Battle of the People Movers

The People Mover.

That kind of boring ride at Disneyland that was strangely cool between a ride on Star Tours and waiting for Captain EO.  Also a place to recouperate after blowing five bucks on Gauntlet at the arcade.  It was cheesy, it was slow, and it was awesome!  Anyway it has been gone for over ten years ever since they revamped Tomorrowland.  I don’t remember too much details but you did get to go through the world of Tron.  Nothing like experiencing the future with 1982 computer technology.  There were no lines and it was a great way to kill a half an hour.  Honestly I think the people on shrooms just spent all day riding that.  Besides it was safer than the skyride which my Mom instilled fear in us since one collapsed in St. Louis in 1978 killing three people.  That kinda sucks.

For the most part it was a nod to the future of non-man driven modes of transportation (i’m such a pseudo-intellectual for thinking up that one).  Mostly it is technology that you see in some airports throughout the country.  Like if you have to kill time during a layover in Dallas, you can ride their People Mover.

In the 1980’s Detroit came up with an idea for public transportation – yep the People Mover.  Miami built one also, but I never been there so that is neither here nor there.  Anyway a city built around the automobile (cause it’s like their industry and stuff) decided to make it its public transit system.  So an extensive project was built for people to move around a three mile loop of a dilapitated downtown area.  So yes you can get from Greektown to Joe Louis Arena without being hassled for spare change or a cigarette.  Also like the Chicago Loop El-Train, it is a great way to see a glimpse of a city for fifty cents (especially if you like to see some urban blight).  It is very efficient, however you still have to DRIVE to ride it.  All that it is really good for is to save a couple of bucks to park for a Red Wings game. 

In a city that is in economic turmoil it costs 15 million dollars to upkeep when it only receives 2 million in ridership.  Yes Detroit is on an upswing – for instance I did not feel threatened at all on the Riverwalk downtown on a Saturday night, but there has got to be a better way or not I don’t know. 

I really don’t know if this is a battle or not, maybe if Detroit would build a Space Mountain next to the Renaissance Center, then we’d have a fight.  At least it’s better than a skyride that killed three people in St. Louis in 1978.

P.S. Monorails Suck

Probably a good thing I didn’t eat at Primanti Brothers today

Yeah man, the sandwich with the fries and coleslaw inside!  Like after the doctor tells you your blood pressure is kinda high, this is the last place you want to go.  Also if this is your girlfriend’s idea of a great date, she can probably hold her own against a defensive line.  Anyway I found out its around 1500 calories – but I guess a Whopper and fries is about that.  Everything in moderation……….

Rebranding the United States as the Non-united Non-states of Independent Rational Actors–The Subprime Fiasco and Insights into Distaste for Government Regulation

usa.gif*Note: yes, this is a disorganized, rambling rant*  But I’ll leave it up for now…

Why bother having a nation at all–why not just dissolve the US as a nation, as a “People,” and rebrand it as an unassociated office park space for transacting business?

Of course government regulation is a highly controversial topic. Of course it’s no magical panacea. But as a nation, we seem to believe in laws and order, and the Rule of Law–doesn’t the Rule of Law, if we think that is indeed a worthy goal, necessitate some degree of government regulation–or do we assume that the free hand of the marketplace will also establish and enforces Rule of Law? That doesn’t seem to be the case historically. For instance, plucking a topic from current headlines, would we outsource national security here in the US to private companies such as Blackwater (it doesn’t look like market forces are doing a good job at making private security companies like Blackwater do a good job of establishing and enforcing the Rule of Law in Iraq and treating Iraqi citizens well–the government, I think rightly, is looking at more closely and tightly REGULATING such private security forces).

Do US citiznes want some sense of striving together for a common national purpose–or do we want to view the United States as just one large chamber of commerce, devoid of any other concerns besides transacting business?

If we view the United States as consisting of a “People”–we might consider that due to bounded rationality, the People can use always some protection from highly sophisticated and often well-financed private actors –and isnt’ the US is here to serve the People to a degree–such that where there are huge asymmetries of information, power, and experience out there (most US citizens aren’t highly educated, sophisticated experts in finance, politics, and law, and aren’t able to afford lawyers and other experts to guide their transactions and decisions)–the US can and does do the People a service by regulating the marketplace to make sure that people won’t get ripped off wholesale by unscrupulous private actors, to make sure that people can have some base expectation of Rule of Law, to establish faith in the economy and marketplace versus fraud and unsafe products and chaos.

Which isn’t to say that the government should hold every citizen’s hand, but rather that a base degree of government regulation and oversight in the interests of US citizens can be a good thing, where US citizens face information asymmetries and collective action problems and high transaction costs in a manner such that it’s sometimes more efficient overall to have the government make and enforce laws and standards and perform investigations and due diligence to keep citizens from being ripped off. If the government’s role isn’t to protect its citizens to a degree, what is a government for? Why bother having a nation at all, and not just make the US an office park?

