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Culture, Economics, Satires

ToiletShare – New Tech Start-Up!

Toilet-HighTech-ToykoWeekender

To all venture capitalists and others with too much money on their hands:

My company is called ToiletShare – we sublet time-share toilets to techies. After all, you can’t “function” without toilets!

Our innovative, cutting edge, high tech idea is – most of the time, toilets are sitting unoccupied. What if instead of paying for toilet-time you don’t use, you simply paid for a block of toilet time that you and your employees could use at your discretion?

ToiletShare maintains a worker-friendly environment, with quality reading material and relaxing muzak.

Bonus – ToiletShare monitors all toilet-related activity and provides a complete monthly report of employee toilet usage.

Can we have $5 billion for starts?

Photo – Tokyo Weekender

More economics satires & musings by Luke Hauser

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Economics

Beware the Debt Zombies

More economics satires & musings by Luke Hauser

Zombie-ClipArtLibrary-Free

Debt zombie – a corporation which can only function by continuing to borrow money.

Debt is a part of corporate finance. Even the most successful companies are constantly manipulating debt vs income to maximize return.

If I can invest money and get a 10% return (say, during a stock or housing bubble), why not borrow all I can at 5%?

Basically, why not gouge your neighbor for all you can? In America, that counts as good business sense.

(I believe Jesus had a rather different opinion on this matter, but that’s a topic for another article.)

For these businesses, when hard times hit, they have to tighten their belts. Maybe they have to repay debt. People are laid off.

But they survive.

Ponzi Turns Green

Debt Zombies have a different balance sheet. For Uber, Lyft, Pelaton, Spotify – and possibly for the secretive Amazon, Google, and Facebook (none of which pays a dividend on its inflated stock) – debt is not simply good finance.

It’s a lifeline.

Charles Ponzi must be green with envy. Or mould. Or maybe both.

Ponzi actually had to convince investors that he had a money-making scheme (by buying US postal coupons in Italy and shipping them back to the US for cash-in, producing a small net profit on each transaction).

The scheme was probably unprofitable once you factored in labor, and in any case Ponzi simply lied about the transactions. Promising huge dividends, he paid early investors with money obtained from later investors, giving his name to the classic sucker’s game, the Ponzi Scheme.

Ponzi Scheme Documentary – Youtube

Uber and its ilk go Ponzi one better – they actually have no business plan at all except “be the biggest and the money will roll in.”

So Much For That Plan

Spotify is the biggest streaming service – and still hemorrhaging money. So much for that plan.

Uber jumps from rides to eats to on-demand house cleaning (really!), losing money on every one.

Lyft cries out: “We lose less than Uber!!”

And Pelaton, raising billions for what is at best a minor niche product, digs its own grave with the most ineptly patriarchal ad campaign of the decade.

The bottom line – not one of these tech giants could function without massive infusions of new credit.

The Day of Reckoning

In Summer 2008, the credit markets froze up. Loans became nearly impossible to obtain even for solvent companies.

Imagine that scenario today. A dozen top tech companies would be unable to meet payroll.

Employee loyalty will be put to a severe test. Techies with huge condo mortgages will have to jump ship.

San Francisco, for 20 years a gold-rush cesspool, will become a ghost town – tons of housing – but no jobs.

No Bailout This Time

In 2008, central banks around the West bundled “rescue” packages to bail out companies like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, which teetered on the edge of collapse due to irresponsible home loans.

Prime rates were cut. Billions of dollars were pumped into the banks at cut-rates.

The massive new credit slowly did the job, and by 2011 the housing market and stock market were reviving.

(As for the actual economy – flat-lined since the 1970s – that’s a different matter.)

So why can’t we just do it again?

Easy – because the Fed (under pressure from Trump) has already cut rates below 2% to pump up the current stock bubble.

Trump’s tax cut pumped billions into corporate treasuries – most of which has simply been poured into stock buy-backs that mainly benefit about 5% of Americans.

Basically, we’ve used up most of our silver bullets during a bubble.

When the crash comes this time – and it will, as I explain in a separate post – there won’t be many tools left to cope.

