Saturday, January 03, 2009

Late Night


Saturday Night Thread (Really!)


Al Franken Decade

Looks like he's up about 225 after the count.

Why Not Him?

Finally counting uncounted Franken/Coleman votes.


Bank Medici gets eated by Austria.

Another Potential Systemic Failure

CRE's about to blow.

From apartments to shopping malls, office towers to dockyard industrial space, the commercial real estate market will be marked by rising vacancy rates and weak to no rent growth. And the choke hold on credit could push many property owners that need to refinance into foreclosure.

Nearly 40 percent of real estate investors need to refinance part of their portfolios this year, according to more than 1,100 investors surveyed in October by Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services and National Real Estate Investor magazine. The investors also expect prices to decline 15 percent on average this year.

"It's hard to be an optimist right now," said Dan Fasulo, managing director of research firm Real Capital Analytics. "We're at the point where there's another potential systemic failure that the industry is trying to avoid."

Deep Thought

Other countries' wars are much more important - and warrant much more televised coverage - than our own.


Normal sucky blogging will resume shortly.

Economists Behaving Badly

It is a puzzling thing about my former profession that after spending many years in graduate school and beyond, economists are happy to let the public face of the profession be the first 50 pages of an Econ 101 textbook. It isn't some crazy area of the profession where various forms of market failure are discussed. You can even get it in the 2nd 50 pages of a typical Econ 101 textbook!

Heckuva job!

“Most academics are really reluctant to take part in the public dialog, because the public dialog requires you to have an opinion about things you can’t really be sure about,” says Mr. Rajan. “They fear talking about things where everything is not neatly nailed in a model. They stay away and let the charlatans occupy the high ground.”

I think this is too nice. Economists do offer opinions about things you can't really be sure about, they just don't usually offer ones which deviate from an Econ 101 framework. Those things aren't "known," they're just easy.

To most people, academic economics is indistinguishable from Larry Kudlow.

Morning Thread

Wonder which city I'll end up in today?

This Thing Still On?

Travel hell.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Twelve Beers!

Athenae talks about hangovers. The best cure for a hangover, of course, is a lot of cocaine. True story!

UPDATE. Whoops! Silly me, I meant "coffee," not "cocaine." Darn typos.

Evening Thread


Evening Thread


Big Steel

As long as they're gonna help build some supertrains it's okay with me.

Prepping For The Crabocide

Karmic Rebalancing

Couldn't have happened to a bigger asshole.

The American who lost the most - $24 billion - was casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, a City College of New York dropout reputed to be worth $28 billion in March.

Ha Ha [/muntz]

Freedom’s Watch, a deep-pocketed conservative group led by two former senior White House officials, made an audacious debut in late August when it began a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush’s troop increase in Iraq.


Among the group’s founders are Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who ranks sixth on the Forbes Magazine list of the world’s billionaires; Mel Sembler, a shopping center magnate based in St. Petersburg, Fla., who served as the ambassador to Italy and Australia; John M. Templeton Jr., the conservative philanthropist from Bryn Mawr, Pa.; and Anthony H. Gioia, a former ambassador to Malta who heads an investment group based in Buffalo, N.Y. All four men are long-time prolific donors who have raised money on behalf of Republican and conservative causes.

Ponzi Ponzi Everywhere

Such fun.

Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. regulators working to untangle Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme are probing other money managers suspected of using similar tactics, two people with knowledge of the inquiries said.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is pursuing at least one case in which investors may have been cheated out of as much as $1 billion, according to one person, who declined to name the manager and asked not to be identified because the probe isn’t public.

Regulators may discover additional Ponzi arrangements as declining stock markets prompt investors to withdraw their cash and they question how their money is being managed. This week, the SEC said it halted what the agency described as a $23 million scam targeting Haitian-Americans, and said the Florida- based operators had tried as recently as last month to bring in more investors.


It appears that tomorrow will also be a travel day for me.

The Republican Village

Just echoing what Josh says, it isn't clear that the Village media-industrial complex is Republican, but it is clear that most of them think that only the opinions of Republicans really matter. Expect David Gergen to wield a sort of extra-constitutional veto over everything Obama does.


