Was there really a recovery, or was the 2008 crash simply kicked down the road?

•February 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Citi sees the world economy as being in a “Death Spiral.” The financial giant tells investors of a coming significant and synchronized’ global recession and a proper modern-day equity bear market. This could lead to “further weakness in oil prices, recession and a serious equity bear market”,their strategists have warned.

This is backed up by years of warnings by prestigious financial analysis by Vistage business group, the Beaulieu brothers recommend that business owners complete sales of their firms within the next 2 years.

In California, “A lot of sellers proactively putting their home on the market, trying to preserve whatever equity they have, even though they still have a job they think maybe at the end of the year they won’t” according to insiders.

Billionaire Jeff Greene has warned that the day will soon come when the human workforce is replaced by robots. ‘We have to figure out how to reinvent the economy.’ “Workers could be ‘put out to pasture’ – in the same way horses were when they were replaced by cars and tractors – because of the exponential growth of artificial intelligence

“Economists have raised their odds for recession, as the ever-dependable locomotive for the U.S. economy has encountered a hill that slowed it sharply.”

 

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Municipal Budgets – 4 years later

•July 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Detroit-Photo-by-Bob-Jagendorf-300x300Years back there was significant coverage on this blog  of municipal budget deficiencies, and somewhat pessimistic predictions for the future. Although the actual news of local government distress has been kept to a minimum, the math behind the scenes stays the same. More than one year since the last post the bankruptcy of Detroit is a landmark event in this area.

We’ll be looking at this phenomenon in more depth during the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the Economic Collapse site has some interesting facts about the BK of MoTown.

1) At this point, the city of Detroit owes money to more than 100,000 creditors.

2) Detroit is facing $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.  That breaks down to more than $25,000 per resident.

3) Back in 1960, the city of Detroit actually had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.

4) In 1950, there were about 296,000 manufacturing jobs in Detroit.  Today, there are less than 27,000.

5) Between December 2000 and December 2010, 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost.

6) There are lots of houses available for sale in Detroit right now for $500 or less.

7) At this point, there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.

8) About one-third of Detroit’s 140 square miles is either vacant or derelict.

9) An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.

10) Less than half of the residents of Detroit over the age of 16 are working at this point.

11) If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

12) Detroit was once the fourth-largest city in the United States, but over the past 60 years the population of Detroit has fallen by 63 percent.

13) The city of Detroit is now very heavily dependent on the tax revenue it pulls in from the casinos in the city.  Right now, Detroit is bringing inabout 11 million dollars a month in tax revenue from the casinos.

14) There are 70 “Superfund” hazardous waste sites in Detroit.

15) 40 percent of the street lights do not work.

16) Only about a third of the ambulances are running.

17) Some ambulances in the city of Detroit have been used for so long that they have more than 250,000 miles on them.

18) Two-thirds of the parks in the city of Detroit have been permanently closed down since 2008.

19) The size of the police force in Detroit has been cut by about 40 percent over the past decade.

20) When you call the police in Detroit, it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond.

21) Due to budget cutbacks, most police stations in Detroit are now closed to the public for 16 hours a day.

22) The violent crime rate in Detroit is five times higher than the national average.

23) The murder rate in Detroit is 11 times higher than it is in New York City.

24) Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.

25) Crime has gotten so bad in Detroit that even the police are telling people to “enter Detroit at your own risk“.

5 point strategy for avoiding electronic input overload

•April 20, 2012 • 1 Comment

30 years ago there were no iPhones, Ipads, few PC’s, and limited cable TV. Video games consisted of Pong. That was about one generation ago. Fast forward to the present day, and the volume of electronic signals hitting the brain is a staggering avalanche of noise. The connection has gone beyond necessary communication and has become a troubling intrusion. How much of an effect it is having on human development is difficult to measure. The dangers of tobacco were unknown in 1940, and the toxic effects of processed foods is just now being seen after a few decades.

