Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dear Naomi,

Re: 'Geo-engineering: Testing the Waters'

I've read and think quite highly of _The Shock Doctrine_. and just heard you join Bill McKibben on the Boston segment of the 'Do the Math' tour, where you spoke of the great strategy of divesting ourselves from fossil fuel foolery. I feel that your efforts here have been very well thought through.

I also read your 'Geo-engineering - Testing the Waters' NYT article, and it stimulated in me some thoughts and questions. I see this article as addressing very important issues. As you know, the response so far by humanity as a whole to the climate crisis has been underwhelming, and thus we're all endangered: the many innocent along with the industrial guilty. You have called out geo-engineering as too risky, and named geo-engineering as being intentional efforts to affect our climate. But isn't it still geo-engineering even if we didn't mean to? Is not our unprecedented current raising of the earth's temperature geo-engineering, even though inadvertent?

Why does this matter? We need to understand just how risky our current trajectory is as we compare the risks of preceeding as we are, versus attempting to ameliorate this disaster. The 'Do nothing' response has been left behind. We've continued to release carbon every time we raise the thermostat from 'off', every time we switch an electric light or computer on, and every time we drive an automobile. When we compare the risks of geo-engineering we really have nothing to compare this to. We're already altering the climate, we've been doing so for some time, we're accelerating the pace of change as we speak and no one of us has the 'off' switch for this earth-wide process within our grasp.

So what? So we're experimenting without a control, risking our bets without a hedge: What does that have to do with considering geo-engineering concepts proposed to lessen the risk of catastrophic climate change? Here's the nub; if we were comparing new geo-engineering ideas with truly doing nothing; with all humanity unplugging from industrialism completely, then dismissing geo-engineering as risky would clearly be the sane choice. Why risk possible disaster?

But that is not the choice we face, now that an out-of-control USA has been exceeded in GHG emission rates by an even more out-of-control China.
We do not have a 'do nothing' option to choose from, since we're geo-engineering this one and only living planet at ever-accelerating rates as we speak.

It's like we've woken up to find ourselves bicycling but falling, when we don't know how to steer a bike
. Attempting to move the handlebars is possible disaster, but doing nothing as we fall is certain disaster. It makes sense to try to steer, because we're already falling. Some say that were we to simply cease all industrialism-based fossil-fuel use tomorrow, we would still face unacceptable climate change, even though we returned to Stone-age human climatic impact levels. So since we can't seem to avoid risk completely, our choices are continuing to accelerate our disasterous ways, or looking into hedging our bets by considering also-risky conscious, intentional geo-engineering.

So let's consider the geo-engineering options carefully. Don't these seem to separate into two main groups? First are the attempts to shade earth; to reduce sunlight falling to earth. Second are attempts to capture atmospheric carbon by increasing photosynthesis. These each have completely distinct outcomes, apart from both cooling the earth.

The first catagory, reducing sunlight reaching earth's surface, will reduce photosynthesis on earth. The wild plants and plankton will grow more slowly and crops will yield less - earth's carrying capacity will be reduced. As a result, less of us will have enough to eat. Examples of this approach include reflective umbrella satellites and high atmosphere sulfate aerosols. Let's consider other options.

The second catagory of geo-engineering increases earth's photosynthesis by various means. This leads to more food for wild and tame, to a greater carrying capacity for earth, to more of humanity going to bed fed. Some examples of this approach are growing seaweeds, etc. on seawater-flooded deserts and iron fertilization of oceans, the very topic that stimulated Ms. Klein to write 'Testing the Waters'.

So while I agree with Naomi Klein that some geo-engineering efforts should be avoided, I disagree that all geo-engineering can be safely avoided. Indeed, we're already geo-engineering earth, albeit unthinkingly. Let's consider just how unteniable the 'do nothing' option is, and then very carefully and thoughtfully investigate intentional geo-engineering approaches within our reach.

