Category Archives: Uncategorized

A reluctant UBI dissent

I’ve been posting mostly on Twitter for a long time. A problem with Twitter is, when you manage to say a thing right, it slips away down the timeline at the same rate as everything you said wrong or halfway.

So this morning I wrote a short Twitter essay on why proposals for a universal basic income are riskier in the United States than in some other places. UBI talk seems likely to persist, so my worries might bear revisiting. Here’s a link to the thread.  Midway in, it mentions an article about how UBI payments helped a village in Kenya. Here’s the link.

Would add that as an old public benefits advocate, I know means tests are terrible things. They’re intrinsically bureaucratic, demeaning and unfair. So it would be great if we could give everyone money instead of making poor people jump through hoops for cash aid. But in the United States of 2017, a UBI bill would be exploited to convert uncapped entitlements into individual block grants. In which case, what would happen to public support for long-term medical and disability needs?

It’s the old story: if we could trust each other in America, we could have nice things. It would be great if we could trust U.S. legislators to enact a UBI, but common sense says they would try to end more public entitlements in exchange. That’s an unpayable price.

Minidoka and Topaz

J&I made a road trip of a visit to the Denver National Archives this month. Across the Great Basin and back.

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We traveled by way of the Topaz and Minidoka camp sites, where thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. Both camps are desert places. They can be farmed with irrigation, but not easily. Especially not Topaz.

Here are some images from the Topaz site. Topaz Museum director Jane Beckwith said the word spelled out in barbed wire was added, without permission, by antiwar activists who visited the site around 2003. It’s now part of the site’s history, hence left in place.

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Continue reading

Commodified marginality on Cannery Row

People in the tourist part of Monterey look at the expensive bronze statuary of the Cannery Row Monument without laughing. Apparently all the time, every day.

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The same mentality that took Steinbeck’s jolliest depiction of marginality and further sentimentalized it as a draw for tourists also sponsored this pole full of prohibition signs a very few blocks away: Continue reading

Changes

This site has been quiet for a while because I’ve been working flat-out as editor of California Planning and Development Report, a subscription newsletter on California land use issues. I’ll be going to contributor status at CP&DR shortly, which should leave time for other projects. Also possibly for more posts over here. For the moment I’m posting more actively on Twitter at @mbridegam and on Facebook.

Our old neighbor the pizza ace, and the “sharing economy”

A long time ago, in an apartment building far, far away, we had a neighbor who was a former pizza delivery ace.

She got pretty good at it. The pizza company had regional contests for fast delivery. The winners got big bonuses — brass rings worth jumping pretty high for. So she took crazy risks getting the pizza out to the customers fast fast fast. If I remember the story right, she did win one of those bonuses. Something like $500 back when a hundred dollars was worth something, in a town where some people worked for $6.50 an hour.

One day, driving fast on her way with a pizza, she spun out. Empty road, no other drivers, no pedestrians, just herself, unhurt. Herself coming to a stop at a funny angle in the middle of the road. Sitting still in the car in the middle of that road suddenly thinking hard about what is worth how much in this life. Continue reading

In which I write up the NEMA for Failed Architecture

I have a guest post on Failed Architecture about the uproariously tin-eared marketing campaign for San Francisco’s NEMA apartment complex.

Here it is. Editors Mark Minkjan and René Boer did a lovely job. Especially René’s choice of the opening image. Very Sirens of Titan.

In case you’re wondering, the people crossing the street outside in Santa and Christmas-tree costumes were part of last week’s Santacon pub crawl.

Actually, neither one of these things is a mountain lion.

Because I have a thing for wrongfooted warning signs (see also yesterday’s item):

ImageImageAt left is a sign near the gate at the Asilomar conference center and resort in Pacific Grove, CA. (PIcture taken a while ago but the sign is still there.)

Below is a sign in Fremont Peak State Park on the other side of Salinas from there.

Each one of these signs marks a huge patch of poison oak, which can release dangerous oils from the stems even when not in leaf. By comparison with which, who’s afraid of a little old mountain lion?