in the U.S. in 2018 was $17.6 trillion. The decline in wages’ share of the national income from 1973 to 2018 is about 8.5%, which equals $1.5 trillion, the sum shifted from labor to capital every year.…..

No, this is not a typo….. $50 trillion has been siphoned from labor (the lower 90% of the workforce) to the Financial Aristocracy and their technocrat lackeys (the top 10%) who own the vast majority of the capital (i.e., stocks)….


2. Within the workforce, wages have shifted to the top 10% who now earn 50% of all taxable income. ….. Financialization and globalization have decapitalized the skills of entire sectors of the workforce as automation and offshoring reduced the human capital of workers’ skills and experience and the value of their social capital. When the entire industry is offshored, skills and professional relationships lose their market value.

In a fully globalized economy, every worker producing tradable goods/services is competing with the entire global workforce, a reality that reduces wages in high-cost developed nations such as the U.S.

Financialization has heavily rewarded workers with specialized gaming the financial system skills and devalued every other skill as only the skills of financialization are highly profitable in a globalized, financialized economy.

He then explains more of what this means for the average American in flyover country: Read the rest of this entry »





“PLANET OF THE HUMANS” –IMPERFECT, BUT VITALLY IMPORTANT

13 05 2020

Depending on who you’re reading and your own viewpoint, “Planet of the Humans,” the new movie from Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, is either a bomb or a bombshell.  Numerous prominent, well-respected climate activists have characterized the film as “BS” and called for it to be removed from circulation, saying  the film contains

“various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.”

Others, such as Richard Heinberg, offer a more nuanced view of the film, writing that it doesn’t always do justice to its subject, a critique of our response to the climate change we have provoked, but that, while

Planet of the Humans is not the last word on our human predicament. Still, it starts a conversation we need to have, and it’s a film that deserves to be seen.

So far, over seven and a half million people have seen it since it debuted on YouTube on the day before Earth Day, and it is, indeed, starting some conversations. I had an overall positive response to it, and have been surprised at how many, and who, among my friends have not shared my appreciation. This post/broadcast will be devoted to why I think it is a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion about how, or perhaps whether, we are going to keep the planet’s climate within bounds that will allow human beings to be part of its ecosystem, along with my criticisms of it, and my response to others’ criticisms of it. Read the rest of this entry »





WHEN THE BLACK SWANS COME HOME TO ROOST

12 04 2020

Here in Nashville, our county-wide governance body has district representatives, whose main job is to be the intermediary between the citizens of their district and the city, and “At-Large” council members, whose serve more of an oversight function, kind of like deputy mayors. In 2015, I ran for  that office, largely on a platform that the city was acting like the good times were just going to keep on rolling, but that was not really the case, and we had better do everything we could to prepare for the collapse that was coming. Two of my suggestions were  that we ought to foster local food production and create co-operatively run local industries that would produce a great many of the essentials of life that now come from far away, like shoes, clothing, and tools. I’ll talk about the relevance of those planks of my platform a little later.

I confess that I didn’t campaign very hard. I showed up at the candidate forums, figuring that I was unlikely to win, but it was important for the winning candidates to hear what I had to say, and figured I would get my message out to the general public in an interview with The Nashville Scene. The Scene, unfortunately, chose to belittle my candidacy and mostly dwelt on what a peculiar guy I am, rather than on what I had to say.

I chose not to run in the most recent Metro Council election. I had thought about this a good deal in the years since the previous election, and realized that, given the genuine technical legal complexities of writing legislation, if I were going to run again, part of my platform ought to be that I would spend much of my salary to hire a lawyer to assist me in framing my proposals appropriately. But I don’t know any such lawyer, and, even if I did, it seemed to make more sense to cut out the middle man–me–and just help the lawyer run for office. So, I contented myself with expressing my concerns to all the candidates, and got fairly sympathetic responses back from several of them, as I detailed at the time. I figured it was preferable to have council members in office who are at least aware of our long-term possibilities, and was gratified that most of those who won the multi-seat election were candidates who had responded somewhat sympathetically to my concerns.

Let’s fast-forward to our current situation. Although I have mostly been staying home (which is what I usually do anyway), last Monday afternoon at around five o’clock I found myself driving on some of Nashville’s major commuting routes, which are usually jam-packed with cars at that time of day. There was hardly anybody on the road. I stopped by “The Produce Place,” a locally-owned store that specializes in selling local produce. It was closed, because the store has cut the hours it’s open due to the pandemic. I picked up a very skinny copy of “The Nashville Scene,” no longer fat from entertainment and restaurant ads, and read that the free paper is on the ropes financially and was hoping its readers would form a financial support group so it could stay in business. The Scene, which once prided itself on tweaking the sensibilities of “the bizpigs,” as the editors called the city’s elite, is now owned by one of the wealthiest people in town, and caters to “the bizpigs,” a phrase that has not appeared in The Scene since long before they dissed my Metro Council run. I’m not sure whether I should be sympathetic to their plight or not.

