.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Chicago way

Many people around the blogosphere (I'm using Gateway Pundit here) are reporting that a suspicious number of the closed Chrysler dealers are Republican supporters, or supporters of Obama's opponents. That dealerships should close is expected, but these closures don't appear to be tied to market saturation or lack of profitability.

How will die-hard Obama supporters spin this one?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Watched the debut of this new Fox series. It looks promising. The debut following the final episode of American Idol makes sense, given the show's topic, and the decision to release versions of the songs performed by the cast on the series will hopefully be profitable for the network, iTunes, and the songwriters alike.

The biggest surprise was hearing a fairly obscure song, and a song I like (Annie's Chewing Gum) used in one of the scenes.

Edit: Billboard Magazine, in its May 30 issue, has an interview with one of the show's creators. It mentions that first episode included an incredible 20 songs. That's a lot of rights to secure!


Still want to blame the mortgage industry?

Since I first posted about Edmund Andrews' book, more information has come out about the author, namely that his second wife filed for bankruptcy, then a second time, almost as soon as she legally could.

Andrews has been admirably open about many of the poor decisions and the wishful thinking that led him deep into debt. Nonetheless, he has laid much of the blame onto irresponsible bankers and mortgage brokers. The missing bankruptcies substantially undermine this basic narrative arc of Andrews' story. Particularly in his book, the bankers are the villains, America's current troubles are the inevitable denouement of their maniacal greed, and the Andrews household stands in for an American public led, by their own greed and longing and hopeful trust, into the money pit.

It's hard to argue that Ms. Barreiro was forced into bankruptcy by crazed subprime mortgage lenders in 1998. Greedy bankers certainly didn't keep her and her first husband from paying their taxes.

Megan McArdle is keeping up with the story, and has Andrews' response, and a response of her own, in a later post.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One person's financial crisis

Megan McArdle points to this New York Times article about a economics reporter who got in economically over his head. An expensive house with a liar loan, spending on overpriced luxuries, overdraft protection, paying one credit card with another... it's all there.

Megan comments that writers and journalists are particularly impacted by a need to live a high status life with an income that's certainly not high.

This is what David Brooks calls "status-income disequilibrium", and unless you are among that happy breed of writers who is married to someone with a high-paying job, or who has a trust fund, you feel it keenly. Everyone you write about makes more than you. Most of the people you know make more than you. And you come to feel that shopping at the farmer's market, travelling to Europe, drinking good coffee, are minimum necessities. Your house is small, your furniture is shabby, and you can't even really afford to shop at Whole Foods. Yet you're at the top of your field, working for one of the world's top media outlets. This can't be so.

This post is most worth reading for the comments. Megan's commenters are absolutely brutal, mostly criticizing this $120,000 a year professional for his horrible decisions (divorce, not talking finances with his new wife, buying a house they couldn't afford, etc.). I agree with them, since I'm in the opposite situation.

Consider I'm not married, living in a home less than 2x salary, with no credit card debt, money in retirement accounts, a cushion in the bank, etc. My main TV dates back to college, and is nearly 15 years old. I keep computers for about 6 years. I have a lightweight jacket that I had in high school. These are all things that function just fine, and don't need to be replaced. But even when I do spend money, I do it sensibly.

For my avocation of playing role-playing games, there are weekend-long conventions across the country, where players can gather to play these games. (GenCon is the biggest and best-known.) I could attend one pretty much every weekend, with a smaller number being more desirable, as they run brand new events. But the reality of cost intrudes on the fantasy of role-playing games.

Conventions have entry fees and ticket costs that vary, but might run from $20 for an event at a college, $40 for a larger event, and $70-$100 for the largest. But travel costs, particularly hotel costs, could significantly add to that.

In college, I was normally restricted to local events, day trips only. Only when I could find a group of people willing to share a hotel room, four to a room, could I afford to go to an out-of-town event for the weekend.

Just out of school, I could afford to travel to more events, even flying to some when reasonable airfare was available. But I attended those events where lodging costs were low. That could be staying with friends or family, getting a group for the hotel, or taking advantage of free rooms for volunteering for a majority of the convention. (Someone has to run so 4-6 people can play.)

As my income increased, I could better afford to travel, even being able to eat the cost of a solo hotel room. But I didn't spend like this when I was earning a fraction of my current salary. I was raised far better than that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


It's a week from Memorial Day, and weather.com lists a frost advisory for my city? What's up with that?

Unintended consequences

The only population of great cormorants in the United States, up in Maine, may be wiped out. Guess who's responsible? If you said man, you're only indirectly right.

Bald eagles, bouncing back after years of decline, are swaggering forth with an appetite for great cormorant chicks that threatens to wipe out that bird population in the United States.

The eagles, perhaps finding less fish to eat, are flying to Maine's remote rocky islands where they've been raiding the only known nesting colonies of great cormorants in the U.S. Snatching waddling chicks from the ground and driving adults from their nests, the eagles are causing the numbers of the glossy black birds to decline from more than 250 pairs to 80 pairs since 1992.

The bald eagles, after being saved by man, have impacted other ecosystems. They don't have a restricted diet:

With more eagles around and fewer fish in the waters than in the past, young eagles are turning to other birds to satisfy their hunger. Eagles are opportunistic feeders and will go after the easiest prey they can find, bird experts say.

It reminds me of that list of joke headlines from the future: Spotted Owl plague threatens northwestern United States crops and livestock.

Some people believe humans are no better than other animals. To them, I ask, how many species care about the fate of these great cormorants?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gokey Goes

Danny Gokey, recent endorsee of Vote for the Worst, did not survive to become a finalist on American Idol. I haven't been paying much attention to the series, only knowing that one of the finalists is a grad student at the University of North Carolina. Gokey is from Milwaukee, where I was this past weekend, and so I got to see some of the news media reports. While the press has been brutal, Gokey has one redeeming quality: he's a fan of Kopp's frozen custard.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bush's Third Term

Hyperpartisan Democrats who were so eager to paint Sen. McCain as a third Bush term should now be protesting President Obama, who is embracing those military- and terrorism-related positions they once vehemently protested. Dissenting Justice has the roundup.

(Via Instapundit)

Friday, May 01, 2009

A victory for the good guys

The Senate has rejected (the cloture vote failed) a desired Obama policy, that would change decades of tradition on how mortgages are treated in bankruptcy court.

Small banks and credit unions had opposed letting judges reduce a mortgage to reflect a home's market value -- known as a "cramdown" -- despite weeks of wooing by Democrats. Some opponents said they wanted to signal to Mr. Obama their dwindling tolerance for what they described as continued government intervention in private business, particularly businesses that didn't precipitate the nation's mortgage crisis. The measure failed a vote that would have moved it forward by 45-51.

Any time risk is added to a financial process, the cost is increased to reflect this risk. Had cramdown passed, the good people who pay their mortgages on time would end up paying more for their mortgages, and possibly faced tougher restrictions on getting mortgages in the first place. I could see required downpayments increasing, and banks loathe to lend in the face of rising real estate prices. That would be bad for anyone desiring to move to a place with a booming job market and improve their lot in life.