Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is This Really Change?

I'm certainly not going to reflexively bash our new president. But, his appointment of Tim Geithner to the position of Treasury Secretary continues to get worse and worse.

The Naked Capitalism blog does an excellent job chronicling how Geithner is exactly the wrong type of candidate we need right now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And Now Some Daily Sprawl...

...humor: from on how allegedly smart money managers really do dumb things when trying to fake their own death.

Nothing like a financial industry meltdown to bring out the fake dead people:
Another fugitive, suicide-faking fraudster is in police custody and all I can say is — I'm appalled!

Rule No.1 of Faking Your Death: Do NOT choose a getaway vehicle that will call attention to you.

Wall Street guys like to make you think they're the smartest guys in the room. And they talk a lot of trash that money management is risky business and if you can't run with the big dogs, you'd better get your assets back on the porch.

And then they deliver these ridiculous fake suicides like Florida's Art Nadel, who left a suicide note for his wife and then vanished for a month before turning himself in to police.

For such "smart" guys, these fake suicides are getting ridiculous!

The previous one-hit wonder, Marcus Schrencker, gets points for style — faking a plane crash, parachuting out and making a getaway on a motorcycle.

UPDATE: offers it advice on faking your own death with some moxie and success.

Monday, January 26, 2009

An Excellent Coffee Alternative... someone who runs into heartburn and acid reflux now and then, coffee and its caffeine plus high acid can be real problems.

That's why I've been searching for a hot coffee type drink that is low in acid and has no caffeine.

Well, the search has found a great option--Teeccino.

Not only is it caff-free with very low acid, it also tastes fantastic and even has a host of healthy ingredients.

Daily Sprawl is now very "pro-Teeccino"!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jim Kunstler Comes to Montgomery...

...for his first ever public presentation. The event is part of the Hampstead Institute Speaker Series. Click here to learn more.

We hope to see you there at this free event on Thursday, January 29th at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A New Phrase for 2009...

"Man, that guy really pulled a Geithner!" As in, the new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

If you haven't been following things, Mr. Geithner--who as SecTreas will head the IRS--failed to pay several years worth of various taxes to the IRS. Apparently, cued into this fact during his background check by the Obama Transition Team, Geithner paid most of the back taxes just before he was nominated by President Obama.

Add to this fact that Geithner was one of the Three Musketeers of the Bailout (along with Fed Head Bernanke and former SecTrea Paulson) and one wonders why in the world would the Obama Administration want Geithner anywhere near any economic activity that mattered.

But, alas, it gets better as during his questioning yesterday in his confirmation hearing before Congress, Mr. Geithner found yet another person to blame for his tax problems: TurboTax software.

Yep, that's right. The proposed Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner is pointing fingers at a piece of computer software for his tax failures.

Outstanding. Not even officially on the job yet and this nominee is starting to make Hank Paulson look more competent every day.

President Obama, do the right thing: ditch Geithner.

Should Merrill Lynch Be Allowed to... blatantly undermine and even defraud taxpayers.

This story absolutely sickens me.

It perfectly represents the very type of underhanded greed that advanced many of the current financial industry problems and failures.

The Treasury Department and Obama Administration should move boldly in addressing this travesty and refuse to allow either Merrill or BoA any access to federal taxpayer monies until these bonuses are revoked (and by the way, bonuses for what? screwing up your decades-old company? geez.)

UPDATE: New York's AG (and Senator-seeker) Andrew Cuomo will investigate these bonuses. Maybe disrupting this fraud has some traction after all...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another Natural and Organic Snack Alternative...

Try Funky Monkey--they have some excellent and healthier snack alternatives than typical HFCS laden "fruit snacks".

One word of semi-warning though: their website has some serious dance-inducing music when first opened. Lower your computer's volume or your colleagues might wonder what's the office party all about...
The biggest unknown is when or if shoppers will ever resume spending the way they did when the housing market was booming, credit was easy and jobs were more plentiful.
A great quote from this AP article--one which really nails the key issue.

By the way, the answer to the implied question embedded in that quote is "No".

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Mess in California...

If there ever was a state budget that demonstrates the resounding thumps of the current economic woes, California is the poster child right now.