But, I digress….From our home, we can often hear the roar of rush hour traffic on another major thoroughfare. Not lately. We live a couple of miles from the private-plane airport in Davidson County, and are used to having frequent low-flying small planes in our soundscape. They have grown rare. Of course, another factor there is that a tornado blew through the airport a few weeks ago and did millions of dollars worth of damage, destroying hangars and the airplanes parked in them. The upshot is, private air travel, like automobile travel, is way down. I’m glad. I’ve often wondered why it’s OK for one person in a private airplane to destroy the peace and quiet of the thousands of people who have no choice but to hear the noise.

I certainly didn’t foresee that the economic shutdown of Nashville would be due to a pandemic, but here we are, right where I ‘ve been saying we’re going. Such an unforeseeable, catastrophic event, is called “a black swan.” One definition of “black swan” that I read says that “they are obvious in hindsight.” It’s true that worldwide flu epidemics have become an accepted part of modern life, although they have never been this severe before, so yes, we should have seen this coming. In fact, disaster planners in our government did see it coming, but were ignored for the same reason the concerns I raised in my Metro Council candidacy were brushed aside:  anybody who suggests that there’s anything dangerous in our future, whether it’s a pandemic, an economic collapse (which might be set off by a pandemic),nuclear war, or climate disaster, gets short shrift from those who run our society, who are engrossed with making money and exercising power nowWe are a species that is wired to deal with immediate threats and gratification, not the long-term results of our short-sighted actions. We are going to have to change that to survive as a species. In the interest of raising human consciousness, this post is going to examine the effects of this particular “black swan,” and also note a couple more that seem to be circling and getting ready to come home to roost. Read the rest of this entry »





STARTING THE REVOLUTION WITH….GOURMET HOT CHICKEN?

12 08 2018

My attention was attracted by a headline in a recent Nashville Scene:

H*t Chicken Sh**t Addresses Gentrification in North Nashville

The event, which I’m not sure how to pronounce—“Hot Chicken Shoot”? “Hit Chicken Shi..”….well, never mind–was an effort by Nigerian-American gourmet chef Tunde Wey to call together some movers and shakers to not merely discuss gentrification over a “gentrification priced” $55 dinner, but to actually start funding a community land trust that will “allow residents to buy affordable homes while the land is owned by a non-profit in the community.”

I think this is really good news. I’ve been one of those beating the drum for community land trusts as a way to address gentrification  and was happy to see it featured so prominently at the Co-op Nashville conference a few years back. Recently I’ve been wondering what happened to all the positive energy that was generated at that gathering, so it was very sweet to get an answer without even having to go look.

I wish Tunde Wey and his friends every success in this venture. I hope to send some money  their way, and I hope you will, too. But, being a “deep green perspective” kind of guy, I also have some further thoughts about this project, and that’s what I want to share with you.

This story kind of reminds me of the peace activist slogan “”It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” Here in Nashville, we just went through a massive campaign to pass additional taxes for a public transit system that was widely, and correctly, perceived as a tool for further gentrification of the city. “I’ve already got developers calling me about property (along the proposed light rail route)” one advocate of the plan said, on camera.  (Oops!) This plan was defeated, largely by those who realized it was going to gentrify them right out of town. Something that does seem to be going through, on the other hand, is a “major-league soccer stadium” that will undoubtedly raise property values in its neighborhood, which happens to be one of the remaining pockets of affordable housing. The good news is that the soccer stadium plan is structured to listen and respond to input from the surrounding community. The relevant part of this story, however, is that Metro Nashville is issuing $275M in bonds to pay for the project, with the expectation that the stadium will do well enough financially to pay that back.

Read the rest of this entry »





NASHVILLE’S BREXIT VOTE

13 05 2018

th+graph+1I recently wrote about Nashville’s plans for a better transit system, calling it “another big-ticket neoliberal scheme to make the rich richer,”  and now the voters have spoken. By a nearly 2–1 margin, with nearly twice the expected turnout, the transit plan was voted down. The analyses of the issue that I have read treat it as a failure of strategy and tactics, and largely ignore the fact that the funding mechanism was pure neoliberal flim-flam: they were going to do this wonderful thing for the low-income people of Nashville, that the lower-income people were going to have to pay for themselves. According to the Tennessean, nearly 90% of the revenue for the project would come from an increase in the sales tax. If you are reading this, I probably don’t have to remind you that sales taxes are highly regressive in nature, paid disproportionately by low-income taxpayers. The other sticking point was the widespread perception that the plan did not do nearly enough to address the already rampant issue of gentrification in Nashville, which even proponents of the plan admitted would likely come to neighborhoods with better public transportation. Indeed, Metro sees increased property values as one of the benefits of infrastructure projects, whether they’re sewers or light rail lines. Liberals in the city can make all kinds of cluck-clucks of sympathy about the plight of low-income Nashvillians, but their actions, which promote gentrification, belie those words, and lower-income Nashvillians were rightly wary of the latest set of promises and the likelihood of increased exploitation.