Over there.
A private group’s measure of manufacturing activity has fallen more than expected in December, hitting the lowest reading in 28 years as new orders and employment continue to decline.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said Friday that its manufacturing index fell to 32.4 in December from 36.2 in November. Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the reading to fall to 35.5.

Heckuva Job, Bushie

New records set every day.
A private group’s measure of manufacturing activity has fallen more than expected in December, hitting the lowest reading in 28 years as new orders and employment continue to decline.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said Friday that its manufacturing index fell to 32.4 in December from 36.2 in November. Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the reading to fall to 35.5.


Presents the novel argument that Republicans suck ass.

As the new Democratic majority prepares to take power, Republicans have become, as Phil Gramm might put it, a party of whiners.

Some of the whining almost defies belief. Did Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general, really say, “I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror”? Did Rush Limbaugh really suggest that the financial crisis was the result of a conspiracy, masterminded by that evil genius Chuck Schumer?

But most of the whining takes the form of claims that the Bush administration’s failure was simply a matter of bad luck — either the bad luck of President Bush himself, who just happened to have disasters happen on his watch, or the bad luck of the G.O.P., which just happened to send the wrong man to the White House.

Wal-Mart Needs Fredo

Sign the petition.

Wee Hours

Still awake?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Late Night

Travel day tomorrow, then this blog should return to its usual sucky self.

Deep Thought

This blog is extra sucky today.

Even More Thread


Afternoon Thread



It's the word that works for me.


Not surprised so many people need one, but it doesn't have to be that way.


I really think the Senate Dems are going to make themselves look ridiculous if they try to avoid seating Burris. Whatever one thinks of Blago, he's still the governor, and he hasn't even been indicted or impeached. If there's no suggestion that this specific appointment is tainted, then I really don't see what the problem is.

All stupid, really.


I'd almost respect the guy for sticking up for his principles except that, you know, he didn't.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Just hours before the unemployment benefits fund was to run out in South Carolina, the state with the nation’s third-highest jobless rate, Gov. Mark Sanford relented Wednesday and agreed to apply for a $146 million federal loan to shore it up, after weeks of refusing to do so.

The governor’s position had drawn rebukes even from fellow Republicans in the Legislature, one of whom denounced Mr. Sanford as “heartless,” and from newspaper editorial pages. On Wednesday, The State, the daily newspaper here in Columbia, accused the governor of playing “chicken with the lives of the 77,000” who are unemployed in South Carolina.

For weeks, Mr. Sanford, newly elected as head of the Republican Governors Association and known for being a fierce free-market foe of government spending, stuck to his stand, questioning the probity of the South Carolina Employment Security Commission and demanding a new audit of the agency.

But, seriously, I think any governor should see their job as taking any and every federal dollar they can get, at least any dollar without dumb strings attached.

Pecan Pie

Mark Bittman does not approve of the use of corn syrup.

Morning Thread

by Molly Ivors

Can I have my new president yet?

Happy New Year You Bastards


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Time Is it?


Another year almost over.


AP says Paterson is now thinking of a placeholder for Clinton's seat, with the permanent Clinton replacement having to run and win a competitive race in 2010. I don't care much how we get there, but I do want that primary in 2010.

Appointing her would be a nice way to reward Judith Kaye's yeowoman efforts to improve the court system in NY.

They Like Him, They Really Like Him

I really am quite fascinating by Obama's polling.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A national poll suggests that three-quarters of the public thinks President-elect Barack Obama is a strong and decisive leader, the highest marks for a president-elect on that characteristic in nearly three decades.

Seventy-six percent of Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday said Obama is a strong and decisive leader.

"That's the best number an incoming president has gotten on that dimension since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "The public's rating of his leadership skills is already as high as George W. Bush's was after 9/11 and easily beats the numbers that both Bush and Bill Clinton got at the start of their first terms in office."

Perhaps Not Quite Understanding The Concept

Or, maybe he does?
North Carolina governor Mike Easley (left) complains that newspapers -- particularly the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer -- haven't been very nice to him. "My job is to be nice to other people, and their job is to be nice to me. Just because they're not doing theirs doesn't mean I shouldn't do mine," he tells the News & Record.