Read this Reuters article to see why.

UPDATE: This article from the San Jose Mercury News puts all things California budget-wise in an even more stark setting. Ouch.

An Alternative to Red Wine...

We often read about the health benefits that red wine offers--especially when it comes to a healthier heart.

Unfortunately, some of those benefits can be offset by potential problems resulting from the alcohol content of the wine.

That's what the Embodi drink is trying to strike a balance between: the health benefits of red wine without the alcohol content.

We've tested the product for an upcoming magazine article and it was fantastic.

An Open Letter...A Very Interesting One...

Mish Shedlock does some of the best financial analysis anywhere on his Global Economic Analysis blog. Today he's posted a very interesting "Open Letter" to the new President.

Read it here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ever Heard of Badger Balm?

If not, then you need to check out their website at

We've been reviewing several of their products for an upcoming Urban Green article and have found them to be fantastic natural options to the typical OTC drugs that people often first resort to.

Daily Sprawl recommends badger balm.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Is President-Elect Obama's Treasury Nominee... trouble?

This entry from the Big Picture blog suggests yes and further offers why that is a good thing:
That said, I think the decision to delay the Geithner hearing has given opponents a chance to educate members of Congress and defeat this ill-advised nomination. Indeed, based on conversations I have had with several members of the GOP leadership in the past 24-hours, it seems that members of Congress in both parties are starting to ask themselves what also they do not know about Tim Geithner. I believe that we can stop this nomination and give President Obama another chance to fill this key Cabinet post with a competent candidate.

Goodbye Circuit City... the story here.

But a preview of things to come...

UPDATE: From the Circuit City website. It appears that upwards of 34,000 jobs will be lost as a result of this bankruptcy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When Will House Prices Stabilize?

That's the big question for many people. After all, it is the falling "paper value" of homes that have instigated much of the "paper wealth" destruction in the last 24 months.

Well, to answer this question, I've been doing some research. Here's a good rough way to calculate a likely stabilization point for home values:

When the median home price of an area is roughly three times the median income level of that same area.

This would mean the following:

If metro area X had a median income of $50,000 (roughly what the Census Bureau calculated for the U.S. in 2007) then the median home price for the same metro area should be no more than $150,000.

Sounds good and all, right? Well, Houston, we actually might have a big problem.

Why, you ask?

Because in 2007, with the 50k median income, the median nationwide home price was over $200,000 (note: all of these stats vary depending on specific regions of the country and further vary for specific localities within those regions).

Meaning that, the median income/median home price calculation is out of whack (a term not found in Black's Law Dictionary but which is clearly understood by most Americans) by a factor of at least 1.

But, you say, home prices have fallen a great deal since 2007. True.

Yet so has income.

Ultimately, the key will be for home prices to fall at a faster rate than income in order to reach that 3x ratio.

Hopefully that will be a shorter rather than longer time frame. And, even more hopefully we will reach that equilibrium of sorts at a higher income figure than lower one.

If not, the stabilization point of home prices will be well past the point of major fiscal discomfort.

Housing Foreclosures Continue to Grow...

Here's an interesting article on the foreclosure problem from
Foreclosure activity surged 81 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, despite the undying efforts by lenders and lawmakers to ease the foreclosure fiasco, according to a report released Thursday by RealtyTrac.

The Foreclosure Market report showed a total of 3,157,806 foreclosure filings — including default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — were reported on 2,3330,483 U.S. properties during the year. In more digestable terms, one in every 54 housing units received at least one foreclosure filing during the year. Wow.
"Wow" is right. We discussed this issue last fall in my Property I class and this 1 in 54 number is even worse than the worst case problem I discussed with my clients. Ouch.

The SmartCode Advanced...

...comes to Montgomery, Alabama.

On January 30-31, the City of Montgomery in conjunction with land planning firm PlaceMakers will present the first ever SmartCode Advanced.

This unique seminar will explore the SmartCode efforts in the River Region through work sessions, tours, and other small group settings.

Here's the agenda.

Bank Stocks Get Hit Hard...

CNBC is reporting that this is not a good start for bank stocks on this particular Thursday.

