The economy is abjectly terrible, right? It's so bad that nowadays, a picture is only worth 200 words. On the other hand, the recession is over in Germany and France, and in the United States, the unemployment rate dropped just a smidgen last month. [more inside]
"It's a different way of thinking about 'local' that's not quite as literal," says a consumer research consultant in an article running this week in alternative newspapers nationwide. The piece (by Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance) describes the response of global and national companies to the reality that consumers are moving more of their dollars into purchasing at locally owned businesses, representing both a threat, and an opportunity for companies that can successfully rebrand themselves as 'local'. As with greenwashing before it, 'localwashing' seeks to lure customers based on perception of values alone, resulting in such phenomena as Frito-Lay highlighting farmers from 27 states as the "local" growers for its potato chips and Hellman's Mayonnaise piloting a campaign in Canada to present its product as 'local' because most of the ingredients are from North America.
For a time the Internet's own poster-child for irrational exuberance and underwater mortgages, Casey Serin (previously discussed on Metafilter), the blogger behind iaminforeclosure.com and millionairebychristmas.com, is interviewed by WalletPop about his future plans... which include living in a van and panning for gold. The real-estate market in the US continues to present post-apocalyptic stories.
How green was my valley: California's economic meltdown The fields of wheat, cotton and cantaloupe that sustained his family for three generations are gone. The land is a mess of fallow fields, cracked earth and swirling dust. (PDF - By some estimates, 12.8% of the United States' agricultural production (as measured by dollar value) comes from California, and the majority of that is in the Central Valley). However, his particular scene of devastation, Mr. Allen argues, has nothing to do with the credit crisis, the housing crash or the downturn that has California in a vice grip. It has to do with a seven-centimetre-long, semi-translucent, steel blue fish known as the Delta smelt. [more inside]
Paul Solman examines how the number of jobless people who fall outside of official unemployment counts (video) offer a different picture of the nation's economic recovery. Transcript here. [more inside]
The Death of Macho - "The axis of global conflict in this century will not be warring ideologies, or competing geopolitics, or clashing civilizations. It won’t be race or ethnicity. It will be gender. We have no precedent for a world after the death of macho. But we can expect the transition to be wrenching, uneven, and possibly very violent."
Canning makes a comeback. Is it just another foodie trend? Or is canning back for good? [more inside]
Douglas Rushkoff was mugged on Christmas Eve. After posting about the incident on a neighborhood message board, the response was not concern about crime or his safety but about the negative effect this might have on property values. Rushkoff writes in a new book (and discusses on BloggingHeads) the corporatization of our culture and the need to deal in currencies which are local and carry innate value. Previously.
The Austin Lounge Lizards are Too Big To Fail. (SLYT)
Susan is currently looking for work. But in this case, instead of asking someone to hire her, Susan is looking to hire a boss. If you're a boss interested in this opportunity, you can apply here.
Ecocomics: Where Graphic Art Meets Dismal Science. With such entries as "Superman, New Krypton, and Labor Unions" and "The Construction Industry in Comics."
Standard & Poor’s changed the UK's credit outlook from stable to negative a few days ago, and warned that there is a chance the UK could lose its AAA rating. Meanwhile, Moodys, another of the big 3 rating agencies, has warned that the US might also eventually lose its AAA rating. The UK announcement caused sterling to drop by 1% and the FTSE by 2%. However, many blame the same rating agencies for their part in triggering the subprime crisis. The irony of this is not lost on the Wall Street Journal, who note that "After all, those governments are jacking up spending, in part, to bail out the financial firms who gobbled up those 'AAA' asset backed securities duly blessed by the credit ratings firms." [more inside]
NRW 1946—2006. Short articles chronicling North Rhine-Westphalia. The site has one rather large shortcoming though, the video clips cannot be accessed (only available on VHS within the State!).
[E]ven if you are unemployed you still receive a base amount of [vacation money] from the government, the reasoning being that if you can’t go on vacation, you’ll get depressed and despondent and you’ll never get a job.After a year and a half of living in the Netherlands, American writer Russell Shorto compares the Dutch "welfare state" to the tax, health care and social security systems of the United States.
But does the cartoon image of [the Dutch system] — encapsulated in the dread slur "socialism," which is being lobbed in American political circles like a bomb — match reality? Is there, maybe, a significant upside that is worth exploring? [...] I think it’s worth pondering how the best bits might fit.