And the fun continues.
MOSCOW — Negotiations over gas prices between Russia and Ukraine unraveled Wednesday and executives at Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly, said they were preparing to halt supplies early Thursday morning. If they do, customers in Western Europe will see shortages as the same pipelines in Ukraine are used for export and internal distribution. It is a problem that has bedeviled Europe’s energy supplies from Russia for years. How quickly Western Europe would feel a shortage of natural gas was unclear, and would depend on the scale and duration of any Russian embargo of Ukraine. The fuel isused for heating and to generate electricity, and winter is the period of peak demand.

Afternoon Thread

Much crab has been purchased.


Poor, poor, Abu G. Just what did he do wrong?

I'm actually not even entirely sure why I feel extra disgust for the people who rationalized evil instead of the ones who ordered and committed it.

Not Legal Tender

Obviously paying people with a bunch of IOUs they can't actually spend is going to hasten the economy's demise. But, hey, Arnie's in charge!
The bad news is that next in line to get IOUs instead of cash would be Californians awaiting state income tax refunds and companies that do business with the state. In a letter to state agencies, Chiang said his office was projecting the state would run out of cash around the beginning of March. Without a deficit-closing deal between legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chiang said, his office "has no choice but to pursue the deferral of potentially billions of dollars in payments and/or the issuance of individual registered warrants, commonly referred to as IOUs."

Malls... With Housing

I think residential/office infill in urban malls, while not my idea of urban paradise, is probably a pretty good idea (and obviously has already been done in places). This kind of infill development is unlikely to create aesthetically pleasing little urban neighborhoods, but it will provide people with both walkability and good highway access!

Wednesday Is New Jobless Day

This week, anyway. It's good news in that the news isn't quite as horrible as it has been, but it's still horrible. And continuing claims rose.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government says the number of newly laid off workers signing up for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week. However, those continuing to draw aid climbed to the highest level since 1982.

The Labor Department reports that first-time applications filed for jobless benefits dropped by 94,000 to 492,000 for the week ending Dec. 27. The decline partly reflected seasonal adjustment difficulties related to the Christmas holiday and was a greater drop than analysts expected.

More Thread

by Molly I.

Use this to discuss tonight's plans, resolutions, or hopes for next year.

And make sure to note Thers's coinage: "joie de fuck you"!

Good Morning

Special coffee at the bar.

The Place

Rock on.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Where Am I

I'm not even sure. Fresh thread.

Jar Jar is Better Than Jaw Jaw

Go vote in the Only Web-Blog Awards That Matter.

ALSO: What is the functional difference between Marty Peretz and T. Herman Zweibel?

MORE. Phila requests this video. You can see where he's coming from.


Jaw jaw is better than war war.

Afternoon Thread


Female Genital Mutilation

But Christopher Hitchens has been telling me that the Kurds are the good guys.

Free Fall

I've not exactly been Mr. Positive on the economy, but I'm starting to enter Dr. Doom territory.

Home values in 20 large metropolitan areas across the country dropped at a record pace in October as the fallout from the financial collapse reverberated through the housing market, according to data released Tuesday.

The price of single-family homes fell 18 percent in October from a year earlier, according to the closely watched Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller Housing Index. All 20 cities reported annual price declines in October; prices in 14 of the 20 metropolitan areas surveyed fell at a record rate as the financial crisis reached a critical point.


Fourteen of the 20 cities in the Case-Shiller survey posted double-digit declines for the year. The relative winner was Dallas, which had the smallest yearly decline, of 3 percent. The value of a single-family house in Detroit, which has been pummeled by closing plants and the implosion of the auto industry, was less in October than it was in October 1998.

Get a house in Detroit, cheap! Trade your 6-year-old SUV for one, maybe.

I Didn't See Him As Legitimate

But I was sad to discover that opinion was mostly limited to the denizens of "crazy" corners of the internet. Bush began office with high approval and a media united around the idea that the country must be "healed" or whatever their usual nonsense is.