So if you are of the opinion that the electronic onslaught is unhealthy, here are a few ways to defend against the damage. If you do not have this point of view, why not try it anyway, and see if you feel better after a few weeks. If not, go back to plan A.

1. Turn off “Auto Complete” on your browser – This will require you to enter in the full URL address of the sites you wish to view, and might cut down on frantic surfing.

2. 5 foot from bed rule – Place all phones, PDA’s, and iPads at least 5 feet from the bed when you sleep, preferably in another room. This way, you will be less likely to check in with emails last minute before you sleep, and more likely to stay snoozing until the last minute. No temptation to just grab your phone and read emails late or early.

3. Set a timer – Yeah, this is juvenile, but it might keep you from overdoing it with TV, surfing, or emailing. Allow some total screen time (at home) each day, maybe 60 minutes. You’ll find things to do in the extra available time. Your spouse/SO is a good place to start. 🙂

4. No screens after 8 PM – Shut everything off at 8:00 at night. This way you’ll have at least an hour or two of time to get the artificial light waves out of your brain before you sleep. This alone will make you sleep better, I promise. Try it and prove it to yourself.

5. Subscribe to at least 10 printed magazines – Having these show up twice per week and pile up on the coffee table will give you something else colorful to look at without having to boot up or log on. Plus, you will discover a less time sensitive media to enjoy. Reading does not have to be a hunting sport, it can take place whenever you want. Turning pages one by one is less damaging to the intellect than furiously clicking links.

Bonus trick: Do you miss reality TV or watching humans? Try this: Mall meditation. Go to a shopping mall, movie theater, or any place alot of people gather. Sit and watch them. Observer the couples, families, and groups. First observe without judgment or analysis. Then start to guess their stories, hear their conversations, and watch how very few of them even notice the same  surroundings you are seeing. Doing this a few times will also build skills on being able to be presently aware of your environment and the people in it next time you are engaged in a similar scenario.

If you try these out and they make you feel better and more sharp, you can thank me later for when you cancel cable TV and save $100 per month.

Less is more?

•January 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

When a human maintains an excessive food intake or an unbalanced nutritional diet, the results are visibly noticeable and the health effects measurable. Just in the past few decades the food selections made readily available to modern society has changed dramatically and the results are now apparent. Much higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure issues. Just 30 years ago a 1979 commercial for Special K cereal presented a method to determine if a person was overweight and needed to eat something more healthy. Remember the “Pinch an Inch” commercial?

How many people CAN’T pinch an inch today?

So the effects of a modern nutritional environment on the physical body are well established, but how is the mind and spirit of a human being treated by what it consumes? If the consumption of mass produced and over processed foods in large quantities damages the body, it is likely the consumption of mass produced and over processed mental “nutrition” has similar consequences on the psyche.

The first clue to the answer is the rate of prescribing mental health drugs. Medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mind issues is up dramatically. A recent study reported that 1-in-4 women is dispensed medication for a mental health condition over the past decade.

The source of this trend could originate in part from electronic overload. A college in England performed a study using MRI analysis of brain activity and discovered that Internet addiction is linked with changes in the brain similar to those seen in people addicted to alcohol, cocaine and cannabis. The phenomenon is more pronounced in children and adolescents.

Some experts are promoting the idea of “email bankruptcy:”

All of this emailing is designed to keep me from real human interaction. And so I go about my day like I’m playing a Chucky Cheese arcade game of Whack-a-Mole. Knock one email back and two others pop up. Increasingly common is the sight of two young people dining out, each muted and bent by “BlackBerry hunch.” That’s just downright sad — sadder than two old people chewing quietly with nothing to say at a Denny’s buffet.

So here is my big idea.

