Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Creative Solution to Two Pressing Problems

This is a comment to a blog that is updated once a week, Clusterfuck Nation, by James Howard Kunstler.  This blog (from last Monday, the 5th of July) was about what Mr.Kunstler's "tea party" would look like.  I'd be aboard his tea party, which is more in tune with reality than the current tea party movement.  Anyway, among other things, it covered two problems in our American society today, the lack of reliable public transportation in this country (especially rail) and the continuing influx of illegal immigrants.  One poster to the blog, "Diogen", has a creative solution for both problems, that could be beneficial to the nation.  Of course, it being a "creative solution", it'd be a loser right out of the gate, as our leaders are hell-bent on sustaining the unsustainable for as long as they possibly can.  Anyway, I was impressed by it. 

OK, I'm switching my attention to the problems of Mexican immigrants. Two problems:

1. Securing the border
2. What to do with the illegals currently here

#1 is easy, bring home the Iraq and Afghanistan contingents, close down most of the military bases and reallocate their budgets to the border protection. Done. Deficit neutral.

#2 is trickier. Amnesty? Ship 'em back? Each choice is problematic, either politically or logistically. Amnesty is rewarding people for breaking our laws, and providing an incentive for more illegals (no apologies for the word illegals, this is what they are). Deportation is even more problematic, because of:

a: Humanitarian disaster
b: Politically not feasable
c: Economic disaster for our neighbor Mexico (this is bad for us)
d: Economic disaster for the U.S. Let's say there are 10 million illegals. If we deport all of them, this will remove 10 mill people from the economy: millions of abandoned apartments, homes, loss of revenue for thousands of businesses, removal of millions of workers from farms and factories, etc.

This would drastically depress housing prices, drive whole apartment complexes out of business, create new slums, etc.

But wait, perhaps the illegals aren't a problem, but an opportunity! Here's my idea: in the spirit of the good ole CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) create a new organization: CTC (Civilian Transportation Core). Here's how it works. The illegals will be given a choice: go back to Mexico, or join the CTC and serve for 3 years, after which you will be granted a legal permanent residency. CTC will use the low-cost labor to build a public transport infrastructure across the U.S. -- sidewalks in all cities and towns, light rail lines, bus/tram shelters and benches, subway lines in cities, and so on. Also, they will provide a low-cost labor pool for General Electric and others to build most advanced electric locomotives, hybrid buses, trans and trolleys. As a part of the CTC service, they will be required to take classes in English and pass the proficiency tests prior to the perm. res. eligibility.

We can't have the modern public transport system in the U.S. because we're broke, we can't pay for it. But if the cost of labor were to be drastically reduced by employing the 10 million illegals who would be glad to serve their chosen nation, this hurdle would be overcome. Perhaps we can't afford subways if we have to employ labor at $20/hr, but we could afford it at $5/hr??? Or $3/hr plus food stamps and rent vouchers? Many of them are getting the foodstamps and section 8 vouchers anyway... Wage would probably say "EXPLOITATION". Well, they are exploited now anyway, but with my idea they will be earning the future for themselves and their children...

I know, there are many practical problems with this idea, but there are problems anyway with the status quo as well. At least the CTC idea will offer a way to solve the biggest problem of them all, PO (Peak Oil) and it's impact on transportation.

If this isn't done, the 10 million illegals will stay here anyway, burden our social services, never learn English, etc. etc. etc.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

American Dream is Elusive for New Generation

This is an article from the Times that I have a lot of opinions about.  I am always interested in articles like this, and I'm pretty sure that I've posted a few in the past.  The article illustrates the trials and tribulations of the new generation of college graduates in the worst job market since the Great Depression.  I am a little older than these people, but am in the same boat, and have been for awhile.  I have issues with the choices of the individual who was chosen to put a face on this generation, but I'll get to him in a moment. 

The article talks about Scott Nicholson, who is a graduate of Colgate University.  His father is a general manager of a manufacturing company, and his grandfather is a retired stock broker.  Mr. Nicholson has been struggling to find employment.  I think that it's long since past time that this new generation needs to seriously open their eyes and realize that their path is not going to be the same easy, cushioned one that their parents and grandparents were able to take.  The loss of our industrial sector to third-world nations has resulted in a chain reaction in which one of the fatalties have been productive careers of virtually all stripes.  Another culprit, in my opinion, has been the migration of our young people into colleges. 

I can't remember where I read this, but back in our manufacturing heyday, the ratio of high school graduates moving on to secondary education was roughly 1 in 5.  I'm presuming that the other 4 would have probably sought work in a factory or even in a white-collar job, where a degere wasn't as much a requirement back them.  Today, the opposite is largely true, with 4 in 5 high school graduates going on to college.  This has created a large glut of newly minted B.A. recipients entering a job market that simply cannot support them.  I am one of those people.  Even with a secondary one-year certificate (in paralegal studies) on top of my B.A, I have not had a job interview in two years.

What makes this problem exponentially worse is that years of experience or advanced degrees seem to be a requirement for employment in this economy, putting the new generation of graduates and job seekers at a monumental disadvantage.  Years ago, I read in a book that in the near-future (which is now), that the bar for success would be set so high that only a relative few would be able to live that "American Dream" that we grew up believing in so much.  I have decided to give up looking for employment in the legal sector (which I spent a year training for in school, not to mention the money that I spent), due to the only jobs being available requiring ridculous amounts of experience (and even experience won't help you, if you spent 5 years working in say, personal injury law, and a job you're looking at requires that experience to be in matrimonial law) or being internships, in which case, you work for no pay.

