Friday, June 28, 2013

It's hot in Arizona, Weatherbug says so

This popped up the other day on my Weatherbug app...

An Excessive Heat Warning Remains In Effect Until 8 PM MST /8 Pm
Pdt/ Sunday.

• Affected Area...Lower Deserts Of Arizona And Southeast
California...As Well As Higher Elevations East Of Phoenix...
And Joshua Tree National Park.

• Temperature...Afternoon Highs Between 115-121 Are Expected
Across The Lower Deserts...And Highs Between 98-110 In The
Higher Elevations.

I've lived in the metro Phoenix area most of my life and remember the historic 122 degree day in 1990 that made a stroll to the mailbox akin to a hike through Death Valley.

At this point, that anything over 95F makes national news  is laughable to me.  Thing is, Arizona's known for being one big dusty frying pan.  Sure we have pine covered mountaintops and even ski slopes but in the end nobody thinks winter wonderland when it comes to Arizona. 

That is, unless you're a snowbird seeking refuge from the worst of the four seasons in our fair (and I do mean FAIR as in so-so) locale.

The environmental types will point to global warming while the corporate types will just accept the desert for what it is, hot and dry.

I don't believe nature has much to do with 122F temps, however.  I live in an area that's quadrupled its population in less than a generation and occupies a developed land mass larger than some states.  All the concrete and asphalt that comprise what developers call "planned communities" turns into one giant solar oven for half the year.

Home values are increasing even though wages and the cost of living aren't but still they come.  The state competes with 4 others for dwindling water sources but that doesn't stop them.  So long as the chamber of commerce is handing out bottled water all is well.

More people, more pollution, more needless aggravation.  Backward standards of labor stuck in a 19th century sweatshop mentality make it worse.  More traffic means more roads means more concrete tombs where hapless victims spend 8 hours a day with air conditioners spinning up the fortunes of the power companies. 

The result...

122 degrees.

What a Supreme Court victory says about us.

This week's Supreme court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a victory.  That said, it's sad commentary on the state of humanity.

That societal norms in the United States are so backward as to allow a  government to tell a woman what she can do with her body while in the same breath proclaiming individual liberty is laughable.  That we have legislative debate on the proper parties to a committed relationship is embarrassing. 

That it's official state policy to condemn other cultures for similar beliefs is nothing short of hypocritical.  Is it any wonder then that the United States is so hated.  "Do as I say not as I do" has never been good policy.  We need to lead more by example than sound bite.

I've had a sort of epiphany lately or perhaps just more able to express what I see.

I've always been very open minded but admit that when it comes to topics dear to the Rainbow coalition I've been a bit annoyed by their medium. 

I find it distasteful for an entire community to define itself by whom it chooses to share their intimate moments with.  I could care less what gender you find arousing to be honest.  As a straight man I've resigned myself to additional criteria before approaching an interesting member of the opposite sex.  That being, "You like guys, right?"

I'm the first to admit that I wouldn't be caught dead marching in a parade with a banner reading, "We're here, we're NOT queer, get used to it."  

So much for the "You don't see me marching in any heterosexual parades" argument.

But I get it now...

Polite society is so caught up in advancing its imperfect vision of normality that you literally have to be outrageous just to be heard. 

It's not just the concerns of the LGBT community either, it's a concern for the rest of us too.  To disenfranchise anyone contrary to our better selves diminishes us all.

Look, if you believe that a loving couple of the same sex is going to bring down civilization any more than the sexual escapades of your favorite televangelist you're just not being honest with yourself.

Please don't hold up biblical references as proof either.  The text has been corrupted by human ambition for eons and if we really chose to take it as literally as some would have you believe, we'd all be hanging from crosses on some Roman hill.

Our greatest cultural influences, providing us with the foundations for our literature, government and conduct didn't concern themselves with the specifics of our most carnal nature.  Shakespeare's most impassioned sonnets were focused on a young man.  Roman culture didn't even bother to subdivide acceptable physical relationships based on gender but rather on acceptable conduct.

It's not that I advocate anarchy or debauchery, I'm just tired of humanity spending more time on their genitalia than advancing the species.  By the way, the act of procreation isn't enough to advance the species.  If it were cats and rabbits would be ruling the world from their flying cities.

Even as a straight man, the fact that I choose not to prioritize procreation above all other pursuits can have a debilitating effect on my societal position.  I've never been an advocate for doing anything for its own sake and the traditional family construct is one of those tenets for me. 

The concept is simple if not self-evident.  If you don't endeavor to improve the world you walk through then what chance can your offspring have?

The simple state of being is not enough to correct the inadequacies of a narrow minded progenitor.  I see far too many lost souls imprisoned by the limitations of their procreators.   For the few that escape,  freedom comes only after unbearable pain and isolation.

For the others, the "normal" ones, the same disdain and disrespect handed down from parent to child  only advances an imperfect world view through yet another generation . 

And humanity stands still.