I’m filing for email bankruptcy. This is not a novel idea. I remember reading an article about it years ago — that was before my emails climbed to unprecedented heights. I thought the author was a whiner. He was inefficient; clearly he didn’t have a balance in his life or his priorities straight. Now I think he was brilliant — a prophet before his time. About a month ago, I left my iPhone in a restaurant. No Good Samaritan emerged from this story — it was New York City for Pete’s sake. But whatever the new owner of my phone did that night, the next morning most of my inbox was mysteriously erased. After some panicked moments and two hours on the Apple help line, I came to the realization it was gone. And all at once a light went on. “So what?” said the light. Big honking deal! And you know what? Nothing bad happened. I didn’t miss any deadlines. The people that wanted me just emailed again. They hadn’t even realized I’d been playing hooky. They’d probably forgotten whose turn it was to LOL back. – Lee Woodruff

Does it sound like an extreme idea? Not too extreme for Volkswagen or Veritas. VW has adopted a policy of turning off its Blackbery servers so that employees do not receive emails after working hours. “The issue of employees using Blackberrys, computers and other devices out of working time is a growing one that needs to be addressed as it can be a source of stress,” Trades Union Congress (TUC) secretary general Brendan Barber.  At Veritas a “no email Fridays” policy forces employees to call by phone or walk over and visit a co-worker if they wish to converse or collaborate.

The mechanism behind how information overload decreases mental ability is described in the Scientific American article titled “Forgetting is the Key to a Healthy Mind.” In the same way that sleep is necessary to maintain physical development, purging mental input is critical to brain operation.

With food, multitasking, and possessions, less could be more:

Multitasking is neither

•January 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The idea of multitasking is frequently presented as a valuable skill. In theory is sounds good, a person being able to do 2 or more things simultaneously. If this were true it would enable the person to get twice as much done in a given time period. Multitasking pulls parts of the brain away from the present and therefore not only lowers the performance of both “tasks”  but also deteriorates the state of mind of the person. One description of multitasking uses the term “continuous partial attention.” The partial attention part is enough of a warning that it might not be the best solution.

It is easy to see that texting while driving is bad. While it might not be as apparent, other types of multitasking might have just as serious consequences in the long run. Consider the aspects of life you hold as most important and wish to perform the best. It could be building a relationship, bonding with family, or enjoying a life vent. Then consider if there are any other pursuits, distractions or activities which are creeping into being present for those important things.

Update: An interesting article was recently published on this subject at the following link.

The power of not thinking

•January 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The intellectual mind seems like the pinnacle of human development. It is a tool which has solved important problems and created extraordinary technology. Beyond the rational world of problem solving however, the mind can often cause harm.
Runaway thoughts can interfere with the human interaction with the world. Obsessing on the future can ruin an otherwise good day. And we have all looked right past an excellent opportunity or experience right in front of us because we were fuming about some past event. If used as a tool for specific tasks the mind is valuable. When it is allowed to run away with our identity it proves that it is not the best thing to handle that job.
Technology proves this. There are many reports in the medical and psychological fields which demonstrate how multitasking, exposure to electronic media, and relying on technology changes the personality for the worse. ADD, ADHD, stress, anxiety, and anti-social behavior have been linked to overstimulating the mind.
The interest and success of trends like meditation and yoga result in large part from the abundance of the multi-tasking and mental overload of present day humans. The current evolutionary state of humans was established during a time when we were a few steps beyond cave men. The lifestyle of that being included a great deal of observation and down time. The brain has not evolved much past that, and now that the capacity is being used more the process is taking more of a toll on the human spirit and soul.
At the highest level human groups talk of their mental efforts described as “brain storming.” This process is what is used to extract the most extreme and useful ideas from the mind. Think about the term however, because it is accurate. Instead of a slow methodical mental consideration offset by a spiritual counterbalance, a brainstormer literally creates a storm in their mind. This can’t be a good idea overall. THe brain is the most important and fragile part of the human body, (which is why it is the only one encased in a solid structure), so the last thing you want to do is create a storm in it.
Now obviously the “storm” is not a physical force, but the effect is just as severe. Many of the emotional and even physical ailments of humans may be traced to the brains use being out of balance having been forced to deal with an environment which does not match the one it was made for. This cause and effect may not be visible to the human eye, however it may be made more apparent by tracking a parallel human dysfunction.
Humans in the more “advanced” modern western societies such as in the US are undisputedly becoming obese and unhealthy. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are all increasing. Almost all of this can be tracked to “modern” food, which in reality is not food at all when compared with what the human physiology was designed for. So the development of “food” advancements which appear to make it taste better and more readily available actually makes the body sick. Therefore why can’t it be also true that the modern information environment does not match the one our minds were designed for, and are similarly making our minds sick.
More ominous is the fact that the two may be related, creating a vicious feedback loop. There has already been medical evidence that junk food damages the mind. At the same time an overtaxed mind may be more susceptible to adopting an inferior nutritional regimen.
Let’s see if there are any developments which support this in the coming years.

