Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Bloomberg's going to blow through the term limits and be mayor again. This is good news, as I don't imagine his successor would be competent to understand our economic situation, much less navigate through it.
I'm not in general a fan of handing power to the wealthiest possible person and letting him or her do as they want, but it really seems to have worked out for us so far. And this explains Bloomberg's ultimate disinterest in being President. Mayor of New York just seems to be a better job.
I just want to point out, that this was the folly of failing to do what the American people elected the Democrats to do in 2006, which was to eject President Bush.
The Pelosi/Reid cabal wanted to use their political capital on failing at other initiatives, as if it didn't matter who was in the Oval Office. Reasonable observers, by which I mean me, have rejected that as bunk right along.
It turned out that we did need somebody in charge. Who knew?
Monday, September 29, 2008
If you are in the last five cars you will not be getting off at South Ferry.
This pisses me off. I'm frequently on trains that have instructions like this -- the last two cars don't open at such-and-so or what-have-you. So, the natural follow-up question is, "What car am I in?" Have you been in a train in the US that you knew which car you were in? How about from the other end? All you can do is sort of hope it works out.
"The last five cars" is particularly egregious. You'd probably know if you were in the last car, as you would note a lack of following car. You might even have noticed you were in the second-to-last car when you got on. But, the fifth to last car? And the workers blame you.
Shoulda listened to directions.
Now, this is true in any system that serves the public but hides necessary information. They always have a lot of upset people, but the workers can't fix the information flow and don't want to feel they're participating in an unfair system, so they blame the user. It's human nature."Shoud've know you can only get down from the roof before dark!"
But, the fact that we put up with the crappy MTA information flows blows my mind. Where's the famous New York demand to be adequately served?
How many storms have been named North of Cape Hatteras? Or even in the subtropics? The discussion says she's just getting tropical characteristics now. The wind speed probabilities give her a two-in-five chance of being a hurricane tomorrow, and a one-in-five chance of being one on Saturday. When she hits Ireland.
I'll bet they're not expecting that.
Update: I searched the Belfast Telegraph for Laura. Apparently, there was a model of that name mugged in July. When was the last time a hurricane hit Ireland?
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
I was just watching Jack Cafferty at CNN frame a Sarah Palin answer to a Katie Couric question. The question was, "couldn't $700 Billions dollars be spent better," and the answer was "shore up our economy." I think. Watch it and try to paraphrase it yourself.
Now, I know this got a lot of play when Palin was first selected. But, it seems more relevant every time she does an interview.
It it weren't for Miss Teen South Carolina 2007, we wouldn't have an easy metaphor for the Alaska Governor.
I'm really feeling like I should get on developing that mountain redoubt.
[I]t remains unclear how much industrialized countries will be able to reduce their carbon output in the years to come, regardless of whether developing nations seek to restrain their greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government predicts U.S. fossil fuel consumption will increase. Japan, Canada and several other countries that committed to reducing their carbon emissions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol have fallen far behind in meeting their targets.
Moreover, new scientific research suggests the globe is already destined for a greater worldwide temperature rise than predicted. Last month, two scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UC San Diego published research showing that even if humans stopped generating greenhouse gases immediately, the world's average temperature would "most likely" increase by 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.
[T]he worldwide emissions growth is beyond the highest growth in fossil fuel predicted just two years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Benjamin Santer, an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
[W]e would be exceedingly lucky "for it just to be bad, as opposed to catastrophic," said Stanford University climate scientist Stephen H. Schneider.
And decreasing economic output doesn't seem to help.
Emissions in the U.S. rose nearly 2% in 2007, after declining the previous year. The U.S. produced 1.75 billion tons of carbon.
Gregg Marland, a senior staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, said he was surprised at the results because he thought world emissions would drop because of the economic downturn. That didn't happen.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I could have warned the National Hurricane Center that putting a cartoon character's name -- in this case Kyle from 'South Park' -- on the Hurricane name list almost guaranteed it would be a bad one. And Kyle's got a 5% chance of hitting New York City with Tropical Storm force winds some time in the next five days.