Expect to hear talk of the benefits of negative interest rates (a last-ditch effort that has never done more than keep a flaccid economy afloat – cf Japan since 1990).

And expect a major bout of inflation in the near future. It’s impossible to pump so much “cash” into completely non-productive sinkholes without producing inflation.

Capital Bids Adieu to the Zombies

As far as prevention, forget it. All the Trump/Fed cuts are doing is delaying the inevitable.

Capitalist recessions are not avoidable. They are not even a problem for the larger system. They’re a cleansing mechanism – the way the system wipes away moribund and redundant businesses. (See Recession link below for more.)

The global system has been teetering on the edge a year or more. China has been in a slump for two years. Europe is staggering to realign. Russia is a corrupt , decadent police state. India and Brazil, for all their efforts, aren’t going to make up the difference.

Capitalism in its cyclical splendor will soon wipe the debt zombies away. One or two might pick up the pieces and slowly become viable. Some (like Spotify) will be bought by bigger players.

Most will become punchlines of depressing jokes – “Remember when investors poured billions into subscription exercycles?”

What Do We Do?

We can’t prevent this crash. Nor can we prevent the knock-on effects it will have on millions of working people, who will lose jobs and income as the economy contracts.

What we can do is prepare for a major recession.

Prepare to live more modestly. Prepare to help one another. Prepare to value people more than possessions.

Prepare to ride your exercycle without a subscription.

Prepare to take back our cities. Prepare to squat vacant housing. Prepare to make cities a place we live, not the plaything of speculators.

Let’s go further – imagine a city with no cars – let alone robot-driven Uberlyfts.

There may actually be an upside to all of this…

Image: ClipArt Library.

Recessions Aren’t a Bug – They’re a Feature

More economics satires & musings by Luke Hauser

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Culture, Music, Video

Heilung – Intriguing and a Bit Disturbing

Heilung

Image: Wikimedia Commons

What do you do when music is intriguing, but the message and imagery are somewhat repulsive? When the visuals are fascinating, but you come away a bit queasy?

No, I’m not talking gangsta rap, although the same issue has occasionally been known to arise (cf Cardi B, my current favorite vocalist…)

I recently watched some videos by a unique ensemble from Northern Europe – Heilung. The band re-imagines prehistoric music, along with a heaping helping of Wagner-cum-Las Vegas grandiosity.

Click here for a compilation video

I was intrigued and amused (not that their videos and music betray the slightest humor or irony).

But after a while it got disturbing.

Stone-Age Techno?

The band re-visions what Stone and Bronze Age musical/ritual performances might have sounded and looked like. Using only materials that would have been available to our ancestors (along with microphones, pickups, etc), they “amplify” sounds from long ago.

Apparently our beloved forebears were into drony voices, slapping bones together, and pounding on anything else they came across. No one “plays” anything – the verb “to play” in all of its senses would be utterly out of place at a Heilung show.

The mix is undeniably engaging, and pushes “trance” music into a new zone – kinda like stone-age down-tempo house. I predict every Pagan band will soon have a veiled female vocalist wailing and banging bones together.

When the vocalists get going in polyrhythmic interplay, all the while pounding on big frame drums, the energy is incredible.

Militarism and Misogyny?

Yet I came away disturbed at an overall tone and imagery that ooze militarism and misogyny without any sense of implicit critique or even awareness.

The band disclaims any political intent or message. But when your performance mimics Wagnerian imagery last idolized by fascists, and you end the night with a bunch of spear-bearing warriors “dancing” around the stage – you might want to make just a mite bit clearer where your true sympathies lie.

Click here for the big spear-waving ending

The on-stage visuals are striking, and their videographer does a great job with angles and close-ups. There’s much pounding, yelling, and pulling of harsh faces.

The male voices are distant ancestors of today’s death-metal guttural groaners, and take their jobs very seriously. The one female vocalist is veiled and unmoving, as if stoically holding all of the pain and mourning of the male ensemble.