So, where's this pre-inauguration stock market bounce that had been predicted?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Return of Rail?

This Washington Monthly article discusses why that's a very good and plausible idea:
For years, state transportation officials have watched I-81 get pounded to pieces by tractor trailers, which are responsible for almost all non-weather-related highway wear and tear. To make matters worse, traffic is projected to rise by 67 percent in just the next ten years.

The conventional response to this problem would be simply to build more lanes. That’s what highway departments do. But at a cost of $11 billion, or $32 million per mile, Virginia cannot afford to do that without installing tolls, which might have to be set as high as 17 cents per mile for automobiles. When Virginia’s Department of Transportation proposed doing this early last year, truckers and ordinary Virginians alike set off a firestorm of protest. At the same time, just making I-81 wider without adding tolls would make its truck traffic problems worse, as still more trucks diverted from I-95 and other routes.

Looking for a way out of this dilemma, Virginia transportation officials have settled on an innovative solution: use state money to get freight off the highway and onto rails. As it happens, running parallel to I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley and across the Piedmont are two mostly single-track rail lines belonging to the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Known as the Crescent Corridor, these lines have seen a resurgence of trains carrying containers, just like most of the trucks on I-81 do. The problem is that the track needs upgrading and there are various choke points, so the Norfolk Southern cannot run trains fast enough to be time competitive with most of the trucks hurtling down I-81. Even before the recent financial meltdown, the railroad couldn’t generate enough interest from Wall Street investors to improve the line.

Cool Thing To Do...

...while many of our readers are not from around the Montgomery River Region area, those that are might be interested in this cool upcoming event in Downtown Montgomery.

It's the ClefWorks concert and promises to be unlike anything you've seen before.

Very urban setting. Very interesting music.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Remember That Place You Grew Up...

Here’s an article that I thought you might find interesting about Detroit. As I read it, I nodded the whole way through because it perfectly described the spirit of the place where I grew up.

2009 is Only Twelve Days Old...

...but we might have already found our leading candidate for "Most Ridiculous Idea for '09":
Instead of reducing taxes on interest payments, the Government could tax all bank deposits and other risk-free savings. This would create a negative risk-free interest rate, encouraging savers either to invest in property, shares and other productive assets - or simply to save less and consume more. In either case, the result would be more consumption and physical investment, less unemployment and faster recovery from the slump.
It is somewhat hard to fathom that this idea made its way into the printed world. Penalizing people for saving when it was excessive lending that created this huge problem in the first place?

This is akin to forcing the credit drunk to not just drink more liquor but, if they don't, then punishing them for even an iota of sobriety.

Strange. Bizarre. And an early candidate for this year's "Most Ridiculous"...

Stimulus Dollars for Demolishing Sprawl?

That's what the Calculated Risk blog is suggesting:
And since Obama asked for suggestions ... How about a demolition program?

First, if any state and local governments have old idle buildings waiting for future plans, why not demolish them today? This would provide jobs for local workers, and prepare the land for future development and remove an eyesore. The Federal Government could pay for this demolition.
While we don't support another large government "stimulus", if one must occur, this sounds like a very interesting idea.

The federal government can pay people to demolish the bad rather than build more of it. This has alot of potential.

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Monumental Stupidity"

That's what Mish Shedlock is calling Zakaria's ridiculous declaration related to governments and the markets in the latest Newsweek.

We tend to agree (and, might even have considered a stronger adjective to go with it).

Read Shedlock's post and Zakaria's article here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

More Calls for "Stimulating Sprawl"...

This time a quartet of large Democratic governors are leading the charge for $350 billion worth of federal fake money to build and repair roads and bridges:

My response is simple: when are we going to get some freaking non-idiots to run our governments. The Republicans screwed it up in one direction and now the Democrats are aiming to do the same in the opposite direction.

Where are the people listening to the Mish Shedlock's and Karl Denninger's who have been consistently correct on economic issues. We seem predestined to either finance sprawl with fake money or fake credit. This is very troubling in a macro sense.

p.s. Caveat: I voted for neither major candidate. This is not intended as any type of partisan comment (other than noting that almost all the partisans seem to be losing their minds).