Tagrecession hacking

Former Poor Farm will help feed county’s poor

A blackberry-infested plot of land once farmed by indigent people at the former Multnomah County Poor Farm is being reclaimed to feed the poor again.

Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen is spearheading a campaign to convert one to two acres of county surplus land north of McMenamins Edgefield Manor in Troutdale into a temporary organic farm to combat hunger. Volunteers will harvest enough fresh produce this growing season to feed 240 people for 24 weeks, Cogen estimated.

Cogen will ask fellow members of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on May 28 to approve $22,000 in county funds to buy materials. But he’s already secured commitments for private donors to repay $15,000 of that, and expects the rest of that sum will be raised privately.

Portland Tribune: Former Poor Farm will help feed county’s poor

Laid Off Traders Try to Get Jobs as High School Math Teachers

He happens to live in New Jersey, where state education authorities have long worried about a dearth of math teachers.

Last week he heard about a new program called “Traders to Teachers” being set up at Montclair State University to retrain people in the finance industry who have been laid off in the deepest crisis to hit Wall Street since the Great Depression. […]

The university’s 101-year-old College of Education received 146 applications for 25 spots in the first round of the program, which offers three months intensive training followed by a job at a high school in January. The first year on the job includes close mentoring, and after two years probation they can become fully certified math teachers. […]

“If we’re successful … we could change in a very significant way the quality of math instruction in the state of New Jersey,” said university President Susan Cole, noting that many schools rely on substitute teachers because there are not enough certified math teachers to fill the positions.

Reuters: New Jersey seeks laid-off traders to teach math

(via Cryptogon)

See also: Dean Baker: Wall Street Follows the Path of the Steel Industry in Pittsburgh (“By eliminating the Wall Street path, other relatively high-paying jobs will look much better”)

Portland tech entrepreneurs defy recession

Even as Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix and other Oregon tech stalwarts are slashing jobs, new companies are springing up by the bushel in Old Town, the Pearl and Portland’s inner eastside.

These startups are taking advantage of the social media craze to invent new Web tools that broadcast a user’s location online, for example, or stream advertising onto MySpace and other online communities.

But stalwarts they are not, and may never be, even as the state looks for ways out of its deepening recession. […]

Oregon has long lacked the money, scale and leadership to be a great incubator for tech startups. Those weaknesses are less important these days, as the recession humbles big cities and mega-companies. The trend toward grass-roots technology and collaboration plays to Portland’s strengths.

Oregon Live: Tech entrepreneurs defy recession

(via Fast Wonder)

Tent cities continue to boom, ranks of desperate grow

Tent cities and shelters from California to Massachusetts report growing demand from the newly homeless. The National Alliance to End Homelessness predicted in January that the recession would force 1.5 million more people into homelessness over the next two years. Already, “tens of thousands” have lost their homes, Alliance President Nan Roman says.

The $1.5 billion in new federal stimulus funds for homelessness prevention will help people pay rent, utility bills, moving costs or security deposits, she says, but it won’t be enough.

“We’re hearing from shelter providers that the shelters are overflowing, filled to capacity,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the National Center on Family Homelessness. “The number of families on the streets has dramatically increased.”

USA Today: Economic casualties pile into tent cities

(Via Breaking Time)

Douglas Rushkoff on Richard Metzger’s Dangerous Minds

Turns out there’s already another Dangerous Minds episode. This one features Douglas Rushkoff and covers some familiar terroritory for readers of Rushkoff’s columns (which I link to frequently).

I agree with quite a lot of what Rushkoff has to say, and I respect him a lot. But there are a few important things he gets wrong or doesn’t account for.

There’s a contradiction in his assertion that the government/corporate complex will be too broke to enforce monopolies – but he also mentions, when questioned about US foreign debt, that we still have the strongest military. And that’s the thing. Entrenched powers aren’t going to roll over and die as long as they’ve got the bomb and the gun.

Alternative currencies are great. But governments tend squash them as soon as they start disrupting the status quo. See The New Currency War and George Monbiot’s history of alternative currency. There’s a really question of how much the “powers that be” will let “us” get away with – in terms of growing our own food, creating our own currency, and anything else that reduces their power over us.

Much of Rushkoff’s optimism stems from romanticizing a future where Americans break free from our cubicles and start actually “doing stuff.” I’ve noticed a tendency for a lot of people to think that jobs need to be more like what they think their ideal job should be like. Some people say “people need to be out doors” or “people need to work with their hands” or “people need more creative jobs.” They miss the fact that a lot of people genuinely like working with numbers, or programing computers, or doing detailing oriented office work.

Anyway, the millions of people who work in (or have recently worked in) the health care, education, restaurant, hotel, farming, gardening, manufacturing, trucking, rail road, utility, and construction industries may be surprised to hear that all the economy needs is for Americans just need to get off their fat cubicle dwelling asses and “do something.” What percentage of the population is actually employed in just pushing numbers around and managing outsourced labor?

