Gallup – Real unemployment/underemployment: 20.3%

This is why wages wont be increasing anytime soon.   1 in 5 Americans are unemployed or underemployed.  And yet I hear that things are gettting better all the time.


From Gallup:

Underemployment Rises to 20.3% in March

Unemployment saw a slight but insignificant decline

by Jenny Marlar

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gallup Daily tracking finds that 20.3% of the U.S. workforce was underemployed in March — a slight uptick from the relatively flat January and February numbers.

Underemployment in U.S. Workforce, December 2009-March 2010 Monthly Trend

“The underemployed in March became neither more nor less hopeful about finding work soon.”

These results are based on March interviews with more than 20,000 adults in the U.S. workforce, aged 18 and older. Gallup classifies respondents as underemployed if they are unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work. Gallup employment data are not seasonally adjusted.

A rise in the percentage of part-timers wanting to work full time (from 9.2% to 9.9%) is responsible for the March increase in underemployment. Unemployment saw a slight, but insignificant, decline in March.

Underemployment Components, December 2009-March 2010 Monthly Trend

Underemployed Americans Still Not Hopeful

Despite the Obama administration’s March 16 announcement that unemployment would remain high or increase in coming months, the underemployed in March became neither more nor less hopeful about finding work soon. Six in 10 underemployed Americans are not hopeful they will find work or move from part-time to full-time work in the next four weeks. That translates to 12% of the workforce that is both underemployed and not hopeful they will find their desired amount of work. The lack of change suggests that underemployed Americans anticipated long-term difficulties in finding work well before the administration’s formal announcement was made.

Hope Among Underemployed for Finding a Job in the Next Four Weeks, January-March 2010 Trend

Bottom Line

As unemployed Americans find part-time, temporary, and seasonal work, the official unemployment rate could decline. However, this does not necessarily mean more Americans are working at their desired capacity. It will continue to be important to track underemployment — to shed light on the true state of the U.S. workforce, and the millions of Americans who are searching for full-time employment.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 20,504 national adults, who are part of the workforce, aged 18 and older, conducted March 1-31, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 4,164 adults who were underemployed in March, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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Who said it?

Can we innovate our way around the problem, or do we have to fundamentally change the ways we live?
“I think that changing the ways we live is the heart of innovation. One of the keys to under-standing our current situation is to understand how 150 years of cheap energy has created the unsustainable dilemma we’re in. We occupy James Kunstler’s “geography of nowhere,” spending inordinate amounts of time and re-sources on roads and badly designed remote buildings in order to create lifestyles that are deeply dissatisfying. So when we think of innovation, the way we live and the technology we use are handmaidens to a better life with a radically reduced footprint. If we don’t do that, we are truly putting lipstick on a piggy lifestyle, and it won’t work. Nature favors those creatures that direct available energy most efficiently to channels that favor the species. That is not a description of our freeways, suburbs, or food system. We’re taking the rich inheritance of resources, the 100-million-year gift of biomass and living systems, and spending it on annihilation. Not a good strategy. For me, there is only one guiding principle for business, economics, design, community, education, government, and urban planning, and that is captured in Janine Benyus’s brilliant maxim: life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. Being conducive to life means to work toward the benefit of all beings. The one true creative response when every living system is in decline is to plan, design, and make every-thing on behalf of all living beings. This is not sentiment but biology, the famous John Muir statement about everything in the universe being hitched together, and that means we have to be hitched together.

Being conducive to life is what every religion has tried to teach us: the Golden Rule, the 99 Attributes of Allah, the Six Paramitas of Buddhism, the Sermon on the Mount. These teachings are religious, but they’re also pure biology. Nature is not about competition in the mistaken Darwinian sense. What holds the living world together are mutualisms, the innate altruism of life itself. In other words, altruism is lifestyle. It’s truly in our self-interest.”

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The Economic Truth That Nobody Will Admit: We’re Heading Back Toward a Double-Dip

Oh, but how can this be so?  Unemployment today is at a two year low.  Surely things are getting better, right?  Unfortunately, oil is nearing $120 a barrel. That’ll come down,  right?


By Robert Reich

Why aren’t Americans being told the truth about the economy? We’re heading in the direction of a double dip — but you’d never know it if you listened to the upbeat messages coming out of Wall Street and Washington.

Consumers are 70 percent of the American economy, and consumer confidence is plummeting. It’s weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession.

The Reuters/University of Michigan survey shows a 10 point decline in March — the tenth largest drop on record. Part of that drop is attributable to rising fuel and food prices. A separate Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence, just released, shows consumer confidence at a five-month low — and a large part is due to expectations of fewer jobs and lower wages in the months ahead.

Pessimistic consumers buy less. And fewer sales spells economic trouble ahead.

What about the 192,000 jobs added in February? (We’ll know more Friday about how many jobs were added in March.) It’s peanuts compared to what’s needed. Remember, 125,000 new jobs are necessary just to keep up with a growing number of Americans eligible for employment. And the nation has lost so many jobs over the last three years that even at a rate of 200,000 a month we wouldn’t get back to 6 percent unemployment until 2016.

But isn’t the economy growing again — by an estimated 2.5 to 2.9 percent this year? Yes, but that’s even less than peanuts. The deeper the economic hole, the faster the growth needed to get back on track. By this point in the so-called recovery we’d expect growth of 4 to 6 percent.

Consider that back in 1934, when it was emerging from the deepest hole of the Great Depression, the economy grew 7.7 percent. The next year it grew over 8 percent. In 1936 it grew a whopping 14.1 percent.

Add two other ominous signs: Real hourly wages continue to fall, and housing prices continue to drop. Hourly wages are falling because with unemployment so high, most people have no bargaining power and will take whatever they can get. Housing is dropping because of the ever-larger number of homes people have walked away from because they can’t pay their mortgages. But because homes the biggest asset most Americans own, as home prices drop most Americans feel even poorer.

There’s no possibility government will make up for the coming shortfall in consumer spending. To the contrary, government is worsening the situation. State and local governments are slashing their budgets by roughly $110 billion this year. The federal stimulus is ending, and the federal government will end up cutting some $30 billion from this year’s budget.

In other words: Watch out. We may avoid a double dip but the economy is slowing ominously, and the booster rockets are disappearing.

So why aren’t we getting the truth about the economy? For one thing, Wall Street is buoyant — and most financial news you hear comes from the Street. Wall Street profits soared to $426.5 billion last quarter, according to the Commerce Department. (That gain more than offset a drop in the profits of non-financial domestic companies.) Anyone who believes the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill put a stop to the Street’s creativity hasn’t been watching.

To the extent non-financial companies are doing well, they’re making most of their money abroad. Since 1992, for example, G.E.’s offshore profits have risen $92 billion, from $15 billion (which is one reason it pays no U.S. taxes). In fact, the only group that’s optimistic about the future are CEOs of big American companies. The Business Roundtable’s economic outlook index, which surveys 142 CEOs, is now at its highest point since it began in 2002.

Washington, meanwhile, doesn’t want to sound the economic alarm. The White House and most Democrats want Americans to believe the economy is on an upswing.

Republicans, for their part, worry that if they tell it like it is Americans will want government to do more rather than less. They’d rather not talk about jobs and wages, and put the focus instead on deficit reduction (or spread the lie that by reducing the deficit we’ll get more jobs and higher wages).

I’m sorry to have to deliver the bad news, but it’s better you know.

Robert Reich is the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at

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Wind and Solar…..right now.

The Empty Ritual of Energy Speeches

By Jeffrey Feldman

Author, ‘Framing The Debate’ and ‘Outright Barbarous’

Over the past few decades this country has developed a pathetic empty ritual. Every so often — when gas prices are high, when a gazillion gallons of oil sludge are pouring into the sea, or while a nuclear plant lies smoldering in Chernobyl mode — the sitting president stands before the American people to call for better energy policy.

