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This wont be part of the Cost of Care Series, simply because it would make the title too long. It is in a similar vein though, probably some repeat material as I didn't bother to read why I already posted. Here is the Transcript:
(Pic: O'Rourke quote) In the previous video we talked about how the United States doesn't have a free market in Healthcare, and alluded to why the prices are so high. I spoke mostly about Medicare and Medicaid and mentioned that over half of all healthcare dollars are actually managed and spent directly by the government. (Pic: Tea party) When people compare our system to a "socialized" system, what they are forgetting is that our system is greater than 50% socialized already.
(Graph: Healthcare Vs GDP) Here is a graph of healthcare expenditures as a percentage of GDP. In 2011, >18% of the total productivity of the United States was devoted to healthcare. In pure dollar terms, the numbers are even more dramatic, even adjusted for inflation. The United States government alone spends more per capita than any other government in the world on healthcare, and that only covers medicare and medicaid patients. (Graph: Per Capita Vs Others) With public and private insurers combined, we spend more per-capita than any other country, and our per-capita spending is 50% higher than the runner-up. We now have an idea of the scope.
(Graph: Obesity Rate)There are many other contributing factors for the rise in medical care. People are demanding more care due to poor lifestyle choice. The obesity rate is now at 40%. In addition, people have more disposable income than they used to have, and the quality of healthcare as well as availability is better. It makes sense that they would want to spend it on something to help their quality of life and to attempt to live longer.
(Graph: Tort Costs) In addition, the cost of dealing with medical malpractice have risen dramatically. Though these costs are still only a small part, there's also the matter of increased spending on tests due to doctors being more and more worried about getting sued, which is extremely difficult to quantify. (Graph: Trial Lawyer Donations) Making things worse, trial lawyers donate more money to congressional elections than the entire healthcare industry, making reform in this area impossible.
(Pic: Colonoscopy) People are also demanding more and more preventative medicine, which costs far more than it saves. In addition, the demand for elective procedures is rising as they become safer and doctors start recommending them more. (Pic: Cialis ad) That's not to mention the demand for expensive new prescription drugs both by doctors and patients which often provide little benefit over cheaper existing medications, or are for conditions that are not medically vital. This is, of course, perfectly fine, however in other industries consumption usually rises as prices fall, often corresponding with less share of personal income being spent on the product.
(Graph: Meat Consumption)For instance, You can see from this graph that people have been eating more meat over time. (Graph: Disposable income Vs Food) However over time, people have been spending less of their disposable income on food. (Graph: What Work buys) In fact, take a look at this graph which shows how many hours of work the average American would have to put in to earn common consumer goods. (Pic: black) Why is it that healthcare doesn't follow this trend? Quality may be rising, but costs are rising even faster.
(Pic: black)In this video, I'll talk about a problem that bares even greater responsibility than the the elephants in the room run by Uncle Sam and all the aforementioned factors. This is something totally ignored by politicians but most economists say it is central or even the most important reason costs are rising.
(Pic: Third Party Payer big) Of course I'm talking about 3rd party payer, and why government is to blame for the astronomical cost of medical care.
Third party payer refers to the practice of health insurance companies taking your money and using it to pay your medical bills for you. Insurance is supposed to pay for things that are unlikely to happen. Health insurance by contrast, has come to mean reimbursement for just about anything health related. On the face of it, this doesn't really make sense. Here's John Stossel's take on 3rd Party Payer
(Pic: 3rd party payer cartoon1)No one would want to purchase car insurance that pays for regular maintenance on your car like oil changes and new tires. This adds a large transaction cost to everything bought and paid for using the service, but that's only a small part of it. Clearly your insurance premiums would never add up to more than you could hope to get reimbursed for. (Pic: Car Fire)Any insurance company that reimbursed more than uncollected would go out of business. You would have to slice your tires every day on the way home from work and buy the best tires in the store to replace them just to get your moneys worth. Unfortunately, people treat health insurance differently than other insurance, but there is a reason for this.
(Pic: Cartoon: 3rd party payer2) As ridiculous as it is to have a middleman on common things that everyone buys like regular checkups and screening tests, there's an even bigger problem. Since you're paying a flat fee for all the services and drugs you could ever want, there's no incentive to shop around or to use them in moderation. This allows incredibly inefficient institutions to exist in spite of their high prices, as well as inflated prices on drugs, hospital stays, and doctor visits. Here is Nobel Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, on the subject.
(Pic: Middleman cartoon)It's clear that health insurance is a great thing to have in case of serious injury or illness, or a chronic or terminal disease that is expensive to treat, but having a middleman setting up an "all you can spend" health buffet is not something that makes economic sense. As with common practices that don't make economic sense, the origins of this are squarely rooted in government policy.
(Pic: Tax Seq1)For decades, taxes have been rising on the wages of employed Americans. The average personal income tax rate on median family income was(Pic: Tax Seq2) 7.4% in 1955 and had (Pic: Tax Seq3)risen to 12.2% by 2010. On top of that, you add in Social Security and medicare taxes, which were at (Pic: Tax Seq4) 4% in 1955, and had risen to (Pic: Tax Seq5) 13.3% by 2010. It should be noted also that the maximum taxable income of Social Security and Medicare taxes is rising as well.
I only point out these taxes to make one observation: The total average American family's wages have increased in taxation from roughly (Pic: Tax Seq6) 11% in 1955 to (Pic: Tax Seq7)25% today, (Pic: Tax Seq8) and that's just on the federal level. At the same time, compensation by employers in the form of healthcare has been (Pic: Tax Seq9) totally untaxed. Again: 11% taxes in 1955, 25% today, and all the while employer-provided health insurance has been taxed at zero. The results of this tax policy are as one might expect, but before we get into that, how about a little history?
(Pic: FDR Cartoon) Employer provided health insurance is said to have arisen because of the wage and price controls of WWII. Employers wanted to pay their employees more but FDR's misguided war-time technocrats were trying to micromanage the economy. Therefore, their only option was to find other ways of reimbursement besides wages. Health insurance as a form of reimbursement was taxed much less than other wages until 1954 when all remaining taxes on the practice were removed. It was only natural therefore that employers and employees follow the incentives right into this arrangement. (Graph: Rise of Insurance 1940-60) Between 1940 an 1960, the number of insured went up 7 fold.
By 1965, a little less than 75% of the population had some form of health insurance, and that number was rising rapidly. (Pic: 1960's Insurance) However, even with this rapid rise in the insured, it was rare that anyone be insured for care not involving surgery or hospitalization. For patients seeking treatment in an outpatient doctor's office or wanting a yearly checkup, it was traditional to pay out of pocket. Medicare Part B, passed in 1965, helped changed this trend, but the economic reasons for the insurance companies to adopt this are obvious.
(Pic: HealthCareDollarsAt Work)Because of these government policies, health insurance has changed from actual insurance to a way for employers and employees to subvert the tax code. This leads to modern "insurance" covering much more than insurance ever should. Regular checkups, preventative medicine, elective procedures, and chronic medications are all covered by the majority of todays plans.
(Graph: Rise of 3rd party payer) Now let's take a look at the rise of 3rd party payer and the fall of patients directly paying for their own medical care. In 1960, roughly 47% of all dollars spent on health care were paid out of pocket, by 2008, that number was down to 12%. The rest is paid for by government and private insurance companies.
(Graph: Healthcare Vs GDP) Take a look at the graph of Healthcare Vs GDP once again. These costs are rising far too astronomically to be accounted for by other factors. There is something fundamentally wrong with the incentive structure of this industry. Also, it seems to be inexplicably immune to recession, unlike other industries. This is the typical pattern of government intervention. Given that these things are true, what do you think the effect of Obama's 2010 healthcare reform will be?
(pic: black) Essentially, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 AKA Obamacare will force the market to increase coverage and therefore will increase costs. It's said by some economists that there's a critical mass for healthcare spending. If that's true, we're certainly moving in that direction a lot faster.
(Pic: serenity) The good news is, there's a simple and elegant solution to solve this issue in an orderly and decisive way. Government could start to once again tax employer-provided health insurance. Alternatively and in my opinion, preferably, the government could (Pic: abolish IRS) abolish the income tax altogether. This would eliminate the incentive for employer provided healthcare, and over time the practice would be eliminated. As that is happening, people will realize that high deductible insurance is actually much cheaper. Removal of other government intervention could further lower costs, like state insurance regulations that reduce competition. (Pic:Medicare Monster) It would also be beneficial to eliminate Medicare's "discriminatory pricing" policy whereby if a doctor sees someone for free or less than they charge medicare in his/her office, they can be subject to a raid by the federal government as well as fines and imprisonment. Essentially, the further government gets away from healthcare, the more affordable and accessible it will become.
(Graph: Government Spending Vs 3pp) Unfortunately the largest 3rd party payer is government. Though prices will come down dramatically if government stops manipulating the private sector via the tax code, (Pic: Old Lady Sequence) the problem of government being such a large payer will likely still remain. Obviously raising co-pays and instituting a deductible into Medicare and Medicaid would help, but these solutions are so politically impossible it gives one a headache to even contemplate. In fact, Americans are so addicted to Medicare that even the accusation of mentioning cuts in medicare is considered a devastating attack in political campaigns. With elderly voters flocking to the candidate who promises to continue this unsustainable system, it will likely be the sacred cow of the US government for years to come, even with our impending fiscal issues.
(Chart: Negative Income Tax) I would also like to mention at this time Milton Friedman's elegant solution to the problem of entitlement spending: Instead of offering food stamps and healthcare, Friedman and most other economists suggest a "negative income tax" whereby the government just writes an impoverished individual a check for an amount to bring their income up to an acceptable level. They could then use the money at their discretion, and make decisions that are best for them, rather than what the government deems appropriate.
(Pic:MLK sequence) Under a truly free market system, customers would purchase health insurance like they do life insurance: When they are very young, for their whole lives, and at very low premiums. Just like with Life Insurance, they could keep their plans when they switched jobs, moved from State to state, or developed a chronic or debilitating disease. Perhaps insurance could be purchased even before birth. It sounds far fetched, but with a high deductible plan and the prices of healthcare actually coming down instead of rising, this is not only feasible, but likely.
A headline on BBC grabbed my attention yesterday. Ex-Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev commented that Russian Prime Minister (and once and future President) V. Putin was "literally castrating" Russia's democratic system. His glaringly incorrect use of the word "literally" aside, that's some provocative talk.
Everybody has known that Putin is a bloodthirsty KGB thug with autocratic ambitions since the get-go. No revelation there; in fact, the Russian people wanted somebody like that to wipe out those pesky folks up in Chechnya. But the statement was bold and impolitic, maybe dangerous, even for Gorbachev. Of course, the blotchy ex-President is aged 80 this year, and that's about 500 in vodka-swilling Russkie years, so he surely knows that he's not going to see the decade out anyhow -- he has little reason to fear a fate like Alex Litvinenko's or Anna Politkovskaya's.
Haven't heard much about those poor blighters lately, huh? I got to thinking about them. Politkovskaya incessantly railed against Putin's efforts to turn the Russian state into a crime-sodden Mafioso version of the old Soviet regime, and there wasn't a lot of surprise when she turned up murdered on Putin's birthday -- a present, it was said, to Putin from some simpering vicious cur named Kadyrov.
As for Litvinenko, he was prancing quite merrily in London until a smarmy stranger slipped Polonium-210 into his cup of Darjeeling. In a note in English supposedly drafted by his lawyer at his request shortly before his death a couple weeks later, he openly accused Putin of ordering the hit.
Litvenenko was a KGB / FSB fixer and part-time goon-for-hire until he jumped the shark and held a press conference accusing his superiors of ordering the murder of his other boss, the apelike oligarch Boris Berezovsky. After that, he was mostly a professional pot-stirrer, blackmailer, and font of conspiracy theory while temping for the English security agency MI6. The sensational accusations of Litvinenko aimed at his former spook pals seemed inexhaustible, and, like the delightfully fantastic accounts of ex-Soviet Spetsnaz soldier Victor Suvarov, completely impossible to either prove or disprove.
Most of them are merely interesting, accusing the Russian government of orchestrating terror attacks on its own people for political gain, among other things, but there's one in particular that suddenly rang a bell with me when I read it again, years after the original allegation was made. Back then, being of the opinion that the dissolution of the Soviet Union and our own dalliances in the Middle East had thrust us into a chaotic era of distributed, decentralized terrorism, I laughed at it. But today, with our economy being equivalent to a pile of garbage, our global political standing severely damaged, and our defense posture compromised laughably by involvement in -- count 'em -- three wars of choice, it suddenly crystallizes and rings true.