Brian Cady

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Jobs, Earth and Humanity

Jobs: Each of us needs work, yet now one of five of us is out of, or short of, work ( Each willing worker should have a job open to them. This is only fair, since we generally must work for what we need.  
Labor versus Resources: We now use resources to eliminate labor via clever technology, which, in a world empty of people and full of resources, brilliantly complemented limited labor. But now we live in a world full of people eager to work, and running empty of resources. We can use more labor and less resources and thrive more. This will reduce pollution from resource use, as well as provide more equal opportunity to work for the the less fortunate among us.  
Growth versus Maturity: We relied on economic growth to provide more jobs, more opportunity for the less lucky, but now our world is full of us people, and more growth can't fit well. Like a growing child becoming adult, humanity as a species has become mature. Further physical growth of our society is unhealthy, since we must all fit together on this limited planet. We still have enough now for each of our needs, yet not enough for our greeds. And if we grow economically while not growing physically, we produce only needless inflation. Now what?  
Fuller Employment and Tax-Shifting: We can have enough jobs without unhealthy continued growth through inspiring more labor use and less resource use, via different technologies and different incentives. How can we inspire replacing resource use with labor? Now we tax labor use through income taxes, but don't tax resource use. We can switch this, taxing use of resources to cover the revenues from now-eliminated income taxes. Then labor will be cheaper for bosses. This will inspire more hiring and less buying resources, saving rare resources for our children, while reducing subsequent pollution, and inspiring creation of more of the jobs we all need. Furthermore this helps reduce costly resource imports and damaging trade deficits, all while maintaining or increasing governmental revenues.  
In Massachusetts: Not only can we shift our state taxes from income to resource use, but at a state level we can reverse federal income taxation with state rebates, and pay for the rebates out of further resource use taxation. Thus we can lead the US in building a sustainable economy here in Massachusetts, inspiring extensive hiring and resource conservation.  
Worksharing: But tax-shifting will take time to affect employment decisions, and meanwhile one of five of us is short of the labor we need. So we can expand worksharing to levels so successful in Germany and other countries. What is worksharing? Worksharing spreads work among all of us by temporarily shortening the workweek to stimulate hiring unemployed people. Those already working, who's hours are cut, receive some unemployment insurance so that their take-home pay stays nearly level. Worksharing has been done here in Massachusetts on a trial basis, and can be expanded. Worksharing is a temporary measure to make hard times fall more fairly across all our shoulders, to preserve civil society while economies adjust.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One design of solar hot water heater can work right through a power failure. Called 'geyser pumping', the mechanism percolates like a coffee maker, using the sun's power to drive bubbles up through the panels. Bubbles that form in the panels lift the working fluid up out of the panels, where the bubbles are released. This allows the fluid to travel down through a long loop that takes it down through the basement-mounted hot water storage tank, where it gives off its heat to the cold water entering the tank. Then the now-cold fluid continues back up to the panels, where, joined by the bubbles, it enters the panels to be heated again. The fluid in the panels is freeze-proof, and is separated from drinking water by copper heat exchangers, so the system will withstand New England winters without trouble. While a little complex to first explain, these systems are in fact simple in operation, in that they do not depend on electric pumps, motors, valves, switches or any electricity at all. This means sun can heat your water when there's no electricity, providing an additional margin of security in tomorrow's uncertain future. Moreover, this simplicity provides outstanding reliability, and eases diagnosis and repair on the rare occasion of failure. Decades ago I helped install a predecessor to this type of solar hot water system. This newer system shares with it's predecessor the ability to shut itself down once all the tank water is hot, preventing damage and extending reliability. This is also done without switches motors valves or electricity, so this system will not overheat in a power failure. A tank below the panels accepts most of the working fluid when the system's heat fills the panels with vapor, which occurs when the basement tank has been completely heated through. Then when hot water is used, cold water replaces it in the bottom of the storage tank. This cools the working fluid returning to the panels. This cold fluid cools down the panels again, drawing the rest of the fluid back up out of the overflow tank beneath the panels, and returning the system to operation. I am really impressed with the careful thought guiding this system's design, and recommend it for Jamaica Plain residents seeking trouble-free solar hot water. For more information, see Sunnovations' archived site.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Finishing Unemployment for Good