Any of us could give one of these speeches in our sleep, we have heard so many by now: less dependence on foreign oil, renewable energy, safer techniques, collective sacrifice, look to the future, it’s all about the children, yada, yada, yada.

The best part? When the speech is over, nothing actually happens or worse: Our energy policy, as if by magic, actually goes in the wrong direction (abracadabra).

This empty ritual of energy policy speeches has become one of the most cynical, cowardly routines of our time. And as far as I can tell, every White House is in on it.

And so, as all presidents since Richard Nixon have done, President Obama’s stepped up to take his turn, issuing a noble call to ‘get serious’ about long-term energy policy while a nation of frustrated consumers — all of us begging for an actual serious shift toward renewables in our national policy — rolled our eyes while muttering under their breath.

Here is what I muttered — occasionally punctuated by fits of shouting and throwing things — as I listened to the president’s energy policy speech:

– With the Fukishima nuclear plant in full melt down and reports of radioactive drift, how hard is it to just say, “Nuclear power is unsafe and we are going to halt it?”

– Knowing that natural gas drilling involves pumping millions of gallons of mysterious chemical soup into the ground that poisons our water, gives our children cancer, causes earthquakes, and turns kitchen faucets into flame throwers — how hard is it to say, “No more fracking?”

– Who are these insane people who actually believe that shifting from one environmentally destructive petroleum mining technique (oil) to another (gas) constitutes a “new energy policy?”

– Why the heck do we have billions in tax incentives for producers of wind and solar, but we virtually no national campaign, incentives or conversation to educate and encourage consumers to embrace wind and solar?

– We already had the biggest oil spill in human history, do we need the biggest nuclear meltdown and the poisoning of half our national watershed system, too, before we actually embrace renewable energy?

– What… in… God’s… name… are… we… waiting… for?

Certainly, I could not have been the only one who muttered these or similar questions. Well over half the country has been mumbling them for some time.

Take natural gas fracturing or “fracking,” for example.

This technique of mining for natural gas involves pumping boatloads of “proprietary” solution into the earth to “open” up a well. This wonderful process has caused, among other things: poisonous drinking water, cancer, earthquakes and — craziest of all — ordinary tap water to become highly flammable.

When a drilling technique is poisoning our water and turning our kitchen sinks into a fireballs, we — by which I mean voters — do not need to stop and think about what we want to do.

We do not want to proclaim our commitment to do a better job over the next several decades. We do not want to encourage better practices from industry in an unspecified manner. We do not want to challenge ourselves to get on the right footing and believe in the future. We want the insane practice to stop. For goodness sakes, just stop the fracking before it poisons our water, kills our children, and destroys our land.

The kitchen tap is on fire! For goodness sakes, just stop the freaking fracking.

The same for nuclear energy. For months we have been watching an American-designed nuclear power plant in full radioactive nightmare mode virtually 24/7 on cable TV. Amidst a backdrop of reports of radioactive leaks into the ocean, radioactive material dispersed into the atmosphere, and mass evacuations, we — by which I mean voters — do not need to stop and think about what we want to do.

We do not want to make promises to make sure that 1970s ear safety procedures are examined and scrupulously followed. We do not want to make sure that earthquake tests are up to date on facilities in the Midwest and Eastern seaboard. We do not want feel-good industry promises about nuclear plants old enough that they look like time outtakes from the The China Syndrome. We want the insane practice to stop. For goodness sakes, just stop building nuclear power plants before the next disaster is so horrific that it dwarfs the one we are watching now.

Radioactive rain is falling on Boston! For goodness sakes, just shut down the nightmarish nukes.

Simple, right? Wrong. Radioactive rain showers wrong. Flaming tap water wrong.

We know what we have to do to stop the obvious madness, but we are trapped with a political system — stuck with an energy policy Tammany Hall — that has been bought and paid for 10 times over by an industry that does not want us to stray from the past by more than a few oily footprints.

The empty ritual of energy policy speeches, in other words, is not empty for everyone. It fills the pockets of big oil quite nicely and will continue to do so until we as voters stand up, pound a few trash can lids together, and refuse to put up with the same nonsense year after year.

The headlines from Wall Street after the president’s speech on energy policy? “Natural Gas Fuel Stocks Surge on Obama Energy Speech.”

Why didn’t wind stocks or solar stocks “surge” at the same time? Because everyone on Wall Street seems to understand what is actually happening under the guise of “new energy policy.” And why shouldn’t they understand — it has been going on for decades.

Isn’t it about time a few hundred thousand (a few million?) people from areas directly under threat from the nuclear power and natural gas industries got together to donkey kick the empty ritual of energy policy speeches?

The mumbling needs to end. The time has come to demand real change in how this country thinks about fuel — a new way of talking about energy policy that is much louder and much more disconcerting for politicians to hear as they look at the electoral map.

No more fracking.

Shut down the nukes.

Wind and solar — right now.

We have been waiting way too long. We are in both political parties. And we do more than talk: we vote.

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Wal-Mart US CEO To America: “Prepare For Serious Inflation”

Actually, what we’ll see is stagflation:  increasing prices, declining/stagnant wages…..the worst of all worlds.


From Zero Hedge

To those who think that buying food in the corner deli is becoming a luxury, we have five words: you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. U.S. consumers face “serious” inflation in the months ahead for clothing, food and other products, the head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. operations warned Wednesday talking to USA Today. And if Wal-Mart which is at the very bottom of commoditized consumer retail, and at the very peak of avoiding reexporting of US inflation by way of China is concerned, it may be time to panic, or at least cancel those plane tickets to Zimbabwe, which is soon coming to us.

The world’s largest retailer is working with suppliers to minimize the effect of cost increases and believes its low-cost business model will position it better than its competitors.

Still, inflation is “going to be serious,” Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon said during a meeting with USA TODAY’s editorial board. “We’re seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate.”

Along with steep increases in raw material costs, John Long, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon, says labor costs in China and fuel costs for transportation are weighing heavily on retailers. He predicts prices will start increasing at all retailers in June.

“Every single retailer has and is paying more for the items they sell, and retailers will be passing some of these costs along,” Long says. “Except for fuel costs, U.S. consumers haven’t seen much in the way of inflation for almost a decade, so a broad-based increase in prices will be unprecedented in recent memory.”

Consumer prices — or the consumer price index — rose 0.5% in February, the most since mid-2009, largely because of surging food and gasoline prices. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, rose a more modest 0.2%, though that still exceeded estimates.

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YEA!! High tech call center jobs a’commin’ – only 48,000 more needed

Yep, here we have our mayor and chamber director cheering over 220 new jobs.  Damn, that’s a lot in this economic climate.  Sure glad we were picked over the 3 other states that were competing for them.   Welcome to the LEX, Mr. Call Center Jobs Creating Company.

What’s that?  The jobs only pay $12.51 an hour, including benefits? Yikes.  Welcome to the race to the bottom.

Let’s figure a payroll tax of $11.00 an hour exclusive of benefits.  At 2.25%, each job will add $514 to the city’s coffers each year.  Multiply that times 220 and the city will get a whopping $113,256 a year.

Now to close that $25 million gap, we’ll only need 48,638 more jobs like this in Lex.


Lexington call center to hire 220

By Scott Sloan —

Mar 31, 2011

A new call center is expected to open in Lexington by summer, creating 220 jobs.

Allconnect Inc. plans to spend nearly $7 million to open a 32,000-square-foot in-bound sales and customer support center on the Coldstream Research Campus.

“It’s good to welcome Allconnect, a new corporate citizen bringing jobs to Lexington,” Mayor Jim Gray said in a statement. “Our people need jobs, and we need to compete in every arena.”

Commerce Lexington chief executive Bob Quick said, “Lexington is thrilled to be the top city selected amongst four cities and three states.”