Litinvenko's trenchant words were that "the center of global terrorism is not in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or the Chechen Republic. The terrorism infection creeps away worldwide from the cabinets of the Lubyanka Square and the Kremlin."
The key is the Afghan war. All politics junkies thought that it was plum insane when Bush decided to invade Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Didn't that chuckling little blue-tie boozehound know that the Soviets, who do not back down very often, had just fled in defeated shame after a long war there? And didn't he recall that it was us who had trained and armed the fighters and planners that became the Taliban and Al-Qaeda? They were called "Mujahideen" back then, and we loved them to pieces for willingly fighting a proxy war against our Red enemies for us. Then, once the Soviets had high-tailed it out of there, we said "Okey doke, thanks for killing some Russkies -- see you crazy Arabs later!" and left the Afghans to deal with the war's aftermath all on their lonesome.
The ex-Mujahideen were left with a desolate, befouled country with a population that was desperate, ill-fed, disease-stricken, and uneducated. As always happens in these situations, radical nationalist pricks took the scene over and started behaving in really beastly ways. After winning a nasty civil war, these guys -- now smirkingly calling themselves Taliban, "the students" -- cooked up an especially brutish version of Islamic law that took the worst elements of Wahabism and turned them up to 11. Through threats, propaganda, buy-offs of local warlords, and dumb violence, these whip-crazy clowns lorded it over the people like monstrous school bullies. But as do their greasy Italian peers the Mafia, they provided some public services, so that communities begrudgingly relied on them. The Taliban and the people at large were pretty miffed at the Americans for using them to fight a war and then splitting without helping to put their country back in livable shape.
Here's what I think happened then : After the collapse of the Soviet government and subsequent fragmenting of its territory, the Russian power stucture still had an obvious strategic interest in combating American influence -- a greater interest, in fact, since in the absence of credible opposition, the USA would become a global heregmon. However, the Russians now lacked both the resources and the political will to continue with their long-standing strategy of sapping our abilities using conventional proxy wars initiated by openly Commie revolutionaries (e.g., Korea, Vietnam, all that crazy ish down in Central and South America, etc). Most of the guys who assumed power had history as Soviet apparatchiks, so all the old desires, grudges, and mindsets remained, frustrated, under a different and waaay less-cool banner.
So they called up their former enemies the Afghans and said "Hey guys, sorry about that whole invasion thing. It was all that crazy Brezhnev and weird Gorbachev, we fired them. So you're mad at the Americans, right? They really gave you guys a raw deal, skipping out like that. Now they've invaded your brethren in Iraq. Guess they really like to screw Muslims over." The sweaty, seething Afghans said "You're darn tootin' they gave us a raw deal. We'd sure like to give them a piece of our minds, but we can't even pay for enough bullets to shoot our own adulteresses, much less get back at the Yanks."
The sleek-headed Russians replied "How about this : we'll give you guys some dough, plenty of weapons, and lots of training in covert operations if you promise to use them to really give the Americans hell -- on their own turf."
"Well hot damn!" said the Afghans. "Don't have to ask us twice. Let's get crackin'!"
So it was that the Russians cleverly changed Al-Qaeda from a loosely-organized asymmetrical-warfare unit designed to combat Soviet conventional warfare to a tool using which they could wage a worldwide proxy war on American interests. And -- bonus! -- they could now strike in American territory without fear of triggering a global thermonuclear war.
And strike, they did. In 1993, just two years after the 'fall' of the Soviet Union, the first terrorist attack on American soil since the Second World War was executed -- the World Trade Center bombing. This was followed by the Oklahoma City bombing and attacks against US interests in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Yemen, all leading up to the era-defining attacks that demolished the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon on 9/11, killing 3000 people.
The 9/11 attacks created a situation that the Soviets could only have dreamed of : the USA miring itself in two enormously expensive, destabilizing, and diplomatically disastrous wars while organically creating a nearly limitless supply of fearless new jihadists, all at very little cost to the Russians and with practically zero political traceability to the Kremlin.
We slogged hard and unprepared through the Afghan war, being confounded by warlords and picked off by desert snipers just as the Soviets had less than a generation earlier. We bombed the living daylights out of where we figured the terrorists to be. More terrorist attacks, attempted attacks, and new small wars occurred, as the US government passed laws that greatly increased state power over individuals and caused discontent and division on the home front. The harder we tried to fight back against our attackers, the more Muslim civilians we killed, and the more vengeful resentment was incubated in the global Muslim population.
Meanwhile, completely uncontrolled war spending combined with essentially unconcealed corporate dictation of government policy combined to put the USA in the worst economic and social condition it had been in since the Great Depression.
So in less than 20 years, Russia had gone from being completely incapable of bugging its old enemy to having a more or less unstoppable way to constantly harrass, demoralize, upset, and drain the US. And after a break-in period, it was self-sustaining, requiring practically no maintenance since we handled the whole "fueling people's desire to be undeterrable suicide terrorists" thing.
Unlike Russian troops or even your garden-variety nationalist insurgents, jihadis would actually rather die than not die, which makes it impossible to convince them to sit down and be quiet. They need practically no expensive equipment; they can make bombs out of just about anything. They target civilians with impunity and can cause hundreds of deaths with each of theirs. Meanwhile, our political apparatus is distracted and inattentive as the Russian leadership solidifies its plan to burst out of its flimsy republican cocoon and spread its wings as a cackling drunken butterfly of Mafia-infused statism, free of any ideology but a raw lust for power.
The only thing left for us to do is to keep an eye on Russia, even as their autonomous jihadi robots spread ever further to do their bloody work. China is already in the business of securing a strategic advantage against the US by economic and colonial means; Russia aims to bleed us until our resources and will are stretched so thin that we have none left to resist their reassumption of parity. Then they can partner with any of the other numerous governments we've pissed off lately to further erode our interests and capacity. Putin, in a Freudian slip, has accused the Russian Mafia of involvement with Al-Qaeda. The kicker, of course, is that the mafia is indistinguishable from the government.
Of course, it could be that Litvinenko is wrong and that Russia is trying to go on the straight and narrow while dealing with its homegrown terrorist problem. If there's one thing the past decade has taught us, though, it's that the worst outcome is the most likely, and the most shocking possibility is usually true. And when the hideous nesting doll of modern terrorism is finally disassembled, I think we'll see a tiny, grinning, fundamental Putin. (122,550)
Let me first start out by saying that the last year of medical school is basically a bad joke nowadays. Historically, the 4th year was where medical students would continue the crazy feats of the 3rd year like toting the weight of the entire hospital on their shoulders while being loosely monitored by interns who were working so many hours they didn't even know there was a world outside the hospital after a while.
As any person who is entering the field will tell you, whenever the old doctors hear about our current duty restrictions, an over-rehearsed unending diatribe about how "back in my day .... 300 hours straight, while being raped by my attending, who was actually a walrus" will pour forth as if it were solicited. Yeah guy, we get it.
One such story was from an emergency medicine doc talking about his life as a medical student. He said that after a 30+ hours of admitting patients and running around the hospital like crazy, his attending physician told him to perform a lumbar puncture on a patient on the other side of the hospital. The young student jumped at the chance, flew through the labyrinth of corridors, triumphantly conscripted the assistance of a nurse, and began the procedure. Doing an LP is a simple but sometimes difficult procedure. You're basically inserting a needle into someone's lower back between the vertebrae next to the spinal cord and extracting some of the surrounding liquid (CSF) for analysis. What could go wrong? The young student performed the task masterfully. The needle went in, and the pus-saturated fluid started pouring out, really pouring out. Literally seconds after penetration of the needle, the patient seized and died. The patient had an infection in his CSF so bad that the pressure had increased dramatically. By providing an unmitigated outlet for that pressure, the differential forced the lower part of the cerebrum to cram through a tendenous opening within the skull, squishing that part of the brain, killing the patient almost instantly.
As if that weren't a terrible enough scenario for a young med student like me to hear, the EM doc followed it up with "Yeah, that was the first one I killed." The doc then looked around nervously, turned around, and went back to writing his note.
People hear these stories and immediately blame the medical student. The reality was, the Attending should have informed the student about the results of the patients head scan (which showed the pressure), but forgot. The modern-day medical student spends half of his/her time shadowing their doctor and being generally bored our of their skull. Having medical students doing procedures like lumbar punctures is a lot less commonplace.
But are we really better off? Sure, it can be dangerous to perform some procedures when improperly supervised, but how then do we produce more professionals that can perform those procedures? What caused this shift from learning as a student to learning as a late 20-something?
Medicare rules are what changed. Nowadays, medicare wont pay physicians who do delegate even menial responsibilities to medical students. Some physicians do anyway (lucky for me), but the fact that so many play by the rules means that our medical school graduates are fairly useless.
One of my old preceptors runs a clinic in rural Oklahoma. He was one of the best doctors I've ever known. He kept up on the science and could tell you the molecular biology and physiology of most of the things he was prescribing, and he never relied on this idiotic one-size-fits-all algorithm medicine that is taking over these days (if PATIENT has CHEST PAIN, get CARDIAC ENZYMES x 3, then STRESS TEST). He has been practicing for over 40 years and NEVER did an internship. He asked me if I was excited to start my intern year. I told him that I considered residency a formality, and that I was ready to be an intern a year ago. If the powers that be would have let me experience the training I needed, I would be ready to practice today. As it stands I feel like I had wasted a year or more of my life in pursuit of a piece of paper that essentially only qualifies me to be an intern and not practice medicine. He chuckled and said "Yep, kiss the last years of your twenties goodbye."
Instead of making mistakes as medical students, our sheltering due to the ridiculous Medicare system means that 1) now we MUST do a residency (not just an internship) and 2) we will be useless for the first few months of intern year.
So here I am, exactly 1 week into my intern year. I feel pretty good that I'm getting at least a meager pay check but I am having to play catch-up like crazy to fit into the shoes I was not allowed to fill over the past year. Even with the new duty-hour restrictions, it is very intense. I've worked 76 hours in the past 7 days if you believe my logs (which we have to fudge in order to get the work done and still stay within the rules), and it seems that with all the ridiculous amount things I've learned so far, I can conclude I've only scratched the surface.
It just seems like the entire doctor-production-line has been lengthening over time. It used to be you didn't have to do an internship. Then internships became necessary. Now internships aren't enough and you have to do an entire 3 year residency. I'm just wondering if the powers-that-be can do the math and see how many people they are discouraging from the profession.
Sure, a slave-like existence during medical school is tough, but let's look at the alternative:
18 year old high school graduate +4 years undergrad minimum +4 years medical school +3 years residency --------------------- 29 years old at the youngest
Add in 3 years of subspecialty training, and you're looking at a person who has been living on debt, parental assistance, and laughable paychecks until age 32. Surgeons have a 5 year residency plus sub-speciality training if they want it. Interventional Cardiologists (the guys who clean out your arteries when you have a heart attack) have to do 3 years of Internal Med residency, 3 years of Cardiology sub-speciality training, plus 2 years of practice with the cardiac catheters (8 years, if you're keeping track).
Yes, there are still morons like me who will throw away their 20's and a live a frugal life to catch up with their loans. However, you can see why people would much rather choose much easier career paths. If the trend of duty-restrictions continues, it's only logical that eventually nobody will want to go through the enormous trouble of becoming a doctor anymore.
The Two-Year Wonders
Meanwhile, more clever people are becoming Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants. With only 2 years of graduate school and NO residency, they legally do most of the things a doctor can do except understand what the **** it is they're doing. The "Algorithm Medicine" mentioned before is designed to stuff all patients into a flow chart of care. Of course it works and solves most problems most of the time, but results in people being over-medicated, over-radiated, and ultimately over-encumbered by the cost.
Paradoxically, the push towards unskilled providers is driving costs through the roof.
Placing blame and attempting to change the direction of the unstoppable rolling-boulder of mediocrity wont fix a thing. Even if you think you know the solution to the problem, the implementation of your ideas will never get passed the metaphorical armies of bureaucrats who write rules that are enforced by literal armies of police and courts. Try and practice medicine without a government sanctioned license? Go to jail. Try and practice with a license without having attended residency? Do so without insurance and risk all that you've done with every human being you try and help.
I suppose I still hold on to hope that government and tort will halt their assault on American medicine, but realistically it's hard to be optimistic. I am just glad I got off easy, I got in before the barriers to becoming a doctor required an actual commitment to indentured servitude. (144,228)
S&P: Sounds good, here's a bunch of political donations, plus a bunch of our former employees/friends inundate your bureaucracy already; they'll be happy too.