A Catastrophe Foretold (NY Times)

So why was nothing done to avert the subprime fiasco?…

The answer is ideology.

In a paper presented just before his death, Mr. Gramlich wrote that “the subprime market was the Wild West. Over half the mortgage loans were made by independent lenders without any federal supervision.” What he didn’t mention was that this was the way the laissez-faire ideologues ruling Washington — a group that very much included Mr. Greenspan — wanted it. They were and are men who believe that government is always the problem, never the solution, that regulation is always a bad thing.

Unfortunately, assertions that unregulated financial markets would take care of themselves have proved as wrong as claims that deregulation would reduce electricity prices.

As Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, put it in a recent op-ed article in The Boston Globe, the surge of subprime lending was a sort of “natural experiment” testing the theories of those who favor radical deregulation of financial markets. And the lessons, as Mr. Frank said, are clear: “To the extent that the system did work, it is because of prudential regulation and oversight. Where it was absent, the result was tragedy.”

I mean, US citizens obviously believe in regulation, because they regulate their families, communities, etc. They don’t let their kids just run completely wild, they regulate them. The government is just a proxy for the US citizenry working together–US citizens deciding things should be one way or not, enforcing laws to establish minimum levels of organization, decency, efficiency, etc. So to always rail against government regulation in favor of “market forces” seems to me to be basically giving up on the notion of the government as an extension of the will of US citizens, and giving up on the idea of the US as a cohesive union of the US citizenry. Why be a nation when we can all just be independent rational actors who only deal with each other in transactions for financial gain, and don’t care to have any broader associations or goals as a nation? We could rebrand the US as the Non-united Non-states of Independent Rational Actors.

Interesting Post on Comparative Advantage, and Awesome Equations at “What’s Your Formula”

pinker1000.jpg

Economist: This week in comparative advantage

Even if Iga is better than Og at both fishing and fruit gathering —

— It takes Og 3 hours to catch a fish and would take 4 hours for him to gather some fruit,

— While it only takes Iga 1 hour to gather some fruit, and 2 hours to catch a fish,

Then is still pays for Iga to get her fish from Og. She could gather 2 meals of fruit and swap one of them for Og’s second fish.

Because that way Iga works only 2 hours for a meal of fruit and fish, instead of 3 if she was self-sufficient, and Og only works 6 hours, instead of 7 if he was self-sufficient.

Here’s are their budget lines:

On their own:

Og: 3hours*1 fish + 4hours*1 fruit=7 hours for 1 fruit 1 fish

Iga: 1hour*1 fruit + 2hours*1fish=3 hours for 1 fruit 1 fish

Iga should spend 2 hours to get 2 fruits

Og should spend 6 hours to get two fish.

Iga trades 1 fruit to Og in return for 1 fish.

Iga now gets 1 fruit 1 fish for 4 hours instead of 7 hours.

Og now gets 1 fruit 1 fish for 2 hours instead of 3 hours.

They are both better off (of course, why would they trade if they weren’t both better off?)

This example is great for showing reasons why people trade; mutual benefits, creating surplus. Of course Iga and Og could bargain over how the surplus should be carved up, that would be easier in a situation dealing with money instead of straight bartering. There are so many factors involved in deals/trades; timing, inventories to incorporate, interest rates, pending and planned product lines, capital structures, deciding who should bear what risk, who will reap certain potential rewards, etc. Interesting stuff, especially when deciding how to factor in, allocate, and price risk. Who might benefit the most, who might get stuck holding the bag?

The example given and the random formula in the picture above are from the awesome “What’s Your Formula” website as cited in the Economist blog post.

Interesting Statistics: Are We Worse Off Financially Than Previous Generations?

8228640_921246eaa3.jpg

All those experts, and we’re still unsure how to really interpret the numbers. It’s amazing to me how statistics can be misrepresented or important figures omitted or overlooked when making claims and comparisons, hence reports like the one cited below, which seem to contradict conventional wisdom and hopefully make people think twice about how figures are represented, what comparisons are being made, what other relevant statistics might be needed to paint an accurate picture. Who to believe?

“Bankruptcy law expert and Harvard University Professor Elizabeth Warren spent a lot of time crunching consumer spending numbers for her popular books, “The Fragile Middle Class” and “The Two-Income Trap.” In both, she makes this point: Despite all those $200 sneakers you hear about and the long lines at Starbucks, consumers are actually spending less of their income — much less — on discretionary items like clothing, entertainment and food than their parents did. In fact, after taking care of essentials like housing and health care, today’s middle class has about half as much spending money as their parents did in the early 1970s, Warren says.

The basics, according to Warren, now take up close to three-fourths of every family’s spending power (it was about 50 percent in 1973), leaving precious little left over at the end of the month — and leaving many families with no cushion in case of a job loss or health crisis.