Economists understand that we don't need growth to solve unemployment. We can put more of us to work, getting more work done in the world, at the cost of increasing the money supply. This is said to cause inflation, but there's a cure - reduce the money supply back done again with land and wealth taxes that most affect the one percent. Thus we can have full employment and balanced budgets while acknowledging that infinite growth aboard a finite earth is suicidally cancerous, all while reducing the inequality that makes us all miserable. But won't an increase in employment inevitably cause an increase in pollution? No, because we use polluting resources to substitute for labor, when we have too much labor and pollution and not enough resources. Slowing resource use will lessen pollution, preserve resources and increase employment. Hence the push to tax 'bads' instead of goods, and instead of taxing labor; This tax shift can shift consumption patterns so we'll all be better off. For more, see the 16 minute Joshua Farley video:

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Now is the Time to Start Building the Boston Urban Ring Transit Line.

The Urban Ring is a planned public transport service to encircle central Boston, connecting the existing subway line 'grid' so as to allow quicker routes around Boston's center. It is expected to move 40,000 passengers each day in phase I, to about 275,000 per day in phase III in 2025, speeding commutes and relieving central transit congestion.
Because most business doesn't know now what to do with capital, interest rates are near historic lows, so it's a great time to raise building capital via municipal bond sales.
And it is a great time to hire transit builders, amidst this seemingly endless recession, and to thus stimulate the greater Boston economy.
The land-owners of the to-be-connected new stops on the Urban Ring stand to gain tremendously in financial terms from the Ring's connecting these sites right to the existing subway and busway system, and it would thus be fair to partly fund Urban Ring construction by taxing the increase in land value created at and near these new stops with special taxation zones. There’s an annotated bibliography about paying for public transit building with taxes of the increased land value created by the new public transit at:
Boston's Urban Ring could be a step forward into a greener future for Boston, replacing private auto traffic, speeding many commutes, reducing air pollution and the resulting health costs for asthma, etc. in Boston, while helping to lessen greater Boston's Carbon footprint.
Here are some links to more information:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fairly applying Mass sales tax to real estate, too.

Here's a graph of current US state and local revenues in this recession compared to recent recessions, from page 8 of which is 'Housing, Monetary Policy, and the Recovery' by Michael E. Feroli, JP Morgan Chase, Ethan S. Harris, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Amir Sufi, University of Chicago Booth School of Business and NBER, Kenneth D. West, University of Wisconsin and NBER,February 2012

As we can see, state and local tax revenues are plummeting; which is unique in recent recessions.
To maintain Massachusetts civil society, we must currently increase revenues. and one way we could do that is to extend the application of Mass sales tax to land transactions.

It is only fair to tax the sales of the rich as well as the poor.

This could be done simply by clarifying part (g) to specifically tax real estate sales, in addition to the deed excise tax. Indeed, it is not clear to me from the law that real estate sales are currently in fact exempt from Massachusetts sales taxation, so this might be just a policy decision.

This might be expected to generate, at a median price of $293,500, and a count of 34,952 home sales on the MLS in 2011, taxed at 6.25%, yearly revenues of around $641,000,000.

In effect, taxing real estate sales collects some of the location value provided to the seller by the community.

What about also cutting the sales tax?

Expand the scope of the sales tax to include real estate but also cut the sales tax to 2-3%?

How that might work

[2011] “Receipts from the sales tax totaled $4.905 billion,” /0.0625= $78.48billion + ($293,500 * 34,952 = 10.26billion) = $88.74billion * 0.025 =$2.22 billion

So going from sales tax of 6.25% without real estate to 2.5% on everything loses (4.905 -2.219)billion = a loss in state revenues of $2.687 billion in 2011, of $20.5 billion 2011 state revenues collected.

Building a civil society adds value to real estate via location effects.

We can either let our communities erode further, thus futher eroding the value of our real estate's location, or we can act to have a civil society by creating a means to pay for it, and perhaps add more than $18K of value to a median property by having it be in a place you’d like to live.

