Yesterday, March 1, marked the changing of the name of Yosemite’s historic Ahwahnee Hotel to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. The move was done by the National Park Service to avoid a lawsuit with Delaware North, a former concessionaire at the park who claims rights to the name as well as the word Yosemite and other lesser names. The hotel, which opened in 1927 is a masterpiece of big timber and stone architecture. You know there’s something wrong when corporate America threatens to destroy the heritage of such storied landmarks. The national park and hotel names, while not original Miwok, keeps alive the now extinct spoken word of this Sierra based tribe of native Americans. Their loss is a loss for everyone and we can only hope that the courts agree and allow the poetic original names to be used again in the future. Until then…
Over the past week there has been much discussion about the dispute between the FBI and Apple regarding the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. A friend of mine is a G man. He forwarded me this letter written by FBI Director Jim Comey on the subject:
“The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is. The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI.
“The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve. We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it. We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.
“Reflecting the context of this heart-breaking case, I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other. Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure – privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living. It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before. We shouldn’t drift to a place – or be pushed to a place by the loudest voices – because finding the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time.
“So I hope folks will remember what terrorists did to innocent Americans at a San Bernardino office gathering and why the FBI simply must do all we can under the law to investigate that. And in that sober spirit, I also hope all Americans will participate in the long conversation we must have about how to both embrace the technology we love and get the safety we need.”
My friend adds is this for consideration:
“With respect to privacy, when a federal law enforcement agency is conducting an investigation its agents can issue a federal grand jury subpoena to obtain virtually any kind of record (bank, telephone, etc.). If the investigating agents can establish probable cause to a judge, they can obtain a warrant to search your office, your house, your safety deposit box, your computer – anything.”
The question here is why it is the request to open a phone any different?
Every now and again I wonder why the world is so messy, at least from a human interaction perspective.
In large part it’s because people are not use to certain things, not exposed to other people, religions, customs, etc…
Today at lunch I mentioned to a friend that wonderful scene from Elmer Gantry where Burt Lancaster walks into a gospel church while the flock is singing On My Way to Canaan’s Land. Many in the pews pause, stop singing and look at the interloper. He’s white, they’re black and may feel that he doesn’t fit in. That’s a normal response – we all fear the unknown, in this case, he’s unknown to them.
But once he starts to sing, everything changes and without a hitch, all get back into the groove and he is accepted. It’s a great analog for what the world could be – all different but ultimately, all more the same that we know.
Many students have learned about geologic history and the terms used to describe certain timelines; epoch, which is a subdivision of a period, which is a division of an era, etc… In most instances, eras are very, very long periods of time:
|Era||Beginning (millions of years BP)||End (millions of years BP)|
When we think of these references, we usually think of the age of dinosaurs, the dawn of man, and so forth. Now comes something new: The potential for a new epoch to be classified: the age of Anthropocene – the age of man.
The current epoch, known as Hologene, started about 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Since that time, human influence on the planet has been slowly increasing, with the last 300 years making the greatest impact. With the Industrial Revolution, man brought factories belching out pollution. with the growth of our population to 7 billion + man’s influence on the plant is taking on greater significance. No one can deny that animals, people and the planet are all being affected.
In her recent book The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert speaks to the facts about mass extinctions through earth’s history. Among them are the asteroid impact near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that destroyed the dinosaurs. She also mentions that after much study and discussion, the idea of a new epoch has merit. Humanity has changed the planet in these significant ways:
– Humans have changed between a third and half of the land surface of the planet.
– Most of the planet’s major rivers have been damned.
– Fertilizer manufacturers produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by Earth’s ecosystems.
– Fisheries remove more than a third of the primary production fo the oceans’ coastal waters.
– Humans use more than 50% of the world’s readily accessible fresh water runoff.
We are changing the planet in such a way that many thousands of years from now, a geologic chapter will be evident in the sediments and stone that is produced from our current age. For that reason and more, the International Commission on Stratigraphy, the group responsible for maintaining the official timetable of earth’s history, will be considering this topic at t heir 2016 meeting. At no other time in the past billion years has an Epoche occured as quickly as this new one has…
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” Mahatma Gandhi
Today represents a failure of our political system. it’s the first day of a partial government shutdown brought on exclusively because of political infighting. Roughly 800,000 gov’t employees are officially in limbo, with no knowledge when or if their job’s or pay will be reinstated.
But how does the stock market react to such perils? I asked Matthew Jones, a financial consultant in downtown Ventura., who shared with me a number of facts:
There have been 17 governmental shut downs since 1977
They have ranged from one to 21 days in length, with an average of six days.
During the shutdown, the Standard & Poors index has declined an average loss of value of .9%
During the three months after the shutdown, the S&P gained and average of 2.5%.
After twelve months, that increased to a 12% gain.
So it appears that while many on the government payroll feel the financial bite of politicians playing chicken amongst themselves, those who invest in the stock market seem to benefit if they are patient. Let’s hope this brief interlude ends soon, dammed the S&P.
The first was in the Ventura County Star, which on page A1 discusses the current (and ongoing) debate about the minimum wage and how it affects job creation and employment. The second in the LA Times entitled Middle-Class Mayday, discusses trickle-down economics and what it has done for the middle class in America. To the first point, the analysis of whether raising the min. wage would affect job creation appears clear. From today’s Star (available online only to subscribers):
There have been many studies, lots of data, different methodologies — but not much variation in their conclusions. A 2009 “meta-study” by two Australian economists of 64 separate minimum-wage studies found that estimates on employment effects were heavily clustered very close to zero. It appears, says economist Sylvia Allegretto of the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, that something close to a consensus has emerged. “The range of answers has become so narrow that the debate has effectively been settled,” she said. “At this point, we’re arguing over whether it results in no negative employment effects or very small negative effects.”
So, to arrive at a conclusion, there seems to be no affect on hiring when the minimum wage is increased. Still, some lawmakers (mostly on the right side of the isle), don’t let the facts get in the say of a good fight to keep the minimum wage at its current $8 per hour. Fifteen years ago, the minimum wage in California was $575, making the present $8 per hour twenty nine percent higher than in 1998. That sounds decent: a 1.93% annual increase over that period. But looking at the reality of living in the Golden State, one has to factor in the increased costs of living: housing, food, energy, etc…
Nationwide, home prices are 75% higher than they were in 1998 but in California, they are well over 125% higher. The stats for rental units are similar. Food prices have doubled and in some categories tripled in that time. And gas prices were right around $2 per gallon fifteen years ago (reflecting a nearly 100% increase since 1998). A movie ticket cost $4.69 on average (and has doubles since), etc…
The point is – LIFE costs a lot more now, yet those on the lowest end of the pay scale have not kept up, not by a long shot. And when millions of Americans don’t have enough money for necessities, they are no longer consumers. Which means, retailers (wth the exception of WalMart, KMark and similar discounters), suffer.
In Middle Class Mayday, written by Hedrick Smith in the LA Times (read it here), the argument that ‘trickle down economics has worked out terribly for most Americans’ is made. Simply put by President Obama, ‘the average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009. The average American earns less than he or she did in 1999.
Was a time when workers, as well as their employers, benefited financially when productivity increased. That’s no longer the case. According to Smith’s piece ‘productivity has increase by 80% since 1973, yet employee income has risen only 10%. “Our growth problem is weak demand’, which ties directly into how Americans should be but can’t afford to be the consumers of the past.
So as Congress takes a long and not particularly deserved summer vacation, Americans should consider why we must continue to battle over lower taxes for the 1% who’s income has accelerated over the past two decades, when it’s become very clear that very, very little trickle-down to those who need it most.