New Problems

Things get interesting.

With nearly one in six homes worth less than the mortgage owed on it, according to Moody’s, divorce lawyers and financial advisers around the country say the logistics of divorce have been turned around. “We used to fight about who gets to keep the house,” said Gary Nickelson, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “Now we fight about who gets stuck with the dead cow.”

As a result, divorce has become more complicated and often more expensive, with lower prospects for money on the other side. Some divorce lawyers say that business has slowed or that clients are deciding to stay together because there are no assets left to help them start over.

(via cr)

Green Eggs and Ham

No sir. I don't like 'em.


Rock on.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Night Thread


Sourdough and SUPERTRAINS

Perfect Timing

Well, not really.

At issue are limits on the number of cotton trousers, golf shirts, babies' socks and more than 30 other textile products that China can export to the United States. The quotas expire at the end of this year, and, under a World Trade Organization agreement, the U.S. government can't reimpose restrictions on Chinese textiles.

The industry is worried that what happened in 2005, when similar safeguards were lifted temporarily, will happen again in 2009.

China flooded the U.S. market in 2005, with a more than 1,500 percent increase in cotton trousers alone. While that drove down the prices of those products for American consumers, U.S. textile companies lost about 55,000 jobs that year, more than 8 percent of the industry's work force, trade officials say.

Conservatism 2.0

So funny.

Happy Hour Thread


Dear San Francisco,

Please give us our trolley back.



Department Of Ideas Which Make No Sense

I really have no idea why some people get hooked on this idea that a mileage tax, with some sort of costly technological implementation, is a good idea. Just increase the damn gas tax. It's already roughly a mileage tax, with the added benefit that it mildly encourages people to drive more fuel efficient cars, which is a good thing from every perspective other than the quantity of gas tax revenues. But if gas tax revenues aren't high enough, just raise the rate.

Nobody Could Have Predicted

While the fact that virginity pledges and abstinence-only sex "ed" don't stop teens from having sex is unsurprising, I doubt that even proponents are particularly surprised. They aren't interested in abstinence, really, they're interested in making sure "bad girls" get punished for having sex by being subject to the appropriate consequences. So it actually works as designed.


Having knocked the Muni system map and the annoying incompatibility with BART's fare system, let me say that San Francisco's public transit system really is quite awesome. The light rail system is great, and both it and the buses/trackless trolleys run with great frequency. Good way to get around, and good way to see the city.


Without bothering to take issue with any of Robert "not the son of Paul" Samuelson's specific points, I find it pretty funny that he takes a bunch of things which he thinks that everyone, or at least everyone smart like him, believed but which are apparently wrong. But, you know, it isn't really his fault because everyone smart thought just like he did, otherwise they were idiots or dirty fucking hippies or whatever.


While I've taken the "bad idea" position, I don't really think the fate of the nation really rests on whether or not Caroline Kennedy gets Clinton's Senate seat. But reading around the internets I find that there's a small but nontrivial contingent of people who feel very strongly that she should get the seat and it's something that's very important to them. I find this to be rather weird.


I guess this how we went from NO MORE BAILOUTS to LET'S BAILOUT ALL THE RICH PEOPLE in about 24 hours.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc's (Other OTC:LEHMQ.PK - News) emergency bankruptcy filing wiped out as much as $75 billion of potential value for creditors, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing an analysis by the bank's restructuring advisers.

A more planned and orderly filing would have allowed Lehman to sell some assets outside of bankruptcy court protection and would have given it time to unwind derivatives positions, according to the analysis by Alvarez & Marsal.


On a recent morning, a 27-year-old skateboarder who goes by the name Josh Peacock peered into a swimming pool in Fresno, Calif., emptied by his own hands — and the foreclosure crisis — and flashed a smile as wide as a half-pipe. “We have more pools than we know what to do with,” said Mr. Peacock, who lives in Fresno, the Central Valley city where thousands of homes, many with pools behind them, are in foreclosure. “I can’t even keep track of them all anymore.” Across the nation, the ultimate symbol of suburban success has become one more reminder of the economic meltdown, with builders going under, pools going to seed and skaters finding a surplus of deserted pools in which to perfect their acrobatic aerials.