Uncle Sam: You do realize what'll happen to our relationship if you cut our credit rating to reflect the fact that we're printing money and using it to raise demand for our own bonds, right?
S&P: I wouldn't think of it, honey. Here, have AAA even though inflation is already greater than the interest rate!
Uncle Sam: Hey, it'd make us happy if the economic numbers went up. In addition, a bunch of quasi-government institutions like Freddie/Fannie, and the Federal reserve could use a better ROI. Also, we're planning to print/spend/borrow at the highest rate ever. We still cool?
S&P: Of course, baby! You know you're the only one for me! Keep your AAA and we'll play along with the housing bubble you're trying to start! You know I'll always support you!
Uncle Sam: So now things are getting ridiculous. We've increased the money supply 8 fold and our deficit is growing at over 10% per year. Plus the GDP fell and those home-loan institutions are going belly-up. We can still count on you though, right?
S&P: Babe I think we need to talk about some things, I think my credibility as a ratings agency is a little shot at the moment, you might want to tone it down
Uncle Sam: Sure, Okay, get right on that
Uncle Sam: OOPS, my bad.
S&P: Jesus Christ! How the hell did you spend and print that much?! I don't even.... Okay. We've officially lost ALL credibility. We need to show we can halfway attempt to maybe sometimes recognize a bad deal when we see one. We'll keep you at AAA but we'll put the innocuous "With maybe the slightest bit of concern that maybe we'll have to not give the best rating ever" moniker on top.
Uncle Sam: YOU CHEATING BITCH! HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ME! (81,183)
I'm ill as hell today. Still managed to finish it though!
Rough Transcript: Remember the movie back to the future 2? The villain uses a time machine to go back 30 years and change the timeline.
In the alternate timeline, the good guys are either dead or subjugated by the villain, who is so powerful he can essentially do whatever he wants.
The people of the alternate timeline are oblivious to how they ended up in that mess and just assume it's the way things are meant to be.
This is kind of the same thing we see with government stimulus. Essentially, our future could go one of two ways: with stimulus, or without. When stimulus is applied, the result is that people are in worse shape, and don't recognize what they've lost by government altering the timeline.
Let me first say that I'm talking mostly in terms of fiscal stimulus here, like the TARP, Obama's $700b stimulus, and the upcoming $15B jobs bill. However, many of the things I'm about to say could be applied to monetary stimulus as well.
Let's pretend first that you're an investor in 2008 after the stocks, housing, and other asset prices have fallen dramatically. Things are uncertain, and you want to be very careful in reinvesting your money. You're going to choose businesses that look like they have a healthy outlook. You're going to research, and you're going to pick your next investment solely based on the profit it will yield.
Government, on the other hand, does the opposite: Stimulus projects are chosen not based on what will be the biggest wealth producer in the future, but by a myriad of other factors including: - Who paid what in campaign contributions - Is the business located in my district where it will employ my constituents - What the most influential lobbyists are saying - What the politician is currently invested in*
*I bet you didn't know that it's actually legal for politicians or their friends to invest in a business they know will benefit from an upcoming piece of legislation. They can therefore use your tax dollars to bolster a stock and enrich themselves.
A lot of economists reply to this and say: "So what? It doesn't matter what the money is spent on. As long as the money is being spent, it will create jobs and help the crisis." This is what the Keynesians call boosting "aggregate demand."
The problem with this is two fold 1) Jobs are not about babysitting people or generally killing their time and handing them a paycheck, they're about creating wealth. 2) The money comes from somewhere, and invariably is shunting money away from legitimate long-term investments
Let's talk about jobs. Like I said, jobs are about creating wealth. I'm going to use a quick example of how wealth is created, so you can understand how it is our standard of living rises.
Say I save up and buy an empty plot of land and some saplings for $1,000 dollars. I spend another $1,000 on labor and grow the trees for lumber. I sell the rights to the trees to a lumber company for $5,000. Did you see that? I just created $3,000 of wealth. It doesn't end there, either. The lumber company cuts the trees down and processes them into planks and blocks at a cost of $1,000 in labor, $1,000 in machinery costs, and resells all that wood for $10,000. They have just created a net of $3,000. The company they sold the wood to makes furniture in a factory at a cost of $2,000 for the labor, $1,000 for the machinery, and resells the pieces for $20,000. Another $7,000 is created.
The laborers and capital investors of this scenario added $13,000 in value. That value is reintroduced into the economy either through consumption or yet even more capital investment. Using my profits from my tree farm, I can now choose to spend another $2,000 and double the size of my business. Then I could put the other $1,000 in the bank and they might loan that money out to someone else who might start their own businesses.
When government ties up labor for its own purposes, that labor never creates as much wealth as it would in the private sector. This can be due to the laziness of government contractors or employees, but it's also due to the fact that the investor chooses projects based on yield whereas the government does not. Essentially, government money is primarily either paying people to work less productively or paying people not to work at all.
Therefore, the biggest problem with government spending is not the taxes, it's actually the loss of the fruits of the labor we would've gotten in the alternate scenario where government was smaller and employed fewer people.
Now let's talk about the money. 100% of these stimulus packages have essentially been lumped into the national debt. People know that debt is simply deferred taxation--that we're syphoning off our children's future in exchange for a better standard of living today. What you probably didn't count on is that even in the present, large deficits have repercussions.
The national debt is composed of bonds. Bonds can be bought by anyone, and in fact despite what you may have heard, most US bonds are held domestically by Americans and American institutions. The biggest foreign bondholder is Japan, followed by China.
The question that you need to ask is: where is the money for the bonds coming from? People invest in US treasury bonds because they're perceived as a secure investment. In fact, until recently, most investors wouldn't even fathom a future where US Bonds wouldn't be the most secure investment out there.
In spite of the ballooning debt, people are still buying these bonds. The question is, as an investor, if in an alternate timeline, the government weren't issuing bonds, where would your money be?
Unless these people are inclined to keep their money under their mattress, their money would either be in other, carefully-chosen investments or in a bank. What does a bank do with deposit money? It also carefully invests.
So basically, by issuing government bonds, the government ensures that those monies are not put into the wealth-producing private sector, but instead into the wealth-draining public sector.
Not only that, but there's the obvious problem with having to pay back those bondholders in the future, which is paradoxically better for the economy than the stimulus the debt was used to fund. (857,498)
In these hectic holiday times it is so easy to get caught up in the bustle of things; buying presents, running last minute errands, picking up relatives at the airport, chasing gin with whiskey, making sure that grandma is still alive and knows who she is, etc. sometimes I think we as people forget about the true nature of the holiday season which is worship and devotion to our one true lord and savior; my mystikal master, Satan. It may very well be that Baby King Jew himself was born on Christmas day a fuckload of years ago but why waste your life worshiping a Jewish zombie anyways? Satan has existed since before time immemorial and was created ex nihilo rather than shat forth from the voraciously bleeding and gasping-gaping birth canal of an ambiguously virginal she-Jew. Given Lucifer's proficiency for disguise, it isn't all that unreasonable to assume that Satan donned the guise of an endlessly ejaculating angel of rape everlasting and sired the very King of Jews himself between the spread thighs of everyones favorite candle-jar mascot. So before you tie the final drunken knot on your holiday noose and hang your sorry sack of meat until stiff, do please consider who it is you drunkenly mumble your last desperate prayer to. After all, you're going to hell anyways so you might as well start earning brownie points with the angel of the bottomless pit. Word on the street is that hell has an excellent benefits package with plenty of uncomfortable living with promotion options available to the upwardly mobile minion. Keep in mind climbing circles is a pain in the ass without Virgil, but it is so very worth it for it's far from lonely at the top! The Muslims may get 72 virgins of dubious beauty, but down in hell there are literally planets of whores just ripe for the fucking. Now as it is appearing time for my 5:30 AM Wild Turkey enema, I'll be signing off and seeing you all... in hell. (131,890)
As I've stated before, I'm a libertarian and a medical student currently seeing patients in the field. As such, I'm uniquely annoyed by all the goings-on in DC lately. I'm sure most people reading this think it's all over--that the socialists/corporatists in power have "won" and that there's no use even talking about it anymore. Of course if we've learned anything from these systems of central planning, we know that eventually, they all fall down. If the current health bill passes, it's likely to actually make our unsustainable system even worse for all the same reasons it's currently failing (which this article is about). The debate is not over, it's just been put on hold for a few years--until the government's new plans to screw up their mess even further can come into fruition.
I propose a different approach: not more government, but less government. Then there's the obligatory argument about the number of uninsured being "too high." I posit that the best way to reduce that number is to make healthcare less expensive and more accessible rather than just accept the huge costs and setup government programs to cover it. The easiest and most effective way to reduce prices is the free market.
84% of Americans already have some form of health insurance. If the free market were allowed to reduce costs by say, 30%, how would that "84%" figure grow?
Our system fits the classic Harry Browne line, "Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, 'See, if it weren't for the government, you wouldn't be able to walk.'" The Government is responsible for the high cost of healthcare and therefore the high number of uninsured, and the only way to fix their mess is to get them to stop doing what they're doing.
I know many people reading this will say "but we already have a free market, and clearly it's expensive and ineffective!" Of course, those same people really don't know what a "free market" is--that is, a market where the government does not regulate, subsidize, or fix prices. Our medical system, though not outright socialist or fascist, is about as close to capitalism as the Titanic is from docking in New York.
Most people don't understand how cheaply healthcare could be done if we allowed the industry to evolve like other industries. Many of the things we as doctors do require equipment and drugs that are either cheaper than dirt or have alternatives that are. The high cost of doctors' time could be supplanted in most cases by trained nurses or even the injured/sick individual themselves. The folly of those who don't see this is a failure of imagination. Rest assured, however, Medicine is no different from other industries (eg Unlicensed individuals service their own cars all the time, and most medical procedures are far less dangerous or could at least be made that way by the demand to do so). Given the opportunity to evolve, quality care would be as ubiquitous as color televisions
I imagine a country where an uninsured person living in poverty will be diagnosed with cancer, and even the most bleeding-heart socialist will unsympathetically say "Well why the hell didn't you buy health insurance? It's cheaper than your smoking habit. Here's $10, go get some chemotherapy"
Indirect Health Care Subsidies - Tax Incentives
59% of Americans with health care receive it through their employer. The reason the employer does this is because the government taxes cash reimbursement (wages) not only through the Federal Income Tax (Median ~20%), but also Unemployment (6%), Medicare (6%), and Social Security taxes (12%). Paying for employee healthcare incurs none of these taxes. Therefore, the government is effectively partially paying for employee healthcare by so heavily taxing other forms of compensation.
This is an indirect subsidy which, again raises prices universally. In addition, like the direct subsidy, recipients of this care will use much more of it because they are not responsible for paying the premiums. (* See explanation below)
The way to end this is more complicated than ending a direct subsidy--if we continue taxing wages**, we must then start to tax all forms of employee compensation, including health care. This would start to push people towards paying their premiums directly instead of getting insurance through their employer. Sounds like a bad thing, but theoretically you could reduce the federal income tax (and other wage taxes) to match the massive influx of revenue generated by this tax.
Also, remember that "15% of Americans are uninsured" statistic? Well 1/3 to 1/2 of all people currently uninsured are uninsured because they're in between jobs that provided them with insurance. If they paid for their insurance themselves, they'd have it now. Therefore, we could eliminate the number of uninsured by 33-50% almost immediately by simply transferring the employer's policy to the employee. Eliminating the tax incentive to do otherwise would certainly fix the problem.
** Optimally, we would tax neither wages nor other forms of compensation, but that's even more of a pipe dream than any of the other things I've mentioned.
Direct Health Care Subsidies - Medicare & Medicaid
28% of Americans with health insurance have it totally paid for by the government. This is an obvious subsidy and leads to higher prices for those who do not enjoy this subsidy. Moreover, recipients of this care will use much more of it because they are not responsible for paying the premiums. (* See explanation below)
Indirect Governmentally Managed Care - Tort
This argument you've surely heard before: Health Care Providers change their care to accommodate an altered risk/benefit ratio strictly because they're afraid of getting sued. It's unknown how much this actually contributes to costs, but there are a few studies that show it being greater than 25%. That's not including the change in the culture of medicine, which may actually bring quality down in the end.
Several states have started implementing tort reform and not surprisingly it's been a complete success.
Direct Governmentally Managed Care - Health Care Regulations
Americans are universally turned off by managed care, yet they are inexplicably in favor of Government managing their care through regulations.
