Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shouldn't More People Just Be Paying...

...HR Block or some other tax service to do this.

This has become a pattern and I suspect its not limited to any particular party or administration. Yes, the tax code is complicated, but professional tax services don't really cost that much to get it right.

Forget Homebuyers...

...now even the banks are walking away from properties.

The new reality conversation apparently goes something like this:

City: "Foreclosure?"
Bank: "Uh, no thanks, our CEO doesn't think its worth the cost."

Mish Shedlock has the story here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Here's a Very Important Article...

A Daily Sprawl "Must Read" from the latest issue of The Atlantic.

More AIG Mischief...

The Zero Hedge blog has an exclusive on very, very troubling details related to AIG.

Read the entire story here:
For those to whom this is merely a lot of mumbo-jumbo, let me explain in layman's terms:
AIG, knowing it would need to ask for much more capital from the Treasury imminently, decided to throw in the towel, and gifted major bank counter-parties with trades which were egregiously profitable to the banks, and even more egregiously money losing to the U.S. taxpayers, who had to dump more and more cash into AIG, without having the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner disclose the real extent of this, for lack of a better word, fraudulent scam.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another City and its Slow Demise...

...this time its Flint, Michigan.

As a child and through my college years, I would often drive through Flint, Michigan on the way to my grandparents home in Bay City, Michigan. While we would rarely spend time in the downtown part of city, Flint was a frequent passage in my childhood travels.

Even then, the city seemed mired in a certain type of melancholy. Like the tired workers in an industry whose brightest days will remain long past.

Sadly, Flint's demise continues. Worse still, little hope appears to be left.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Trouble for the Geithner Plan...

"Quite frankly, this amounts to robbery of the American people. I don't think it's going to work because I think there'll be a lot of anger about putting the losses so much on the shoulder of the American taxpayer."
Read the whole story here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

This is a very good start:
Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Alabama is a Roadblock for High Speed Rail...

Read the story of how the State of Alabama (where Daily Sprawl resides) is gumming up efforts to garner stimulus funds to develop an Atlanta to New Orleans high speed rail line.

Probably the biggest problem stalling the plan is this:
All taxes earmarked for Alabama’s Department of Transportation are constitutionally designated for roads and bridges, said Tony Harris, special assistant to the transportation director. Harris said the state has no role in transit, although it does dole out federal dollars and serve as a watchdog over those funds.
Truly archaic and a major reason why Alabama is a transportation laggard when compared to its sister Southern states.

Now, I'm not necessarily a huge fan of fancy high speed rail lines. The more comprehensive solution would seem to be to expand existing conventional lines to provide a wider scope of access to different destinations. After that is done (and only after that) should some major lines be configured for higher speeds.

But, alas, if the federal government is determined to spend a certain amount of money on high speed rail, then it really behooves Alabama to serve its citizens by bringing some of that effort to this state.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Economic Crisis...

...filled with graphs and images. Click here for a very interesting graphical essay, if you will.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vacation Blogging...

The Daily Sprawl family is on spring break this week so updates will be less frequent than normal. However, this article on a troublesome new Congressional bill that could adversely affect community farming is worth noting.

Considering that I'm sitting about 100 yards from the Seaside School's new corner garden--one that is organic and a great teaching tool for students and the community--isn't it unfortunate that Congress is again imprecisely addressing food problems.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Orange Juice Myth?

That's what this Boston.com interview suggests:
IDEAS: What isn't straightforward about orange juice?

HAMILTON: It's a heavily processed product. It's heavily engineered as well. In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn't oxidize. Then it's put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it's ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time.

What is "householding"?

Click here to read an interesting article on this time-honored avocation.

Meanwhile, Reason # 4453987 that Food, Inc. is literally making us sick--read more in this fascinating NYT story on how animal antibiotic treatments are hurting humans.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Las Vegas is Losing Big...

This Review Journal story reports that the city has lost a whooping $130+ million in canceled convention bookings and related non-gambling revenue (we can only imagine how much this number would grow if you added lost gambling revenue to the total. ouch.)

The ironic thing is that Las Vegas is quickly becoming an amazingly cheap place to go. While I don't gamble, I do enjoy the spectacle of great dining, shows, and the outrageous "lights" of Las Vegas. As a result, I regularly receive offers to go there.

One recent one was for $59 per night rooms at a nice resort on Las Vegas Blvd (the "strip"). Plus, it offered a $20 per day dining credit and half-price Cirque tickets.

What a steal...literally cheaper than the Motel 6 down the street.

Wow, what interesting things that an economic crisis can foster...

Bio-Diesel Blog

Here's an interesting blog from one of the Hampstead Institute's founding members, Clay McInnis.

It focuses on certain biodiesel strategies. Take a look and we think you'll find some thought-provoking content...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Rarely Agree With...