Unemployment: good for the heart and the soul. "In studies over the past 10 years, Ruhm has consistently found death rates decline during recessions and rise when the economy expands. If unemployment rises 1 percent, he estimates the death rate will fall by about half a percent."
The Cartography of Recession. Act I, The Collapse: Slate's interactive map of vanishing jobs by county, The Fed's maps of subprime mortgages, USA Today's housing bubble maps, Gini coefficients by state, budget deficits and foreclosures from CNN. Act II, Intervention: The data of Stimuluswatch, mapped, and expected job gains by state, while newspapers and the auto industry die. Act III, the Future: A terrific interactive map from the Atlantic (and accompanying article) hints at the future, showing the evolving patterns of population flows (also see the amazing New York Times immigration map), innovation, and income by city over time.
[MLYT] Peter Schiff gives a talk to the Western Regional Mortgage Bankers Association, describing exactly the ongoing economic meltdown. (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). The catch? The talk was given in 2006. Listening to his bullish counterpart in parts 6-8 is a real scream. [more inside]
Is Silicon Valley a systemic risk? Treasury decides to treat venture capitalists like hedge funds The Obama administration wants to regulate venture capital firms to prevent systemic risks. Silicon Valley residents are scratching their heads and asking: What risks? The rest of us should ask why Washington is targeting a jewel of the American economy that had nothing to do with the housing bubble.
Look around you. On the train platform, at the bus stop, in the car pool lane: these days someone there is probably faking it, maintaining a job routine without having a job to go to.
"The Lighter Side of Pain: What’s Up with Our Global Economy" with P.J. O'Rourke. The keynote talk at the annual Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar at Washington & Lee University. Prefaced by some rambling remarks by Tom Wolfe '51 himself.
Although the government has committed almost 3 trillion dollars to rescuing the financial sector, testimony today revealed that 6 months after the start of TARP, basic oversight of the program is lacking (more here and here), including the failure to account for almost 80 billion dollars. Meanwhile, Congress wants to know more about the court-appointed AIG monitor, while Neal Wolin, who helped draft Gramm-Leach-Bliley, has replaced a former hedge fund manager to run TARP--raising more questions about who is overseeing the plans, and about how they are being administered.
In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets) says Simon Johnson, a professor of entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, in the next issue of The Atlantic. He was previously Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department at the IMF from March 2007-August 2008. [more inside]
Dear FileFront User: We regret to inform you that due to the current economic conditions we are forced to indefinitely suspend the FileFront site operations on March 30, 2009. If you have uploaded files, images or posted blogs, or if you would like to download some of your favorite files, please take this opportunity to download them before March 30th when the site will be suspended. We would like to give a warm thank you to all of you who have been part of the FileFront communities we have built together. Your support has had a meaningful impact for all of us here at FileFront. Again, we want to give you a sincere “thank you” for your support over the years and wish you all the very best. Keep gaming alive, FileFront Management and Team.
Twilight Of The Autocrats: Will the global economic downturn usher in a new era of democracy, or will things only get worse? [first link via]
Matt Taibbifilter: Among other things, the GAO report noted that the entire OTS had only one insurance specialist on staff — and this despite the fact that it was the primary regulator for the world's largest insurer! This week's MeFi stories have generally failed to explain the reasoning that caused the recession, even though Jon Stewart was basically on the mark. Now, Rolling Stone's only reporter lays it all out The Big Takeover, a typical combination of zealous snark and the overlooked, damning facts needed to clear up a ridiculously complicated story.
Which way are the winds blowing in the world today? From New Calvinism to Ecological Intelligence, here are 10 ideas that are changing the world right now.
LET IT DIE: Douglas Rushkoff on the Economy.
"I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a f*ckin game." (parts 1 2 3) After trading blows over the last couple weeks, CNBC's Mad Money host Jim Cramer appeared opposite Jon Stewart as a guest on The Daily Show. While Cramer worked to keep his poise during the awkward exchange, the evisceration may call to mind Jon's appearance on Crossfire.
The global economic crisis claims another industry - anime voice actors, or seiyu. In a country that produces 60% of the world's animation, competition has always been fierce, but the rewards can be great, as seiyu sometimes achieve national fame, and are lauded with awards. The fame does come with a price, though: Female seiyu have fallen prey to stalkers, and male seiyu face the wrath of their fans should they dare marry. And for most seiyu, life isn't at all glamorous. It's estimated that 80% need to take on part-time jobs (at McDonald's, for example), or do voice acting for hentai; pornographic anime, in order to make ends meet. The fact is, the industry is glutted, and being a seiyu is no easy life.
