Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bernanke: Why are We Still Listening to This Guy?

LOL, my favorite is when Bernanke chides the CNBC reporter for suggesting a widespread collapse in the housing market, since that had never happened before.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Could You Survive Without Money? Meet the Guy Who Does

This is a good, short article from Details about a modern-day caveman in Utah who has lived with no job (hence, no money) for nearly a decade. A few years ago, most people would think he was crazy, and there are doubtlessly many who still would. But in light of the economic collapse, his perspective sounds like a very interesting one.

Say what you will, but judging from this article, this man is a tough son of a bitch. A relative of mine, last I checked, was homeless, but held down a job, shopped at stores all the time, bought things, and he thought he was being counter-cultural. But he was nothing like this guy. It also serves as a reminder of what is to come, and our future reckoning in the form of energy shortages, our ballooning deficit, among other things, as our standard of living stands a very real chance of declining, perhaps substantially. Perhaps not to the rate of living in a cave or culling watercress, but decline it likely will. And to survive it and come out the other side, we might have to start listening to people like Daniel Suelo.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Has Economic Twilight Come to the Sun Belt?

This article is nearly two months old, but it's still a good read on the economic woes of the Sun Belt, which is usually considered to lie in the south-to-southwest region of the United States (Arizona, Nevada, Florida, etc.). A main culprit, according to the article, is that all these areas had was their prosperity during the housing bubble. When the bubble popped, so did the prosperity. There was no underlying, sustainable economy that could be built on over the long term. This article delves into that pretty well. But what is just as important, in my opinion, and what is only briefly touched on, is the area's general lack of resources. The Sun Belt has been a prime beneficary of cheap energy, as far back as post-World War II. But it's becoming more and more apparent that this is coming to an end, as I've discussed in the past, and where you can go elsewhere for information. In addition, these areas are running out of water, at the same time that the population is rising. So, in the future, there can be a lack of water, and the high cost of energy can put an end to the widespread use of air conditioners, as well as personal vehicles. Also, I'm no expert on agriculture, but this region would seem like a problematic spot to grow food. So, assuming this happens (and I'd put money on it, if I were a betting man), this relatively rough time might seem like a downright cheerful one for the Sun Belt, as it can be close to unlivable in the future.

The 2009 Emmys--No Nominations for The Shield

I'm usually not one to comment on these awards shows, but reading the nomination list for the 2009 Emmy Awards really got me steamed. FYI, I never watch awards shows, I find the nomination process very political and the festivities themselves are just a kiss-ass fest for Hollywood. But that still doesn't keep me from looking at the nominations. What really got me ticked was that my favorite show of all time, The Shield, was virtually shut out of the nominations, in its final season, no less. I believe that The Shield will be the only series in my lifetime that did not limp to the finish line in its final season. It really delivered, and went out with, what to me, was a very satisfying conclusion. Not to mention solid performances from the cast, especially Michael Chikilis, Walton Goggins (should have been a definite Best Supporting Actor nom for him), and C.C.H. Pounder. But that didn't matter. The Shield received zilch, nada, from the Academy.

Another aspect that made my eyes pop was 30 Rock getting a record 22 nominations. Now, I like 30 Rock, but 22 nominations? And in its weakest season, no less. It was too reliant on stunt casting (I found the ones with the big stars, like Oprah and Jen Aniston, were the weakest episodes) and didn't seem to spend enough time with the staff of TJS (where the show really shines, IMO).

Also, Simon Baker being nominated for Best Actor for "The Mentalist". Again, another show I like. And he does a fine job. But Best Actor? Ridculous, especially when you had Chikilis, who really acted his ass off and truly deserved it.

Seven Amazing Holes of the World

These are some beautiful pictures of several huge holes (both natural and man-made) throughout the world. The scale of the holes is breathtaking, especially the man-made ones when you take a moment and consider the manpower that must have went into making those things. For a bonus, scroll down to see, quite literally, the biggest hole in the world. It's even filled with money!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Aftereffects of a Meth Lab

This is a really screwed up story that was published in the New York Times, but hopefully this will put pressure on our public officials to do something about it. Several families that were interviewed for this article (and there are likely many more across the country) bought houses that were previously used to make methamphetamine. This has resulted in people, particularly small children, suffering from health aliments, resulting in trips to the emergency room. And what's worse, in many states, the buyer of the poisonous home is held responsible for the cost of cleaning up the home.