With the bailout failing, the Pakistan responding military to our incursions from Afghanistan, WaMu failing into JPMorgan, GE cutting its profit outlook by 3.5 billion dollars, and presidential candidate John McCain trying actually to leave the race, things can start seeming a little shaky. But, cherish these days of global chaos! They're so much more distant and abstract than days of local chaos.
The Senate Tuesday voted to extend $17 billion in tax credits for wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric, and geothermal power, easing fears that the fledgling alternative energy industry would find itself unable to compete with fossil fuels.
The tax credit, which was added to the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act, would extend residential and business tax breaks for solar energy for eight years, wind energy for one year, and other renewable sources, such as tidal and geothermal projects for two years. The bill also includes a tax credit of up to $7,500 for plug-in electric cars. The Senate approved the bill 93-2.
The House passed a version of the bill in May.
Nice. I was induced to read the article by the 'eats shoots leaves' headline, 'Senate passes tax breaks renewable energy,' which is missing something, probably the preposition 'for.' Initially I thought they'd passed a tax which would break renewable energy; this didn't sound like a good idea.
There was lots more on the Christian Science Monitor's Bright Green Blog. For example, New York is number 5 on the sustainable cities list. Not too shabby, as there are a lot of cities.
On the main site, there's the Moringa tree, which I'm all hot to try. I'm going to put this on the list with purslane.
The point, I guess, is that I should subscribe to the Monitor again.
FreedomWorks has an online petition to stop the bailout. Online petitions are fun!
The president turned himself into an economics professor for much of the address, tracing the origins of the problem back a decade.Even the AP's getting feisty.
But while generally acknowledging risky and poorly thought-out financial decisions at many levels of society, Bush never assigned blame to any specific entity, such as his administration, the quasi-independent mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the Wall Street firms that built rising profits on increasingly speculative mortgage-backed securities. Instead, he spoke in terms of investment banks that "found themselves saddled with" the toxic assets the government is now proposing to buy and banks that "found themselves" with questionable balance sheets.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
there's no link.
I saw the Met Opera Opening Gala in HD on Monday. The wandering correspondents were all opera singers, divas, as they were female headliners. One of them came upon a fellow who was slumming it on Broadway, getting washed out of somebody's hair. He shared with his interlocutor that he was doing eight shows a week generally, and nine shows that week, as there was some charity event.
She and the next lady were a little bemused by the idea of doing that many shows. They found it a little difficult to compass. And it underscores how singable musical theater is compared to opera. And, it's easy to sing because you have to do it all the time.
But, movie musicals don't have that restriction. I'm suggesting that you can have both complex scenes with multiple locations and interesting music in a movie musical, given its special advantages. Of course, some one would want to stage it, and you couldn't have, say, Rick Moranis in a starring role.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Sent in by a reader...
"The economy is in chaos, we're in an unofficial recession and Americans are worried, from the homeless to the middle class, about their future," [Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the Washington DC-based National Coalition for the Homeless said.]
Homeless groups and government agencies from Seattle, in Washington state, to Athens in Georgia, report the most visible increase in homeless encampments in a generation.
"What you're seeing is encampments that I haven't seen since the '80s," said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, an umbrella group of homeless groups in west coast cities.
Friday, September 19, 2008
[Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson] plans to work with Congress over the weekend to get legislation in place next week, he said, calling for "prompt, bipartisan action." The program must be big enough to have "maximum impact," while protecting taxpayers, said Mr. Paulson.
Well, as long as protecting us is a main goal, front and center, we can probably trust Secretary Paulson. He did come out of an investment bank, but he's a trustworthy government regulator now. I'm packed with trustiness.
"The ultimate taxpayer protection will be the stability this troubled asset relief program provides to our financial system, even as it will involve a significant investment of taxpayer dollars," he said.
What‽ He's going to protect us, but not by not giving hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to clearly irresponsible bankers. He's going to protect us by using the projected wealth of this country's future to shore up their bankrupt business plans!