Proof of the present

•December 21, 2011 • 1 Comment

In the transformation stage of becoming more genuinely present, there is some difficulty in abandoning past habits of dwelling on the past or an imaginary future. Since these have been routines for decades they have become comfortable superstitions. For an A type personality who uses the past as a guide to chase future results, or the overanalytic intellectual who uses the present only to plan the future, or the nostalgic sentimentalist who dwells on past pleasure, hoping to recreate them, it is difficult to let go of other time benchmarks and focus on the present.

As someone who understands this difficulty for these reasons and others, there are common proofs which help demonstrate the value of the present. Being aware of verifiable proof that being in the present creates the most pleasure in life helps me get back to that state, I hope it does for you as well.

1. Did you ever notice how many great ideas come to you in bed? It could be just as you drift off to sleep, or as you start to wake up, a brainstorm of a fantastic idea comes to you. As you observe your brain developing the thought it becomes even more compelling. I think this happens at that moment because  you are completely in the present, even if unintentionally. There are no distractions of everyday life operations to drag your mind into future concerns or past resentment. It is only about now.
What normally happens next is that your mind starts to take over and think of how you can use this idea in the future and you start to chase it. Often the idea goes away or is hard to recreate mentally. This could be because the stillness of the present is gone too.
Instead of bolting out of bed to write it down or try to think of all the opportunities which would come from your great idea, why not try and get above the mind and be part of the present again. Even if that means going back to sleep. Then when awake later I focus on the present and it gets back to that state. Decidedly using the mind as a tool conjures allows the thought to come back on its own.

2. Consider all of the most valuable aspects of your life, most or all of which will be experiences, relationships, events, or other non-material things. Your best friends, greatest jobs, accomplishments, your children, family, and the like. Make a list if you want to. Be sure that we are both thinking of the “best” things, not the “most” things. Now look at each item on your “list” (mental or written) and remember how that thing came to be. Didn’t most or all of them come to you, rather than being something you were chasing? The greatest relationships are usually described as “we just found each other.” Genuinely happy couples usually aren’t the result of people chasing a relationship, they came unexpectedly. Even great jobs or business arrangements happen due to the right circumstances coming together. If you are thinking of a business or employment scenario which you think happened because of you pursuing it, really think about whether it was just an opportunity that came to you.
Your children, in effect come to you. You don’t choose them. And they are often the greatest things in a persons life. This was an example given to me which at first I could not understand. A parent was told that their child was lucky to have them, to which they replied that no, the child had chosen them. What seemed mystical at the time is so completely accurate. All of the significant pleasures come from allowing the flow of life to happen, and much of the pain comes from chasing future expectations of an artificial identity, or running from resentments of the past. Even great artists speak of their work as having just come to them.
When there is an apparent conflict between whether a “thing” is a positive aspect of life or not, such as a friend, job, or even a child, it may be because you have started to “chase” something about it. What was “good”when you let it be part of the present became “bad” when you tried to force some other time upon it, past or present. For example when a child becomes something that is annoying or brings pain, it could be because instead of being present in the now of that life, there has been an invasion of future expectations, resentment from the past, or other intrusions. The parent can project those things onto the child and create anxiety for both. This can happen with any relationship.

It is a slight paradox to have to think about past events to reinforce being present, but it may be a necessary evil until being able to be in the now consistently is easier.