Saturday, January 23, 2010

Housing bust keeps consuming California jobs -

Housing bust keeps consuming California jobs - "Payrolls shrank by 38,800, marking the worst month for job losses since September. The unemployment rate remained flat at 12.4%, but only because more than 100,000 workers left the labor force and are no longer counted. Many of them have given up looking for work or have moved out of state.

Economists expect the state's labor market to remain weak this year largely because the bellwether housing sector continues to struggle. Over the last two years, California has lost more than 1 million jobs."

Fred Pilot flagged this. The housing construction sector drove the economy for years, in large part because it employs so many people, and you can find many statements to that effect from the 1990s and up to 2008. It hasn't started to come back yet, despite blips of life here and there, and until it does I see no way for the US to have a real economic recovery.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Air America, the Talk Radio Network, Will Go Off the Air -

Air America, the Talk Radio Network, Will Go Off the Air - "Air America, the long-suffering progressive talk radio network, abruptly shut down on Thursday, bowing to what it called a “very difficult economic environment.”

The chairman of Air America Media, Charlie Kireker, said in a statement that the company would file under Chapter 7 bankruptcy “to carry out an orderly winding-down of the business.”"

This is not a reorganization. It is a wipeout. Goodbye, Air America. It's been real.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for flagging this sinking, sunk, sunken ship.

My Way News - Edwards says he's father of Rielle Hunter's child

My Way News - Edwards says he's father of Rielle Hunter's child: "Frances was born Feb. 27, 2008, indicating that the child was conceived in the middle of 2007, several months after Hunter stopped working for Edwards. John and Elizabeth Edwards renewed their wedding vows in July of 2007 to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

Elizabeth Edwards, whose cancer returned in an incurable form in March 2007, has stood by her husband despite the affair. She has said that it does not matter to her whether her husband fathered a child with Hunter, saying, 'that would be a part of John's life, but not a part of mine.'"

Let's see. Nine months before Feb. 27, 2008...that means John Edwards was cheating on his wife just about May 27, 2007, which would be just two months after Elizabeth Edwards learned she had incurable out-of-remission cancer. And then, just six weeks after conceiving little Frances with his mistress, John Edwards renewed his wedding vows to his incurably ill wife. It will soon be revealed that he set up an elaborate scam whereby one of his campaign aides was induced to claim that he, not Edwards, was the father of Frances. They set up Reille Hunter in a house of her own in this aide's gated community, as I recall.

So: while this reptile was one of the leading Democratic candidates for President of the United States he was cheating on his terminally ill wife and lying about it to the country.

Outside of the tabloids, little press attention paid was paid to this particular candidate and his scandal, and even now that it all comes out it is just a blip. How does it stack up with the press attention paid to the much less significant foibles of Sarah Palin?

John Edwards is morally unfit to hold any public office, but he came pretty close to the presidency. I think maybe his supporters ought to think deeply about their own judgment.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Schwarzenegger: Martha Coakley shouldn't have tried to assume the Kennedy legacy | California Politics | Los Angeles Times

Schwarzenegger: Martha Coakley shouldn't have tried to assume the Kennedy legacy | California Politics | Los Angeles Times: "“Anyone else that tries to use that name and to step in and says, ‘And I’m going to protect the Kennedy legacy’ – that didn’t work,” Schwarzenegger said as he emerged from a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Because the people know that there’s only one that can really protect the Kennedy legacy and this was Teddy, or, you know, one from that family. But not someone from the outside.”"
And of course Fred Pilot skewers the Governator with this terse comment: "Caroline should have know?" Let's face it. Has subtlety ever been Arnold's strong suit? I don't think so. But there is a problem. Caroline lives in Caleeforneea, not Mahsseeechuusetts. Yet, Arnold thinks he may yet be President even though he was born in Austria, so I think these residency issues are always negotiable in his mind.

Illinois enters a state of insolvency | Crain's Chicago Business

Illinois enters a state of insolvency | Crain's Chicago Business: "While Illinois doesn't have the option of shutting its doors or shedding debts in a bankruptcy reorganization, it seems powerless to avert the practical equivalent. Despite a budget shortfall estimated to be as high as $5.7 billion, state officials haven't shown the political will to either raise taxes or cut spending sufficiently to close the gap.

As a result, fiscal paralysis is spreading through state government. Unpaid bills to suppliers are piling up. State employees, even legislators, are forced to pay their medical bills upfront because some doctors are tired of waiting to be paid by the state. The University of Illinois, owed $400 million, recently instituted furloughs, and there are fears it may not make payroll in March if the shortfall continues."