There isn't that much money! Who knew the Federal Government would default during my lifetime? I guess, really, that this mean Communist China will have control of this area by the time we start encountering tsunamis and famine. And, frankly, we'd probably be better off under a totalitarian government during that time -- I'm not sure Democracy works in a crisis. But, be ready to fight for freedom once the climate's settle in a new mode.
Update: Robert Reich checks in:
What to do? Not to socialize capitalism with bailouts and subsidies that put taxpayers at risk. If what's lacking is trust rather than capital, the most important steps policymakers can take are to rebuild trust. And the best way to rebuild trust is through regulations that require financial players to stand behind their promises and tell the truth, along with strict oversight to make sure they do.
We tell poor nations they have to make their financial markets transparent before capital will flow to them. Now it's our turn. Lacking adequate regulation or oversight, our financial markets have become a snare and a delusion. Government only has two choices now: Either continue to bail them out, or regulate them in order to keep them honest. I vote for the latter.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
So, with stock markets around the world crashing, and foreigners and sovereign wealth funds deeply regretting buying into American institutions, do you still think that foreigners are going to continue to prop up Manhattan real estate?
Just pointing out that I posted on Dow 10,000 last November. I also wanted to clarify that although the comments section made GE look like a good bet, I didn't recommend them -- I did know about GEAC (which exposes GE to the housing market and mortgage backed securities) even then. I'd interviewed there!
It's a little odd that #1's needed, right? This has always bothered me about Ford's pardon of Nixon -- we should have convicted him first! This shouldn't require a constitutional amendment. This should just require somebody challenging a preemptive pardon, and the Supreme Court saying, "yeah, that's nonsense." Article II, Section 2, if you've forgotten, reads
Glenn Greenwald: My guest today is Congressman Jerry Nadler, the Democrat from New York....
Jerrold Nadler: I am drafting now a constitutional amendment... to limit the president's pardon power.
[A] president, number one can't pardon anybody except for a crime of they were already convicted.... The pardon is supposed to be tempered justice with mercy - get the justice first....
Number two, I would say you can't pardon anybody in your own administration, for anything connected with an action of that administration....
Number three, which I'm thinking of, but I'm not sure I want to do yet, is that no president can issue a pardon in the last six months of his administration.
The President shall... have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
Backing a constitutional amendment here is an admission of a process failure. I always think it's harder yet better to fix the process itself. The judicial branch should be asked to clarify that blanket pardons are part of our country's more innocent youth. Not that I'm anti-amendment -- it'd be exciting to have one! The age of majority was set when I was three, and the only other one to pass in my lifetime I didn't even remember.Seriously, what's the 27th Amendment to the United States? Oh, yeah? So, smart guy, when was it proposed (Hint: the anniversary is in one week. The 219th)?
Number Two... well, I'm not convinced. The thing is, that 'the administration' is so broad. Without some effort to reduce the number of political appointees -- In 2005, it was 2786 -- you're creating a pretty large class of unpardonable people.
Say I'm a presidential appointee, and I become aware through my position that we're going to gas a village in some country we're occupying. Yes, I know we're totally incapable of committing war crimes, but hear me out. I call the foreigners and tell them to evacuate the village before we kill everyone. I've committed treason in time of war, and it'd probably be pretty hard to hide and I would obviously be guilty. I would then be sentenced to death. It'd be nice to know the president could pardon me.
Number Three... So, Dubya is having a tough last six months. He doesn't seem to get heard a lot. If he'd pardoned a large group of malefactors on July 21st, would we think any less of him?
The point here is that Representative Nadler, bless his heart, is trying to tie the hands of overtly criminal presidential administrations. But, the pardon power is potent and necessary. I like the pardon power. I would really, really rather the focus was on strengthening, or rather reforming, the organs of impeachment, so that if we have another overtly criminal presidency we can deal with it appropriately. And I prefer 'reforming' to 'strengthening' because Bill Clinton should not have been impeached -- his crimes and misdemeanors simply weren't high.
