Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Reason that We Love...

...Whole Foods. This time it's their "Unacceptable Ingredients" list--a great starting place to research things that just should not be going into your body (even though the big corporate food companies continue to use them).

Have a look at the list here.

p.s. The above image is from their "Whole Story" blog. A great place to read up on healthy alternatives and options.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Buying Local...

One thing that we are trying to do more of this year is to buy our food products directly from Alabama farmers and producers. The idea for doing so was inspired by the fantastic Eating Alabama project and blog.

Well, if you are looking for a good source for Alabama grown turkey--one that is both local and raised in a healthy and sustainable way--then check out Bates Turkey in Fort Deposit, Alabama.

If you're not from Alabama, then we still recommend that you try to source as much locally as possible. Especially if you can find natural and health-friendly options like Bates.

A Very Interesting Interview...

While the article's headline is somewhat overblown, this interview from the Globe and Mail is a very informative read on the past, present, and likely future of the current economic problems. Definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Outrage...

Word is that AIG will be asking the United States government for billions upon billions of more taxpayer dollars.

The reason? Well, the company is anticipating a loss than exceeds $50 billion dollars for this quarter (yes, you read that correctly--a private company is about to report an over $50 billion quarterly loss and, yet, will continue to apparently exist).

Folks, this alone is outrageous. At some point, a company that keeps losing TENS OF BILLIONS of dollars is simply not a viable company. It exists only as an extension of the federal government's funding. Any guise that AIG remains a "private" company is strictly that: a fiscal disguise.

But wait. There's more.

The excellent Market Ticker blog wonders if there might be more to this story beyond just bad business decisions.

Read the details here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ignore Statements From...

...the Federal Government that have anything to do with "capitalization". This excellent Calculated Risk blog post explains why they are either negligent or monunmentally uninformed (or both).

What is LTCM?

While doing some follow-up research on my article that will appear in an upcoming volume of the University of Oklahoma Law Review, I came across this New York Times article.

It makes an interesting argument that I've also offered before--that is, the federal government's role in the bailout of the Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) hedge fund in the late '90s played a key role in today's crisis by advancing the "moral hazard" theory.

You see, by bailing out all of these banks, insurance companies, car manufacturers and such, the federal government is not only delaying the inevitable pain of default but it is also propping up the idea that bad decision-makers have a decent chance of finding a final backstop in the form of Uncle Sam and his ability to create money.

All in all, definitely an article worth reading.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Viewing from Frontline...

...on how the Financial Crisis developed. Check it out here.

While in Greenville County, South Carolina...

...I came across a fantastic coffee shop with a fascinating shade grown and sustainable story.

Check out more about Leopard Forest Coffee Company here.

p.s. They ship their great beans throughout the U.S.

More Outrage...

Headline: "Did Campaign Cash Influence Bailout? Banks Get 258,000 Percent Return from Investments in D.C. Pols.":
“Some of the top recipients of contributions from companies receiving TARP money are the same members of Congress who chair committees charged with regulating the financial sector and overseeing the effectiveness of this unprecedented government program. They include Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (he received $854,200 from the companies in the 2008 election cycle, including money to his presidential campaign) and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee (he received $279,000).

In total, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senate Finance Committee and House Financial Services Committee received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-2008 election cycle. President Obama collected at least $4.3 million from employees at these companies for his presidential campaign.”
This is yet another example of the outrageous type conduct that exacerbated this problem in the first place.

I suspect some prosecutor looking to make a name will begin aggressively pursuing these type matter. In fact, maybe that has already started.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Food Price Battles...

I'm in Greenville, South Carolina today for a SmartCode OnSite work session, but prior to starting, I found this article to be very interesting on the growing price battle between food makers and food providers:
Food makers who raised prices repeatedly to fight soaring commodity costs in recent years are now battling with retailers to hold onto those increases as the global economy grinds to a standstill.

Many are touting the relative value of their products versus eating out, promoting their products together with retailers' own brands and holding extensive conversations to let retailers know that in some cases their costs remain high even though many commodity prices have fallen, industry executives and analysts said.

"We're all trying to deal with a difficult economic reality where consumers are getting more demanding and competition is increasing to meet the needs of consumers, so it's just more pressurized," Campbell Soup Co (CPB.N) Chief Executive Douglas Conant said in an interview.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Two Important Articles...

Please carefully note this article:
Part of the problem is that the U.S. is "overstored," as retail analyst Jennifer Black and even store officials often say. Indeed, few can argue that the more than 200 million square feet of retail space added each year since 2004 was truly needed. J.C. Penney CEO Mike Ullman, chairman of the National Retail Federation, estimates that there is at least 100 million more square feet of retail space than the market needs.

And then this article:
The sums needed are beyond the limits of the IMF, which has already bailed out Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Iceland, and Pakistan – and Turkey next – and is fast exhausting its own $200bn (€155bn) reserve. We are nearing the point where the IMF may have to print money for the world, using arcane powers to issue Special Drawing Rights.