First off, I'm a huge fan of the show "Breaking Bad", but that aside, meth dealers and users are serious scum (at least Walter White has the decency to make meth in an RV). This is just a failure on the part of all parties (and I'm including the buyers too) to do proper due dilligence on these contaminated homes. The real estate companies selling these homes should have conducted the proper testing, especially if the home is in a rural part of the country, where meth is most prevalent. The police, being as they would be the most informed of any party as to the origins of a meth home, should have made that information available to the general public. But as one person said on the comments page, they just rolled up their crime tape and went back to the station. The homeowners, although I feel terribly for them, might have been able to do some digging and come up with the conclusion that they were moving into a toxic money pit.

But the party with the biggest responsibility is our federal and state governments. Our federal government is waiting on the Environmental Protection Agency to issue guidelines for cleanup, but the report was due last year. While over a third of states have issued legislation requiring meth contamination cleanup, nearly all of them hold the current homeowner responsible for the costs of cleaning up the property. Only Colorado allocates federal money to help innocent homeowners with the tab.

This is yet more irrefutable proof that our political system is broken and that no one in power is willing to step up and do the right thing. In the meantime, these families are facing financial ruin. A good first step would be to make any mortgage that was used to buy a dangerous, infected property, null and void. Another step would be to make the history of any home on the market more transparent, or probably better yet, just destroying any home that was used as a meth lab.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dispute Over Flag Protest Erupts in Wisc. Village

This is an article from Yahoo! regarding an Iraqi war veteran and his choice to hang the American flag upside down outside his business in Wisconsin. Town authorities proceeded to have the flag removed by police on July 4, so as not to upset the citizenry. The flag was later returned. Predictably, the ACLU has gotten involved and will probably pursue legal action.

I will spare commentary and analysis on how this case applies to the First Amendment, as this seems on its face to be a pretty clear violation of that amendment. However, I am interested as to why he started hanging his flag upside down. It stemmed from a dispute with the town over his plans to open an Italian restaurant. He invested $200,000 to covert the bulding into a restaurant, and for whatever reason, has been denied a liquor license. For most restaurants, not being able to serve alcohol is pretty much akin to a death sentence. I go to this Chinese-Japanese restaurant a couple of times a month. Good food, good prices, etc. It's also a very nice place, and the owner(s) obviously put a lot of money into the place to make it look gorgeous and a place where you would want to take people, your family or whatever. But when it first opened, it was without a liquor license, as (I believe) the prior owner(s) were cited and shut down for selling alcohol to minors. Business was pretty bad, we were usually the only ones in there, and I didn't expect the place to last long. But, lo and behold, a few months later, they got their license (I believe it was due to the road this resturant was on; this road used to be car lot city, a lot of car dealerships and now they're gone, and the town probably figured it needed all the vibrant businesses it could get), and now, business seems to be doing much better.

So, yeah, being able to serve alcohol is a necessity in this kind of business, and the man is justifiably pissed off for probably sinking most if not all of his life savings in a business that can't possibly survive. Worse, as an Iraqi veteran, the guy thought he was fighting for freedom, but has to contend with a Soviet-style bureaucracy in order to get permission to sell liquor. If I were him, I would probably hang a flag in distress too.

One other thing: The village president, John Deschane, had something to say, and quotes like this always make me laugh: "If he wants to protest, let him protest but find a different way to do it." What is a socially acceptable way to protest? More important, hanging a flag upside down is a pretty drastic step. Surely, the man must have exhausted all other sensible options before getting to the point where he was frustrated enough to do this. Mr. Deschane, as another veteran, should show a little empathy to this man and get his head out of his ass.

Marijuana the Key to Solving California's Economic Woes?

A television ad was released in California this week, calling for the legalization of weed in order to make it a taxable good and use it to help lift California out of its worsening budget crisis. I think it will take a little more than that, but it is probably a step in the right direction. According to the sponsor of the commercial, legalizing and taxing marijuana can help save the jobs of 20,000 teachers. There are several hurdles to this, including our national aversion to any legalization of marijuana, not to mention that marijuana is much easier to grow than, say, beer, which is legal and probably more dangerous to use than marijuana (when you consider the liver disease that comes with regular drinking and the many people who drive their vehicles intoxicated). But I'm digressing. I'm not a pothead (never touched the stuff), but government-manufactured marijuana is probably much more potent than that grown in your friend's closet. I know, I've seen Pineapple Express.