Health Care is one of the most regulated industries in the United States. From compulsory licensing of physicians to the drug approval process, the market is mired in government ineptitude, sloth, and corruption. Nearly every step of patient care is delivered exactly according to government edicts.
Giving people a choice between licensed and unlicensed physicians (for instance, allowing a nurse to write prescriptions and perform simple procedures without a doctor) would drastically reduce costs and therefore insurance premiums.
In addition, giving people a chance to buy drugs that haven't been through the FDA's 12-year process would save thousands of lives and allow the market to find better and faster ways of ensuring drug safety. Meanwhile, the actual FDA could be privatized and run by Ralph Nader (or some other ostensibly incorruptible person) and its approval being available for people who are untrusting of drug companies.
* 3rd Party Payer - The Bugbear of Subsidy
73% of all Americans (87% of the insured) not only receive a government subsidy for care (directly or indirectly) but are also not responsible for paying their own premiums. This is the biggest reason prices are rising both through the indifference and profligacy of the recipients (nobody "shops around" for care before they get it) as well as recipients actually taking worse care of themselves as they are not responsible for the bills that come of it.
For instance, if a private insurance company were to give breaks for people who ate right and exercised, this would start a trend that may even fix America's obesity problem. It sounds far-fetched, but that's only because you have no idea how much the actuarial tables would change for a healthy population as opposed to ours (with 1/3 of Americans being overweight and another 1/3 obese). The premiums for these "fit" people, especially in their later years, would be halved.
The current incentive structure encourages the opposite--if you're not fat, you're not getting your money's worth for healthcare. After all, by taxation or reduction in cash wages, you are paying the premiums to be fat whether you want/need to or not. It could be that our "good" healthcare is what's killing us.
The Current Healthcare Bill (Dec 23, '09) Is More of the Same
The current healthcare bill will expand all of the problems with American healthcare--direct subsidy, indirect subsidy, direct regulation, and indirect regulation:
Direct Subsidy - This bill mandates that everyone pay a private corporation for healthcare. In addition, it increases Medicaid and pays for private health insurance for people who 'can't afford it'. I thought they called this Fascism. It'll be interesting to see how they determine who gets paid and who doesn't--who draws the line between 'fully paid' and 'forced into poverty by paying obscene premiums'.
Indirect Subsidy - This bill gives money to [small?] businesses who can't afford to provide healthcare to their employees. Government giving money to private corporations... I couldn't fathom how corruption could ensue!
Direct Regulation - This bill adds at least a thousand pages of healthcare regulation, especially on insurance companies. Insurance companies make a tiny profit margin as it is. Take it away, you don't increase competition, you bankrupt competition. Many think this new bill will be a boon to insurance companies because of the compulsory addition of 30+million new customers. I'd advise those who believe this to look at the remaining 1,000+ pages of the bill and see if that makes you want to start an insurance company.
Milton Friedman was always railing against 'central planning' for its inherent immorality. However, he also said that we were lucky in that these systems had the added detriment of inevitable failure. Our healthcare system is like Frankenstein--sewn together from all manner of dead and dysfunctional parts, then artificially reanimated and left to run amok. Eventually, the people will grow wary of its rampage and destroy it. The question is: how many people will die in the interim. (284,151)
[slide 1]Spending, Printing, and Debt are all interrelated. As I illustrated in part one, poor fiscal policy can lead to a inflation and even hyperinflation. I will briefly review this again.
[slide 2] Everybody knows that the more our government spends, the more indebted it becomes. This is because tax revenue doesn't come close to our spending. [slide 3] What most people don't know however, is that some of the fiscal shortfall is paid for by printing money. The government does not do this directly, as I will explain later, [slide 4]however the net effect is identical, and that is inflation.
[slide 5] Inflation decreases the value of currency, including the currency loaned out by lenders. [slide 6] The interest on bonds and loans then increase to entice the lenders back into lending. [slide 7] Higher interest rates mean higher service must be paid on any future debt. Since government bonds are mostly short term nowadays, this effects spending within a matter of months.
[slide 8] More spending leads to more debt, [slide 9] more debt leads to more interest payments, and [slide 10] you can see we're trapped in a vicious cycle.
[slide 11]You're probably wondering why, if this is going on, are we seeing some of the lowest interest rates ever.
[slide 12]Interest rates are determined by 3 things: The supply of loans, demand for loans, and inflation.
[slide 13] In an effort to stabilize the economy, The Federal Reserve is currently printing trillions of dollars and pumping it directly into the banks. [slide 14] In the short term, this will reduce interest rates. [slide 15] In the long term, however, all this newly printed money will lead to MASSIVE inflation. Eventually, interest rates will rise to an equilibrium with infaltion. At this point, we will be in a state of stagflation. [slide 16] The only way to get us out of [slide 17]it will be to do what we did the last time,[slide 18] and that's to stop printing money. This will lead to a record increase in interest rates, far greater than those we saw in the 1980's.
[slide 19] The high interest rates will lead initially to fewer people being able to take out loans to buy homes and cars. This will lead to a sharp and dramatic fall in home prices--possibly the lowest home prices ever. Since banks have tens of thousands of homes on their balance sheet, this will lead to massive mark-to-market losses. This, combined with the inability to loan money, will lead to massive bank failures and recession.
In addition, the government will be forced to raise interest rates on treasury bonds. You should know where it goes from here: The more debt service, the more spending, and therefore the more borrowing and printing. This will lead to a viscous cycle further exacerbating the situation.
[slide 20]To give you some perspective on the fiscal situation, the debt service for 2009 will be under $300 billion. The deficit will be about $2 thousand-billions. Keep in mind the current deficits include defense, social security, medicare, those enormous bailouts, as well as lots of other things.
After 2009 ends, the national debt will be at around $13 thousand-billion.
Interest rates will easily reach 15% at some point within the next few years, but let's be optimistic and say it happens in 2010. 15% of 13 trillion dollars is nearly $2 thousand-billion. Keep in mind, the deficit for 2010 would have to include all the other fiscal shortfalls we had in 2009.
[slide 11] Because of the nature of the relationship between these forces, many believe that a high rate of inflation and maybe even hyperinflation could occur quickly and without much warning from the economic numbers.
[slide 12] Unlike the stagflation that occurred during the late 1970's and early 1980's, we will not be able to escape from the inflation by borrowing money instead of printing it. Instead, the only option will be to do what many have suggested for years and just [slide 13]cut spending.
[slide 14a] As I explained in part 2, cutting spending has always been unpopular, which is why the government budget rarely does anything but grow. Americans overwhelmingly agree that they want to keep expanding [slide 14a-ss]social security, [slide 14a-med]medicare, and [slide 14a-sd]a strong defense--all while paying low taxes.[slide 14b] It is undeniable that this situation is unsustainable. What's scary is imagining what it will take for this cycle to meet its end.
[slide 15] During the Great Depression, many unusual laws and regulations were enacted in an attempt to restore our economy. This is likely to be repeated in our current crisis, however, like then it will be disastrous.
[slide 16]In the 1930's under presidents Hoover and Roosevelt, government grew enormous and struggled to find revenue. [slide 18a - US import tax w/hoover face] Herbert Hoover enacted record tax increases on income and imports. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff passed in 1930 was the largest peacetime tax increase on imports in American history. [slide 18b - foreign import tax] This lead to a retaliation in the form of import taxes in other countries and therefore ultimately meant a reduction in US exports. In 1932, Hoover doubled the income tax, raising the tax rate on the wealthy especially.
[slide 17a-'it all started with tires'] Already, we can see that our current president is following the historical example set by Hoover. Obama has increased income taxes on those he deems 'wealthy' and recently, he sparked an international trade dispute by placing a 35% import tax on tires. [slide 17b-retaliation] Like the Smoot-Hawley tariff, this assault on free trade was met with threats of reciprocation in tariffs. If these countries follow through, this would have a devastating effect on our already vulnerable economy.
[slide 18] When FDR took office in 1933, he continued to increase taxes and spending, but not before he issued an executive order to confiscate all privately owned Gold. In total, 500 tons of gold were taken from private United States citizens.
[slide 19] Based on these facts, it's logical to assume that when facing a severe enough recession, government may again attempt to seize property in order to fund the ever-expanding government without having to inflate the currency.
[slide 20] Historically, countries that have attempted to seize the wealth from the wealthy end up experiencing what is referred to as "capital flight." This is where rich people lead a mass-exodus out of the country in an attempt to evade persecution. [slide 21] To prevent the wealthy from simply leaving, laws may be enacted to keep their fortunes here, and possibly to prevent the sale of certain types of property like large homes and to forestall high-volume stock trades.
------------------------- [slide 23] It should be noted, however, that our current crisis is very different from the one in the 1930's. Back then, the dollar was still on the Gold standard and therefore the government was limited in its ability to print money, that is no longer the case today.
[slide 25]I believe that eventually the rate and cause of inflation will be recognized by the media, political candidates, and most importantly, the American people.[slide 26] As Reagan identified the stagflation in the 1970's and ran on a platform to shrink government and curtail inflation, I believe that so too will the candidates of 2012 or 2016.
[slide 27]Of course, the sacrifice endured by people participating in the 1980's economy will pale in comparison to the sacrifices of our generation. [slide 28] In the 1980's, Reagan's government was cowardly and irresponsible. Instead of cutting spending and suffering the consequences, he was able to issue a record amount of debt to therefore defer his fiscal crisis to another generation. [slide 29] Unlike the 1980's, our current government will not have the credit rating to issue as many bonds.
[slide 31]Unfortunately, the elderly who rely on the government for support will suffer the most during this transition. After decades of politicians telling them not to save for retirement, America will finally wake up one morning to find no government check in the mail box. This will be devastating for these retirees who are no longer able to earn a decent wage. If we acted today on a campaign to taper-off the citizenry from these programs before they disappear, it would drastically reduce the suffering of these people. [slide 32] I do not, however, feel this is possible under the current mindset.
[slide 30]Regardless of our history, I think it will be politically possible for the necessary spending cuts to take place after we slam into the tip of the inflation iceberg. (242,710)
Care and maintenance of your soil and ecosystem Now that you've started rocking down to Urban Agronomy Avenue, it's time to take it higher with some maintenance basics. - Ground cover : dying plants and so-called 'cover crops' function as 'living mulch' to protect your soil from excess solar damage, discourage weeds, and keep moisture in the ground. - 'Cover crops' as they're traditionally known are nitrogen-fixing plants that are aggressive and will kick out grass from your garden. Classic species are brassica, clover, and the delightfully-named 'hairy vetch.' Cover crops can be cut down and added back to the soil for a soil nutrient boost. Take care : cover crops will kick out not only noisome Bermuda grass, but a lot of other species as well.
Cycling the addition of compost and amendments : - You need inputs to get output. Plants use up the food you give them, so for best results, follow a regular schedule of 'feeding' the ground mulch, compost, and other amendments every season. Look at the nitrogen cycle diagram to see how the whole soil fertility thing happens :
If a plant looks sickly, feed it with compost. As the seasons pass and you keep up the soil-maintenance schedule, the problem of soil nutrient deficiency will decrease and your soil will stabilize.
Soil deficiencies and their signs : - Purpling of leaf edges = phosphate deficiency - Red + yellow leaves = potash deficiency - Yellow at leaf center : nitrogen deficiency - Red leaf tips : magnesium deficiency - Spotted leaves : disease, not deficiency - Striped leaves : nutrient deficiency, could be several nutrient culprits - Curled leaves : drought, not deficiency - Crazy and messed-up looking : chemical toxicity (remedy with compost tea or so-called "effective microorganisms")
Pests : - Serious pest problems are a sign of an unbalanced ecosystem (such as that seen in monocropping arrangements). Most pests, such as cutworms that chomp on leaves, can be controlled by companion planting and by controlled bird activity (such as letting chickens into the garden for a short while each day -- but be aware that birds like to eat what's growing as much as they like bugs). Below are a few common pests and things you can do to control them : - Cutworms : they're repelled by molasses - Ants : they're repelled by cinnamon, or lure them away with sugar bait - Burrowing pests like groundhogs : bury hardware cloth / wire mesh 24 inches deep around the perimeter of your growing area.
The danger of over and under-watering : take care! Under-watering results in drought, while over-watering leads to fruit splitting and mushy crops. Use your head and read the watering instructions for the crop at hand to avoid these pitfalls.