I kind of have to say, if Patrick Leahy is not entirely satisfied with the explanation that a sorority-obsessed government bioweapons researcher tried to kill him before his (the researcher's*) suicide, I'm not.
Sen. Leahy did not say why he believed Dr. Ivins had help and he also cast doubt that the Army scientist was the attacker in the first place.
"If he is the one who sent the letter, I do not believe in any way, shape or manner that he is the only person involved in this attack on Congress and the American people. I do not believe that at all," Sen. Leahy said.
He added: "I believe there are others involved, either as accessories before or accessories after the fact. I believe that there are others out there, I believe there are others who could be charged with murder. I just want you to know how I feel about it, as one of the people who was aimed at in the attack."
* -- Really, parenthetically clarifying the referent of a pronoun seems so David Foster Wallace. As does this footnote. And that stand-alone dependent clause. It seems like everything makes me cry these days, suggesting I'm in the fourth stage of the Kubla-Ross Anger/Denial/Bargaining/Depression/Acceptance stages of grief. Although I don't recall any bargaining per se, possibly because denial was so hard to muster in light of the short story "Good Ol' Neon" in "Oblivion", where DFW muses at length about phoniness and lack of self regard and suicide as the most accessible way to deal with the previous phoniness and lack of self regard issues.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
New York developer Mario Procida is also concerned; he's about to open a luxury condominium building overlooking Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza -- charging an average price of $1.9 million for units. "There has to be kickback in the marketplace across the board," he said.Yes. A kickback. I don't think that word means what he thinks it means, but his meaning's clear. I know I've been telling you to sell for a while now. I think around March, Manhattan home owners will have taken a big enough hit that I'll stop saying that. I was a little demoralized when the banks pushed their fake profits all last year to prop up local real estate, but I'm guessing that's over, and we can refocus on the plan.
Well, I thought the direct tax blow was a little worse. But, still. Bankers and "management consultants" buy the luxury goods and go to the goofy bars. Bankers pay the rent for "actresses." And now I wonder how many "professions" I'm going to end up putting in quotes.
Even before the weekend, the financial-services industry had shed more than 11,000 jobs in New York and 20,000 in London. Lehman has about 25,000 employees, a majority of them in London and New York. Thousands more positions are expected to be cut through the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America Corp.
Jobs in financial services tend to be more important for the overall economy. About 5% of New York City's jobs are in financial services, but they account for about a quarter of wages, some $60 billion in 2006, according to the New York Office of the State Comptroller. That same year, personal and corporate taxes paid by the securities industry accounted for about 10% of the city's tax revenue.
The finance industry, much like the automotive industry, still may have more jobs than the economy can support. "Just how many investment bankers does the economy need?" said Thomas Philippon, a finance professor at New York University.That's a great question. And the answer's not none. I'd say about a hundred. One in every ten thousand investment bankers are probably necessary to our economy.
Still, stocks of companies that own Manhattan real estate were hammered. Merrill's biggest landlord in New York, Brookfield Properties Corp., saw its stock plummet 18% to $17.40 Monday as of 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
Friday, September 12, 2008
“It’s a very exciting moment,” said Shay Salomon, a green builder in Tucson, Ariz., and the author of “Little House on a Small Planet” (Lyons Press, 2006), “because it feels like a chapter of American history might be ending, the chapter called ‘Bigger is Better.’ I’m not the Gallup poll, but I hear the same story over and over: We got rid of that big house, and now I have time to see my husband. Before, we used to work all week and then we’d spend the weekend on the house.”I started titling this blog "little house on the" and then I was searching for something that recalled 'prarie' but was accurate to complete the reference. Then I realized the picture captioner from the New York Times had done the exact same thing, calling it "little house on the freeway." Shame on you, New York Times! You have to leave the easy references to us armchair commentors! Coming up with clever captions is your full time job!