If sales tax is bad for the rich, how is OK to charge to the poor who never buy homes? we are paying on average about $750/yr. (=4.905b/6.5million pop'n.) a piece in nickels and dimes on every taxable purchase now, which is a logistic nightmare.
A real estate sales tax would be easy to collect - the property isn't going anywhere, and the number and size of the payments to be taxed would make it easier to keep track of.

Why are Mass homes so pricey?

The idea of raising real estate sales taxes in Massachusetts raises ire as well. Many seem to feel threatened by rising home costs, yet do they feel threatened by degrading education, fire and police protection? Perhaps we feel safe in our homes, until costs rise, yet unsafe in our neighborhoods, as if we're unattached to the events beyond our door. Are our homes certain protection from fire, from increasing crime (due to both worsening unemployment and worsening education)? Of course not. Much of the protection we enjoy in our homes is due to the efforts of the community within which our homes lie, including town, state and national communities.

Why is a median Massachusetts home worth about $350K while in Maine the median price is about $175K? It's mostly location. What about location provides so much value? It is that location is location in regards to community: in other words the difference in value between the median house in MA and ME, or between MA and Bosnia or Korea is to a great extent due to the work of communities of people, often through their governments. And that community-provided-value, while it can taken advantage of by an individual's real estate sale, can not be created by an individual acting alone, or a family acting alone. That value is due to the communities' work, and as the representative of the community, the government has a moral claim to some of that community-provided value.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Would greening the USA reduce jobs, or increase them?

Don Fitz expects US employment should drop in the future, as we use less energy, but didn't we use that energy to reduce the use of labor; to 'increase labor efficiency'?

Won't we be actually be forced, in using less energy to get things done, to use more labor instead?
As one who has been forced to 'use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without', I know the trade-off between buying new stuff and the alternatives, and the alternatives take more labor.

This is a good thing, in a number of ways: 1)We need more jobs, 2)we have plenty of labor, 3) if we don't use the labor now, the chance to work those hours is gone forever, while resources unused can be saved to be used another day, 4) substituting labor for energy and resource use reduces pollution, 5)and creates greater equality of social opportunity, which 6) promotes peace and 7)is more just.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Should Undocumented Get Driver's licences?

The question has been posed whether we should or should not let undocumented people get driver's licences.
Uhh, are there any other multiple choices for this question besides 'yes' or 'no'? File Under: False Dilemma ;-) But seriously, this question is divisive and of little relevance when what we need are so many green jobs that we wouldn't care whether some were worked by an undocumented person. We need these green jobs for several reasons: 1) Environmental protection, including a) stopping climate change from ruining our food production system, and b) shifting from eliminating labor usage to eliminating resource usage, as we have more than enough labor, which is lost when not worked, and not enough resources, like energy and rare earth ores, and 2) Building equality of opportunity for workers by uniting across national boundaries and co-operating globally, as corporations do, as well as 3) dodging the stranglehold Capital has on the mechanisms of production, by reducing some of our 'needs' and meeting them via appropriate technology, so we are in a better negotiating position with Capital, so we can get them to finally 'internalize externalized costs', i.e. pay for and clean up their environmental and social messes. The Good News is that not only can we get these green jobs, we can get them despite the scary fat cats monopolizing the milk bowls - we've got the power! These are 'Long-Spoon'type problems: We just need some of those 'checklist manufesto'/open source type co-ordinating solutions so we can work well as a co-operating group and bypass the middleman while we bypass the gas pump, the gun, the bottle and the needle. There's still enough for all our needs, if not all our greeds, even with the sadly-burgeoning world population. This is an opportunity to reframe the debate by naming this question as purposely politically divisive, in that it either divides US workers from each other, or divides US workers from an environmentally sustainable, socially just and plentiful future, which IS within reach of all of us, together.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Neat interactive book review site

Brian's books

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

4 of 5 stars

Traces, through many decades of various political struggles, the actions of a small cadre dedicated to sowing confusion about science despite the data. Names names and follows the money through its laundering and back. An important history ...