For information on applying for jobs, go to

Allconnect is based in Atlanta, and its call center employees will work with consumers to order or transfer home services such as satellite and cable television, Internet, telephone and home security. The company’s customers include AT&T, Dish Network, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.

The jobs are expected to pay an average hourly wage of $12.51, including benefits, according to information the company provided to the state. The company has been approved for $2.2 million in tax incentives by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority.


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No energy without risk…?

After the horrible nuclear events in Japan, many pro-business people have rushed to tell us that it’s bad and all but what can we do?

After all, if we don’t want to go back to the stone age, we just must learn to deal with these kinds of events.  

In one commentary in Bloomberg Businessweek, the author remarked:  “Events of the past year—in the Gulf, in the mines of West Virginia, and now on the coast of Japan—have again taught us that there is no energy without risk.”  In fact the subheadline of the entire article says:  “Nuclear accidents like Japan’s Fukushima crisis are scary. So is a future without nuclear power”

What BS. 

We are so out of balance with nature.  The risks we accept come from exploiting the planet in ways that were never intended.  It can be inferred that it was never intended by the damage that both carbon and nuclear energy do to the planet – including us.  We are nothing but little creatures on this swirling rock, not captains of industry or masters of the laws of physics.

Further, what is the fear of living within the means safely provided by this planet?  Do we hate ourselves so much that we have to expend energy in unsafe ways to make our insecure selves feel better?

When – IF – we get back to a solar based economy, the risks will all but disappear.   We will again be in balance with the planet on which we live.  Until then, all will be strife.

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A local living economy: Bellingham Wash

“Do people exist to serve the economy, or does the economy exist to serve people?”

This is really a well done video. As I watched, I just kept substituting “Lexington” when I heard Bellingham.

Why not here?

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I thought growth was good

Here’s some musings about the state of our city, circa 2011:

  • Fayette County’s population  grew by 11.6 percent, which means the city added 30,802 people from 2000 to 2010. Lexington’s population is 295,803.
  • In 2011, Lexington faces a $25 million budget shortfall to provide the services we’d like to have for a city this size.
  • In 2000, the annual metro unemployment rate was 3.0%.
  • In January 2011, the metro unemployment rate was 9.4%.  Over 22,800 people in the region are unemployed, or approximately the size of Woodford County’s entire population.

From 1999-2009 (the latest year available) things weren’t so rosy for many Lexingtonians:

  • In that time, the overall poverty rate jumped from 11.1% to 17.4% – an increase of 56.8%.
  • In that time, the poverty rate for children under the age of 17 jumped from 15.7% to 19.9% – an increase of 26.8%.
  • In that time, median household income increased from $39,388 to $46,386 – an increase of 17.8%.
  • YET, during that time, the consumer price index rose 28.3%.  Thus, household incomes did not keep pace with inflation – effectively meaning that Lexingtonians were poorer in real terms at the end of the decade than we were at the beginning.

It’s not just here:

  • The story is the same in high growth places elsewhere.  Georgetown/Scott County is home to  Toyota and the huge payroll taxes it generates. Yet, times there are very difficult for local governments.
  • From the Herald Leader:  Scott County saw its head count grow by 43.6%. Trouble is, the soured economy means Scott County revenues have declined during the last three years by 28 percent, Judge-Executive George Lusby said. “That creates major issues because you’ve still got to provide the services,” Lusby said.
  • Georgetown Mayor Varney recently said the same thing in the Courier Journal:  Georgetown’s fortunes have fallen along with sales losses at Toyota, with a municipal budget that includes $8 million less in payroll and corporate net profit tax contributions than in 2005, Varney said.

So here we have what should be the most successful regional governments struggling greatly.

I thought growth was good.

We have decades of data now to show us that exponential population growth is not beneficial to a community government or a majority of its residents.

But we are on the treadmill, so what are we going to do? Chase more growth, of course.  We hear it all the time:  “we need more growth so that we can fix our problems.”

Still, it appears that no one in responsible positions has yet had the epiphany that it was growth that caused the problems in the first place.

Locally, we can’t grow our way out of economic troubles any more than we can borrow our way of debt troubles.

One of Lexington’s city planning leaders recently said about the way they think about the future of our city:  “we will continue to experience growth in population.” The implication was that we thus should always be planning for an increase in population.

Here’s a radical idea, just for fun:  what if we started on a 25 year plan to stabilize our population at today’s level?  What if we even set a lower target?   The goal would be to balance our ability to provide services to an optimum population.  We would get off the boom and bust cycles and have stability, which would perhaps be the best possible condition.

The counter arguments are those that say, “this is a free country, who are we to tell people where they can’t live”…or “if we did that, Lexington would become nothing but an enclave for the richest among us, and the rest would spread across the region”….or “do we really want to get into the business of peaking into homes to see who is living there?”….or “a stable population would mean that we will not add new jobs, thus keeping down wages…”

It also may be that the coming crash of the global economy will be the reset we need to get off the treadmill.

There are no easy answers to the paradox and dilemma of growth.

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Wall Street Journal: China cannot feed itself

Buried on page A13 of the WSJ on March 25 was this little nugget about China’s ability to feed itself:   “our ability to meet consumption levels is clearly insufficient….”

Get ready to pay a lot more for food.  Peak oil, climate change, and economic realignment have all contributed to ensure that food will get more expensive at least in the short term this year.


China Sees Food Need Rising

BEIJING—China may not be able to meet sharply rising food demand from its domestic resources, a senior Chinese agriculture official said, indicating room for further growth in imports.


Chen Xiwen, director of the State Council’s executive office on rural policy, questioned the policy wisdom of setting increasingly higher targets for grain output as China struggles to wring more yield out of scarce arable resources.

His comments seemed to depart from statements by other parts of China’s government that emphasized trying to meet the country’s demand for key grains from domestic supplies. Just a day earlier, the State Council vowed to take all necessary measures to ensure an eighth consecutive record grain harvest this year, with officials saying that higher output is necessary to combat inflation—the government’s top economic priority this year.

“Chasing ever-higher output levels may mean over-fertilization and unsafe agriculture,” said Mr. Chen, who is also director of the ruling Communist Party’s rural affairs office. “Of course, we have to raise output in this area but our techniques and resources can’t keep up.”

China’s government has long emphasized the need to produce enough grain to meet almost all the demands of its huge population, to avoid becoming dependent on foreign suppliers. In recent decades, it has dropped the self-sufficiency goal for some crops, like soybeans, but continues to categorize corn, wheat and rice as key grains, of which it maintains formidable stockpiles. Mr. Chen said current stockpiles of key grains total 200 million metric tons, including both private and public stocks—about two-fifths of annual consumption and among the largest such reserves in the world.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

China may not be able to meet sharply rising food demand from its domestic resources, a senior Chinese agriculture official said, indicating room for further growth in imports.

But China’s grain imports have risen in recent years across major categories, soaring in some categories last year to their highest levels in more than a decade. For corn, the most prominent example of the shift, China broke its 15-year status as a net exporter last year as imports exploded, in part because drought damped domestic output. Wheat and rice imports also grew.

Driving the shift in large part are dietary changes as China’s population becomes wealthier. Those changes mean “our ability to meet consumption levels is clearly insufficient,” Mr. Chen said. He said genetically modified foods, increased fertilization and organic farming are partial solutions, but pose inherent problems, such as pollution and potentially unsafe or overly expensive food.

Mr. Chen said China is currently maintaining self-sufficiency in grains, but he also highlighted the value of trade. He pointed to soybeans, imports of which overtook domestic output around 2004 to meet sharply rising Chinese demand.

“China used to be the world’s largest soybean producer, now it’s the world’s largest soybean importer,” Mr. Chen said. China last year posted a record 54.8 million tons of soybean imports.