I had a friend who bought a little house, a 'bungalow', in Ballard in the early 90s. It seemed a little nutty, but of course I was convinced that what everyone else saw as appreciation and free money was in fact a real estate bubble. Uh, time will tell -- Seattle certainly hasn't relaxed to 1993 prices yet. It was only big enough for him -- a bedroom, a kitchen, a dining room. I believe he had a crawlspace as well.
But, I would totally buy a house like that if I were to start a family. It would have to have a second bedroom, to stack the children in, but I'm really befuddled by the size of the houses people I know live in. Don't they know that if you can't use up all the space you have at home, you'll never participate in civic life?
Gregory Paul Johnson, a founder of the Small House Society in Iowa City, said that the notion of very small houses becoming popular was “an absurdity” five years ago. “But there are so many powerful forces at work right now,” he added, “like rising energy costs and the mortgage crisis. I think people want small homes because they cost less to purchase, maintain, heat.”OK. I think I'm going to start doing this with everything I spend over $100 on. Tow it around the area and give tours. There are a lot of details to work out, but that's the plan now.
In July, Mr. Johnson, who lives in a 140-square-foot house made by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company of Sebastopol, Calif., took to the road to promote his vision of living small, along with Jay Shafer, Tumbleweed’s founder. The two men drove from Victoria, British Columbia, to San Diego, pulling Mr. Shafer’s house behind them on a trailer. (Tiny houses, which rarely have foundations, are often built on trailers.)
Along the way they stopped to hold workshops and give (very brief) home tours. Some events drew hundreds of people. “It seems like everybody is fascinated by the idea of living in a tiny house,” said Mr. Shafer, who started Tumbleweed eight years ago. “But for a long time, I was just selling the dream.”
“I’ll have a sense of where the balance is,” he added — a sense that he hopes will help his family decide on a reasonable goal for downsizing, something he is eager to do soon. “We bought this house, I think, for prestige,” he said, sounding chastened.Oh, did you see that coming? That's right, I'm talking about the housing bubble. Buyer's remorse is maybe too modest a phrase for the real estate hangover from the NEWCAG years. So, these huge houses will be foreclosed on, and eventually destroyed. They're just going to go away. I'm looking forward to a brighter future.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
OK. I'm going to try to mention this without getting sucked into campaign ephemera.
"There's a gigantic - gigantic - difference between John McCain and Barack Obama, and between me and I suspect my vice presidential opponent. And that is that - "Does this remind you of Senator Biden's remarks to the Observer in January of last year?
The crowd laughed.
"Well there's obvious differences," Biden said, beginning to ham it up. "She's good looking," he said, laughing.
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”Apparently, Joe Biden is a lookist.
So, these foreign countries were weighted toward ones with serious problems of their own. BWX is now 0.13 % below it's open last October. And, of course, Lehman is on the verge of collapse.
With its massive losses on troubled real-estate securities, the 158-year-old Wall Street firm has been subject to persistent rumors about its solvency, which it says are false. Mr. Fuld has presided over a stock decline of nearly 90% this year... [T]he rolling financial crisis [has] claim[ed] other big players -- Bear Stearns Cos., which was bailed out in March, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac....I don't imagine the ETF will do very well if its sponsor pulls out -- I'll just be another creditor suffering through receivership.
But, there's hope. Not for Lehman, for me.
Last week, the central banks of Russia and South Korea again charged into the markets to shore up their currencies by selling billions of dollars from their stockpiles of reserves.Maybe I'm too sentimental to be an investor. Or too attached to being right. In any case, banks fail on Fridays, so I have a couple of days to act. Maybe the Everbank Debt Free Index CD?
Other governments in developing countries, including Thailand, India and Pakistan, have also intervened to bolster their currencies in recent months.
The sums involved are large. Russia spent about $14 billion in August alone, the largest such drawdown in its reserves in at least a decade, as foreign investors fled following the conflict with Georgia. South Korea has spent more than $21 billion -- or roughly 8% -- of its reserves in the past five months to assist the ailing won.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Bush Interior Department's Minerals Management Service: a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity
As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.