Pollination : - Pollination is required for food production, and low pollination = low yield. There aren't enough bees to go around these days, so do your best to attract and retain a healthy population of mason / wood bees, which are good native pollinators and don't sting (see the article on bees and their housing at ?k=urban.farming#234 ). Wasps should be dissuaded; if they're really causing problems, a solution of one part bleach in nine parts water will harm them a whole lot. Likewise, honeybees can be kind of a drag with their stinging habit, and if a killer bee queen takes over your honey bee hive it's nightmare city. So, encourage mason bees (with a bee block), butterfiles (with bright red flowers), and hummingbirds (with flowers and a feeder).
Excess carbonaceous material in soil (like dry organic matter) will cause nitrogen leaching as the nitrogen moves into the carbon material in order to break it down and decompose it. [see the article on composting for more detail on how this works : compost#230 ] This is one of the reasons why you want to be sure that compost is fully broken down before you put it into your soil.
Frost can be a problem in winter, even in arid climates. Cover your crops with a light sheet or cloth at night when there's a danger of frost. You can also bury jugs of water underground to store solar heat collected during the daytime.
Protect against sun excess by having good shade structures in place for both summer and winter solar patterns.
When planning, building, and evolving your urban agriculture setup, aim to have each item and plant serve more than one purpose - this is called "stacking function." For example, if you grow grapes over the mesh roof of your chicken coop, they'll keep the chickens cool as well as providing you and the birds with tasty grapes. - Use observation and incremental experimentation to learn how the system works and the most efficient ways to harness it; plan for the next season with the things you learn and look at the "big picture." Write everything down so that you can study what's happened. - An old but useful cliche here is : "The problem is the solution." That is, don't try to fight against natural processes -- instead, harness and work with them. - Things are going to die and crops will fail. Learn from your mistakes, and don't take failure too hard.
Notes : On beans : pintos, etc grow well in summer, but green beans need cooler weather. Bats eat flying pest bugs, give them a bat house.
The bulk of this information is taken from Heather Welch's lecture series "Designing a Vegetable Garden," presented November 2008 courtesy of the Phoenix Permaculture Guild. (180,797)
There are two main philosophies about how to go about planting food. The one that's dominated commercial farming for a super long time is called "monocropping." This is the practice of growing big fields of single crops -- for example, Phil the Farmer might have a hundred acres of soy beans only, and another hundred acres of corn only. Though it's possible to produce a lot of cash crops this way, there are some risks to this approach : 1) Monocropping pulls the same nutrients out of the soil over and over again, creating dry, leached soil 2) Monocropping makes it easy for pests and disease that affect the single crop to flourish, as they're not controlled by competing organisims 3) Because of the leaching and pest-promotion effects, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are often used in monocropping arrangements. These chemicals then leach into the groundwater below.
The competing approach to monocropping is called "companion planting." This is where more than one type of crop is planted in the same space. There are two principal reasons for doing this : 1) Crops that are 'companions' have symbiotic relationships that are mutually beneficial to each other's growth and production 2) Each crop in a 'companion' arrangement attracts its own pests and diseases, which often compete with and control those of the other crops in the companion arrangement. This helps control the proliferation of problems. -Companion planting has one big drawback that makes it a tough sell for commercial farming : it's tough to mechanically harvest companion-planted crops, as they're at different heights and whatnot. However, for the private grower, this usually doesn't present a problem. - A few of the classic companion-planting sets (or "guilds" if you want to be nerdy about it) are : -Corn, beans, squash (the so-called "three sisters") - Tomatoes, basil, marigolds - Citrus, grapes, comfrey (the latter being an herb commonly used for soil fertility and medicine) -Mesquite, melons, edible flowers (violets, nasturtium, safflower -- toast 'em with sugar). - In each of these arrangements, there's a tall shade plant (corn and tomatoes) supported by a nitrogen-fixing lower plant (beans and marigolds) and ground cover (squash, melons). 'Nitrogen-fixing' plants are those that take atmospheric nitrogen from the air and put it in the soil through their roots. This enriches the soil and makes surrounding plants grow better.
Clearly, companion planting is the choice of winners when it comes to family-scale urban food raising, There's something you want to beware of, however : cross-pollination. - Cross-pollination is where plants of the same family, such as peppers and tomatoes, exchange genetic information by having their pollen spread to each other via bees. If different crops in the same family get cross-pollinated, you will get weird monster Frankenplants that may not be very edible. This cross-pollination can also mess with your seed-saving for the next season. - So, what to do about it? Well, don't companion-plant crops in the same plant family. Also, don't plant same-family crops in the same wind-line (that is, in such a way that normal winds blowing across your site are likely to cross-polinate) or the same bee-line. Bee-lines are the linear paths bees take when flying about your site. If you observe the bees at work, you'll notice that the bee-line tends to be static and is often straight. - Note : cross-pollination doesn't affect root crops or crops eaten before flower.
If you take one idea away from this series, let it be this one : Start your urban agronomy adventure by planting crops that are native to your geography and climate. This will help you get real results in the early stages and save you from the heartbreak of trying to plant mangoes in Grand Rapids. After you've got some success with your favorite native crops, you can start to branch out and experiment with plant types from neighboring climate zones. Remember the adage "as above, as below" -- meaning that the height of your plant is mirrored in depth by the plant's root system -- and use this to guess the viability of various plants in your soil. If you're in a dry climate, you should probably wait until you have a good, moisture-retaining, humidity-producing "canopy" ecosystem (with tall shade plants / trees, ground cover, and intermediary plants) before attempting to grow wet-climate or tropical crops.
Enjoy your experience with growing your own food; it's one of the first and biggest steps to getting free of some hideously clanking institutional chains. Grow native foods, share and trade your surplus, and pass along the knowledge that you gain. Let's take back our food supply!
Addenda : - Citrus can flourish in many planting settings -- in a traditional yard arrangement, in small spaces, or potted in adequately-sized containers. Be sure to keep lemon trees away from other trees, as the lemon will choke the others out. - "Leguminous" desert trees such as mesquite and palo verde, which fix nitrogen, can crow to viable status from seed in only two years -- try it!
- Much of the above information was drawn from Heather Welch's lecture series "Designing your Vegetable Garden" as presented by the Phoenix Permaculture Guild, November 2008 (139,167)
This is more of a political take on why we're on the path towards a collapse in the dollar.
UPDATE: More technical data available here... looks like this video is going to need updating pretty soon.
[cycle through lbt faces]In my last video, I outlined why it is that so many libertarian-minded people believe the dollar is headed towards collapse.
If you're new to this subject, it's natural to assume that we're all exaggerating, and are probably overstating the problem in order to scare people for our own personal gain--whether it be for votes [rp], money [ps], or youtube popularity [me].
[thumbs up]This level of cynicism is perfectly healthy. In fact, anytime anybody is [al gore] trying to convince you that the sky is falling, it's probably a good idea to assume that they're full of it, because most of the time, you'd be correct.
[7mike moore] There is money to be made and [8george bush] power to be gained out of fear. Anyone who believes everything they're spoon-fed by a person or political party [9picture of idiots1] is probably an idiot.[10picture of idiots2] Regardless of who your idles might be, they're human after all, so always keep that in mind.
[11clear]That said, there are plenty of reasons to believe we're on the path towards a collapse in the dollar. Most of them are historical.
[12 stop collapse]First of all, there is only one way to avoid a collapse in our currency, and that's to stop printing money. [13 stop collapse2]This sounds simple enough, but as I explained in my last video, to do this you must balance the budget. There are only 2 things you can do to balance the budget. [14 stop collapse3] You either have to increase taxes, reduce government spending, or some combination of both.
[15 deficit]If you know your history, you know that only time our budget has been balanced within the past 40 years was a brief period that occurred a decade ago unde r president Clinton. Many believe that even this tiny blip of fiscal sanity was actually an accident.
[18 - spending] As you can see from this graph, never in his 8 years of office did clinton EVER reduce government spending. The reason the budget became balanced was in a small part due to an increase in individual income taxes, but mostly due to an UNEXPECTED increase in tax revenues due to the boom and bubble in our economy occurring at the time.
[19 stop collapse3]A boom like that of the late 1990's is extremely unlikely to occur within the next few decades. In addition, raising taxes in the foreseeable future would have a devastating effect on the our already beleaguered economy. This would lead, paradoxically to even less revenue. [20 stop collapse3 - no taxes]Therefore, the only option that remains is to dramatically reduce government spending and to pay down the national debt. This is where the trouble begins.
[21 spending]Government spending has risen, in real terms, almost every year for the past 60 years. Obama has promised to cut the 2010 budget from its all-time high in 2009,[22 New Deficit] but if you exclude 2009, his budget projection still requires a deficit three times as big as the record set by President Bush.
[23 Budget 1]Obviously the bailouts were to blame for most of the spending increases in 2009, but when you look at the 2008 budget, you can clearly see that our problems will not end when the bailouts do. The budget is still far too large and the debt grows larger every day. Many believe that simply pulling out of Iraq would solve the budget shortfall. The problem is that the numbers just don't add up.
[24 Budget 2]Even if you took out Iraq spending, the deficit still remains.
[25 - New Revenue] On top of all that, the tax revenue for 2009 going forward is going to be much lower. This would require an even GREATER reduction in spending to balance the budget.[26 - New Debt] When you factor in the bailouts, things get even worse. Even by extremely conservative estimates, like this one provided by the government itself, our debt will overtake our GDP in less than 2 decades.
[26 Question mark] So what do YOU think? Does it look like we're doing anything about our currency situation? Based on the horrible track record of our politicians, is there anything out there to suggest we're taking care of this? Would any of our politicians risk losing an election in a futile attempt to persuade congress to save our currency? What if the necessary spending cuts are in medicare or social security? Coming out in favor of cutting either of those programs is practically a death sentence to politician's career.
[1 lbt]With all that in mind, do the warnings of hyperinflation and collapse in the dollar seem all that far-fetched? Do you really believe the republicans and democrats in power are going to recognize and do what is necessary? (216,027)
I don't start my next rotation until tomorrow, so I decided to do another one:
[slide 1] This box right here represents the yearly federal budget.
We're going to divide it up into 2 parts: [slide2] the part paid for by tax dollars, [slide3] and the part paid for by everything else. For the purposes of this video, we'll say about [slide 4] 2/3 of the budget is paid for with tax dollars, but you should know that in this year, 2009, taxes account for much less.
[slide 5]Now we're going to divide this up further and look at just the portion paid for by using money outside of taxes. [slide 6] On the left, we'll put the part paid for by privately purchased treasury bonds. [slide 7] This will contribute to the infamous national debt, which is currently approaching $11.7 trillion dollars.
[slide 8] The other part is paid for by printing money. This is done by an institution known as the federal reserve, also known as The Fed.
The Federal Reserve is NOT officially part of the government. Theoretically, the reason for this is to make sure that the government cannot print money directly to pay its bills. The Fed is supposed to act independently and not print money unless it is in the interest of the economy. However, the end result of this is that the government gets all the printed money it asks for, regardless of the effect it may have on inflation and the economy.
Whenever a government or central bank prints money, it causes inflation.
Inflation is a classic double-edge sword. [slide 10] By making the currency worth less, people who owe money in that currency OWE less. This includes the US Government.
Many shortsighted economists see this as a Godsend to quell the ever-expanding national debt. However, there are many downsides to inflation as well.
[slide11]Stocks and property tend to rise in price along with everything else. Therefore, people who have their savings in stocks or hard assets aren't as affected by inflation. However, the less wealthy the individual, the more they deal in cash. It is in this way that inflation affects the poor more than the rich.
[slide12]In addition, by helping debtors, you are by definition hurting lenders. This includes those who own treasury bonds. Generally speaking, these lenders are not in the business of losing money. [slide13] Some lenders will therefore choose to put their money elsewhere.
[slide14]In order to try and entice the lenders into coming back, interest rates on the loans will have to increase.
[slide15]The problem with both of these outcomes is that they lead directly to even MORE inflation.
This type of thing has happened in numerous other countries in the past. It happened to Germany after World War I, and it's happening to Zimbabwe now.
[slide16]As this is happening,[slide17] the budget will be growing exponentially as interest payments on the national debt balloon.[slide 18] This will compound the problem.
[slide19]This cycle of printing and lending will continue until [slide20] the treasury is no longer able to find any lenders to buy the bonds at all. [slide21]At that point, inflation will get out of control. This is known as Hyperinflation.
[slide22]This is where the economy really starts to suffer. People will start losing their jobs or quitting because their paychecks aren't worth the paper they're printed on. That, combined with higher prices, will lead to people saving less and spending more. Taking money out of savings increases the money in circulation. This will further contribute to inflation.
[slide 23]More unemployment leads to LESS revenue. [slide 24] With the budget remaining the same or even growing, [slide 25] this leads to yet even more inflation.