Mr. Chen also swatted at perceptions in China of rising foreign control in some parts of the domestic agriculture sector. Some foreign grain processors last year came under public criticism, as rising food prices helped push inflation to three-year highs.

“The government is committed to welcoming foreign competition in the downstream agricultural processing sector… and it is not true that foreign companies control agriculture prices in China,” he said.

Foreign agriculture companies have “contributed innovation,” and developing China’s agriculture sector doesn’t mean having to squeeze out foreign competitors, he added.

Thursday’s remarks weren’t the first time Mr. Chen has taken a more nuanced tone on agriculture policy than officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Administration of Grain. Late last year, Mr. Chen wrote an essay questioning whether the notion of self-sufficiency needed to be revisited in the light of current agricultural economics.

Still, he hasn’t abandoned Beijing’s adherence to the goal. “It’s still an important concept,” Mr. Chen said in January. “It is dangerous for a country with a population as large as China not to defend self-sufficiency in grains.”

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Recgonize this place? XXIX

Where was this place?  I’ve lived here since 1982 and can’t seem to recall it.  The back says this place was located two miles south of Lexington on US 27.   Since there aren’t any motels of this type in that area, I can only conclude the site has long been redeveloped.

Where ever it was, it was low on charm.  Was there a tree shortage back when these pictures were taken?  I count one baby evergreen in the great lawn.  Who decided it should go there?  Did one umbrella table break free from the pool enclosure only to get stuck in the grass?


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18 Reasons Why You Can Stick A Fork In The New Home Construction Industry

From the Economic Collapse Blog

If you make your living by building or selling new homes in the United States, you might want to consider taking up a different career for a while.  New homes sales in the United States hit yet another new all-time record low in the month of February, and there are a whole lot of reasons why new home sales are going to stay extremely low for an extended period of time.  The massive wave of foreclosures that we have seen has produced a giant glut of unsold homes in the marketplace, mortgage lenders are making it really hard to get approved for home loans, unemployment is still rampant and the global economy looks like it may soon plunge into another major recession.  None of those things is good news for the new home construction industry.  The truth is that we were supposed to have seen new home sales already bounce back by now.  If you look at the historical numbers, new home sales in the U.S. always increased significantly after the end of every recession since World War 2.  But that did not happen this time.  Instead, new home sales have just continued to decline.  This is absolutely unprecedented, and economists are puzzled.  So what is going to happen if the U.S. economy suffers another major downturn?

New home construction has always been one of the foundational pillars of the U.S. economy.  When times were good new home construction would boom, and when times were bad new home construction would falter.

Well, unfortunately the industry is stuck in the midst of a multi-year decline right now.  The reality is that you can stick a fork in the new home construction industry in the United States.  It is toast.  There is going to be no recovery for the foreseeable future.

Not that previously owned homes are doing that much better.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously existing homes in the United States dropped 9.6 percent in February.  But at least sales of previously owned homes are not at all-time record lows like new home sales are.

As you can see from the facts posted below, new home sales are absolutely abysmal right now, and there are a lot of indications that things may get even worse.  The following are 18 reasons why you can stick a fork in the new home construction industry….

#1 New home sales in the United States set a brand new all-time record low in the month of February.

#2 Only 19,000 new homes were sold in the United States during the month of February. The previous record low for new home sales during the month of February was 27,000, which was set last year.

#3 The “months of supply” of new homes in the U.S. rose from 7.4 months in January to 8.9 months in February.

#4 The median price of a new home in the United States declined almost 14 percent to $202,100 in the month of February.

#5 The median price of a new home in the U.S. is now the lowest it has been since December 2003.

#6 As of the end of 2010, new home sales in the United States had declined for five straight years, and they are expected to be lower once again in 2011.

#7 Now home sales in the United States are now down 80% from the peak in July 2005.

#8 New home construction starts in the United States fell 22.5 percent during the month of February.  This was the largest decline in 27 years.

#9 In February, the number of new building permits (a measure of future home building activity) declined to the lowest level in more than 50 years.  In fact, new building permits were 20 percent lower during February 2011 than they were in February 2010.

#10 There is a major glut of foreclosed homes that still need to be sold off.  David Crowe, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, recently told CNN that the constant flow of new foreclosures being put on the market is a huge hindrance to a recovery for new home sales….

“One of the biggest detriments to building new homes is the flow of existing foreclosed homes.”

#11 The number of foreclosures just continues to increase.  This means that those trying to sell new homes are going to continue to be competing against a giant mountain of foreclosed homes for the foreseeable future.  An all-time record of 2.87 million U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in 2010, and that number is expected to be even higher in 2011.

#12 In fact, there are a whole lot of signs that there will be very high levels of foreclosures for years to come.  For example, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are at least one month behind on their mortgage payments at this point.

#13 A stunningly high number of Americans are “underwater” on their mortgages right now.  This could lead to an increase in the number of “strategic defaults”.  31 percent of the homeowners that responded to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey indicated that they are “underwater” on their mortgages, and Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.

#14 The truth is that the U.S. doesn’t need a whole lot of new housing at the moment.  Right now, 11 percent of all homes in the United States are currently standing empty.

#15 Mortgage lending standards have become extremely tight.  Back during the housing bubble, almost anyone that was breathing could get a zero-down mortgage.  Today, mortgage lenders have made it extremely difficult to acquire a home loan, and it is quite typical these days for lenders to demand down payments of 20 percent or more.  This is dramatically reducing the number of home buyers in the marketplace.

#16 American families cannot buy homes if they do not have good jobs.  Unfortunately, it has become extremely difficult to find a job in the United States today.  This is especially true if you are looking for a good job.  It now takes the average unemployed worker in America about 33 weeks to find a job.

#17 There is not going to be a jobs recovery until the overall economy improves.  Unfortunately, the price of oil continues to rise dramatically and economic disasters all over the planet threaten to plunge the global economy into another major recession.

#18 On top of everything else, perceptions regarding home ownership are shifting in the United States.  In 1996, 89 percent of Americans believed that it was better to own a home than to rent one.  Today that number has fallen to 63 percent.

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Oil shock is here

I’ve been posting about the impending oil shock since the end of last summer.   All I’ve been doing is reading what the financial analysts are saying and simply making my own assumptions about the numbers.  Since last September I’ve reported at least 5 times what major investment advisors were predicting.  And that was BEFORE Japan and MENA exploded.  Now panic and greed infected speculation will combine to drive the price as high as 2008  – $147 a barrel.

The oil shock is here.

Now, what consequences will it have?  The worst case scenario is that the world economy could crash very quickly.   Not a pretty thought.  But the only best case scenario is that we gradually glide back into recession. Hopefully gradually enough that we can stand it.  

Here in the LEX our local government will take another hit.  Employment is likely to stall and decline again, and take with it the payroll taxes that support the necessary functions of government.   People who are already on the low-end of the ladder will certainly feel more of the pain, as transportation and food costs rise rapidly and employment stalls.  

The oil shock will also touch pretty much of the rest of us as well.  We’re weary and ready for good news.  But there won’t be any. Energy and food will get more expensive, as will the costs of the other things in our lives.  For many of us, job anxieties will deepen.

There are no fixes for the situation we are in.  We can’t drill more, cut taxes, or bust unions to get ourselves out of it.  Yet, as we move into another tumultuous summer, we must be careful of the rise of a demagogue who promises they know the path out.

I luv the ironic subheadline: “With economy expected to keep growing…..” 

Is that innocent?  Or just subliminal messaging?



Oil hits highest levels since recession

With economy expected to keep growing, oil prices hold at highest levels since Sept. 2008


Chris Kahn, AP Energy Writer, On Friday March 25,
NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices hit another post-recession high this week as economists said the world will keep consuming more petroleum even with this month’s destruction in Japan and the wave of uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery settled Friday at $105.40 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was down 20 cents for the day, but oil still gained more than 4 percent this week. On Wednesday it hit $105.75 per barrel, the highest level since September 2008.

