Thursday, March 03, 2011
  Trash talk

Paired symptoms of our modern terminal disease are securitization and centralization. Everything in the world must be commoditized so Goldman Sachs can make trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions by creating derivatives and options and swaps and option derivatives and option derivative futures and option derivative future swaps and future index swap option derivative option index share futures.

Our marvelous American talent for innovation, our constant invention of new financial crimes, cannot continue unless everything is first centralized. When mortgages remain strictly between the original bank and the borrower, Goldman can't chop them up into futures. When health care is strictly between the doctor and the patient, Goldman can't chop up the accounts receivable into futures. When electricity was generated in the City Power Plant and used solely by people in this City, Goldman couldn't chop the current into purchasable shares. And so ad infinitum.

However: Centralizing was already a strong trend before Goldman invented securitization, and centralizing continues to create absurdity and damage even where Goldman hasn't yet found a way to securitize.

A good recent example: the Conoco shipments from Japan to Montana, which were obstructed by hippie-ass commies until the Idaho state gov't finally laid down the law. The whole problem wouldn't have arisen if Conoco had chosen to build the refinery in the old localized way, shipping small plates and tubes from Pittsburgh via normal rail. Because they couldn't think outside the centralized box, they chose to hire a Jap company to build huge modules, which then required wildly complex and risky shipping plus armies of lawyers. The old way gives jobs to skilled American steelmakers, millwrights, welders and pipefitters; the new way gives jobs to Jap robots and American lawyers.

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I was thinking lately about the central trend in trash collection.

Before EPA came along, trash was condensed and processed in several steps, with much more local participation.



I remember burning trash in the '50s and 60s. Each house had its own barrel, and each homeowner was responsible for getting it to the landfill one way or another. You could hire one of several companies to pick it up at various intervals, or you could take it to the landfill yourself. Nearly everyone chose the former, which made for lively competition among the carrier companies. The various intervals were possible because you burned your own trash often, daily or weekly, to reduce its volume, evaporate liquids, and kill germs. Other factors also helped to make the volume less than it is now: returnable glass bottles, milkmen, packaging made of paper and aluminum foil instead of plastic, no idiotic Designer Water. Even so, tin cans were pretty much irreducible and you did need to get rid of the mass now and then. (Sidenote: these older forms of packaging also had the advantage of using more local labor.)

When the trash reached the city dump, it was tossed into an open pit that was constantly smoldering, which reduced anything still combustible to plain carbon. Each section was plowed under when it had reached maximum compression, which enabled the soil bacteria to break it down further. What remained in the end was glass (ie silicon) plus a small residue of non-rustable metals like tin and aluminum. In other words, the earth reclaimed the minerals that had come from the earth.

After the marauding army called EPA occupied this unfortunate land, home trash-burning was first to go. Then landfills were required to take all sorts of idiotic and expensive precautions to prevent the trash from doing what trash is supposed to do. (Environmentalists cannot tolerate Nature taking care of itself!!!!!!!) So instead of being consumed by burning and microbes in the soil, the trash is now wrapped in specially made super-strong plastic and preserved forever in its original nasty and bulky condition.

This process is much more expensive, requires much more space, and requires an army of lawyers to keep up with EPA's constantly MARCHING MARCHING MARCHING STOMPING STOMPING STOMPING MURDERING MURDERING MURDERING jackboots. Thus it has become increasingly centralized.

Securitizing trash hasn't yet caught on widely, but the absurd "economy of scale" has already led to a Conoco-like shipping situation. Last year Hawaii couldn't figure out how to rewrite its own state laws to permit more material in the Honolulu landfill, or to create a new landfill anywhere in the state. Apparently there are no erasers or Delete keys in Hawaii. So they decided to ship their trash across the ocean and up the Columbia (just like the Conoco modules) to a rural landfill in central Wash that had extra space and liked the price. As with Conoco, hippie-ass envirotyrants intervened and ultimately stopped the shipment. And amazingly enough, Hawaii discovered that it could change its laws after all, could find a way to hold more garbage on the island.

I have mixed feelings in both of these situations, because I hate to see hippie-ass envirotyrants winning. Nevertheless, in these two cases the envirotyrants were accidentally on the right side by discouraging centralization!

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Later news note: Even NASA, major cathedral of the genocidal Gaian cult, understands that sometimes you just have to burn the trash! Of course NASA's version of the trash barrel costs several million dollars....


 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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