Is the Obama administration, in its handling of the ongoing banking crisis, dithering while Rome burns? Is it perpetuating the problem by encouraging private investors to finance its rescue plan? (quote: Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, has been welcomed by a range of hedge funds and private-equity firms as well as some lenders who issue assets that finance consumer loans.) While hedge funds and others are preparing to make money on the downturn, we still don't have a handle on where all the AIG money is going (and forget that four years ago, AIG was being outed as the new Enron), and despite calls for more transparency in the "bailout" process, the Fed has not been forthcoming in revealing how the money is being spent.
"Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund." Also: exploding Range Rovers and the environmental impacts on elves. (Pre-vi-ous-ly.)
So how's the economy doing? Everyone, even google's CEO, seems to acknowledge it's bleak. Of course, panic would not be good, but a glance at the headlines reveals that one in five mortgages are underwater--prompting yet more federal relief--while the FDIC's insurance fund is threatened by further bank insolvency, and the U.S. private sector hemorrhaged nearly 700,000 jobs in February. New revelations about the banking crisis show that as Merrill Lynch foundered, its top 10 earners made $209 million last year, and that some of the companies that caused the mortgage crisis are now benefitting from it. At a time when 87 million Americans can't afford health insurance, and prison spending outpaces all but Medicaid; when we still don't know where exactly $2.2 trillion in bank loans have gone, some analysts are nevertheless cautiously optimistic. One sign of progress is that Obama is taking on the kinds of costly and wasteful U.S. defense contracts that the previous administration let run amok. If he can take on that racket, and make a dent, there may be hope after all.
Newly jobless and homeless former members of the Japanese upper or upper-middle class are turning to a distinctly 21st century version of the flophouse, the net room: a tiny cubicle, rented by the day, with that all-important feature... an internet connection and a computer. [more inside]
Louis C.K. gives us all a little dose of perspective.
While the world may be abuzz with talk of President Obama's first (sorta kinda but not really) State of the Union Address last night, others are comparing Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal -- who, in his response (part 1, part 2) scoffed at high-speed rail and suggested that monitoring volcanoes is somehow a bad thing -- to, um... well, just check it out for yourself. [more inside]
Remember the stink a few weeks back that caused Wells Fargo to cancel their Las Vegas party? Well, it appears that last week Northern Trust, a bank that received $1.6 billion dollars in federal money, held a series of lavish parties in L.A., complete with performances by Sheryl Crow, Earth-Wind-and-Fire, and others (more here and here). [more inside]
New Yorker Films, the only US distributor of many of the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Ousmane Sèmbene, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and many others closed operations yesterday. Many of the films they distributed remain unavailable on DVD, and thus completely unavailable to Americans for the foreseeable future. Coming on the heels of the eviction of Film-Maker's Co-Op, New York's venerable distributor and archive of avant-garde film, New Yorker's closing raises questions not only about the symbiotic importance of repertory film exhibition for film preservation efforts, but about the future of film culture and the possible role of the arts in the future economy.
Juan Enriquez: Tech evolution will eclipse the financial crisis. "Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don't look for it on your ballot -- or in the stock exchange. It'll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be ... different."
Touch and Go Records, distributor for Drag City, Merge, and Kill Rock Stars (among others) has announced they will be cutting their distribution service and scale back to being a record label only.
" ... the recession, particularly if it turns out to be as long and deep as many now fear, will accelerate the rise and fall of specific places within the U.S.—and reverse the fortunes of other cities and regions." From The Atlantic Online - How the Crash Will Reshape America
Say goodbye to Blockbuster, Sbarro's, Rite Aid, Krispy Kreme and Chrysler. 15 US companies that probably won't make it through 2009.
A mysterious internet forum poster named Reinhardt has the financial conspiracy theorists abuzz this week ahead of a predicted "event" coming this Friday. He first surfaced last July by predicting to the day the bad week in September kicked off by the Lehman Brothers collapse on the 15th. [more inside]
Forgiving student loan debt to stimulate the economy is an idea that seems to be gaining some ground recently. There's a petition, at least two facebook groups, and call to contact your senators and representatives.
Great achievements in American socialism: A slide show of two dozen excellent things the federal government bought with your money.
The Right to Walk Away Has panarchist thinking finally come of age in 2009? With world leaders of big governments failing to find any new solutions to old problems, should we have the right to walk away from those governments?