Retail gasoline prices have followed oil higher. The national average of $3.561 per gallon is the highest ever for this time of year. Pump prices are already above $4 per gallon in Alaska and Hawaii, and they’re nearly there in California.

Fuel prices are pressing higher despite a comfortable surplus of oil in the United States. The Energy Information Administration said the U.S. has enough oil in inventory to meet demand for 54 days. The surplus was 49 days in the summer of 2008. The U.S. consumes about 19.3 million barrels of petroleum per day.

What’s pushing oil prices higher is concern that global supplies will shrink this year as energy appetites grow around the world. The world is expected to use 88 million barrels of oil per day in 2011, up from 86.7 million in 2010. Meanwhile, uprisings in Libya, Yemen and other countries are threatening exports from a region that supplies 27 percent of the world’s oil. War in Libya has halted most of its 1.5 million barrels of daily exports.

Analyst and trader Stephen Schork estimated that these worries have pushed oil higher by $20 per barrel in recent weeks.

On top of that, Barclays Capital noted that China’s oil demand has jumped 15 percent this year. Analyst Sudakshina Unnikrishnan has raised her forecast for the average price of benchmark oil to $106 per barrel this year from $91.

Meanwhile, major oil producers like Saudi Arabia already have cranked up production to make up for lost Libyan oil. While this increases the flow of oil right now, it also cuts off spare production that could have been tapped later this year to meet increasing world demand. Spare production capacity, which was thought to be around 5 million barrels per day earlier this year, has since dropped to about 3 million barrels, Unnikrishnan said.

Traders are carefully assessing economic strength in the U.S., which consumes about 22 percent of the world’s daily output. High oil prices could hurt growth. Government reports gave a mixed reading this week.

The U.S. said home construction has nearly come to a halt and that companies trimmed orders for long-lasting manufactured goods. But it also said gasoline demand keeps rising despite a 49-cent increase in the price of a gallon of gas since the year began.

On Friday, the Commerce Department said the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent from October to December, up from a previous estimate of 2.8 percent. At the same time, some economists have trimmed their estimates for growth in the current quarter, concerned that high gas prices will force consumers to cut spending elsewhere.

“We’re waiting to see the economic recovery put down roots,” Cameron Hanover analyst Peter Beutel said. “But you can find something bullish and bearish just about everywhere you look.”

Prices fell early Friday as traders waited to see if Portugal, whose government has resigned amid a financial crisis, would need a bail out from stronger European countries. Last year, concern about a European Union bail out Greece knocked oil prices down almost $20 per barrel. But the Portugal crisis is overshadowed by the situation in the Middle East.

The U.S. dollar also gained against foreign currencies. Oil is priced in the U.S. currency, So a decline makes oil more expensive for investors holding foreign currency.

PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn added that news of a suspected breach on the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant in Japan also weighed on oil prices. An escalation of the nuclear crisis could slow down the country’s efforts to rebuild after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, he said.

“People are asking how bad this really is,” Flynn said.

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7 Steps for Action Toward a New Economy

by David Korten

Yes! Magazine

Seven reasons why our Old Economy is failing—each paired with its New Economy solution.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the global competition for jobs. He pointed to the example of China and India educating their children “earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science.” He brought both Republicans and Democrats to their feet to applaud his call for America to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

It was a politically unifying moment—and one that revealed how badly we have lost our way as a nation, not to mention how far our national economic and political institutions are from providing the leadership that we, and the world, now need.

Hope for our common human future depends on global cooperation to create a world in which every child can look forward to a prosperous, secure, and meaningful life.

A global competition for survival and dominance has given us a world divided between the profligate and the desperate. It leads to the expropriation of ever more of the world’s real wealth to secure the privilege and extravagance of the few. Rededicating ourselves to this destructive path is not likely to produce a different result.

Hope for our common human future depends instead on global cooperation to create a world in which every child can look forward to a prosperous, secure, and meaningful life irrespective of nationality, race, or religion. This will require replacing the economic policies and institutions responsible for Old Economy failure with the policies and institutions of a New Economy—one based on positive life-values and a democratic distribution of power.

The following are seven critical sources of Old Economy failure—each paired with its New Economy solution.

Blue Number 1Living Indicators. The use of financial indicators like gross domestic product (GDP) and the Dow Jones average to assess the performance of the economy gives priority to false values. We currently see just how invalid these financial measures are: GDP grows, but jobs don’t. The Dow Jones climbs, but wages are stagnant and foreclosures continue. Neither is a valid measure of the kind of economic performance we need.

SOLUTION: Replace financial indicators like GDP with indicators of human- and natural-systems health as the basis for evaluating economic performance. The Bhutan experiment with a happiness index is an excellent start.

Blue-Number-2.jpgA Real Wealth Money System. Wall Street control of the creation and allocation of money concentrates the power to set national priorities in institutions that recognize no interest beyond their own profits. As we become ever more dependent on money to meet our basic daily needs, this control becomes ever more complete—and more destructive of all that we truly value.

SOLUTION: Decentralize and democratize the money system so that it redirects the flow of money away from Wall Street speculators to productive Main Street businesses. We once had a system of community banks, mutual savings and loans, and credit unions that were locally rooted and served local needs. But that system has been largely dismantled and transformed into too-big-to-fail Wall Street mega-banks that suck wealth out of communities and depend on government subsidies and protections. There is nothing esoteric about the banking system we must create. It looks a great deal like the system we had before the start of banking deregulation in the 1970s.

Blue-Number-3.jpgEquitable Distribution. Wall Street political influence has produced trade, fiscal, workplace, and social policies that create ever more extreme inequality by suppressing wages and eroding protections, services, and safety nets for those who do productive work to increase profits for the owning class. Aren’t we glad that the politicians restored tax breaks for the very rich so they could continue to inflate their claims against the real wealth of the rest of us?

SOLUTION: Implement fiscal, workplace, and social policies that distribute income and ownership equitably. Equitable societies are healthier, happier, more democratic, and avoid the excesses of extravagance and desperation.

Blue-Number-4.jpgLiving Enterprises with Living Owners. An ideology of market fundamentalism has embedded a belief in the public culture that the sole purpose and responsibility of a business enterprise is to maximize financial returns to its owners. This belief, combined with a system of absentee ownership and instantaneous trading of corporate shares, encourages short-term over long-term thinking and strips corporate decision making of concern for social and environmental consequences.

SOLUTION: Recognize that the primary purpose of any enterprise is to serve the needs of a living community. Favor living enterprises with living, locally rooted owners who have a direct stake in the social and environmental consequences of the firm’s management decisions—people who are looking not for maximum financial return, but for a living return that includes a healthy community and a healthy natural environment. This means favoring cooperative, worker- and community-owned enterprises and discouraging the speculative public trading of corporate shares.

Blue-Number-5.jpgReal Markets/Real Democracy. The institution of the global corporation is designed to facilitate the creation of global-scale, legally protected concentrations of economic and political power dedicated to extracting social, environmental, and governmental subsidies to advance the exclusive and narrow private interests of financial elites beyond public accountability. This violates the principle of shared and distributed power foundational to democracy and a market economy.

SOLUTION: Create real rule-based markets and real democracy by breaking up concentrations of corporate power, barring corporations from competing with living human beings for political power, and implementing rules and incentives that support cost internalization.

Blue-Number-6.jpgLocal Living Economies. Fragmented local economies dependent on global corporations for jobs and basic goods and services leave people and nature captive to the financial interests of distant institutions that have no concern for their well-being and no accountability to their interests.

SOLUTION: Pursue local economic development programs that build diversified, self-reliant, energy efficient, democratically self-organizing local economies comprised of locally owned living enterprises devoted to serving local needs.