Eventually, people will lose faith in the dollar and stop using it. [slide26] This is known as a currency collapse.[slide 27]
The question is: where is the United States in this cycle? [graph1] The answer is quite complicated. As you can see from the graph of the money supply, over the past 40 years, we have done everything we could to destroy our currency. Even still, our GDP is so strong, the world still sees our treasury bonds as a good investment. [graph2] It's only been recently, with the Fed printing more money than it ever has before, has the world started to grow wary of our position.
This is the reason people like [pic]Ron Paul ,[pic] Jim Rogers,[pic] and Peter Schiff all come out strongly against our current monetary policy. (228,217)
In the 1980's, Ronald Reagan eliminated federally-funded asylums for the insane in the United States. Before that, most of the patients in these facilities didn't develop their condition from some genetic predisposition or unfortunate roll of the dice. Most of the occupants of these asylums actually acquired their condition from drinking too much alcohol.
Obviously we're not talking about some weekend benders here, we're talking men and women who drank far more than they ate for several years or even decades.
Apart from the obvious, the biggest problem with this particular lifestyle choice is not just that the person is deprived of nutrients, it's that alcohol actively destroys several important vitamins. Such vitamins include folic acid, vitamin C, B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), and most important in this case: vitamin B1 (thiamin).
When a person with a history of alcohol abuse enters the ER, one of the first things given is an injection of B1. Thiamin, among other things, is necessary for proper metabolism. Your body has energy, but it can't use it because one of the many linchpins of the complicated chemical pathway is missing. In some cases, a man in a near comatose state will be miraculously revived only a few minutes after repletion of thiamin.
Thiamin does many other things as well. Scarily, many of them have to do with the brain. When that alcoholic woke up on the table in the ER, he woke up with a few less marbles than he had before.
Memory is what separates animal from insect. When a person's memory centers of the brain melt away, so with it goes their humanity. Thiamin, for reasons we don't understand, is essential to those parts of the brain. Having deficiency for any length of time will permanently cripple the capacity to form new memories. Old memories are polluted and cannot be recalled properly. Fantastic but meaningless gibberish replaces what used to be a human's mental voice. This is called Korsakoff syndrome, and unfortunately it is common.
All this is well known. What is not well known is why it is that alcohol manufacturers don't fortify their beverages with thiamin. It would not affect flavor, and the cost would be miniscule. As with any obvious idea, someone's already thought of it. In this case, it was the alcohol manufacturers.
At one point, many alcohol makers were actually considering adding thiamin to their products. This would have a benign effect on sales and costs, but could save tens of thousands from debilitating illness. What they decided--or rather what was decided for them--is that they couldn't afford to do so.
It was posited that adding thiamin to alcoholic beverages could potentially lead to alcohol being taken out from under the umbrella of the relatively impotent Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and it being placed under the jurisdiction of the FDA. This would mean alcohol would have to be treated and regulated as if it were a food (or worse: a drug), which carries with it expensive and pointless changes to facilities, licensing, marketing, and retail sales.
There is a small island of unregulated anarchy the alcohol industry lives on, and they can't afford to swim away to better land for fear of the sharks.
It's sick and wrong, but nonetheless it is less discomforting to know that a man is dying based on the path he has chosen for himself rather than the cards he's been dealt. However, when his pain and suffering (and that of his family) could have been averted so easily, it still makes sense to want to find out why it wasn't. (112,683)
Soil is the most important aspect of any urban agriculture setup. It's the soil that nourishes the crops, and so it's important to understand its composition. As mentioned in the previous section, geologically speaking, soil is composed of sand, silt, clay, organic matter, water, and air. For effective food production, the soil must have enough sand for drainage, enough silt (a sediment often originating from glacial erosion), clay, and organic matter for nutrition, and be sufficiently moist and loose for planting. In high-quality soil, all these components are balanced to create a highly desirable soil type known as "humus." [not to be confused with "hummus," though I've eaten at some restaurants that don't seem to acknowledge the difference]
The chemical makeup of soil varies greatly by region and site, and influences the growing characteristics of what's planted there. Three of the most important elements present in soil and their roles are : - Nitrogen : helps green growth - Phosphorus : helps fruiting, flowering, and root development - Potassium : helps plants resist disease and drought Together, these three elements are called "NPK," and their concentrations in a soil are a key part of assessing site suitability. Other elements are also vital ro plant growth. In the Southwest United States, soils tend to be lacking in phosphorus, manganese, boron, and zinc. Liberal application of high-quality compost and mulch will generally solve these problems, though there are element-specific amendments available (see note below).
Beginning to Plant
It's vital to consider your local climate when planning your urban ag adventure. Arizonans are lucky in that the planting season there is year-round. Check out this planting calendar put together by the Phoenix Permaculture Guild, especially if you live in an arid climate : http://bit.ly/UIWwN
Regional climates are generally discussed in terms of "climate zones." Each "zone" indicates a specific "hardiness" level that plants are recommended to have for planting in that zone. Most commercial seeds are clearly labeled with zone recommendations. The greater Phoenix area is "zone 9b," for example; this corresponds with a "low desert" climate. It's wise to choose plants that are known to thrive in your climate zone -- native plants or plants from seed that are marked as OK for your zone (one zone "higher" is generally OK -- for example, zones 9 and 10 are usually OK in Phoenix). Note, however, that seeds for which your climate is on the outer range (for Phoenix, that'd be like a seed packed labeled "Zones 3 to 9") are not a very safe bet. It's best to pick seeds for which your climate fall in a moderate range ("Zones 6 through 9").
Seeds and Transplants
Most seeds take 7 to 14 days to germinate, and then they have to sprout and grow. 60 to 90 days of growing are then needed before the plant will fruit. Transplants, on the other hand, are already germinated and sprouted.
Transplants are sometimes faster to grow, but there are factors you'll want to consider before opting for transplants : After transplantation, "buffer time" is needed for the plant to acclimate itself to its new environment, as each transplantation diminishes its resistance to drought, disease, and pests for a time until the plant recovers from the transplantation "shock". Accounting for this, leafy greens generally take about 30 days to grow after transplantation; fruiting plants, 90 days; and root crops, more than 90 days.
The bottom line is that it's generally better to grow from seed, where you'll control the entire plant life cycle. If you must start a plant indoors, try starting seed in a container of the same soil into which it'll be transplanted (the soil from your planting bed) in order to minimize the "shock" effect.
Notes on planting in November, December, January in Phoenix :
If you have seed packets that say "plant after danger of frost," that means winter planting in Phoenix. This is the time to plant what other people call "early spring vegetables." If you hear a warning of frost (rare, but it happens), just cover the plants with lightweight material (newspaper, old bedsheets, etc) by nightfall, preferably over a simple frame or stake. This will slow heat loss and prevent frostbite. Be sure to remove the cover in the morning.
Asparagus (note : must grow for one full year before you eat it), lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, and other traditional "spring" crops are ideal to plant at this time. Seed packet instructions indicating "warm" climate mean Arizona fall through spring -- not summer.
Potatoes and root crops are best grown in loose, well-drained soil; mulch can be added to the soil to improve drainage. For potatoes, cut up the seed potatoes into one-inch pieces (this small cutting encourages them to grow quickly) , place the seed potato cutting eye-up in a depression you've made in the soil, and cover with a mound of mulchy soil. Keep the mound well-watered. When the flowers begin to bloom, you can start "robbing" new potatoes (don't take too many at once or the plant will wig out).
Notes on planting in February and March in Phoenix :
February and March are the times to plant what other people call "summer crops." These include tomotoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, melons, squash, and similar items. These need to germinate in cool 70-to-80-degree conditions and flower before the temperature hits 90 degrees. Plant early to encourage strong root systems, because a summer harvest demands roots that will bring in plenty of water and nutrients to support the plant. Don't plant late! Leave the plants in after harvest to keep weeds away and promote soil health.
A note on soil amendments :
In order to get your leached, weak soil up to snuff for planting food, you'll need to supplement its composition with "amendments" -- that is, additives. Now, many people use chemical fertilizers and such to boost productivity, but not only is that approach expensive, but it can have grave effects on your soil health in the long run and plants in the short run. Chemical fertilizers, which generally contain a lot of potassium and nitrogen, can degrade your soil's quality by increasing its salinity and raising its pH to high levels of alkalinity (these factors are worst in arid climates), and can lead to "fertilizer burn" (the symptom of which is leaf tips turnign yellow), which damages crops.
Therefore, it's best to avoid these chemical amendments altogether and stick with quality compost that you know is free of chemical rubbish. Compost will feed the crops with a broad menu of needed elements, at concentrations that are healthful for both the plants and the soil. Plan your urban agriculture setup well and with a mind toward growing region-appropriate crops, avoid monocropping in favor of rotational and companion planting, and apply sufficient compost, and you should never require the use of man-made chemical amendments.
In addition to traditional compost and compost tea, a very effective natural soil amendment is work castings -- that is, worm poo. This high-powered yet safe soil amendment is available commercially; you can also get yourself a "vermiculture" setup or "worm farm" and grow your own.
There are several other "natural" amendments which are viable for urban agronomy in cases where available compost and worm castings prove insufficient. For nitrogen boost, alfalfa meal is available. For phosphorus addition, rock and colloidal phosphates (ideally added to nitrogen inputs like manure at the composting stage, but also possible to spread directly on the soil) are options; it's advisable to check to be sure that these haven't been processed in ways that might leave harsh residues.
A note on hanging gardens :
Hanging gardens are believed to have been prevalent in Babylonian and Sumerian societies. Those were some of the hippest desert civilizations of their time, so they must have been onto something. In hanging garden arrangements, the plants actually grow upside-down. Ideal candidates for this method are tomatoes, eggplants, and similar crops. Hanging gardens create shade, double your available space, cools the environs, and is generally efficient. Old or dead trees are ideal platforms for hanging gardens, but rebar structures, chicken coops, and big fences serve very well. Terra cotta pots with a hole in the bottom can function as hanging planters.
Part 4 coming soon
The bulk of this information is drawn from the lecture series "Designing A Vegetable Garden" as presented by Heather Welch at the Phoenix Permaculture Guild (118,002)
Many sites are landscaped with rock and pavement. This creates what is known as the "heat island problem" -- that is, the rocks and paved elements absorb and hold solar heat, raising the temperature of the site, permitting little vegetation or evaporation. Another common landscape approach, xeriscaping, attempts to simulate a natural desert environment by using no deep-rooted plants, but only things like cactus and succulents. The problem with this approach is that it leads to erosion and a soil that is heavily leached and will not retain water; this is not conducive to growing food.
In contrast, permaculture-style landscaping that features a variety of rooted plants and water-managing features raises the water table and, though it requires more water input, may actually conserve water in the long run by cooling the site and creating more in-site moisture recycling (whereas xeriscaping creates a hotter, more arid environment by retaining little water). Plants cool a site, while rocks heat it up. So what's a person with rock on their site to do?
Don't remove the rock -- it's expensive and laborious to do so, and recall that 'using what's on hand' is a guiding permaculture principle. So, instead of removing the rock, redistribute it. Rock's heat-retaining characteristic is directly proportional to its surface area. Therefore, we want to arrange the rock in a way that minimizes the surface area and yet is useful.
The best way to do this is to use the rock on hand to create narrow, deep pathways around your planting areas such that the planting area will be sunken relative to to paths. This will help conserve your precious water -- the water will drain over and through the rock paths and be collected in the sunken beds. Sunken-bed agriculture has long been favored in desert Africa and other arid climates as a key water-management strategy. Repeat : sunken beds and raised paths are the best approach for growing food, especially in hot and arid climates. Raised beds will fry the roots of your crops when the sun beats on them.
Sidebar : the horror of Bermuda grass
Bermuda grass is a 'marginal' or 'fringe' plant -- it exists when land has begun to fail due to erosion and desiccation. It's an especially hardy species that is highly invasive, and is very difficult to control in an edibles-growing setup.
The 'conventional' approach to removing Bermuda grass is to use an herbicide, but smart people know that herbicides are poison and don't use them near their food crops. Instead, use the 'brute force' method : obtain a sod-cutter, "bobcat," or strong shovel (for the Calvinist) and remove the offending grass before planting. Attempt to scrape it off the top of your site. Due to its omnipresence and hardiness, it will continually stage comebacks, but this step will give you a head-start on it. If you're serious about keeping this hardy grass out of your planting beds, don't include removed Bermuda in your regular compost, as some of its seeds may survive the 140-degree temperature and come back to haunt your garden.