See? I'm not the only one who says these things.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) -- statesman

On to Plan C - Ben Smith - "In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated."
Once upon a time, there was something called a "statesman," and that was a rank or two above "politician." The mark of the statesman was saying things like this--and meaning them, which he does. It means putting the interests of your country above short-term gain for your party. Senator Webb stands for something, and I think the Senate would be a better place with a few more like him.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Whiter Shade of Pale

The Signal - Santa Clarita Valley News - Shades of beige: "Homeowner's associations have sprung up rapidly since 1970, said Evan McKenzie, an associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In 1960, there were fewer than 500 HOAs. Today, there are about 300,000, McKenzie said.

McKenzie said he could spend days talking about problems with HOAs, but one of the biggest is how residential governments have changed the cultural landscape by invading residents' personal space.

'Nobody wants to live under a nitpicky level of government,' McKenzie said. 'HOAs manage an aspect of peoples lives that have always been private.'"

Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for locating this one. Where is Procol Harum when you need them? (I think my cultural reference may be lost on the younger set, but can I get an amen here?) US Public Pensions Face $2 Trillion Deficit | US Public Pensions Face $2 Trillion Deficit | "Much like we were early citing the coming fiscal disaster that are state budgets [Dec 16, 2007: California in a State of Fiscal Emergency - Coming to a Theater Near You] so will be early to the disaster that is the US public pension system. As we clearly now see, there is no political will to make hard decisions that alienate any of the potential voting public. So, much like the state (and city) budget crisis, I expect the nation to continue to kick the can, doling out pensions we cannot afford to the public worker - until we run into a wall at 180 mph. And then your grandchildren will be asked to foot the bill 'in the public interest' or 'to keep the system stable' or 'this is what we promised'. And when the bill for Medicare comes due sometime later in the decade - perhaps when it starts eating up 20%+ of all US GDP - we'll hear the same thing. At some point there will be no extra sources to borrow from, so Federal Reserve Chief Geithner? Summers? will be printing new US pesos at a rate that makes Ben Bernanke's quantitative easing look like child's play. It's all the same pattern - played over and over, just in different future liability accounts."
You can read the details of what is coming toward us at light speed.

U of Illinois President Ikenberry: ‘we may in fact have to do some layoffs’ | The Daily Illini

Ikenberry: ‘we may in fact have to do some layoffs’ | The Daily Illini: "DI: What is the worse case scenario for the University right now for the budget crisis? Will there be any consolidation or layoffs in any academic or administrative units?

SI: Yes, there will be."

Oh, yes. There will be. The state of Illinois is insolvent, and there has been no adult supervision for the state legislature, in the form of a sane and honest governor, since...who knows when...12 years? First the crook Ryan, then the crook and lunatic Blagojevich, and now the airhead do-gooder Quinn. The state is now in the process of destroying the University of Illinois system. And I am not exaggerating. The situation will be so bad in a few months that entire departments will be eliminated and faculty positions along with them. You can say what you want about rebuilding, but there is no chance of this state ever (in the remotely forseeable future) being able to get out from under its existing obligations to fund rebuilding of the U of I. To take only one crisis, the State of Illinois has systematically, over many years, underfunded its public pension plans in the amount of $80 billion dollars.

Eighty. Billion. Dollars.

And despite not making those payments, and despite not paying the U of I $400 billion dollars, and despite not paying doctors and social service agencies and despite ignoring crumbling infrastructure, and a host of other such bogus and shortsighted money-saving policies...the State of Illinois is running a budget deficit this year of $13 billion.

So, once this system is reduced to a shadow of itself, which will have happened by a year from now, there will never be the resources to restore it. It would take a national economic boom the likes of which this country hasn't seen since 1946. And even if there were such a time (which I think would be possible to envision only after smoking a big fat bag of crack), the U of I's reputation will have been wrecked in the academic hiring market forever. If you were a first-rate job candidate, and you were on the market a few years from now, would you go to a university that has just gone through radical downsizing of departments and now promises that, don't worry, your job is safe?

Here's the irony--our tuition revenues are up, and our enrollments are up, and to all appearances the institution is thriving, as long as you don't know about the fiscal nightmare that is unfolding.

Libertarian paradise emerging in post-earthquake Haiti

Lynch mobs turn on looters amid Haiti aid crisis - Times Online: "Six days after the Port-au-Prince earthquake large areas of the city remain untouched by the global aid effort as bottlenecks continue to clog the airport and looting threatens to descend into wholesale violence."
I would be interested in hearing the libertarian perspective on why, when Haiti's government collapsed along with the government buildings, people didn't immediately begin ordering their affairs with voluntary and efficient contracts. Instead, with no government and a long delay before external aid appears, Haiti is offering a good look at Thomas Hobbes' vision of life in a state of nature: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

This is also a good lesson for the survivalist wingnuts who can't wait for the the US to collapse so they can grab their bugout bag and a .223 and machete-hack their way through the marauding gangs to a patch of open land where they will set up a homestead and live off venison and home grown mung beans. Good luck with that.