Blue-Number-7.jpgSupportive Global Rules. Global rules put forward by institutions like the WTO that are largely captive to corporate interests circumvent the institutions of democracy to support the other six Old Economy dysfunctions.

SOLUTION: Restructure global rules and institutions to honor and serve life values and local control.

Leadership in framing and popularizing a vision for a New Economy must come from We the People. We are the one’s we’re waiting for.

David Korten author picDavid Korten adapted this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions, from a speech he delivered to the Rauschenbusch Center for Spiritual Action. David is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, president of the People-Centered Development Forum, and a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). His books include Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World.

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Oil price has doubled in the last 2 years: recession on the way?

Oh, but it will be better when things calm down again.  Gas will get cheap, don’t worry. All is well.


From Barry Ritholtz at the BigPicture

David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff calls the current doubling in the spot price of oil a “game changer:

“There have been only five times in the past 70 years when this has
happened within a two-year time frame: January 1974, November 1979,
September 1990, June 2000, and August 2005. And now, December 2010. . . .

Of the five instances cited above, all but one involved a recession for the U.S.
economy and that was in 2005 during the height of the credit and housing
boom, which acted as a huge offset. But oil prices did keep rising and managed
to outlast the euphoria in credit and residential real estate, so the recession may
have been delayed at the peak of the ‘growth rate’ in the oil price, but it was not
derailed as history shows.”

I must admit: I have never seen that analysis previously. Dave’s trailing 24 month oil chart is below


Spot Oil Price: West Texas Intermediate (Prior ’82 = Posted Price)

(24-month percent change, $/barrel)

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Did you know?

The world’s four richest people – Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mukesh Ambani – control more wealth than the world’s 57 poorest countries.  Combined.

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Great news on the downtown grocery front

I’ve been meaning to congratulate everyone who has been involved with the good news that not one but two new retail stores will be open soon in downtown.  This is a sure sign that the demographics have turned and that we are becoming more urban.  I just wish that the store on Esplande will find a way to stay open later than 6pm on weekdays and not at all on weekends.

If we are ever going to transform downtown from an office park into a real neighborhood, we need to have retail activity that acknowledges that people are here after normal work hours. That and we have to get offices off the first floor.  They absolutely should be prohibited on the ground floor of downtown buildings.  How’s that for a not-so-subtle dictatorship.


Second grocery announced for downtown Lexington

By Beverly Fortune —

Mar 23, 2011

Town Branch Market is expected to open in May at East Main Street and Esplanade. Businessman Howard Stovall, who made the announcement Tuesday, said the store will carry local products whenever it can. DAVID PERRY | STAFF

A grocery selling food, beverages and sundries will open in May at 233 East Main Street, at the corner of Esplanade.

Plans for Town Branch Market were announced Tuesday by businessman Howard Stovall.

“We’re going to try to have the basics for people who work downtown,” he said.

Customers may pick up salads, milk, fruit and microwave meals. There will be fresh-brewed coffee, plus pastries, doughnuts and bread made by Lexington bakeries. “We’re going to try, whenever we can, to get products from local suppliers,” Stovall said.

The market also will stock health and beauty aids, and basic office supplies.

“We’re not trying to compete with Kroger,” Stovall said. But the selection will more closely mirror a standard grocery than a convenience store, he said.

Stovall owns Signs Now at 365 Southland Drive and is a partner in Kentucky Theatre Management Group, which manages The Kentucky Theatre, across the street from the planned market.

Market hours will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday but will be adjusted when there are special events downtown, Stovall said.

“Our end of Main Street needs a grocery store,” said Gene Williams, an owner of Natasha’s Bistro & Bar at 112 Esplanade. “We need more neighbors like this in our block. Retail businesses thrive on foot traffic.”

The building that houses Natasha’s, Town Branch Market and several other businesses is scheduled to be sold April 11 at a master commissioner sale to raise $2.5 million owed to PBI Bank and the Urban County Government.

Building owner Farzin Sadr said in February he was working with two local banks to avert the public sale.

Stovall has a lease with Sadr and said the lease will be honored no matter who owns the building.

The name Town Branch Market comes from Town Branch creek, which flows underground through downtown.

Another independently owned downtown grocery store was announced in January, near the Lexington History Museum. Shorty’s, An Urban Market, will be at 163 West Short Street in the Traditional Bank building.

Grocery to open on Short Street in downtown Lexington

By Beverly Fortune —

Jan 6, 2011

General manager Darren Teodoro, above, expects to open Shorty’s, An Urban Market, next to Traditional Bank on West Short Street, by late April. The store site previously was used by another bank. DAVID PERRY | STAFF

An independently owned grocery store carrying fresh meat, produce and sundries will open downtown at 163 West Short Street in the Traditional Bank Continue reading

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Won’t Innovation, Substitution, and Efficiency Keep Us Growing?

Below,  Heinberg debunks some of our cherished assumptions.  In doing so, he is attempting to strip away the veneer of lazy complacency that says “all will be well.”  The vast majority of Americans, if they are paying attention at all, believe in the Holy Trinity of “Innovation, Substitution, and Efficiency.”

What if that won’t be enough?


by Richard Heinberg
This article is the the first part of Chapter 4 from Richard Heinberg’s new book ‘The End of Growth’, which is set for publication by New Society Publishers in September 2011. In the previous chapter Richard discussed EARTH’s LIMITS to the return of economic growth. Here Richard goes on to examine the role of INNOVATION, SUBSTITUTION and EFFICIENCY in the economy and why these don’t constitute a magic formula for continued growth.

Access previous chapters here.

Won’t Innovation, Substitution, and Efficiency Keep Us Growing?

I want to believe in innovation and its possibilities, but I am more thoroughly convinced of entropy. Most of what we do merely creates local upticks in organization in an overall downward sloping curve. In that regard, technology is a bag of tricks that allows us to slow and even reverse the trend, sometimes globally, sometimes only locally, but always only temporarily and at increasing aggregate energy cost.
Paul Kedrosky (entrepreneur, editor of the econoblog Infectious Greed)
In the course of researching and writing this book, I discussed its central thesis—that world economic growth has come to an end—with several economists, various businesspeople, a former hedge fund manager, a top-flight business consultant, and the former managing director of one of Wall Street’s largest investment banks, as well as several ecologists and environmental activists. The most common reaction (heard as often from the environmentalists as the bankers) was along the lines of: “But capitalism has a few more tricks up its sleeve. It’s infinitely creative. Even if we’ve hit environmental limits to energy or water, the mega-rich will find ways to amass yet more capital on the way down the depletion slope. It’ll still look like growth to them.”
Most economists would probably agree with the view that environmental constraints and a crisis in the financial world don’t add up to the end of growth—just a speed bump in the highway of progress. That’s because smart people will always be thinking of new technologies and of new ways to do more with less. And these will in turn be the basis of new commercial products and business models.
Talk of limits typically elicits dismissive references to the failed warnings of Thomas Malthus—the 18th century economist who reasoned that population growth would inevitably (and soon) outpace food production, leading to a general famine. Malthus was obviously wrong, at least in the short run: food production expanded throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to feed a fast-growing population. He failed to foresee the introduction of new hybrid crop varieties, chemical fertilizers, and the development of industrial farm machinery. The implication, whenever Malthus’s ghost is summoned, is that all claims that environmental limits will overtake growth are likewise wrong, and for similar reasons. New inventions and greater efficiency will always trump looming limits.
In this chapter, we will examine the factors of efficiency, substitution, and innovation critically and see why—while these are key to our efforts to adapt to resource limits—they are incapable of removing those limits, and are themselves subject to the law of diminishing returns. And returns on investments in these strategies are in many instances already quickly diminishing.
Substitutes Forever
It is often said that “the Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stones, and the oil age won’t end for lack of oil; rather, it will end when we find a cheaper, better source of energy.” Variations on that maxim have appeared in ads from ExxonMobil, statements from the Saudi Arabian government, and blogs from pro-growth think tanks—all arguing that the world faces no energy shortages, only energy opportunities.
Great Oil Gusher book cover
It’s true: the Stone Age ended when our ancient ancestors invented metal tools and found them to be superior to stone tools for certain purposes, not because rocks became scarce. Similarly, in the late-19th century early industrial economies shifted from using whale oil for lubrication and lamp fuel to petroleum, or “rock oil.” Whale oil was getting expensive because whales were being hunted to the point that their numbers were dropping precipitously. Petroleum proved not only cheaper and more abundant, it also turned out to have a greater variety of uses. It was a superior substitute for whale oil in almost every respect.
Fast forward to the early 21st century. Now the cheap rock oil is gone. It’s time for the next substitute to appear—a magic elixir that will make nasty old petroleum look as obsolete and impractical as whale oil. But what exactly is this “new oil”?
Economic theory is adamant on the point: as a resource becomes scarce, its price will rise until some other resource that can serve the same need becomes cheaper by comparison. That the replacement will prove superior is not required by theory.
Well, there certainly are substitutes for oil, but it’s difficult to see any of them as superior—or even equivalent—from a practical, economic point of view.[1]
Just a few years ago, ethanol made from corn was hailed as the answer to our dependence on depleting, climate-changing petroleum. Massive amounts of Continue reading