World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse

5 of 5 stars

This book is very important because of it's first two parts; 1) A Deteriorating Foundation, and 2) the Consequences These first seven chapters are essential to understanding and planning for the near future. I thought I was aware, but this ...

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

4 of 5 stars

Unique information on the correlation between state's and nation's financial inequality and a bundle of social well-being indices.

Progress and Poverty

5 of 5 stars

Still insightful today, Henry George's economic classic starts with a central puzzle; why, when unemployment increases, do interest rates drop?
He startlingly sees a natural alliance between the Wage-earner and the Capitalist, and makes...

Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered: 25 Years Later...With Commentaries

5 of 5 stars

Still insightful, and wonderfully complemented by leading disciple's commentaries in the margins.
traces the limits of utility of logic and numeracy in planning, and emphasizes the role of common sense and systems thinking in maintaini...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

0% unemployment - why not?

Some worry that having a job ready for every willing worker will cause price inflation, but if government reduced the supply of money through increased taxation of UNearned income at the same time, perhaps we could have jobs enough for every willing worker AND stable prices, all with a balanced government budget as well.

So how do we increase the number of jobs offered by private businesses? Simple, bribes. Instead of penalizing employers by forcing them to pay a tax for every hour of work they create, we could pay them instead, or at least not tax them when they do the right thing.

But how would taxes get paid? By taxing other things to the same extent. We can tax carbon-rich fuel purchases, and lessen the destruction of our climate, and the climate-dependent agriculture that feeds us. We can tax financial speculation, which will also slow speculation's price instability. We could apply sales tax to real estate sales. The list goes on.

Too many jobs - it's a situation we'd all like to face - we could pick and choose.

But doesn't onrushing technological change eliminate jobs continually?

What is all this technology FOR? It is for us; who, overall, are basically average people. When technology or Friedman tells us that average is over, it is time to say 'lighten up a little'.

We could cease US tax credits for research and development until that R & D serves humankind. This will increase federal revenues, while slowing job elimination. But what about the U.S.'s global competitiveness?
Nationalism is a poor excuse for surrendering to the technological change of which we should be, and in fact are, masters.
Our recent industrial technological triumph; the global advance in manufacturing method, is in doing more with less, that is more production with less labor, yet as resources run out globally, it will be labor that we have in surplus, and resources that we must strive to use efficiently.

But if we start to tax the rich more, won't they flee to tax havens en mass? Here is where worldwide co-ordination of wealth taxation comes in. Capital Flight isn't leaving earth orbit soon - problem solved.

Humanity, which is mostly pretty average, deserves better than a rat-race to environmental and social, and financial disaster. We've been able to form huge nations, and work together within them, despite different languages and cultures. We, the citizens of the world, can agree to work together so that everyone has a fair, and good, chance of earning a decent living. While the accelerating annual increase in our human numbers will soon make this more difficult, there's no reason to pretend that this desperate individual game of living with ever-increasing unemployment, like some mix of musical chairs and russian roullette, makes sense.

Brian Cady

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let's auction government lobbying liceances, and tax political campaign contributions

Let's slightly restrict the number of lobbying liceances and publically auction that right to lobby legislature, so as to raise government revenue, as well as to pit lobbyist against lobbyist, (for our own enjoyment).

Let's highly tax political contributions beyond $100 per person, to raise revenues for the public good, and to counter and reduce the influence of the few moneyed interests. Let's tax 95% of political contributions to candidates after the first hundred bucks, and have those publically reported.

Let's also require all politicians to publically report lobbyist interactions by a searchable schedule, so as to trace influence back.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Stretched Dory Model Progress #1

Here are the templates/molds/patterns for the dory, along with the first side, mostly cut with a hacksaw blade, which chipped off the high sternmost corner; you can see it sitting on top of the cut piece toward the rear. I think I'll use tin snips from now on, which leave a cleaner edge; there's a little piece cut from scrape with snips to the left on the bench beside the first cut side. Now I'll try using snips to finish the bottom edge of the first side...There:

So now I've cut the other side out with shears/snips - the cuts didn't come out as nice when cutting a clockwise turn along the outer plies' grain.