BTW, since we're on the topic, I'm also posting a video from Real Time with Bill Maher that features a town hall meeting with President Obama, in which he dismisses an online suggestion that marijuana be legalized. I meant to post this months ago, but it infuriated me, in that he didn't give a clear rationalization for his position. I expect this from McCain and most of the other Washington politicians, but this was the "hope and change" guy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

High Unemployment Leads to Fewer Road Deaths

This is from an Australian newspaper. According to a European study, high unemployment leads to higher rates of homicide, suicide, and health-related problems (which falls into the "well, duh" spectrum), but it also leads to lower rates of road-related deaths (such as car accidents, people getting ran over by vehicles, etc.), since there are less people using their cars. As I am the Unruly Pedestrian, I regularly walk to the bus stop (these days, to go to the gym and the library, usually) and have to walk on the side of roads that are heavy with vehicle traffic. During the course of my walks, I usually come across the rotting corpses of dead animals, and run a slight risk of getting run down myself, since our national system of suburban development is not people friendly. So, in the interests of self-preservation, and also being an animal lover, I support higher levels of unemployment if it means having a lower probability of staying alive on my way to the bus stop. And if I get to stay employed, of course, so much the better.

RSS Feed

I am really trying to make the blog more user-friendly and open-ended, making it accessible to as many people as humanly possible. Something that's quite popular on many websites is something known as an RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) feed. It's a website format that publishes and updates preferred websites in a standardized format, and readers subscribe to particular feeds. Admittedly, this is above my head, as I've always had a mental list of websites I visit regularly. But again, in the name of opening my blog up to a wider audience. But I'm finding it difficult with Blogger. For now, if you want an RSS feed to my blog, type this in: I will provide a permanent link, and will also try to make it more sophiscated, as soon as I can.

Gary: Landlord of the Flies

I found this very funny blog about a man's experiences with his whacked-out, drunk landlord. The posts are in reverse order, so to start from the beginning, scroll down to the bottom and click on "Next Page". As of this post, the blog is only 3 pages long, so it'll take you 15 minutes or so to read through everything. But those 15 minutes will be very entertaining. Warning, the posts are very vulgar, compilments of Gary, The Landlord of the Flies.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Foreclosure a problem for celebrities too

You think that you're alone in your underwater mortgage? Several multimillionaire celebrities, such as the late Michael Jackson and Jose Canseco, have had trouble keeping their homes, and have either been forced to sell, refinance, or, in Canseco's case, walk away. While it can be assumed, perhaps correctly, that celebs simply got accustomed to their high-flying lifestyle and wanted to keep maintaining it even after it became apparent that they no longer could, their woes are simply a metaphor for the many other people who are having trouble making their mortgage payment or have already lost their homes. We all thought that home prices would keep going up, and that we would be able to either flip our houses for more than what we paid, or use them to draw equity so we could buy SUVs and flat-screen televisions. We were stupid and are now paying the price. People tend to say that these are "crazy times" in the real estate market, and the broader economy. But I tend to think that these are normal times (other than the government meddling in the housing market) and that the "crazy times" occurred in the post 9/11 period to 2007, when this housing bubble finally burst.

I find a silver lining in this, shall I say, economic readjustment. No one needs 17 rooms, 3 or more bathrooms, a television in every room, 5 all-new vehicles in the driveway or in front of the house...and I'm just talking about the middle-class, everyday people. Living simply and within your means is the key to happiness.

BTW, Lenny Dykstra is mentioned in this article. If you have HBO, you should really try to catch this month's edition of Real Sports. It has a feature on Dykstra and his recent history; not too long ago, he was considered a financial genius, and accumulated a fortune in the amount of (if I remember correctly) $50 million. After a series of bad investments (notably a magazine for pro athletes, The Player's Club), Dykstra is now facing foreclosure on his mansion, which he purchased off Wayne Gretzky. If you don't have HBO, this is a really good article that sums up his saga in great detail.