Imagery and Messaging

The band would surely deny any connection to fascism or intent to appeal to such elements. Here’s their wikipedia blurb, probably written by their agent:

“Heilung is an experimental folk band made up of members from Denmark, Norway and Germany. Their music is based on texts and runic inscriptions from Germanic peoples of the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Viking Age. Heilung describe their music as “amplified history from early medieval northern Europe”. Their music is usually about Norse deities, jǫtnar, and valkyries. ‘Heilung’ is a German word meaning “healing” in English.”

To pick a nit – last I heard, no scholar believes that runes can be read, pronounced, or that we have access to any ancient tradition of meaning. Modern runic divination is based on intuitive interpretation – well and good, but a flimsy basis for reconstructing lost languages and cultures.

To pick a further nit – is it my imagination, or does the band’s name carry a distinct echo of the salutation used by an infamous political movement of the last century when addressing their Great Leader?

Just askin’.

Male Aggressiveness and Female Passivity

At a broader level, this “reconstruction” of ancestral music and ritual suggests unremitting male aggressiveness accompanied by blindfolded, immobile women.

You can see where someone might read a bit of violence and misogyny into this.

Clearly the manufacturers of Hellblade, a poorly-animated adventure/fight videogame built around incessant threats to the physical well-being of a young woman, felt that the music was a perfect fit for their franchise.

Forget Them?

Is Heilung hopeless? Hard to say. The music is intriguing. Maybe what we’re seeing is just a warm-up for an extended Las Vegas run.

Whatever their goal, they are promoting dangerously ambiguous cultural imagery with no evident awareness of its history or implications.

At the least, I’d like to see some hint that Heilung is aware that our forebears had a sense of humor, that they interacted in ways other than growling and pounding, and that the goal of their rituals might not invariably have been to empower warriors.

Just a suggestion. Give them a look/listen.

Click here for a compilation video

Messianic Addendum

The lead singer apparently has a bit of a messiah complex – he reports that the band’s performances have resulted in numerous miraculous healings!

Messiah Complex Video

Sorry to laugh, folks, but this is a bit distasteful. Music can be healing – but performers are not messiahs.

Nuff said.

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activism, Culture, Music, Satires

Funky Nixons – Still Not Crooks!

Funky Nixons now on all streaming services!

Youtube | Spotify

The Funky Nixons – Berkeley’s Finest

Direct Action author Luke Hauser helped launch the infamous Funky Nixons, known in the Bay Area as the House Band of Peoples Park (ie, we played there a lot and provided backup for other performers).

Although Hauser – now a part-time recluse living under assumed names due to unremitting pursuit by international espionage agents – left the band years ago, the rest of the crew persists in their nefarious career, and perform several times a year in the Bay Area.

Streaming income supports this website! Get to it!

Songs include

Screw the Rich

L.A. Driver

Smoke a Joint with Jesus

We Support the Troops

Immigrant Man

Barbara Bush’s Dog

Funky Nixons now on all streaming services!

Youtube | Spotify

FN-CD-Cover-Front2016-large

 

activism, Climate Justice, Culture

Give ’em Hell Greta!

GretaAndSgn-WikiCommons

Greta is barely gone and I miss her already.

Oh, I never met her. i’ve never actually watched a video of her speaking.

But every time I read about her, she’s setting some old farts straight. I find myself spontaneously saying, “Give ’em hell, Greta!”

“You’re Failing!” – Who, Us?

I loved when she told the US Congress: “You may be trying, but you’re failing.”

Only here’s the hitch – I think Greta, for all of her obvious brilliance, still has the naive notion that those Congressional representatives actually represent the American people – as opposed to various corporate and financial interests.

So when she told them they were failing – she really meant it for all of us here in the U.S.

Not just the rich and powerful – every one of us.

Taking It to Heart

Honestly, I took it to heart. I’ve been trying for a long time to make a difference in the world – and in terms of climate justice, I don’t really have a whole lot to show for it..

Why do I keep trying? Good question that I ask myself some mornings.

Partly because I have to keep living in this world. And partly because I want young folks in my life – and those like Greta that I will never meet – to know that we tried.

Here’s a group working to make a difference around the world – this is their Bay Area website. Google for other locales.