...Paul Krugman, but he has a really good point here:
Has the risk of a US government default risen? Probably. Nonetheless, the people buying these contracts are crazy. A world in which the US government defaults would be a world in chaos; how likely is it that these contracts would be honored?
Indeed. The whole premise of a Credit Default Swap being paid if the U.S. sovereign debt fails is another example of a hocus-pocus financial product. That is to say, it may exist (and even be bought) but it does not exist as a transactable event in any real sense.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Upcoming Sustainable Farming Event...

The Jemison, Alabama-based Petals from the Past (located roughly between Birmingham and Montgomery off of I-65) is offering an interesting free event this Saturday. I'll be attending with several friends so make sure and say hello if you attend.

Here's a link to details:
Saturday March 14, 2009 A Sustainable Approach to Gardening -Part 2

10:30am Time to Plant - Edwin Marty - Edwin Marty is the executive director of Jones Valley Urban Farms and he will guide you through plant selection, planting and care and maintenance of edibles incorporated in your landscape.

12:00 Lunch can be ordered for $10.00 or you may bring your own. Reservations required. Please call before 3:00pm on March 13 to make your your lunch reservation. 205-646-0069

12:30 Who's Hiding in Your Backyard- Taylor Hatchett - Let Taylor Hatchett, Regional Extension Agent help you with pest management methods that are safe. Learn how to identify and control common pests that would love to make a buffet out of your landscape.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Time Magazine Asks a Great Question...

Is this the country's last indoor mall?

With the answer being a likely yes, isn't it odd to think of that great symbol of an entire American generation or two--the indoor shopping mall--becoming extinct. In a weird way, it's a bit sad if only because melancholy isn't limited for worthy things alone.

Lesson #50594335...

...as to why most commentators are not worth listening to when it comes to the current economic issues.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Big Boxes Empty Out...

...thanks to the Daily Sprawl reader that forwarded us this AL.com article on how a growing number of big boxes are showing up empty in Birmingham, Alabama:
The nation's retail slump is being felt across the Birmingham-metro area as big-box retailer after big-box retailer closes its doors.

As the losses of those hulking retail spaces pile up, empty parking lots become common sights, leaving questions about how long they will stay vacant since the prospects of filling them are slim.

"There is no modern historical context for where we are in the market right now," said Hugo Isom, a partner with The Shopping Center Group, a retail brokerage firm that looks to fill about 1.5 million square feet of vacancies for clients in north-central Alabama.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

From the Excellent "Green Fork Blog"...

...comes the Eat Healthy Monday idea.

Check it out here and learn how your pantry can incrementally get better for you and your family with every visit to the grocery store and/or farmers market.

Simple and affordable in many respects.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

AIG Should Go Bankrupt...

From CNBC on whether AIG should be allowed to fail:
Suppose AIG goes bankrupt, it is better that AIG goes bankrupt and we have a horrible two or three years than that the whole US goes bankrupt," Rogers said. "AIG has trillions of dollars of obligations, let them fail, let the courts sort it out and start over. Otherwise we'll never start over."

On Monday, CEO Edward Liddy told CNBC that the insurer is far more stable and secure than it was last fall but acknowledged that it was "difficult to say" if AIG will need even more money from the government in the future.

Bailing out the banks is going to increase the debt spiral and finally cause the destruction of the world's biggest economy, Rogers said.

"I think it's astonishing, they're ruining the US economy, they're ruining the US government, they're ruining the US central bank and they're ruining the US dollar," he said.

"You are watching something in front of our eyes, very historically, which is basically the destruction of New York as a financial center and the destruction of America as the world's most powerful country."
Well, Jim Rogers pretty much summed up what we've been arguing for quite some time. That is, nothing can fundamentally improve until the fundamentally-flawed debt is forced into default. That's the endgame. Nothing else.

Classic closing quote from Rogers:
"The idea that you have too much debt, too much borrowing and too much consumption and you're going to solve that problem with more debt, more consumption and more borrowing? These people are nuts."

A New Reader Blog...

...a Daily Sprawl reader recently emailed us about this new blog that he has started. So far, it looks interesting and is certainly an important topic.

Check it out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Semi-Official Song of...

...the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

"An Ode to Cashing Out"...

The "Bezzle"

The Market Ticker blog explains today how the "bezzle" is making a economic recovery almost a mathematical impossibility unless it stops soon:
We have exactly one opportunity to stop this, and that opportunity is now.

Government simply must stop "The Bezzle" in all parts of our economy and capital markets, and must do so right here, right now, today.

If we fail to demand this as Americans or our government fails to implement this across the board then we will suffer a Depression worse than the 1930s.

This is not conjecture.

It is not a prediction, nor drawn from how I "feel".

This is mathematics; it is a fact that we cannot possibly maintain anything close to our current standard of living unless private capital decides to re-enter our marketplace - a decision that government cannot force.