Okay, I think I'm off my soapbox now.  As to the article in question, out of all the young graduates struggling to find meaningful employment, I don't think the Times could have picked a worse candidate for a cover story than this guy, Scott Nicholson.  He is a case study in how no one can feel sorry for themselves like rich white people can.  He has applied for roughly five jobs a week without much success, he hasn't been able to find the jobs he wanted.  Okay, so far, so good.  But then it's revealed that he was offered a job, for $40,000 a year, as an associate claims adjuster for an insurance company.  And he turned it down because he felt that he was too good for the position and deserved better.  As someone who is in similar shoes (and being seven years older, which makes my situation more dire than his), if I had gotten a similar job offer, I would have jumped at it, as I imagine most people would.  What makes it even worse is this:

 “I’m sitting with the manager, and he asked me how I had gotten interested in insurance. I mentioned Dave’s job in reinsurance (Dave is his brother--ed.), and the manager’s response was, ‘Oh, that is about 15 steps above the position you are interviewing for,’ ” Scott said, his eyes widening and his voice emotional.

So, he turns down the job, rather than taking it and working hard to take those "15 steps" to get the position in reinsurance that he did want.  That's bad enough.  Then, later in the article, it's written about how he was to become a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.  Then, a Marine Corps doctor noticed that he had childhood asthma and he wasn't able to enlist.  However, he was told that he could reapply if he wanted to.  But by that point, according to Scott, "the sheen was gone".  What a classic case of just being a whiner with an overly inflated sense of entitlement.

The Times may have come up with this article using the best of intentions, hoping to showcase one young person's struggles in this job market as something that we can all sympathize and relate to, but it turned out as something else entirely.  I found it very out of touch, to showcase this guy who thinks that being offered a $40,000 job (something that I can apparently only dream about) is a "dead end" and beneath him.  His father and grandfather seem to have good intentions and are offering good advice, but are also enabling him.   

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Awkward wording in article about BP

This is an interesting article on how the fallout from Deepwater Horizon can adversely affect BP, and how a possible bankruptcy of BP can also have a tremendous effect on the financial markets.  I did not know this, but according to the article, BP is deeply involved in the derivatives markets, just like Lehman Brothers and AIG were.  A bankruptcy of BP would unleash the same financial tsunami that occured with these other two corporations. 

Anyway, that isn't why I posted.  I found the opening sentence very telling:

As horrific as the gulf environmental catastrophe is, an even more intractable and cataclysmic disaster may be looming. The yet unknowable costs associated with clean-up, litigation and compensation damages due to arguably the world’s worst environmental tragedy, may be in the process of triggering a credit event by British Petroleum (BP) that will be equally devastating to global over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives.

So, although millions of gallons have spewed into the Gulf, causing ecological disaster not merely to the Gulf, but the entire surrounding region, and entire industries centering on the region (such as tourism and fishing) are at great risk of being eradicated, the possible bankruptcy of BP (and the ecomomic turmoil that would result) would be the real tragedy.  Sorry to be blunt, but "WTF"?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Still a Pedestrian, but No Longer Unruly?

Sorry for not blogging for awhile, I was ill last week and I have also been busy with other things.  Anyway, I also came to a realization; well, I came to it quite awhile ago, but now I am willing to finally confront it and attempt to do something about it. 

I decided to name my blog "The Unruly Pedestrian" because I am that rarest of breeds, a suburbanite with no vehicle.  Anyone who has been in that situation knows how difficult it can be.  It limits the jobs that you can apply to, there might be activities going on that you can't take part in, you're dependent on family and what there is of public transportation (there is public transit here, but it isn't very good; I couldn't possibly depend on it to get to a job, for example).  I do have family who does help a lot, but unfortunately, anything short of having a 24/7 chauffeur in suburbia just does not work. 

Again, this isn't an epithany that I just came up with; I came to this realization some time ago.  I hate to bring up PO again, but reading books like "The Long Emergency" and seeing a documentary like "The End of Suburbia" showed me how insane this lifestyle is.  For various reasons, I am not willing to buy a vehicle.  Factoring in all the costs (taking out a loan, buying insurance, filling up the car with gas prices changing all the time), it would probably make more sense just to move out.  I also consider PO and think that fully embracing the car-dependent, sprawl lifestyle would be crazy.

So, I think about the late comic Sam Kinison and his famous routine about the Ethopians.  He would decry the Ethopians for living in a very arid climate and starving as a result.  "Why don't they move to where the fuckin' water is?  They live in fucking sand!!!"  I've concluded that that's a little similar to my situation, in that I am in a situation where getting a career job (if such a thing exists anymore) is virtually impossible as long as I stay where I am.  It also helped in that I recently read about people in Detroit whose auto industry jobs were outsourced, and rather than migrate to locations where employment was more probable, they stayed behind and were never able to get back on their feet.

So, I am starting to look for employment in the NYC area.  I know that there is more competition there, but there are also more openings.  What I am yearning for is a position at a business where I will want to climb up the ladder.  Virtually every job I've had up to this point, has been no more than a paycheck, a way to live week by week.  It has either been impossible to advance at these jobs, or I've had no desire to.  My plan is to hopefully find something, commute for awhile, and if it works out, look for a place to live.  I don't care if I have to live out of my backpack, or room with 5 or 6 other guys.  I just want to live in a place where I don't have to stress on getting to work, or if I want to do something, I can just walk or take a train without worrying with all the logistical crap that comes with not having a vehicle.

Collapse is also on my mind too, but honestly, not too much so.  I don't know, I know that a city won't be an ideal place to live in a crash scenario, but what really would be?  Maybe a rural setting, and even then, you'd need to know how to grow food.  I've read plenty of predictions that things were going to fall apart, and I have no doubt that they will, but I just don't think that it'll happen tomorrow.  Unfortunately, as far as my career path goes, I have to live under the assumption that things are going to continue as they have been.

(I'm sorry about the personal post.  My next posts will be more in the usual format of relating to issues that are hot in the news.)