Clap your hands everybody, and everybody clap your hands.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Night Thread


How Strange

It seems my local sports team has, once again, fallen bass ackwards into a playoff slot.

Happy Hour Thread



Wandering around San Francisco, one of those places where no one wants to live because it's too expensive, I'm reminded yet again how absurd it is that in so many places it's illegal to build anything resembling like how much of San Francisco is laid out, which is not so different from Philadelphia really (street grid, attached 2-3 story homes). And so when people get crazy ideas about building around train stations they needed to change zoning.

HUNTERSVILLE A Charlotte developer is proposing to build a transit-oriented retail, commercial and residential development with 772 apartments and 150 townhomes beside a planned commuter rail station.

Harris Development Group's Sam Furr Station also would include 135,500 square feet of offices and 99,500 square feet of commercial and retail businesses, according to documents the developer has filed with the Huntersville Planning Department.

The 53-acre Sam Furr Station would be on N.C. 115 across from the Caldwell Station community.

Don't know the area at all, but the key will be that similar development will be allowed nearby in addition to this one project so that an urbanish area can grow somewhat organically.

Afternoon Thread


Dark Days For Dynasty Built On Debt

I'm starting to think that General Growth Properties, the source of Mrs. Tom Friedman's family fortune, might be an appropriate metaphor for everything.

Two board members of General Growth Properties Inc. marched into CEO John Bucksbaum's office to deliver a blunt message. It was time for him to resign.

An internal investigation showed that the Bucksbaum family trust had violated company policy by making private loans to two company officers and failing to inform the board....

...The stock of General Growth, which is redeveloping the demolished Cottonwood Mall in Holladay and operates five other Utah malls, has plunged more than 97 percent in the past year, dragging down the Bucksbaum family fortunes with it. The Bucksbaums' 25 percent ownership stake, worth $3.2 billion just six months ago, is now worth $116 million.

...Rather than apply for bank loans, General Growth began taking out short-term mortgages on its malls. As the mortgages came due, the company would replace them with even larger mortgages to provide cash for additional acquisitions.

The strategy picked up steam with the emergence of new debt-trading markets. In the mid-1990s, lenders started slicing up commercial mortgages and selling them to multiple investors as bonds. The boom in trading made mortgage-backed debt much cheaper and more plentiful -- as long as investors were willing to buy.

General Growth was soon at the forefront of this market. And because the company was borrowing mostly against its individual properties, lenders didn't place restrictions on its overall debt load, allowing it to accumulate more and more debt.


Losing their inventory.

A half-dozen trailers rolled up to Eckenhoff Cadillac Buick Pontiac GMC in Jenkintown bright and early and wiped the lot clean of $8.4 million in inventory - Hummers, Cadillacs and all.

"Load up, leave. Load up, leave. . . ." The funereal rhythm of repossession transfixed the sales guys next door at Hopkins Ford Lincoln Mercury, who watched through their showroom window as the devastating news descended on their neighbor.

GMAC, the beleaguered financing arm of General Motors Corp., had called the loan that had enabled Scott Eckenhoff to stock new and used vehicles. Big trailers carted away the collateral from a Big Three retailer that had been hanging on by a thread.

GMAC also cleared out Eckenhoff's used-car lot in Maple Shade, which held another batch financed by a GMAC "floor-plan" credit line.

Sunday Bobbleheads

Document the atrocities.
ABC's "This Week" — Leon Panetta, Clinton White House chief of staff; Ken Duberstein, Reagan White House chief of staff; Robert Gibbs, incoming press secretary to Barack Obama. ___

CBS' "Face the Nation" — Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn; David Axelrod, senior adviser to Obama; Paul Krugman, Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist. ___

NBC's "Meet the Press" — Axelrod.

___ CNN's "Late Edition" — A compilation of interviews from 2008 featuring New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, and CNN founder Ted Turner.

"Fox News Sunday" _ First lady Laura Bush.

Even More Thread

Enjoy even more.