Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Facts of life

I know I quote James Howard Kunstler a lot, but that's because he's so often right on the button. Here's a few extracts from this week's blog, prescribing a reality check for the US and its new president.
"The lame duck US economic posse so far has done everything possible except the two things that really matter: allow the fraudulent securities at the heart of the problem to be exposed to the light of day to determine their actual value; and allow those companies who trafficked in them to suffer the full consequences by going out-of-business. For the moment, they're content to shovel cash into the truck-bed of every enterprise in America that shows up at the Treasury loading dock. This can only have the effect of eventually destroying the value of that cash.

. . . . . . 

The Obama government will have to resist the temptation to prevent enterprises from failing. These failing things have to get out of the way before new activities can get underway. It will also require government leaders to tell the public the hard truth that it can't do everything we would like it to do."
I suspect that he's right - how will bailing out GM fix  anything? Sooner or later the car workers have to join wheelwrights and sailmakers in the world of outmoded trades, and artificially prolonging their existence is not going to help anyone. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see wind powered transportation return to the oceans - SkySails in Germany are already trying out some new ideas. 

Of course, a return to sea freight will mean some changes in our waterfront cities.
"One other implication of this is the necessity to use our waterways for moving things and people again. Has anybody noticed, for instance, that the once-bustling New York City Harbor, possibly the biggest and best sheltered deepwater harbor in the world, has next-to-zero operating docks left along its massive perimeter? While you're at it, have a look at the waterfronts of Louisville, Cincinnati, Kansas City and a score of other inland port cities on great navigable rivers. What you'll see are condo sites, festival marketplaces, picnic grounds, and plain old empty lots -- everything but the infrastructure for commerce. We can't afford this anymore. We have to put these places back to work."
Watch this space - and check out Jim Kunstler's blog each Tuesday. (Monday in the US.)

Speaking of people who are mostly right (but not in the political sense), Bob Cringely is offering his services as the US's first Chief Technology Officer. He will be available, as his long run as columnist and presenter with PBS is finally ending in December. I think he'd be brilliant as the US CTO; I wonder who Obama will really appoint?

Cringely has done some terrific documentaries on the history and impact of the personal computer, and has always made good sense. He's pretty much immune to silly fads and crazes, which is reassuring in this world of one-week celebrities.

Cringely's "Triumph of the Nerds" is a classic documentary on the beginnings of the PC - it documents such bygone wonders as the Altair, CP/M, and the DEC Rainbow, along with the rise of Apple and Microsoft.


Anonymous said...

Have you heard Kunstler's weekly podcast? It's full of great Kunstlerisms.


Gregor Ronald said...

Thanks, I've subscribed to the feed - I didn't know it existed!