Let me spell that out: people earn low wages in large part because their labor is being exploited. By “exploited,” I mean that their labor produces considerably more value than they are paid for, with their employer skimming off the difference. Nashville’s largely Democratic/neoliberal power brokers blithely assumed that they could successfully exploit the exploited still further, rather than ask the businesses who exploit those workers, and who are disproportionately wealthy as a result, to pay a fair share of the cost. As with Brexit and Trump’s upset victory, the exploited took advantage of the ballot box to do what they could to indicate that they did not want to be exploited any further.

Like Brexit and the Trump Presidency, this is a three-sided issue, not a bipolar one, although every attempt is being made to portray it as such. I hated to see the GOP screw-the-poor crowd get to chalk this up as a victory about as much as I would have disliked seeing the plan win, since, to say it again a little differently, it screwed low-income people by making them pay for the plan and not doing enough to address the rampant gentrification that was all too likely to follow the tracks. The big-ticket construction plan, and the gentrification, would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, in the name of “doing something for the poor.” Excuse me for repeating myself, but I think this is an important point to make. That’s how the Democrats roll.

The third position is the one taken by The People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing & Employment, which, in its recent “People’s State of Metro” called for the following: Read the rest of this entry »





SEX, TRANSIT, GLORIA NASHVILLE

11 03 2018

Before I heard the recent news, I was planning to write a story that examined the proposal to create a rail-centered mass transit system in Nashville. When I heard about Mayor Barry’s resignation and guilty plea on the national news (“a rising star in the Democratic Party,” they called her), I decided that I would be remiss not to comment on a situation that reveals so much about our country’s politics, and human nature in general. So, sex first, then transit.

Let’s  begin with the adultery aspect. I see two somewhat opposing dynamics here. On one hand, in order for people to be fully intimate with each other, honesty is essential. The number of people involved in that intimacy doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as they all agree on the same ground rules and are wiling to work through whatever emotional baggage those ground rules may bring to light. For most people, most of the time, the basic ground rule is, “You and me, baby. Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”

On the other hand, enough people have broken their promise of dyadic exclusivity so that we, as a society, should have figured out by now that we’re not necessarily wired that way. Read the rest of this entry »





A HOCKEY STICK STORY

12 11 2017

Maybe I’m sentimental, but I still subscribe to Mother Jones Magazine. I first connected with it back in the 70’s, when, like the labor organizer it’s named for, it was a radical voice that both took a clear-eyed look at what is, and laid out a promising, hopeful view of, and path toward, the better future that could be. In the forty years since, the magazine has increasingly become a cheerleader for the mainstream of the Democratic Party, to the point that I think that  if Mother Jones were she still alive, she would be taking legal action against the magazine for sullying her good name. So far, though, every time I’ve felt just about fed up enough to cancel my subscription, they’ve come through with some kind of a must-read-and-share article that has renewed my faith in them.

I’m curious to see what they’ll make of Donna Brazile’s recent tell-all memoir, in which she reveals that the DP really did rig the primaries in exchange for certain financial considerations from the Clinton campaign. Perhaps the lawsuit on those grounds against the DP will be revived. But that’s not what I”m going to focus on tonight. I want to focus, instead, on what I think is the first science fiction story Mother Jones has ever printed. That story is called “You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot.”   It features a hockey stick graph of the rate at which computing power, and thus, automation, is expected to increase.aihockeystick,

The science fiction aspect of this story is not so much the potential advances in computer technology as it is its casual, offhand treatment of climate change, regarding it as a minor inconvenience that will, of course, be managed and dealt with without any serious impact on our Sacred American Way of Life. That’s kind of like confusing spinal meningitis with the flu. Climate change, like spinal meningitis, has its own exponential growth curve. hockeyprojection

Read the rest of this entry »





HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM…..

8 10 2017

music: The Band, “Look Out, Cleveland

This is a story about Harvey, Irma, and Maria. What an awesome threesome! A lot of ink, pixels, and hot air has gone into telling their stories, but not much of that has taken a “deep green perspective.” They’re part of a much bigger picture–really, part of a couple of “much bigger pictures,” one nested within the other, like a small shark intent on snapping up a fish, not realizing that he’s about to be snapped up by the jaws of a much larger shark. To explore this hierarchy of hungry sharks, but let’s start with Tropical Storm Harvey.

Twelve years to the day after Katrina flooded New Orleans, America’s forty-sixth largest city, Harvey, a much bigger storm, inundated America’s fourth largest city.

Consider the Houston recipe: Establish a sprawling, extremely toxic chemical industry pretty much at sea level on a low-lying, hurricane-prone shore. Run lots of pipelines full of oil, gas, and other toxic substances from all across the country to this area, making it one of the essential nodes that supports our whole way of life. Allow a large city to grow mixed in with all these chemical plants and pipelines, so that virtually the entire residential area of the city is within smelling distance of a chemical facility. Don’t do zoning. In fact, take an “anything goes” ethic when it comes to environmental safety standards, including a good strong dose of climate science denial.

Put this mixture on a shelf for a few decades and pay attention to other things, while carbon emissions due to that chemical industry raise the temperature of the planet, causing sea level and the intensity of storms to rise.

What could possibly go wrong?

Read the rest of this entry »








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