Doood! Even if blanket pardons make the Bush appointees unprosecutable, we should investigate them anyway just for the lurid details.
I have a Google Alert on my name, and it often dredges up old stuff. So, I was looking at some old bulletin board postings of mine and came upon the list of communities by how non-car-dependent they were. As far as car free households in the US, only eight communities top 50 %. Hooper Bay City, Alaska tops the list at 95.67 % (it does have roads), but it only has 1000 people. New York City is Fifth -- Second, Third and Fourth are nearby Hasidic communities. For some reason, Atlantic City squeaks by at 50.28 %, but New York City is the only other community with more than 40,000 people of which more than half the households don't have cars.
And, not to go out on a limb here, but I suspect the cars are overwhelmingly in the boros. So, I really live in a community with fewer cars than the norm. Not that I have anything to say about it, I'm just trying to keep it in mind.
If we just look at cities with populations over a quarter million, Seattle's 25th. This might not sound so bad, but LA's 24th. Compared to Boston (8th -- America's Walking City) and Manhattan, it was much tougher to get by without a car in Seattle.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Wow. I guess the Objectivists have won. America couldn't survive their agent Alan Greenspan. You've heard that
the government now has control over the companies that fund around two-thirds of all new home mortgages. Or, as the LAT succinctly summarizes: "Washington's move means the federal government will directly back the great majority of the nation's home mortgages."
But, really, this is the line that got me.
But, on the upside, if the companies return to profitability, the government would be first in line to get its money back.Yes. The government can break even if it engages massive inflationary policies now.
Sounds like Iraq update:
The NYT emphasizes that when Congress awarded Paulson the power to bail out the mortgage giants if necessary, he never intended to use it. "But he quickly learned that getting those powers made their execution inevitable," says the NYT.
So, I've captured a part of Salon.com's wire feed (Glenn Greenwald from Saturday was great, by the way) and reproduced it below.
- Powerful Hurricane Ike may slam Florida Keys
- Russia to send naval squadron, planes to Venezuela
- Report: US should stop bombing Afghan villages
- US government takes on big role in mortgage market
Here's a bit from the story.
The U.S. and NATO militaries must stop carrying out airstrikes in densely populated Afghan villages unless intelligence is highly reliable, Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday that also urged military leaders to accept responsibility for civilian casualties as soon as possible.
Afghan and Western officials say Afghanistan's intelligence agency and the U.N. both have video of the aftermath of the airstrikes on Azizabad village showing dozens of dead women and children.
An Afghan government commission has said 90 civilians, including 60 children and 15 women, died, a finding that the U.N. backed in its own initial report.
In the report released Monday, New York-based Human Rights Watch said that at least 540 Afghan civilians have died in insurgency-related violence this year, including at least 367 killed by insurgents. The group said it used the most conservative estimates of civilian deaths and excluded the Azizabad incident.
An Associated Press tally of civilian deaths this year found that international forces have killed 160 civilians, while insurgent attacks have killed 540. That tally also excludes Azizabad.
Human Rights Watch said its investigation found that civilian casualties rarely occur during planned operations and airstrikes on Taliban targets, but that high numbers of civilian deaths happened in retaliatory strikes after troops were attacked.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
So, I used to subscribe to the New York Sun. They'd bring it by my apartment every morning. They'd also leave copies at all of my neighbors doors, a fact which did not amuse them. I canceled my subscription, and the papers stopped.
I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal comes faithfully to my stoop every day. But, so do three copies of the Sun. The Journal and the Sun both refuse to do anything about this. My only option has been to call the Sun three times, misrepresent myself as the mythical addressee on the paper, and ask that the subscription be stopped. I haven't done it, because I think members of Hewlett Packard's board went to jail for something similar.
But, now, the drama is coming to a close. The Good Lord, as he always will, is smiting my enemy.
The New York Sun will shut down at the end of September unless it can find new investors to pump millions of dollars into it, the newspaper announced on Wednesday.Shouldn't have screwed with me. Just saying.