Contact Extinction Rebellion

Fall 2019 XR Action in SF – photos by Luke Hauser

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activism, Climate Justice, Culture

Extinction Rebellion – SF Die-Ins

Several hundreds people gathered at San Francisco’s Civic Center on October 16, 2019 for a solemn procession punctuated by die-ins, as part of a day of Climate Justice protests.
The action, organized by Bay Area Extinction Rebellion as part of international protests during October 2019, included people from Red Rebels, Decolonization, Playful Animal Parade, Mindful Direct Action, the Climate Anxiety Tent, DAWG, and WICCA (Witches Invoking Creative Climate Action – our Bay Area Pagan Cluster!).
The actions focused attention on California government and Governor Newsom, and demanded that the state:
–  Declare a climate emergency
–  Commit to fossil-free California by 2025
–  Empower communities through citizen’s assemblies
–  Work for a just transition
Future Actions and Events: extinctionrebellionsfbay.org
WICCA/Pagan Cluster – contact and join our googlegroup
Photo by Luke Hauser.
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Economics

Recessions Aren’t a Bug – They’re a Feature!

Economic Musings by Luke Hauser – an Index

Those Pesky Crashes

Back in the early days of tech when computers routinely crashed and programs had all sorts of weird glitches that you had to work around, engineers would explain the anomalies by saying:

“That’s not a bug – that’s a feature!”

Capitalism says the same.

Recessions aren’t a glitch in the system, something that our shiny new virtual economy has rendered obsolete.

They are a built-in self-cleansing mechanism for an incredibly durable economic system.

A Tendency to Overproduce

Capitalism has a tendency to overproduce.

When a company makes a profit doing something new – oh, let’s say, producing subscription exercycles for the global elite to give as holiday gifts – immediately – in fact, before the original company even remotely shows a profit – competitors materialize. Soon the market is flooded with exercycles (and soon flea markets will be flooded…)

Whether it’s car companies, music streaming services, or fast food – capitalism has a tendency to overproduce.

Left unchecked – or propped up by irresponsible interest-rate and tax-cut policies – we’d soon drown in ride-sharing services, music streaming sites, and exercycles.

It’s as if the whole system has gone on a giant binge.

Capitalism Purges Itself

But as our beloved if somewhat crotchety ancestor Karl Mark noted, capitalism has a built-in safety device. At the peak of over-production, companies get overstocked warehouses (can you say China 2020?), too many fast-food franchises (your home town?), etc.

Companies slash prices, selling below cost, taking anything just to get some cash flow.

Some survive, some hit the wall. A quick look at the US auto industry shows the results. Where there were once twenty or more auto companies, by 1960 there were basically three. The others hit the wall during recessions.

That was a disaster for investors, for workers, for the home communities. But for capitalism as a whole, it was a blessing.

Think of it as a cleansing. A purge. Like a giant dose of Ex-Lax for what ails the system.

It gets shit moving again, so to speak.

It Works – Unless We Decide Otherwise

It works. Depressions in the 1890s, 1930s, and 1980s eliminated vast amounts of excess production. Hundreds of factories closed. Thousands were thrown out of work and onto the streets

But in the end, capitalism got on just fine.

We escaped recent crashes in 1989, 1999, and 2008 by lowering interest rates and cutting taxes. This time, we’ve already used up those options.

The next crash will be long and ugly. But unless we specifically decide otherwise, history will repeat itself. Capitalism will get on just fine.

As they say – it’s not a bug.

It’s a feature.

Economic Musings by Luke Hauser – an Index

activism, Culture, Photos

Climate Justice – Photos from SF

Several thousand Bay Area activists shut down the central financial district of San Francisco, known as Wall Street West.

Click here for photos by Luke Hauser

The September 25, 2019 actions were part of international climate justice events, including the global student strike on September 20.

Reclaiming’s Bay Area Pagan Cluster – Witches Invoking Creative Climate Action, or WICCA – organized a ritual for mid-afternoon. The cluster processed down California Street singing We Are the Rising Sun, then did a short Equinox ritual in the middle of the “mural district” of Montgomery Street, ending with a spiral dance to Our Hands Will Work for Peace and Justice (Harvest Chant).

Click here for photos by Luke Hauser

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