Tuesday, December 09, 2008

GM's Bust Turns Detroit Into Urban Prairie of Vacant-Lot Farms

Detroit is changing. People having been moving away from the city and home values are plummeting. The US automakers are barely surviving, and even if they all do, more layoffs are bound to happen. What will happen to these people and their city?

More Detroit details can be found in a Bloomberg.com report by Michael McKee and Alex Ortolani:

Among the uses of the unused land in this large city are vacant-lot farms. But so far, there is no vision from the city council. The city is looking at a huge estimated budget deficit.
It looks as though the car manufacturing business is on a steep decline. Detroit needs more options. Can the city government and the remaining residents plan and work towards a more diversified economy fast enough? There is no other option. Detroit will live or die based on the decisions made by local planners and visionaries.

The "western world" appears to be on the verge of monumental changes. Detroit may be one of the first areas to be hit so hard.

I wonder if there are any other regions in the West that are undergoing similar economic hardships. If not, there will be others. Which city will be next?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Should We Be Scared of Deflation?

Deflation: Many never saw it coming. Some still don't think we're in a deflationary period right now. First of all, what is deflation? There are many definitions, and thus the debate over when (or if) deflation arrived. In general, deflation is the reduction in available money, credit, and ultimately, consumer prices decreases.

So if inflation (and hyperinflation) is a bad thing (skyrocketing food prices, house prices, stock markets, while our wages stay about the same), does deflation imply a good thing? If you have any debt, then deflation is a very bad thing. During deflationary periods, prices of goods and services will drop, but so will your take-home pay eventually (companies can't sell their products at lower prices without decreases wages). If you have debt, this will not change. You will still owe the same amount, even though you might be earning less.

If you don't have any debt, deflation will not be as frightening a prospect. But beware, a deflationary period will mean job losses and wage reductions for many. This can't be avoided.

Martha C. White writes an informative article:

The Federal Reserve today dropped the benchmark fed funds rate to 1 percent, a nearly unprecedented move. While the Fed has flirted with low rates before and even dropped the rate to 1 percent between June 2003 and June 2004, that was when the housing boom was in full swing and everyone was operating under the assumption there was nowhere to go but up.

These are different times. Now, the finance industry is in a state of disarray, and global markets are seesawing. It's a telling sign, though, that even as Treasury yields plummet in response to en masse investors seeking a safe haven, their inflation-adjusted counterparts, otherwise known as TIPS, have been on an upswing, sometimes even surpassing comparable conventional Treasury bills. Economists aren't really worried about inflation right now-because they're too busy worrying about deflation instead. Deflation is when across-the-board prices for goods drop and assets lose value. But wait-weren't we just wringing our hands over $4.50 gas and $4 milk? Don't we want low prices?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Fascism Hunts Roma

A political ideology based on the desire to exterminate Roma gypsies is emerging in parts of Europe, a Brussels conference has been told.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Turkey Between East and West

Turkey has long aligned itself with Western powers, dating back to Ottoman participation in the Concert of Europe. It’s currently a member of the Council of Europe, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Many Turks view accession to the European Union (EU) as the capstone to its longstanding ambition to be recognized as a modern European power. Others in Turkey, however, are leery of EU-inspired democratization schemes and wonder if admission is indeed worth the cost of the ticket.


Monday, November 17, 2008

The End of Wall Street's Boom

The era that defined Wall Street is finally, officially over. Michael Lewis, who chronicled its excess in Liar’s Poker, returns to his old haunt to figure out what went wrong.

Michael Lewis describes in wonderful detail how few investors of Wall Street firms and securities really understood how out of whack the system was, dating back to the mid-1980's. He also explains how most Wall Street company CEO's and their henchmen were morally bankrupt and didn't care who they ripped off. This is a great article with the information presented in a story about a few Wall Streeters who figured it out and went against the countless thieves and villains of this corrupt financial system.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Burma: The Resource Curse

Howard Hsu (a University of California, Berkeley student) travelled to Burma (Myanmar) in the spring of 2008, posing as a tourist. He has published a 3-minute slideshow/video of his findings on the state of the exotic animal trade and degradation of the environment. And yes, China, and othe neighbouring countries are the sources of the destruction.

While roughly half of the remaining forests in mainland Southeast Asia are in Burma, they are rapidly disappearing to fuel China's surging economy. Burma suffers from what some call a "resource curse" -- while its abundant timber and other precious commodities have become prime targets for China and other neighboring countries, the money generated benefits Burma's military regime and does little to help local residents.

Monday, November 03, 2008

More from the Front Lines of the Financial Crisis

The financial crisis is not anywhere near over. Anyone calling a bottom right now to the stock markets, housing markets, or deflation is wrong. There is more to come. How much more? That is the question, but we aren't near the bottom yet.

In its latest economic outlook, Merrill Lynch economists "worry about inflation, or more precisely," a lack of it. From crashing global equity markets, falling commodity prices, rising unemployment, stagnant wages, over-indebted households, declining production, the continuing housing crisis, and more. All pointing to several future quarters of negative growth. Showing that Fed chairman Bernanke will face "his greatest fear: deflation." An analysis of the coincident to lagging indicators signals "deep recession."