Its $16bn rescue of Ukraine has unravelled. The country – facing a 12pc contraction in GDP after the collapse of steel prices – is hurtling towards default, leaving Unicredit, Raffeisen and ING in the lurch. Pakistan wants another $7.6bn. Latvia's central bank governor has declared his economy "clinically dead" after it shrank 10.5pc in the fourth quarter. Protesters have smashed the treasury and stormed parliament.

"This is much worse than the East Asia crisis in the 1990s," said Lars Christensen, at Danske Bank.
Both provide very stark yet very realistic warnings. Again, we must re-allocate wasted capacity toward useful and sustainable capacity. There will be less and, therefore, that which remains must be better.

Montgomery Mayoral Debate...

...on Growth and Development Issues.

The Hampstead Institute is presenting this debate which will convene at 7pm in Flowers Hall on the campus of Huntingdon College.

The debate is this Tuesday. We hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Than a Trillion Dollar Problem?

If European Banks potentially have multi-trillions in toxic assets, one wonders what U.S. Banks may hold in their secret, off the book caches.

Watch this story carefully:
European Commission officials have estimated that “impaired assets” may amount to 44pc of EU bank balance sheets. The Commission estimates that so-called financial instruments in the ‘trading book’ total £12.3 trillion (13.7 trillion euros), equivalent to about 33pc of EU bank balance sheets.

In addition, so-called 'available for sale instruments' worth £4trillion (4.5 trillion euros), or 11pc of balance sheets, are also added by the Commission to arrive at the headline figure of £16.3 trillion.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another Green Cleaning Option...

Bayes Premium Cleaners offer a wide variety of indoor and outdoor cleaners for houses and cars.

Daily Sprawl likes them because they work well and because several of their products have recently received the EPA's Design for the Enviroment label.

Plus, they are non-toxic and biodegradable.

So, you can clean with a piece of mind to boot...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Video of the Year Nominee...

Classic. Very, very classic.

(Thanks to Nathan N. for the find).

Another Green Option...

...this time we recommend the Kombucha Wonder Drink--a great option for a natural health and energy drink. The antioxidants and vitamins give a great boost with fantastic flavors, too...

Transect-Based Planning

Here's an interesting thread from a discussion forum on the issue of transect-based planning.

Included in the thread is an equally interesting and useful YouTube video discussing some of the issues.

We recommend both.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Dubai Is Emptying Out"

Remember not long ago when Dubai was concerned the shiny light of prosperity among a growing world of financial gloom?

Well, that shine is gaining some serious luster according to this article from the UK TimesOnline:
For many expatriate workers in Dubai it was the ultimate symbol of their tax-free wealth: a luxurious car that few could have afforded on the money they earned at home.

Now, faced with crippling debts as a result of their high living and Dubai’s fading fortunes, many expatriates are abandoning their cars at the airport and fleeing home rather than risk jail for defaulting on loans.

Police have found more than 3,000 cars outside Dubai’s international airport in recent months. Most of the cars – four-wheel drives, saloons and “a few” Mercedes – had keys left in the ignition.

Some had used-to-the-limit credit cards in the glove box. Others had notes of apology attached to the windscreen.

“Every day we find more and more cars,” said one senior airport security official, who did not want to be named. “Christmas was the worst – we found more than two dozen on a single day.”
Surely, this is a first. Drive to the airport, skip the short term and long term parking lots and, instead, leave the Benzer in the forever term parking lot. With the max'd out credit cards next to the keys (nice touch).

Wethinks that Mr. Perot might be hearing a new giant sucking sound out of that particular desert kingdom real soon...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Sign of Things to Come?

Congressman Ackerman appears to be quite upset. And for good reason.

Another Green Option...

Looking for great organic and fair trade coffee from a small business to boot?

If so, we've tested the options from Backcountry Coffee Roasters and found them to be fantastic.

Check out the website of this sustainable-focused company right here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Disney World Advocates Commuter Rail?

In addition to sprawl-related blogging, writing, and research, I also write columns covering the amusement industry. Here is one set of examples.

I note that because the two worlds recently collided a bit when Disney World's President, Meg Crofton, wrote an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel voicing support for the proposed SunRail commuter rail line in Orlando.

This is significant for several reasons such as the fact that--to varying degrees--both the government and Disney have been hesitant in the past to support various commuter and/or light rail efforts.

This very clear and open support of SunRail by Disney will be interesting to follow. After all, when the region's largest employer (over 50k employees) comes out for something--that's a pretty big boost to the project's prospects.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Back From...

...the Hampstead Institute Jim Kunstler talk and the SmartCode Advanced conference--both in Montgomery last week.

Overall, both were fantastic events. Spending much of the day with Kunstler tooling around town was a very curious experience.

Anyhow, this was waiting for me when I got back: Japan, Game Over?

While one might say that we are not Japan, our economies are closely and intricately linked in many ways. As a result, could Japan be America's canary in the coal mine?

Stay tuned...