One tactic that has proved successful for keeping Bermuda grass at bay is the introduction of red clover, another 'marginal' species that is likewise invasive but has two advantages over Bermuda grass : 1) it attracts bees, which are vital for pollination of your crops, and 2) it smells better than Bermuda grass.
The 'Pre-Landscaped' problem
Many sites will already be landscaped with trees, shrubs, etc, before you arrive. This can be seen as an obstacle to your planting design, but the smart urban agronomist will incorporate existing green features into their plan. Rather than remove existing trees, remember that bees like trees and you need bees. Therefore, introduce gourds, grapes, and other hardy vines to grow up on and around the pre-existing features (including rocks of all sizes). This will create a photosynthesizing, water-producing heat barrier that requires little watering (because these thrive in dry conditions) is excellent at counteracting the effects of the urban "heat island."
Achieving microbial balance
Healthy plants are abetted by numerous symbiotic worms, insects, microbes and fungi living in the soil. Each type of helper organism lives in a certain "trophic level" -- that is, stratum -- of the soil. Microorganisms often move through fungal networks around plant roots to enhance crops' nutrient uptake. Helpful organisms come in several classes : - Bacteria - Fungi - Nematodes - Protozoa - Arthropods - Annileds - Birds and animals are also in symbiosis wit your crop, but we'll treat them elsewhere in this series.
Soil trophic levels are an important consideration in urban agriculture. It's important to work with the organisms in each level, rather than against them, to maximize yield and minimize the amount of work you have to do. The first rule of working with these trophic-level-dwellers is : 'don't upend, displace, and massacre them with a rototiller.'
To dig or not to dig?
Tilling displaces the organisms in each tropic level, disturbing them and causing them to die quickly. A few inches means a lot to microbes and tiny animals. The "no-till revolution" currently under way in urban agriculture allows the trophic levels to remain healthy and undisturbed by specifying that rather than digging and tilling. it's better to layer mulch and compost on top of existing levels to allow the natural action of symbiotic-critter level adjustment as these new mulch and compost layers are watered in and self-percolate.
The "traditional" method of bed preparation, "double-digging," is wherein soil is dug up from one end of the bed and moved to another end. This is disastrous for microbe and fungal colonies and, even worse, is very hard work.
The new method : "Lasagna gardening"
I wish that "Lasagna gardening" was a way to grow lasagnas, but alas, it's only a slang term for building up soil in a layered fashion and avoiding disturbance of the native soil's trophic levels. Here's how to do it :
1) Spray / soak the site liberally with compost tea or "effective microorganisms" to bacterially control pre-existing environmental toxiins 2)Put a layer of black-and-white (only) newspaper over the selected bed site. This is nontoxic and will discourage pre-existing weeds from erupting in your planting beds. (note : stay at least 3 inches away from trees ) 3) Layer equal thicknesses of mulch and compost on top of each other. Ideally, you want an ultimate planting depth that is equal to your root size; this is roughly the same as the height of the above-ground plant greens (hence the old saying "as above, as below"). This may seem daunting and silly, but after the first couple of seasons, the new material will be integrated with the original soil and the landscape will even out. 4) add new layers of mulch and compost after each harvest to continue enriching the site soil.
Kelp meal is a phosphorous-containing soil amendment that many have found to be beneficial to this process. However, those who live in landlocked areas may object to adding sea-based additives to their soil.
Coming soon : Part III
This information principally drawn from the lecture series "Designing a Vegetable Garden" as presented by Heather Welch in late 2008 courtesy of the Phoenix Permaculture Guild. (115,675)
Water management is key for success, especially in desert environments. One of the determining factors in water management is the overall slope of your site space. Observe where water flows and pools when it rains. The areas where water pools are ideal planting locations for root crops (carrots, beets, etc).
You can influence the flow of water by constructing "swales" along the elevation contour lines. "Swales" are geographical features that are constructed by digging along contour lines and mounding the removed soil on the lower-elevation side of the ditch, creating a depression and berm that guides water runoff. This method can be effective for minimizing water loss and guiding flow to where you need it - your planting beds with water-hungry crops.
Rainwater and 'greywater' harvesting are good ways to maximize the self-reliance of your urban agriculture project. Rainwater harvesting requires a well-designed gutter / catchment system and collection barrel. When deciding how to apply your harvested rainwater, be aware that if your house has asphalt / tar / composition shingles, the roof runoff will contain toxic residues from the shingles. Therefore, you don't want water that runs of an asphalt roof to be used on your vegetables; it's probably OK to use on trees and anything you don't eat (though there's some argument about whether you should use it on trees that bear edibles -- see note on toxin concentrations in fruit). Water that runs off tile, tin, concrete, ceramic, wood shingle, or other non-volatile roofing materials is kosher for all plant uses.
'Greywater' is relatively uncontaminated water that's been used once in your home - for example, to wash clothing or the dishes. By using biodegradeable, nontoxic detergents, the urban agronomist can collect that water -- which is quite a lot - and re-use it directly on trees or and non-edible plants. You'll need to plan how best to get the greywater from its source (e.g., the clotheswasher) to the destination (e.g, your orange tree). For example, a hose can be run directly from the clothes washer to the orchard or collection barrel; catchments and barrels can be used to store greywater before use. Note that since greywater can harbor bacteria, it should not be stored for more than 24 hours before use (unless cured by UV rays). For collecting greywater from the kitchen and bathroom sinks, the simplest way is to simply collect the water in bowls and decant it into a bucket to take outside; you can also do minor plumbing alterations to make it easier. There are numerous books and commercially-available systems on the market with more detail about how to install greywater systems in the home; be sure to consult local laws governing greywater before starting on the project.
Some municipalities offer irrigation as a city service. This provides very cheap and plentiful water, sufficient to grow even the thirstiest crops. The downside to this convenience is that irrigation always brings with it numerous seeds (such as Bermuda grass) and insects. Take care to be on the lookout for invasive species when using municipal irrigation. Avoid placing plants directly in front of the irrigation channel to avoid damage from water movement.
When using forced city water -- that is, tap water -- there are several concerns to bear in mind. The most crucial is that tap water is chlorinated and fluoridated; left untreated, it'll kill vital garden bacteria and fungal microrhizome 'residents.' If you have no bacteria, you'll have no worms, and no worms spells doom for vegetable gardens. Without symbiotic fungi, your plant roots won't be able to take in vital nutrients from the soil. Therefore, if you use tap water, install a filter system that's designed to eliminate chlorine and fluoride contamination. If a commercial filtration system is beyond reach, these harmful elements will also evaporate if you leave the water in an open barrel or bucket for 24 hours or more. It's been hypothesized that toxins in water are concentrated in plant tissue to a factor of ten, so prenez garde!
Sun and shade
As important as water management is the practice of solar planning. It's essential to plan your plantings with a mind to the patterns of the sun on your site and the needs / tolerances of your crops. Plants can be sunburned just like animals can.
Pay special attention to summer sun patterns. In arid climates especially, avoid planting vegetables in places where they'll receive direct solar radiation (cactus and desert succulents are OK in direct summer sun). This is one of the reasons why it's desirable to create a multi-tiered "canopy" with trees or trellised sun-tolerant vines providing shade for edibles below. Creating such a canopy system improves not only the soil and plant health, but also site air quality.
You'll note that the sun pattern in your space will vary considerably between summer (the sun will be directly overhead) and winter (sun will come in at more of an angle).
The best spots for planting on your site are those that are in partial shade in the winter sun pattern. Determine your sun patterns by carefully observing the shade patterns as they shift throughout a day. You can approximate the patterns of whatever season it isn't by drawing a bird's-eye-view map of the site, putting objects on it to represent shading structures (for example, a tissue box for the house and saltshakers for trees) and moving a bright flashlight over the model, imitating the sun's sweep, to see how the shade patterns move.
The ideal type of shade is "filtered shade" -- that is, shade that doesn't completely obscure the sun. For this, trees with smaller leaves such as mesquite, palo verde, and palo brea are ideal. These types of trees are also "nitrogen-fixing" plants -- that is, they take elemental nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into nitrogen compounds in soil that can be used by other nearby plants. Note : if you have a dead tree on the site, don't root it out - introduce a trellising vine like grapes to grow up it and provide shade. Using what you've got on hand -- like pre-existing structures -- is a key permaculture principle.
Microclimates are local variations within a regional climate. For example, the Phoenix area has an overall climate that is hot and arid. However, variations in elevation and airflow patterns make the North East section of the valley significantly cooler and more verdant than the southwest section. The urban center is hotter than the surrounding areas due to to high concentration of heat-retaining structures and pavement. Likewise, there are microclimates within individual sites. It's a good idea to walk around the site in he middle of the night, making notes as differences in temperature, humidity, and wind movement are perceived. These microclimates will influence the planting layout.
Soil : analysis and composition :
Soil is composed of sand, silt, clay, organic matter, air, and water. It's what plants grow in, and is ultimately the source of all food. It's important to think about and analyze the soil on any planting site.
Typical Arizona soil is heavy with caliche -- a mixture of clay with mica and montmorillonite particles. The clay and mica particles lay flat against each other, making for poor permeability and drainage. It's hard to break up and very challenging to grow in. The type of soil that's ideal for planting is called "loam" -- an equal balance of all particle types and sizes with plenty of organic matter. This soil type is very "friable" -- that is, easy to plant in -- and is nutritious for nearly all plant types. Any soil type can be made to take on the characteristics of loam with the addition of time and natural soil amendments -- compost and mulch. Never use gypsum to break up clay deposits, as it will make soil terribly alkaline.
The site soil should be tested for pH before the project is started. A pH between 6.8 and 7.5 is considered to be neutral and good for most plants; desert soils tend to be alkaline (~8.5 pH); some soils are acidic with a lower pH. The correct way to manage soil pH that's too high or too low is to add plenty of compost, which will help neutralize the overall pH. Any nursery can test the site soil for pH.
If you believe that your site may be heavily contaminated with industrial toxins, motor oil, pesticides, or other hideous stuff, many major universities (such as U of A) will test your soil for poisons (for a significant fee). If you find that your soil is contaminated, but still want to plant, you can attempt to "bioremediate" it using liberal amounts of compost tea and / or so-called "Effective Microorganisms."
Note : never use raw manure or fecal material directly on your soil, no matter what you hear-- it will introduce pathogens and can potentially cause 'nitrogen burn' in crops. Compost all manure before applying to your soil.
How to determine your soil's composition : This is easy. Just fill a lidded jar halfway with the soil to be tested (it's recommended to test multiple parts of your site), fill rest of jar with water, shake it up well, and leave it to settle for 48 hours. The sample will then separate into layers and reveal its composition. The bottom layer is sand, the middle layer is silt, the next and lightest-colored layer is clay, and floating on top is organic matter. The composition of your soil samples will tell you what amendments should be added to optimize the soil's friability.
If clay is present in excess, coarse compost or mulch can be added to help make the soil more permeable over time. Clay does have redeeming characteristics -- for example, it's rich in plant nutrients, as is silt. If your soil is sandy, that's not necessarily a bad thing -- sand is vital for good drainage. Just add plenty of finished compost to amplify the nutrient value. If your soil is weak in organic material, add mulch and compost (the more, the better).
A good plan for starting your urban agronomy adventure is to pick the best-shaded, well-watered spot on the site and create a 4 by 8 foot bed (planting your favorite native food crops using the companion-planting strategy -- more on that later). This functional size is manageable for the neophyte and is modular, so that your planting beds can be easily added together or rearranged. Once you have success in the 4x8 bed, create more. A key permaculture principle to apply here is "start small, get big."
The basic tools you'll want to embark on your planting experiment are : - Gloves - Shovel - Rake - Hoe - Wheelbarrow - Rebar stakes are useful for many things including water and air management - Compost and compost sifter - Velcro for plant ties
The bulk of this information was drawn from the lecture series "Designing a Vegetable Garden" as presented by Heather Welch, November 2008. Part 2 to follow (113,027)
I had about 30 minutes and wanted to write an article about why government bailouts are inherently stupid, but I didn't have time to write it in language for people who didn't already know economics to understand. Instead, with the aid of Google Image Search™, I came up with this series of incoherent drawings which I've now wasted too much time on to throw away. Enjoy!
I hate politics. I happen to believe that whenever someone writes about political issues they actually care about, their IQ drops at least 35 points before they put the first word on the page. This is why most comments on political YouTube videos are fragmented and incoherent: Someone with an IQ of 110 decided to jot down a thoughtful political opinion, and was temporarily deprived of the ability to form sentences. This is simple emotion clouding over reason and intellect. It's just human nature.
