30th April 2004
HOMELESS IN CALIFORNIA -
The homeless in San Francisco and LA are very evident. They
can be found standing or sitting in busy streets with signs like "HAVE
PLEASE HELP, GOD BLESS", Some, risking the wrath of police stand
shaking a cardboard cup in the faces of passers
bye. Others make an outright request for change.
Some are seen wheeling a shopping trolly, piled up with worldly
possessions, a blanket, a few clothes, bags. Some of them seem to
co-operate, one guards the trolley while the other scavenges or
In San Francisco I purchased a newspaper called "STREET SHEET" from
appeared to be homeless It's banner was "A
publication of the coalition on homelessness San Francisco 1989."
The paper described the history of a SF ordinance forbidding
lodging" CPC 647(j). Apparently, back in the 1850's, when gold
was discovered, (California celebrated it's 150th year in the Union
recently) the people with political power introduced an ordinance to
prevent illegal claim jumping. That ordinance had sat unused in
the books for more than a century, until it was revived recently as a
possible "solution" to the large
homeless that were appearing on the streets of San Francisco. The
homeless are everywhere. Fortunately, San
Francisco is not a city where it snows, and in this season the nights
are cool (10-15 degrees centigrade).
After buying some food in a
workers co-op shop in the western SOMA district, (South Of MArket
St. Market St. is
the main drag in "downtown" SF.) I
sat with an old timer called Richard. For some time we
discussed the many failings of our respective political systems.
Interestingly, part of his solution was meditation. Later Richard
mentioned that he was one of the homeless, and had been living "on the
streets" for more
than 10 years (he was mid fifties). He confessed that for more
than a decade his most heartfelt wish was for a secure job, a home
and a normal life. Richard was from the hippy
generation, and although he did not have a proper home, he rented about
10 square meters of storage space for $300 a month.
Richard struck me as erudite and politically informed.
Shortly thereafter I was sitting in a Starbucks and struck up a
conversation with a young man (19) who was writing something. To
my eye he was not WASP, his race was indeterminate. He
confided that he had a girlfriend, who (he was not very clear here)
either worked at or owned a
local S&M club. He was, it transpired, filling in a job
application for Starbucks. He confided that he wanted proper
work, not making money by selling drugs to other people.
After leaving that area, I saw some goods laid out on the footpath in
Market Street. I purchased a paperback, and started a
conversation with the vendor. He was Latin American. When I
described my meeting with the young man, he was contemptuous. He
said that the young man would have been African-American. He
explained that there was plenty of work, that he knew Spanish speaking
central America could not speak a word of English, who nevertheless
found work cleaning, or in other occupations. He said the boy was
not Latin-American, because he did not have a job.
On Easter Friday, walking back from Market street, I stopped in a
camera shop to purchase batteries and a charger. The
Sicilian-Americans who worked there was surprised when I told him that,
in Australia, nearly all shops were closed on Easter Friday.
Since 9/11, he said, business has been very bad, and he could not
afford to close his shop, and lose the business.
- MONEY -
The Economist of 9th April 2004 seems to have finally recognized as
a proposition that Australian Diarist has been arguing for years, .. " the fact that
investors have more money to play with and nowhere better to place it."
than, in this instance, third world countries. Barvennon has gone
further and identified the cause of that more money to play with in
the circa 1993 regulations that diverted a huge proportion
(approximately 10%) of Australian's wages into investment funds for
The amount of money
now accumulated in those Australian pension funds exceeds the
Australian stock market. This surfeit of funds has driven the
of stocks to unrealistic levels (PE ratio well over 30), and the
overflow funds are being pushed to homebuyers at
extremely low interest, which is fuelling a real estate boom. (In
the USA Fannie May and Freddie Mac are accepting funds for mortgage
investment. Those organizations are guaranteed in some manner by
the federal government.) The increased tax take from GST and
corporate tax paid by the investment funds has greatly diminished the
funds borrowed on the Australian federal bond market. I am told
legislation is operative in the USA and Euromarket. I speculate
that similar legislation will produce similar effects. I can only
hope that the resulting worldwide property inflation will not have as
on our economies as a similar paradigm (of high community savings being
ploughed back in to the domestic economy) did in Japan some years ago.
Of course the situation now is not as simple as it was in Japan.
Now we have a continual flood of investment derived from the wages of
the workers. In the USA Greenspan is holding short term interest
rates on the floor. Even if an investment were poor, the inflow
funds is so huge that some MBA investment manager, somewhere, is
desparate or ill-informed enough to purchase it, even if at a small
Will the market bust? Well if unemployment in Australia rises,
the flood of investment money to the national contributory
retirement scheme will reduce. This will have a positive
feedback effect, since unemployed workers cannot pay mortgages,
are consuming fewer household goods, autos, etc. Then investments
go bad, new investment in mortgages & stocks diminishes, (both of
which reduce employment) the government collects less tax, it must
borrow money, it
raises taxes, raises interest rates, this further dampens the market
And as any engineer will tell you, positive
feedback circuits are v. unstable.