I’m fairly confused on this point because Rushkoff also talks about how the financial industry is essentially extracting value from the rest of us. So are we producing value or not?

Rushkoff is correct in tracing the modern collusion of government and corporations back to the very beginnings of corporations, but he falls into a certain trap that libertarians tend to fall into: the idea that getting rid of the government influence would solve the problem of megacorporations (or other large institutions) would stop their meddling in the market and lead to a laissez faire utopia.

The problem is that the government is not the only way large institutions (be they for-profit corporations, religious institutions, unions, professional organizations, or non-profit organizations) manipulate the market. We could try splitting up megacorproations – but that requires government intervention and gets sticky quick (for all the reasons that libertarians warn against government intervention).

The typical libertarian assumption, as I understand it, is that without government intervention the market would quickly self-correct – all those decades of entrenched power and influence would cease to matter as real competition came to the fold. Needless to say, I don’t share this belief. And actually, I rather doubt Rushkoff does either.

I look forward to Rushkoff’s book. I suspect many of my points will at least be addressed.

Rest of the episode after the jump.

Pessimism Porn

Sloppy Unruh has a round-up of “pessimism porn”

I’ll add a couple things:

Sacramento tent city closed down (via Breaking Time)

Should we be more worried about Weimer-esque hyperflation than a new Great Depression? (via Richard Metzger)

In light of all of this, 250 new manufacturing jobs in Detroit doesn’t seem like much. But the article does paint an optimistic portrait of the future of energy related manufacturing in the US. (via WorldChanging)

I’m still gathering resources at the Recession Hacking Wiki.

In the recession, does advanced education really pay off?

As some of my e-mailers recognize, their dilemmas are those of the relatively fortunate. They are young. They have advanced degrees. As Sam wrote, “It should be noted that I’m a very lucky, healthy, happy 23-year-old male who, aside from having little money and having caught a bad break on his choice of careers, has nothing to complain about.” For a dose of perspective, I’ll include an e-mail from Dani, who is 28, lives in Chicago, and couldn’t go to college right out of high school. She works in a warehouse office and will finally graduate in May with a two-year associate degree for which she scrimped and borrowed and is “fighting tooth and nail for.” She can’t see how she can afford to go on in school, and she points out that “for those of us not privileged enough to have [a college degree] being seen as not as valuable as someone who is ‘smarter’ than us because they have a degree puts us behind in the job market even further. We are already worried about our futures, and the thought that this economy or even one bad thing happening [could] disrupt our paycheck-to-paycheck lives, is more than terrifying.” It is bad to have a degree that you fear is underwater. But it’s still worse to have no degree at all.

This article fails to adequately address the matter at hand because they only compare people with advanced degrees with those without any sort of degree or special training what so ever.

Here is another question: are people with advanced degrees better off than those who opted for vocational training of some sort, or even those who only got bachelor’s degrees? Comparing the plight of MBAs, Phds, and lawyers to plumbers, mechanics, dental assistants, etc. would be more relevant. It would also be worthwhile to compare people with advanced degrees with people who have bachelor’s degrees in certain fields such as biology, math, computer science, and engineering.

Slate: Help, My Degree Is Underwater

(via Cryptogon)

With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home

Ms. Omega, 48, is one of the beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis. Through a small advocacy group of local volunteers called Take Back the Land, she moved from a friend’s couch into a newly empty house that sold just a few years ago for more than $400,000.

Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.

In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.

The groups say that they have sometimes received support from neighbors and that beleaguered police departments have not aggressively gone after squatters.

New York Times: With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home

(via Cryptogon)

Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks – and hence the most fragile – become the biggest.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Whatever may need to be bailed out should be nationalised; whatever does not need a bail-out should be free, small and risk-bearing. We have managed to combine the worst of capitalism and socialism. In France in the 1980s, the socialists took over the banks. In the US in the 2000s, the banks took over the government. This is surreal.

Global Dashboard: Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

(Via Chris Arkenberg)

Tax dodgers multiply as underground economy cushions job cuts

Carlos Cruz has a strategy for surviving the worst global recession in 60 years: pay less in taxes and pass the savings along to customers.

“I’m declaring half as much as I used to,” said Cruz, 29, who runs a painting business in Madrid. “Prices have fallen by 30 percent and customers will choose you for a difference of as little as 50 euros ($67.70),” said Cruz, an Ecuadorian who has lived in Spain since 2001.

The production of goods and services that are lawful, though not declared, may grow the most as a proportion of total output since 2000, according to Friedrich Schneider, a professor at Austria’s Johannes Kepler University of Linz.

The shift, measured by tax analysts and economists using surveys, money-supply data and anecdotal evidence, is caused by businesses going off the books to cut costs and workers taking informal jobs to survive rising unemployment. It offers a buffer against the ravages of the crisis and may help explain why the slowdown hasn’t prompted more social unrest.

Full Story: Denver Post

(via Xtal)

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