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Recognize this place? XXVIII

More of the “lost motels of Lex”

Here was the newest and most modern – at least in the mid 1950s. The location was the around the intersection of Limestone and Rose.  What else can we make of this – Mr. Sweeper?

Gram and Gramp stayed in the room marked with the X.  Must have been a good room.  They crossed the Ohio River at 6:10.  (am? pm?) Must have been a big milestone back then:  “Honey, we’re getting ready to cross the Ohio River. Brace yourself.”

here’s the back Continue reading


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Ladies and Gentlemen: The New York Dolls

The Dolls were everthing a rock band should be – shocking, loud, arrogant, flashy, funny, juvenile, maybe a little dim (“flying around New York City so high like he was my baby…”)

this video was made only 15 years after Elvis was on TV shaking things up.  The Dolls were far more influential than they ever get credit for in the mainstream – but they also gave us KISS, so they got that going for them.


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Is LEX a great place for women to reach the top in business?

Back in the winter, Business Lexington issued the “Book of Lists” for 2011.  Very nicely done. Lots of interesting information. Especially when it comes to the gender of the CEO/top person of the firms listed.

Here’s a break down

Business Type                    # of Firms       # w/Female leader – % of total

Accounting firms                  17                                  1                    5.8%

Advertising                             17                                  8                      47%

Banks                                        33                                  1                        3%

Insurance                               16                                  1                     6.25%

Law                                           18                                  2                       11%

Hospitals                                16                                  1                     6.25%

Physicians groups              14                                  8                      57%

Bourbon distillers                9                                  0                        0

Manufacturers                     32                                  1                       3.1%

Architectural firms            16                                  3                     18.75%

And one interesting category:  First Time Recipients of Venture Club Funding:  there were 30 recipient businesses  – 2 were led by a female

So these stats are just out there to keep in the back of your mind.

The Book does have a section profiling women in leadership positions around the region, which is very nice.

I can’t find a link to send you to.  Just find a copy or I’ll loan you mine if you want to check my figures.

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Quantifying Localism

Here’s an interesting way to begin thinking about how well we are doing at re-localizing our economy. This is for the entire US, and some of the numbers seem a little boosterish in favor of local, but hey, its a great start. This is from the New Rules Project.  I want to take this and adapt it and then begin applying it here.  What else do we need to measure to determine the “localness” of our economy?


  • Number of new independent bookstores that have opened since 2005:  437
  • Increase since 2002 in the number of small specialty food stores:  1,414
  • Increase since 2002 in the number of small farms:  111,839
  • Number of farmers markets active in 2010:  6,132
  • Percentage of active farmers markets started since 2000:  53
  • Average percentage of shoppers at a large supermarket who have a conversation with another customer:  9
  • Average percentage of shoppers at a farmers market who have a conversation with another customer:  63
  • Percentage of bank assets held by small and mid-sized community banks:  22
  • Percentage of small business loans made by small and mid-sized community banks:  54
  • Growth in deposits at small banks and credit unions since 2008:  $77 billion
  • Number of chain pharmacy locations that opened in 2009:  177
  • Number of independent pharmacy locations that opened in 2009:  474
  • Number of Independent Business Alliances and Local First groups in 2005:  30
  • Number of Independent Business Alliances and Local First groups in 2010:  143
  • Percentage change in 2010 sales for independent businesses in cities without a Buy Local First initiative:  2.1
  • Percentage change in 2010 sales for independent businesses in cities with a Buy Local First initiative:  5.6
  • Increase since 2002 in the number of Starbucks company stores:  3,297
  • Increase since 2002 in the number of independent coffee shops:  4,923
  • Average portion of $100 spent at a Target store that stays in the local economy:  $16
  • Average portion of $100 spent at independent retailers that stays in the local economy:  $32
  • Average amount of local wages paid for every $100 spent at a full-service chain restaurant:  $18.68
  • Average amount of local wages paid for every $100 spent at a full-service locally owned restaurant:  $28.46
  • Minimum amount having a grocery store, bookstore, coffee shop and restaurant within half a mile of a house increases its value:  $21,000

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Here’s a great idea for temporary stores/markets

The article below really points out a great solution to the lack of affordable commercial space in downtown LEX.  Until we have something like this, we will never have a lively commercial scene nor will we be able to grow local businesses.  These are economic incubators – we need to invest in the small scale side of things too, not just suburban industrial parks.


Kiosk m.poli / Brut Deluxe


© Miguel de Guzman

Architects: Brut Deluxe
Location: ,
Company: Primur, S.A.
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Miguel de Guzman

© Miguel de Guzman

The kiosk is designed to be used for temporary street markets or handicraft fairs. It isn’t thought of as an individual object, but as part of a whole that builds up a small village, a little world of its own fitted into the city. The design is based on archetypical images: town, house, chimney… When closed, the kiosk is a volume covered by a pitched roof, a house in its uttermost minimal expression. The scale and the shape are so basic that at first glance it might even be a toy, a Monopoly house.

Upon opening, the kiosk transforms. A part of its façade rotates upon the roof and the kiosk acquires a more vertical and striking proportion: that of a house with an oversized chimney. The chimney works as a great advertising board and is back-lit at night. With the transformation the kiosk reveals its inside, a house full of surprises, each one different and randomly colored.

© Miguel de Guzman

Starting in December 2006 the city council of acquired 275 kiosks that are used in all kinds of fairs and events (with an average of six uses per unit per year).

The base and the structure are made from structural profiles and tubing of galvanized , while the interior flooring is from anti-slip sheet aluminum on MDF boarding. The kiosk’s opening hatch is opaque and has three changeable positions: at 0 degrees closing the kiosk, at 90 degrees sheltering the counter from rain and sun, and at 180 degrees when the kiosk is fully open.


On the inside of the hatch, there are back lit panels for advertising the individual kiosk, which becomes visible at positions from 90 degrees to 180 degrees. One can access the kiosk through a door in the front facade next to the commerce hatch. The façade on the sides and back have no openings, damp-proofed with plates of pregalvanised lacquered sheeting and covered with Corten plate. The pitched roof also uses the same construction. The kiosk m.poli has been made with four different types of facade: naturally rusted Corten , polished stainless , matt stainless , with black lacquer finish.

A control box for maneuvering the opening hatch of the kiosk, is incorporated in the inside wall along with an electrical control box for protection of the electric systems installed. Under the counter, a strip of sockets allow smaller lights/ appliances to be used within the kiosk, as well as a telephone connection and the control for the interior lighting installed in the ceiling.