I would note in passing that the US economy looks weak. Of course
I have only been here for a few months, and am more familiar with the
Australian economy. However it is difficult not to see
underpatronized malls, notice the savage price cutting by department
stores, listen to the tales of woe in small business and note other
signs of economic distress. These signs do not seem to filter up
in to the stock market, perhaps because admitting difficulty is
Despite the grim picture, I believe that patchwork solutions to
maintain the US and our own economy will
continue to function, but believe that any solution will produce a
fading balance of trade, losses concentrated in the farming
Minerals, most importantly gold, will continue to underpin the
- SAN FRANCISCO (2) -
It is ironic that the "Peace & Love" movement of the sixties sprang
from a place phonetically called "The Hate". (Haight-Ashbury).
The Haight is the cultural heart of SF. It is located between
UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) campus & USF
(University of San Francisco), Both are less than half a mile from the
intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets.
San Francisco also has the world renowned UC Berkeley campus just
across the Bay, the university which spawned the world's computer
capital known as Silicon Valley, at the south end of San Francisco bay.
SF hosted the meeting of international
ambassadors that agreed to the formation of
Fisherman's Wharf is a tourist trap at the NW end of Columbus St, which
forms a SE-NW diagonal across the street pattern of N-E SF, which
is aligned N-S. (see map).
Most of the cable cars travel between Fisherman's
wharf and the downtown commercial district. Goods for sale on the
waterfront can be purchased atb a 20% discount in the streets behind
Like Columbus, Market street and the streets to it's south (The SOMA
area) run diagonally (NE-SW) to the N-S street grid of NE San
Francisco. This is one of the flat areas of SF.
The golden gate is, of course, not gold
coloured. I would call it red lead or ferroprime coloured, or
perhaps red ochre. The handrail has a few rust spots, and about
half of it has been replaced. It is closed at night, and
under 24 hour military guard. In addition the bridge profile is
undergoing modification to make the structure
more resistant to earthquakes.
- ISRAEL & HAMAS -
I find it incredible that European opinion should be so against
killing of Hamas chief Abdel-Aziz
al-Rantissi. For years Israel has shown restraint, hoping that
the Palestinians would recognize that Israel is a proper country, as
decided by the UN back circa 1948. However every bit of money
that has come in to Palestinians' hands has gone to
promulgating the war with Israel. One can not help but feel that
it is financial opportunism that colours the perceptions of the French
and German people.
The Europeans claim to be upset that the military targeting of the self
confessed heads of the terrorist organization Hamas are
To be even handed, they should have objected when Clinton fired off
missiles at Al Quaeda. They should also have objected to the
bombing of civilian targets in Serbia and Kosovo. What's that you say? Clinton was a good
guy, and you trusted his judgement?
Would those Europeans be satisfied if the Israelis had a trial in
all Hamas personnel? Something along the lines of:
1 Did you make this
broadcast calling for the murder of Jews?
2 Do you deny that you are an executive member of
Hamas, as you stated during that diatribe?
3 Do you deny that xxx is an acknowledged member of
4 Do you deny that xxx announced that such and such a
terrorist act was performed at the behest of Hamas".
Those Hamas personnel who wish to defend
themselves should be free to do so, Through proxies if they so
choose. As each military execution of guilty Hamas terrorists was
performed, time should be purchased on all available major networks of
the world, and after an apology offered for the accidental killing of
bystanders, the "guilty" verdict, along with relevant details from the
trial should be broadcast. To prevent unnecessary loss of lives
during the military executions, Hamas members should be given the
option of turning themselves in, and serving "life".
At least they should get a good audience, might make a
few shekels out of the rights. (On the other hand, having the
crimes of Hamas out in public view would be such a publicity coup for
their cause. Israel should footage free with the proviso that the
recipients do not interfere with the integrity of the segment by making
strategic little cuts or voiceovers etc.)
However I doubt that they would accept such a trial as legitimate, no
matter how open the court was.
- IRAQ -
So what is my solution to the mess in IRAQ?
Call in the opinion moulders. Tell them to promulgate the
The US has already achieved its aim, which was to provide an exemplary
lesson to muslim dictators in the region. The US should stop
trying to enforce democracy on those who do not want it. If
people think that theocratic dictatorship is a superior method of
government, they are entitled to live under a theocratic
dictatorship. Even if they then believe (in defiance of all
evidence to the contrary) in conspiracy theories that maintain that
democratic systems are wealthy because they have "stolen" from muslim
- We do not want to force democracy on those who do not want it.
- Muslims are poor because they have a religion
government by a theocratic dictatorship. Theocratic dictatorship
is inefficient and corrupt, and inhibits the production of
wealth. (It also allows the theocrat/dictator to tax wealth into
his own pocket, although nominally that wealth is to be used for the
good of believers.)
- We don't care what OPEC charges for oil. If the price is too
high, then the process of extracting fuel from shale etc will become
economic. (Australia alone has reserves of shale oil greater than
Saudi reserves of oil).
- The US has achieved it's objective in Iraq, which was to remove
the Hussein WMD threat. Anything after that was "tidying
- The US is leaving. It is not determined to establish any
regime whatsoever. It is quite prepared to leave the nation of
Iraq in anarchy.
- The US will not tolerate a government that rules IRAQ by terror
but if the Iraquis establish a government that does not rule by terror
& force, then the US will not again intervene.