Friday, July 24, 2009

City of the Future: Kodiak, Alaska

Mumbai? Shanghai? Pittsburgh? Which of these great cities will dominate the globe thirty years from now?

How about Kodiak?

Yes, Kodiak Alaska, world's most progressive city.
Located on the United States' second biggest island and surrounded by earth's richest waters, Kodiak is a deep water port par excellence, conveniently located outside the frying pan of the coming global meltdown.

Speaking of which, the rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice will make for a reliable over the top trade route very possibly in the next decade. Look at a globe and you'll see Kodiak sitting midway, like a gas station in the middle of the desert. Already the home of the nation's biggest Coast Guard base and a brand new 600 ton Marine Travelift, Kodiak has two working boat harbors and facilities to accommodate container ships, jet airplanes and rocket ships. And we have our own brewery.

Kodiak's hydroelectric and wind power generation capacities should have it at 95% renewable electricity by 2020. Add a little fish oil capacity and we could be 100% oil independant for our power needs. Take that oil-igarchy.

And the people can't be beat. A remarkably diverse community Kodiak enjoys that camaraderie that comes from being trapped on a merciless rock together. Like inmates at Alcatraz.

Or maybe the last cornered humans in a world overrun by zombie banks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bad Poetry Cafe, Vol. 1

Sumo Buddha

No direction
A thousand points of darkness
Downstream on a river of pure aggression
Minnows into sharkness
What is right and who is wrong
Fight the fight or go along
Its like Buddha in the Sumo ring
The roaring crowd
Is much more loud
Than the choir in his head can sing.

"Now here is life on the halfshell nut"
he says to himself as he's kicked in the gut
"Laid out languid or pinprickle fury-
these are my choices? (Don't call me Shirley)
Stinging bee and honeyed hive-
Its a study in contrasts just being alive"
Pinning his opponent with a peaceful piledriver
He says "You are alive
But I am aliver"

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Jobs Americans Don't Want To Do

How to Lose Your Soul by Not Using Your Hands

It was 8:45 AM, March of 2008. I was slumped into a convention chair on the holo-deck of the Washington DC Hilton, listening to a slight, scholarly lady talk about immigration policy. The morning's latte was dancing a slow waltz in my head with the ghosts of the previous evening's martinis. All around me dellow felegates from the National League of Cities' annual descent upon the nation's capitol sipped coffee or dozed under ten gallon hats as the lady, Tamar Jacoby, argued that Joe Farmer needs access to cheap foreign labor, i.e. illegal aliens.

Then she said something that pulled me up in my seat. Little alarms were going off in my brain, so I looked down on my notebook to see what righty had written. Ms. Jacoby had said:
"A large percentage of them work in dirty, demeaning, low paid jobs that native born Americans no longer want to do: busboys, chambermaids, farmhands, nurses' aides, sweatshop workers, on the assembly line, in meat packing plants."

I shook the martini ghosts out of my head and listened. She described an America that is older and more educated, and not willing to do "unskilled work". I look down on my own rough and misshapen hands. Hmmmm.

She goes on to make the case that the American of tomorrow will be heady and shiny, graduating with honors along with his friends and classmates, festooned all over with gold stars and blue ribbons, comparing their trophies for participation at the mall where they consume the proper products in languidly prowling packs, waiting for the day when they will be placed in a skilled, non demeaning positions of oblique responsibility. Obviously these uber-Americans will need unskilled, uneducated foreigners to clear the plates, harvest the corndogs and empty the chamberpots.

At first I thought I' was just offended by the idea of an underclass, a shadow segment of our society with a hungry belly that the rest of us rule because of their need to fill it.
But there's something more. We are also hurt by our own aversion to simple physical work.
This didn't really strike home to me until the recent "financial crisis" began to unwind. For years my wife has been asking me what it is Americans do, exactly. Most of us (If WalMart wages aren't sucking you into the underclass) seem to make a living providing services to other Americans. Chefs, CPAs and surgeons all charge each other enough to make a sweet living. "But if so few of us actually make anything," my wife asked "where does all the money come from?"
"I don't know." I replied "Maybe its the savings from all the illegal beef butchers and diaper changers."

It turns out some of our most skilled and educated financiers conspired to build a house of mirrors that crashed under the weight of its own reflections. What they did to the entire world should be criminal, but instead we have chosen to open our forgiving arms and wallets to these prodigals.

But the original prodigal son was contrite. Ours have flown back to Daddy unrepentant, in sleek private jets, sheepishly grinning fops with silk hankies who need a new stake after foolishly gambling away their ready cash. Of course Daddy is broke too, so the sharecoppers in the valley will have to pony up Junior's bailout because, after all, if he can't generously spread his money around how shall the little people survive?

Well I have news for the dandies of high finance. You are the little people. I know working people here in Kodiak who came from Mexico and Guatemala and the Phillipines who work their whole lives gutting fish and sorting mail who have more honor and nobility than a thousand bailout sucking CEOs. Their character is the true bedrock of our society, and it is built from dirty hands and sore backs.

And isn't true value created by the one who catches the fish, builds the car and invests in the factory? That's real capitalism. You work to make or do something and are paid a purchase price or wage. Then you take that money and risk it to make more. The emerging pseudo capitalism in which morbidly obese corporations are "too big to let them fail" neatly combines the worst aspects of Marxism and fascism. Corpogovernment will preserve our failing businesses like Lenin's waxy corpse for the good of the people. But what should we expect from a culture that no longer values the contributions of those who actually do something? Somehow we got it backwards. We seem to believe that money makes people and that character comes from strength.

You know it is ever true that the best of us, he kindest, those with real patience and generosity seem invariably to be those who have known real hardship and adversity. If you ask me every kid in America should have to work in the sweatshop before he gets his Gap t shirt. And every financial executive who gets a bailout should carry chamberpots for lettuce pickers.