The kiosk is a type of equipment aimed at facilitating the sale of a wide range of goods, with block like construction, square in plan, that does not need assembly nor disassembly- just delivery on site with everything functioning.

In short, the kiosk has a design which, limited only by its dimensions could be installed in practically any part of a city. Throughout its development it was important that it would be an autonomous structure with everything that it needs to function independently, and to install a unit into a square does not need precise civil engineering, just a lorry, and fork-lift truck.

The kiosk moves and is transportable as a single block. In a single movement a crane can offload the kiosk from the truck and place it in its final position. Just the same, if for some reason a unit needs to be moved or changed position, it can be done quickly and easily with just a fork lift truck, or even a hand operated hydraulic jack.

More than 95% of the weight of the kiosk is from , in various types and forms. These materials are made from 43% recycled metals, and in terms of re-use of materials, the kiosk renders almost completely recyclable.

Kiosk m.poli / Brut Deluxe © Miguel de Guzman


Kiosk m.poli / Brut Deluxe © Miguel de Guzman

Kiosk m.poli / Brut Deluxe © Miguel de Guzman

Kiosk m.poli / Brut Deluxe © Miguel de Guzman


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Recognize this place? XXVII

In keeping with the theme of “motels that are no more.”

Alert reader Madtony pointed out that the Stables Inn, more recently the Congress Inn, had been torn down within the last year or so.  (To make room for an RV showroom parking lot.  Yeah, that’s a sucky business to be in as we watch gas prices rise precipitously)

Here we have the Springs Inn. I’ve featured the Springs before;I was in Lexington with my family in 1977 and we stayed here.  We all walked across Harrodsburg Road to visit the movie theater in the Mall to see Star Wars.  I was almost 13 years old.   So that and the fact that my family held reunions at the place from 1967 until right before it was torn down make me somewhat attached to the place.

This card carries a postmark from 1954. When, as the back proclaims, it was “located a mile south of Lexington, Ky.”  So try to picture this image of Southern Gentility surrounded by fields (and the post war homes to the rear and sides of the property.)  Ah, but travelers were not isolated; there was a radio in every room!

And as you can clearly see, the Springs was the “Largest and Finest in the World.”  That was a pretty bold claim.  But if true, didn’t we lose something important when it was torn down?

here’s the back Continue reading

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The real reason we won’t ever help Saudi dissidents

We won’t trouble Saudi’s tyrants with calls to reform while we crave their oil

Unrest will be seen as destabilising for western governments too until our dependency on Riyadh’s tap is curbed

George Monbiot

    pudles Illustration: Daniel PudlesDid you hear it? The clamour from western governments for democracy in Saudi Arabia? The howls of outrage from the White House and No 10 about the shootings on Thursday, the suppression of protests on Friday, the arrival of Saudi troops in Bahrain on Monday? No? Nor did I. 

    Did we miss it, or do they believe that change is less necessary in Saudi Arabia than it is in Libya? If so, on what grounds? The democracy index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit places Libya 158th out of 167, and Saudi Arabia 160th. At least in Libya, for all the cruelties of that regime, women are not officially treated as lepers were in medieval Europe.

    Last week, while explaining why protests in the kingdom is unnecessary, the foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, charmingly promised to “cut off the fingers of those who try to interfere in our internal matters“. In other parts of the world this threat would have been figurative; he probably meant it. If mass protests have not yet materialised in Saudi Arabia, it’s because the monarchy maintains a regime of terror, enforced with the help of torture, mutilation and execution.

    Yet our leaders are even more at ease among the Saudi autocracy than they were in the court of Colonel Gaddafi. The number of export licences granted by the UK government for arms sales to the kingdom has risen roughly fourfold since 2003. The last government was so determined to preserve its special relationship with the Saudi despots that it derailed British justice by forcing the Serious Fraud Office to drop its inquiry into corruption in the al-Yamamah deals.

    Why? Future weapons sales doubtless play a role. But there’s an even stronger imperative. A few days ago the French bank Société Générale warned that unrest in Saudi Arabia could push the oil price to $200 a barrel.

    Abdullah’s kingdom is the world’s last “swing producer“: the only nation capable of raising crude oil production if it falls elsewhere, or if demand outstrips supply. As a result, political disruption there is as threatening to the stability of western governments as it is to the Saudi regime. Probably more so, as our leaders wouldn’t get away with gunning us down in the street.

    Few governments of nominal democracies are likely to survive the economic dislocation that a sustained price of $200 would deliver: like Brian Cowen, they would be out on their butts quicker than you could cycle past a petrol station. You’re as likely to hear David Cameron call for the overthrow of the House of Saud as you are to hear King Abdullah call for the overthrow of the House of Lords.

    But even if the regime remains unchallenged, it’s not clear that it can keep delivering. The WikiLeaks cables showed American diplomats questioning the kingdom’s ability to keep raising production. One cable suggested that its reserves have been overstated by 40%. If so, that wouldn’t be surprising. The production quotas assigned to Opec states are a function of the size of their stated reserves: all members of the cartel have an incentive to exaggerate them. Saudi Arabia posts the same figure as it did in 1988. Fact or fiction, who knows? The true condition of its oil fields is a state secret.

    Another cable questioned the Saudi ability to keep moving the market. “Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period.”

    Western governments rely for their production forecasts primarily on the International Energy Agency. It has recently had to retreat on both its forecasts of future supply and its mocking dismissal of those who have warned that global oil output may one day peak. In 2006 the IEA predicted that world oil supply would rise from 82m barrels a day to 116m in 2030. In 2008 it reduced the forecast to 106m, in 2009 to 105m and in 2010 to 96m (by 2035).

    It might have to be downgraded again. The IEA’s new prediction relies on an assumption that Saudi output will rise from 9m barrels to 14.6m in 2035. The embassy cables report the alleged opinions of Dr Sadad al-Husseini, the former head of exploration and production at Saudi Aramco. “Sustaining 12 million barrels [per] day output will only be possible for a limited period of time, and even then, only with a massive investment program.” Once Saudi Arabia has produced 180bn barrels (in about 2021) “a slow but steady output decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it”. When the US embassy cables were released, Al-Husseini denied that he said this. But the figures in the report are detailed and precise.

    Unlike the last British government, the coalition does at least admit that there might be a problem. Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, argues that “getting off the oil hook is made all the more urgent by the crisis in the Middle East. We cannot afford to go on relying on such a volatile source of energy”. Partly to this end he has published a new carbon plan. Some of the commitments, particularly on electricity and home heating, are better than might have been expected.

    But the plan’s weakest point is transport, where it offers incentives without regulation. Huhne’s response to the oil crisis will save plenty of coal and gas, but precious little oil.

    That’s not surprising when you see who else sits at the cabinet table. A fortnight ago, as the oil price was soaring, Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, proposed raising – yes, raising – the motorway speed limit from 70 to 80mph. George Osborne, the chancellor, has hinted that he will drop the planned rise in fuel duty in next week’s budget. I can understand why he wants to dampen prices but it could also be argued that when supply is tightest, fuel duty should be highest. The government also plans to introduce what it calls a “fair fuel stabiliser“. This policy might be blessed with the best abbreviation since the proposed City University of Newcastle-on-Tyne was rechristened, but it’s likely to ensure that demand remains strong. There is, as yet, no government programme that will sharply reduce our craving for oil.

    Oil dependency means dependency on Saudi Arabia. Dependency on Saudi Arabia means empowerment of its despotic monarchy. Forget, if you must, the trifling issue of climate breakdown. Forget the incidental matter of economic depression. An oil-dependent economy means an impregnable tyranny in Saudi Arabia. That alone should prompt us to rethink the way we travel.

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