Sunday, January 25, 2009
The Obamasiah can apparently raise the dead. Not only has the corpse of Osama bin Laden been re-animated for the purpose of mixing some new terro-politica tapes (a sure-fire hit on CNN and YouTube), but the long dead John Maynard Keynes has arisen in the form of untold amounts of money being used to stimulate the economy.
Pardon my skepticism, but isn't this simply a matter of shoveling piles of depreciating paper currency in the general direction of campaign contributors and other constituencies. In addition the Federal Reserve (which isn't Federal and has no reserves) has accepted as collateral, worthless derivatives contracts (the famed troubled assets), and so far pumped between three and eight (nobody knows for sure) Trillion dollars into the collapsed banking system with no end in sight. The credit crisis continues, despite these unthinkably huge amounts of "money" being added to the debts of our grandchildren. Iconoclast Webster Tarpley is predicting "Hyper-stagflation" as the upcoming final stage in the death of the dollar.
I can see no possibility of reviving this dead monster. Even the Obamasiah can't breathe a spark of life into the rapidly decomposing carcass - to paraphrase Monty Python, "This economy wouldn't voom if you put 4 million volts through it." Official figures put unemployment in America at just above 7%. A true measure of the number of working age adults currently unemployed would put that figure closer to fourteen percent, and if the underemployed were included, then the number would likely be between twenty and twenty-five percent.
I have been unemployed since December 2006. A few very small short term contracts have allowed me to earn less than three thousand dollars since then, however the constant stream of stimulus packages from the Congress have several times refilled the unemployment benefits bowl on my behalf, and this, combined with my ability to live very inexpensively, and the fact that the allowance I receive is inflated by the almost unlimited overtime in my last job, means that I have a viable income at present, and it seems that this may continue for as much as another year. Enough time, I hope, for me to realize my ambition of developing sufficient income from my exploits on the internet. Of course I shall continue to send out applications for the real or imagined vacancies that are retrieved from the various employment databases patrolled by web-bots on my behalf, but with half a million jobs disappearing every month at the moment, I do not really expect any action from that quarter. The massive number being added to the rolls makes it likely that the checks will keep on coming. The danger of riots and massive increases in property crime will scare the politicians into appropriating unemployment benefits extensions over and over again. The sinking economy, therefore, works to my benefit for the time being.
Everyone else is fucked. I went to visit my local Circuit City yesterday. It's a five minute bike ride, and I pass it on the way home from the metro station, but this was my first visit. The store was crowded with bargain hunters, although most were fondling rather than buying the merchandise. The store-wide 10% discount might accurately reflect the thin profit margins in consumer electronic sales, but it is not a steep enough discount to stimulate the feeding frenzy necessary to empty the shelves, nor reduce the stacks of cardboard boxed big screens. I was hoping to pick up a camera, and some phone accessories, but I can get better bargains on the net, so I left carrying my empty backpack. I wonder how long my local mall will remain open. The theater closed a couple of weeks ago. The loss of Circuit City is another nail in the coffin of the unlamented consumer lifestyle. I wonder what we will all do for fun when the shopping craze has ended. Gardening, I expect, will be big.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I started using windows in 1992. So I expected to have some problems getting used to an entirely new operating system. Linux Ubuntu installed easily enough – it took a lot less time than a windows XP installation, and asked fewer questions. It came with Sun microsystems open office as well and a few other programs – such as Firefox, Rhythm music player, Totem movie player and a bunch of games and accessories. There were no problems with installation, and a problem I had been having for months with my wireless network card cleared up after the system automatically downloaded a couple of hundred updates shortly after I logged on the first time.
There was no firewall included, but apparently you don't really need one because Linux doesn't have all the vulnerabilities that come with Windows. I downloaded one anyway because I have been hacked three times recently and I am making this switch in order to improve my security.
Software downloads couldn't be much easier, with hundreds of applications available from the applications menu, you just click on the ones you want and they are downloaded and installed with no trouble at all. Some programs, such as the Cinelerra movie editing software require a bit more fiddling about with terminal commands, but as a fairly expert Windows user I had little difficulty figuring out how that all worked.
Within about four hours from completing the backup of my windows drive I was up and running, seamlessly using documents from my NTFS backup drive. The Cinelerra software is vastly more capable than the commercial software I had been using for movies, and remains the only program I have installed so far that may take some time to learn.
My only regret, now that I have been a Linux user for more than a week, is that I didn't do this years ago.