Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Yearly Xmas Admonition, Updated

Yes yes, this is the time Chaos will launch into a rant on the materialism and commercialism of Xmas, the early start, the slavish devotion to the market's demands, and the ridiculousness of citizens putting themselves into debt. None of this seems necessary at this particular moment in time, seeing as how the economy is collapsing faster than can be recorded, jobs are being shed at a breakneck pace, and companies (particularly retail) are busily filing for bankruptcy, or at least preparing for a very chilly January. At the risk of being redundant, then, here's the latest: the world is entering a global deflationary depression. Prices for assets will drop, because people will have no money to buy. Jobs will shrink, governments will go bust, promised pension benefits will not be paid, people will starve. Those with debt will be destitute, those with cash will make out somewhat better. In light of this, the celebration of the holidays should not be marked by increased consumption of anything, except perhaps food and beverages. Take Chaos' advice, get an early start on living with less, spend nothing on cheap trinkets this year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Endless, Mindless Population Growth

One inevitable consequence (there are many others, all of them bad) of human overpopulation is species extinction, both from habitat destruction and for human stomachs, in the case of some species deemed edible by the killer apes. Nowhere is this phenomenon more heartbreaking than in the case of the world's fish. A potent reminder appears in today's paper of record. Also included are reasons that farmed fish, by and large, are vastly inferior nutritionally and ridiculously expensive in terms of calories, to produce, but oh well. Humanity clearly will adapt to its own systematic and progressive destruction of the planet and all life, long before it voluntarily limits its growth.

The Price of Health Care: Going On Vacation

Long ago, Chaos wrote on the growing prevalence of medical tourism, in which Americans, who lack health insurance or funds to pay for wildly expensive medical procedures, have begun traveling abroad to find the care they needed at prices they can afford (read: 1/10th of US prices). Chaos has not read much about it in the interim, but it is still alive and's an example, wherein South Korea is getting in on some of the action. (India, Thailand, and South Africa are primary participants). Notable is the projection that 6 million people may be doing this by 2010. Ponder for a moment, readers, about the spectacle of a country which sends its residents abroad for medical necessities. Declining empire, indeed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How We Got Here: A Wall Street Tale

This is probably one of the better explanations (yes, it's a little long) of how the US and the rest of the world suffered the recent economic calamity. Hint: it's the excess, it's the greed, it's just...Wall Street Business As Usual, combined with the willing suspension of disbelief and the All-American desire for Something for Nothing. Should put the lie to the phrase, "no one could have anticipated..." because these guys did. Really good stuff, by someone who knows.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On The Lack Of Manners, And What To Do About It

Taking a break from the most severe economic news, have a look at this very short but funny piece in the nation's paper of record concerning the lack of civility (well, it is set in New York City, after all) and the author's attempts to remedy the situation. Nice.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wealth and Power Video

To understand more than you did about the economic tsunami which has only begun to appear, watch this hour long video featuring economist Joseph Stiglitz and author Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine, mentioned here often), along with Third World economist Hernando de Soto. Fascinating and scary stuff, particularly when de Soto explains, in property rights terms, exactly where we are today (hint: nobody knows).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election Aftermath

“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein

Chaos has just this to say, beyond noting the dissonance between the national backslapping at having elected a member of the Establishment who happens to have a slightly darker skin tone and the constraint upon real action now being manifested by the chatter of the cognoscenti...not only problems and thinking at the same level, but more importantly, the same people who had hands in creating this economic crisis are now being mentioned as having roles in the new administration. Chaos cannot help but note with concern that the world seems poised to enter a catastrophic global economic shutdown (google Baltic Dry Shipping index, if you doubt), and efforts made by those who created and enabled the carnage have so far proved to be wildly ineffective and (worse) expensive. If you are not reading The Automatic Earth daily, Chaos' words may strike you as unduly alarmist, but there you go.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Funny Symbol of the Gilded Age

Try this hilarious article on how to survive a friend's expensive birthday dinner, when there are multiple guests with wildly differing financial abilities. As an amusing piece of fluff, it is quite successful, but a sobering step back is also possible if one ruminates on the excesses of a society in which events like this take place. If you need concrete contrast, have a look at this account of a couple attempting to live on $1.00 per day, the better to imagine how 1 billion humans on the earth survive.