Warren’s theories fly in the face of conventional wisdom and those crowded malls. But the premise is simple: Even though household incomes have risen about 75 percent from 1970, most of that is the result of a second earner — generally a woman — joining the work force. And that added income has been swallowed by rising fixed expenses, such as child care and housing costs, Warren argues. The average family pays at least twice as much for housing compared to its counterpart in the 1970s, Warren says, and in some competitive areas with good schools, housing costs have risen by as much as 600 percent.”

Life is harder now, some experts say
Generation gap: After paying the bills, middle-class pockets are emptier

Photo by: Jeff Belmonte

Bonus mp3: Daft Punk: Louis Vuitton Mix

Jay Z, Arthur Verocai, Roc Boys/Roc Boyz, and American Gangster

jayz_american_gangster.jpg

Okay, so Jay Z’s new track Roc Boys/Roc Boyz, with its jazz/funk horns and drums sounds a bit like Arthur Verocai, Fela Kuti, and ska meets the soul sampling work of Just Blaze. The surprise is that it’s produced by Puff Daddy and the Hitmen, and was recorded using live horn players and other musicians (for the forthcoming Jay Z album American Gangster).

So, Just Blaze, the only logical response is for you to hook up with Arthur Verocai, who is putting out a new album, and make a whole batch of awesome live-musician based hip hop tracks–not just the orchestral instruments you’ve been using, but live horns, bass, drums, etc. In other words, just make some music with Arthur Verocai.

Mp3s:

Jay Z: Roc Boys from American Gangster, produced by Puffy and the Hitmen (mp3 courtesy of Spine Magazine)

Arthur Verocai: Sylvia and Seriado available for listening at mog.com. These aren’t even the best songs on the album, by far…

Mp3 samples for all songs from Arthur Verocai’s 1972 album available at the Ubiquity Records site.

Arthur Verocai: Bis off his new album coming out this month! (mp3 courtesy of 33/45 blog)

Picture from Ear Fuzz post on Arthur Verocai

1972_avars.jpg

The Rich Get Richer, While All of Us Ingest More Lead: Globalization, Lack of Regulation, and the Race to the Bottom

800px-pb-tableimage.png

More evidence of our sloppy handling of globalization without concerted efforts at orchestrating international safety standards (yes, that would probably count as “regulation,” and it would cost some upfront money, but ultimately it could save lots of money in terms of health costs, greater trust in international trade, etc).

90,000 more Chinese-made toys recalled due to lead content

High levels of lead found in many popular, brand-name lipstick products

There is a limit to which you can cut costs without endangering human health and product safety standards.

Meanwhile, the richest 1% of US earners earned 21.2% of all income, higher than during the last tech boom, and the largest percentage since the 1920s. See these articles from the WSJ and Reuters via Yahoo:

Income-Inequality Gap Widens

Inequality’s Roots: Wall Street, Not Board Rooms

IRS says rich getting richer: report

Carelessness, cutting corners, and fighting regulations and outsourcing to companies in other countries with low safety and health standards in order to make quick profits puts money into the top 1%’s pockets while poisoning the rest of us with lead. Priceless (for the top 1%)! YAY!!!

If only the US gov’t weren’t so afraid of diplomacy and so distrustful of international bodies like the U.N. I mean, we should probably get in the game more in terms of diplomacy, especially with the EU gearing up in order to be a major consolidated economic power in competition with the U.S.

Here’s one economist’s (Dani Rodrik’s) vision of “a progressive trade agenda

Also see “Bush Vows Push On Trade, Chides Boards on Pay” which discusses US citizens’, (including some Republican Party members’) wavering views on globalization, and outlines some stunning statements from President Bush:

“We have lost our confidence in the ability to compete internationally.” Mr. Bush pledged to turn the situation around.

In yesterday’s interview, Mr. Bush said that some executive compensation is excessive, and that some corporate boards fail to ensure that shareholders know how company funds are being spent. Those practices, he said, can give rise to feelings the economy isn’t working fairly for all Americans. “Do I think some of the salaries are excessive at the top? I do,” the president said…

Excessive executive compensation “just sends a signal of unfairness, and people in America want…fairness,” Mr. Bush said, adding that he has raised the issue with both Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox.

 

I would start by increasing the US’s competitiveness by dropping federal financial aid loan rates drastically instead of shipping money off to Iraq, and making up for that loss of revenue by cutting down on certain tax cuts to .05% highest income earners.

I’d wager that more education for US students will do more for the economy than that one extra private island for the super-rich, but the super-rich would recoup anyway, this could end up resulting in profits that would make up for any tax cuts lost–a better educated and a more skillful US workforce would present great benefits that the super-rich would be able to take advantage of.

It’s not really rocket science, now is it?  Like Google–they have hugely high hiring standards and a highly educated workforce and they’re worth more than IBM, Coke, or Disney, somewhere around $180 billion or something?  They have all that brainpower, and they’re practically printing money themselves.  That’s a testament to having a highly educated workforce.

Today’s global competitiveness depends more on college-and-graduate school level education, at the very least continuing education throughout workers’ lifetimes, than in previous generations, when hardly anyone even got a BA…or at least better, more globally competitive education.