Until we can rise above concerns of our lowest desires humanity will never reach its full promise.  Love, sex and relationships regardless of the participant's gender should be as accepted as breathing but they're not. 

That's why this week's legal victory is so critical yet so reflective of our own immaturity.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The real cost of living

I've been thinking about the price of things and the money it takes to buy them and I've made an obvious but as far as I can tell unrecognized connection.

It's said that the value of the U.S. dollar has been declining for years.  Go over to the Dollar Times inflation calculator (I have it bookmarked) and see for yourself.

As I've played around with it I've happened upon an interesting anomaly.  It appears that sometime around 1942 the value of the U.S. Dollar started declining steadily. This was almost a decade after FDR decided that gold was only useful for jewelry.  1942 was the first full year of the U.S. involvement in World War 2 so considering the economy was on a wartime footing it makes sense that the consumer economy was going to take a hit.  That's what happens when you actually try to pay for the wars you engage in.

What's strange is that it's a trend that's never stopped.  It leveled off for awhile during the "Great Recession of 2008" but continued its decline shortly after.  Most economists will tell you the only reason it didn't plunge further was due to government intervention and a lack of economic activity in general.

Look, economic babble aside, the  truth is that your buying power is continuously eroded over time and there's nothing you can do about it.

Regardless of your political affiliation or whether you care that the money in your pocket has been based on little more than good intentions (Fiat currency) for the past 4 decades the problem is self evident.   With apologies to Thomas Jefferson, the "rights " held self-evident have been little more than political marketing for the past century.

After all, even if it's worth less, it just feels good to have a million of something even if it only has the buying power of your kid's lunch money in a few years.

So if our money is worthless, why do we accept the excuse for higher prices being higher costs of production? 

Does that sound like a stupid question?  Then you're probably a stupid person. 
Sorry, but you were probably already chewing on the arm of your chair by now anyway...

What's really stupid is that we accept the fact that our money is worth less which naturally makes things cost more but don't give a second thought to how badly we're getting ripped off.

Let's go back to our Inflation calculator and stick in some numbers.  Say $40,000 which was a decent salary in 1985.  In fact it was a great salary and in 2013 dollars you could buy $87,217 worth of stuff. 

In little more than a generation our money has lost more than half its buying power.  Yet our wages are still based on those same 1985 numbers.  Somewhere, somebody in HR or accounting thinks that $40,000 will still let you buy a house, feed your family and save a few bucks for a rainy day.

It's perfectly acceptable to raise prices to compensate for a currency with declining value. It's only fair to charge more if it takes more money to produce the same item.

So how is it that demanding fair compensation for slowly killing your soul in some cloth covered cubicle suddenly makes you unreasonable? 

If everyone is getting what they need then everyone should be happy, right?

Thing is, very few of us are and the only relief we get are sound bites and token gestures from politicians crafted to quell the uproar till the next news cycle. 

It's the reason why politicians don't like to run on their records anymore and instead choose to act like bullies in a schoolyard.

It's not about rich versus poor or conservative versus liberal economics.  It's about expecting blood from a stone.  It's simple, if your money is worth less you have to have more of it just to maintain your standard of living.  A cost of living raise isn't a luxury it's a fact of life when you live in an unpredictable economy. 

I don't buy the big business wailing over minimum wage increases either.  If you can't afford to pay for the resources you need to conduct business then you don't know how to run your business.  It's exploitation, nothing less.

In fact, because business has gotten away with economic indentured servitude for half a century they've actually hurt themselves.  It's not the rich who keep the GM's, Chrysler's and Maytags in business.  It's the average Joe sitting in the morning commute 5 days a week.  If he can't buy your goods you're out of business. 

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. 

Why do we accept this? If the value of our money is based on good faith and that faith has been violated then why do we continue to accept the whole premise to start with?

I've often said that the oil companies can charge whatever they want for a gallon of gas just so long as everyone's wages are adjusted to compensate.  Charge $20 a gallon for all I care, just make sure the average income is in the six figure range. 

If it costs you that much to deliver the product then I should be able to meet that demand from the rewards of my labor.  Anything else is economic opportunism on the backs of labor.

In the end , most of us have ended up living one check away from financial ruin while the Suze Orman's of the world chide us for spending our meager resources too frivolously.  I know your heart's in the right place Suze but your understanding of economic theory borders on fantasy. 

Until the slow slide from employment to indentured servitude stops in the developed world we need to stop blaming ourselves for all the economic ills and personal financial woes. 

We need to demand that wages reflect the world we live in now, not the one our grandparents knew.  It's not unreasonable unless you sit in the executive suites counting the millions you steal from your employees every day you don't pay a wage based on what used to be called "the cost of living"

Friends it's simple.  the rich are getting richer not because they're smarter or luckier than us.  They're getting richer because they're benefitting from the fact that you're not getting paid what you're worth.

If you think I'm wrong, well, I can guarantee you're not worried about feeding your kids next month.

Think about it.