To therefore write effectively about politics, you've got to either not care at all, or just not have human emotion to begin with. This is why most professional political pundits are actually sociopaths. The pundit's ability to look apocalypse in the face and say "Fuck it." is the secret to readable copy. It's not that these people are especially smart, it's that they're emotionally distant enough to keep their heads on straight when writing about the metaphorical rape of all their espoused beliefs.
I, on the other hand, can't even be in the same room with a TV with a talking head on it without getting acid reflux and foaming at the mouth. I had to stop watching televised news years ago for the sake of my physical health. And that is the reason why this article is going to suck. I did it anyway though, and I may never know the reason why.
The problem with the vast majority of voters is that they know a sum total of "dick" about history. This is one of the many reasons it's totally pointless for any intelligent person to vote (less intelligent people may enjoy the free stickers, so it's a good deal for them). In the case of economics, the US has made so many ridiculously idiotic mistakes that we have plenty of past experiences to draw wisdom from, provided we look at history through the right lens. The Great Depression should have been the end of economic intervention. Unfortunately it's apparently become the beginning. Part of this stems from the total distortion of the history of the Great Depression, which is what will be addressed here.
The popular view of the Great Depression is as follows: It started with the crash of 1929 and lasted up until World War II. According to the history books, our economy was "unequally distributed" to rich people and the crash of 1929 was the culmination of the inequity of the "bubble" in markets such as luxury goods (think dot com era). Moreover, our president at the time, Herbert Hoover, was against interference in the markets and therefore passed up his opportunity to save the day through intervention, which lead to the deep depression that lasted "over a decade." After Hoover's beleaguered term ended, idle government gave way to FDR's promises of interventionism and reform. FDR's activities, combined with that of the Federal Reserve and the seemingly fortuitous entrance of the US into WWII lead to the end of the depression.
To be clear: The above paragraph is total bullshit, with a few spacklings of horseshit and "WTF".
Pseudo-Austrian Theory on What Went Wrong
First of all, the Great Depression didn't start in 1929, it started in the credit bubble of the 1920's. A "credit bubble" is where lenders, on a massive scale, lend too much money without taking proper care to see that the borrower can pay it back. Giving more money to people who are going to waste it means that the useless goods that these people buy are going to have an "increase in demand" (DEMAND = more will be sold, and they will be sold at a higher price). Investors will see this rise in prices (caused by the artificially-inflated demand) and think this is an exploding market and haphazardly stuff their money in as fast as they can, maybe even borrowing to do so. This will further drive up demand until such time as the supply of credit goes away. 1) Lower supply of (inflated) credit -> 2) Higher interest rates ---> 3) less borrowing -----> 4) less money for buying (overvalued) crap -------> 5) less demand for crap ---------> 6) price of crap declines -----------> 7) investors cash-in to avoid losses -------------> 8) Go to 5 and repeat for a while ---------------> 9) investors go bankrupt, can't pay back loans -----------------> 10) Lenders lose money -------------------> 11) Go to 1 and repeat until prices are normalized.
This violent return to normalcy is referred to as a "crash." As you can see, interest rates are a key component of normalization, and that's exactly what the Fed messes with.
The stock market crash of 1929 was not what started the Great Depression, it simply signaled the start of a market correction. The crash of 1929 was the solution to the bubble. The falling prices and the deflation were necessary forces in stabilization of the economy. These forces were fought tooth and nail by the Hoover and FDR administrations (I'll talk about this later), because they meant a decline in economic activity over the short term.
Where did this credit bubble come from? Well something happened during the 1920's that had never happened before in American history. A massive, mismanaged lending force came into play that would haunt the American economy the next 90 years (and counting). Of course I'm talking about the Federal Reserve. Though the Federal Reserve was founded in 1913, they did not participate in open market operations until 1922. The stated objective of "The Fed" is to stabilize the economy by injecting money when markets are down, and deflating when markets are up. They do this by printing money that doesn't exist and loaning it to banks, which it trickles down in a massive, cascading manner (through loan after loan after loan) to consumers who use it to buy crap with. This sounds simple enough, except that in doing this, they flatten out the market corrections which are necessary for normalization. It also makes the arrogant assumption that a handful overeducated academics can make God-like pontifications based on whatever criteria they feel like. All The Fed seems to be able to do is create credit bubbles, which lead to bubbles in everything else. This is exactly what happened in the years prior to the market crash of 1929.
Think about it: It's true, by 1929, the US had seen a few depressions and recessions over its ~150 year history. However, just 7 short years after the Fed starts tinkering with the money supply, we see the largest and deepest depression ever...?? That's coincidence in the same sense that 90% of lung cancers being found in the bodies of smokers is coincidence. What's also not coincidental is the biggest economic intervention in US history (at the time) occurred right at the beginning of this--the longest depression in US history. [Did you see that segue? Was that not awesome?]
Herbert Hoover: The Interventionist
The next myth I'mbout-ta-bust about the Great Mf'ing Depression is that President Herbert Hoover was some kind of coward who refused to intervene. This is almost certainly a case of politics totally f'ing up history. Pay attention boys and girls: this is what it looks like. These 'Court Historians' [*cough* Paul Krugman *cough*] want to blame the "free market" for the Great Depression, and to do that, they have to paint Hoover as a slimy, good-for-nothing, free market Republican (to be fair, he was a Republican, and he looked pretty slimy). Presumably, they're distorting history so they can blame the depression on Hoover and also so they can attribute this country's salvation to FDR's "economic reform." This lends credence to the government power-grab ("bailout") that's going on right now, since conceptually FDR's stimulus was the same thing. Luckily, the claims about Hoover's "non-interventionism" are so ridiculously false that the debate ends in the 2 seconds it takes to load the Wikipedia article.
One thing the pop-historians like to point out (apparently to further this myth) is that the chairman of the fed at time (Andrew Mellon) was pushing to let the recession run its course. Can you imagine? After years of tinkering with the economy, the Fed acknowledges it had 'screwed the pooch' and clamors for natural free market correction. Amazingly, that's totally true. At first, the fed was quite reluctant to intervene*. In fact, according to Hoover's memoirs, Mellon (Fed guy) strongly suggested to Hoover that he stay out of it. Not to be swayed by little things like reality, Hoover ignored Mellon and promptly embarked on the largest ever peacetime increase in government spending. He even brags about it in a speech he made near the end of his term:
We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead, we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic. We put it into action. - Herbert "Give Me a Kiss, Krugman" Hoover
Convinced yet? Too bad, I'm not done! To pay for this "fiscal stimulus," Hoover ran huge deficits until 1932, at which point he doubled the income tax (Revenue Act of 1932) and instituted a tax on checks (this is a lot worse than it sounds, by the way). He even pushed forward a bill to force the Fed to inflate the money supply. Finally, not content to leave it alone, Hoover rammed through congress the largest import tax of the 1900's, the infamous "Smoot-Hawley Tariff." Non-interventionist my ass! Hoover's plans were basically slightly less ambitious versions of "The New Deal" (which would occur later, under President Roosevelt).
If you want to place some blame on Hoover for the Great Depression, you can't blame him for doing too little.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The Non-Interventionist ... What?
Sort of a fun facet of the whole Hoover Vs FDR thing is that history remembers it as a standard run-of-the-mill socialist Vs free-market debate. The reality, of course, is slightly more complicated.
By the end of Hoover's presidency, it seemed that voters were pretty fed up with all this progressive interventionist hogwash. They knew what Hoover did, they knew it didn't work, they wanted "change," and they wanted it in the form of economic freedom. It seems strange then that they elected FDR--probably the most "progressive" president of all time, according to the history books.
How we explain these ostensibly contradicting facts is not actually all that complicated: FDR was a liar.
FDR ran on a platform of economic non-interventionism. During his 1932 campaign, he berated Hoover for his stimulus actions. FDR's own running mate in 1932 (and later Veep), John Nance Garner said that Hoover was "taking the country down the path of socialism." In fact, the stated Democratic party platform of 1932 was to reduce federal spending by an astounding 25%. No wonder FDR won by such an enormous landslide (57% to 39%)!
Heck, I would've voted for him. Did you know FDR publicly referred to Hoover as a "fat, timid, capon" (a capon is a castrated rooster which is fattened up and raised for eating)? How awesome is that!?
Naturally, the first thing he did was ignore his campaign promises. Starting the very same year he was inaugurated (1933), FDR started creating hundreds of different massive government programs designed to 1) extend government's control over the economy and 2) stimulate it back to health at the same time. Only one of those goals ended up coming true, can you guess which? Hint: the depression continued for 13 years after that, so that leaves...
This package of economic clusterfuck is what is commonly referred to as "The New Deal."
As an aside: In a particularly despicable "dick move," a disproportionately larger amount of the New Deal money was poured into the swing states, which kept them relatively fat and happy while the depression trotted along. FDR effectively bought his first two re-elections this manner. As the New Deal raged on, FDR lost some control over it (legislators found their balls and got in on the money train), which directly correlated with a wider distribution among the other states. Funny how that all works.
Yeah, These Clowns Raped the Free Market, but... Did it Work?
Of course it worked! Why wouldn't it? It's so brilliant: I'm going to inflate the currency through printing, suck tons of money out of the economy through taxes, pour it into wealth-destroying projects, and I'm going to do it all while we're in the heat of a freakin depression!... I mean, where's the problem, am I right guys? WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Well, what ended up going wrong is that our depression lasted roughly from 1929 to 1946. Popular history says our numbers were turned around at the start of WWII (1941), but that's totally ignoring the fact that you can't ship 11 million unemployed men out of the country and call the ensuing fall in the unemployment rate a "turn-around."
By that notion, Obama could just wait until midnight tonight, use his Santa Claus magic, jump in his reindeer-driven Escalade, and do a drive-by on every unemployed household in America, killing at least half the unemployed in one fell swoop. Wouldn't it be great if it were just that easy? Too bad it isn't (though that may not stop him from trying...). Yeah, it'd make that particular economic indicator jump back into the green, but the smell would be horrendous after a few weeks, plus it wouldn't exactly restore consumer confidence.
No, by most relevant measures, our economy did not reach pre 1929 numbers again until 1946, and this was due to one reason and one reason only: Our shit didn't get fucked up during the war.
Imagine: all of europe and lots of Asia, even including some of the shitty little islands (England), had planes flying over it for YEARS bombing factories used to make war toys as well as necessary consumer goods. What happens after the war when trade barriers are lifted and everyone needs to buy shit? They turn to the one country who still has factories all clean and shiny with no unexploded munitions lodged in the roofs: America. We exploited the living crap out of these countries who needed stuff they couldn't build, it was awesome.
There's a reason why the US forgave most of the loans they made to Europe to rebuild: They made out like bandits.
The production capacity of Europe was shot to shit by the end of the war. By the time everyone had caught up to speed, the United States had become an economic superpower. They would remain that way until idiotic politicians of latter half of the 20th century (and 21st, it seems) could mess all that up. Way to go!
Good Thing This is All Ancient History... Right?
If you accidently leave your TV on for any length of time these days, you probably know that what they did back then to try and "fix the problem" are the exact same types of things they're doing now. You hear about a new Bailout plan just about every month now, and every idea they have isn't exactly new.
You'd think that maybe they would've learned something.
* UPDATE/CORRECTION [Dec. '09]: I left this passage as it was originally for simplicity's sake. I recently completed Bob Murphy's Politically Incorrect Guide to The New Deal (which, btw, can be used as a source/reference for all the material in this article). Subsequently, I found out that the advocates for monetary intervention (eg Krugman, Bernanke, and yes, Milton Friedman) have twisted history and I had been unwittingly duped by it. They would have you believe that The Fed did essentially nothing to correct the MASSIVE monetary contraction at the beginning of the Great Depression. In fact, the Fed of 1929 and the 1930's expanded the money supply more than any American central bank ever (until Greenspan/Bernanke). Krugman, Bernanke, and Friedman basically either deny this or pretend like the actions of the Fed at the time were "too little, too late." The facts, however, speak for themselves. (294,431)
So I've been compiling some rather disturbing screen shots of actual promoted stuff on myspace which turns out to be totally hedonistic tripe, vile shameless nonsense, or just generally immoral. I think I'll make this into a series.
This is just amazing--an ad from myspace:
Like any 13 year old WT kid who listens to this crap knows what 'enigmatic' means:
This one was just really funny to me for some reason:
Ok so the following was lifted from the popular "myspace groups" list.. they were not rearranged, they were seriously all right next to each other like this. This is like anti-christ level of immoral here:
Update: This will be the last post in this 'series' as I have deleted my myspace account. Feel free to post your own though. (106,752)