Welcome to life in Mendota — the unemployment capital of California.
With a 41 percent jobless rate, the town's social fabric is tearing at
the seams. Alcoholism and crime are on the rise. To save money, some
mothers wash and re-use disposable diapers. Unemployed men with nothing
to do wander the streets and sit on benches.
The irony is
obvious: In a large swath of the nation's most productive farming
region, many struggle to fill their own cupboards.
A bad drought is the primary problem, but lack of construction jobs and other work as a fallback is hurting, too.
Just months before the start of last year's stock market collapse, the
federal agency that insures the retirement funds of 44 million
Americans departed from its conservative investment strategy and
decided to put much of its $64 billion insurance fund into stocks.
Switching from a heavy reliance on bonds, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation decided to pour billions of dollars into speculative investments such
as stocks in emerging foreign markets, real estate, and private equity
The agency refused to say how much of the new investment
strategy has been implemented or how the fund has fared during the
But wait, there's no cause for alarm: "Charles E.F. Millard, the former agency director who implemented the
strategy until the Bush administration departed on Jan. 20, dismissed
such concerns. Millard, a former managing director of Lehman Brothers,
said flatly that 'the new investment policy is not riskier than the old
Over the past year, the country’s top organized crime prosecutor has
been arrested for receiving cartel cash, as was the director of
Interpol in Mexico. The cartels even managed to slip a mole inside the
United States Embassy. Those in important positions who have resisted
taking cartel money are often shot to death.
Maybe we all need to rethink the approach to the problem:
Three years ago, the Mexican Congress passed a plan to decriminalize
the possession of small quantities of cocaine and other drugs, but Vicente Fox,
then the president, killed the bill after American officials raised an
alarm. Mr. Calderón made a similar proposal last fall, albeit lowering
the amounts still further, and this time American officials did not
utter a peep.
"American politics is returning to a long-forgotten state of preoccupation with banking." Interesting how populist distrust of the banks, a major theme in U.S. history that helped shape the modern presidency under Jackson and, generations later, launch the progressive era, is missing from much of today's rage rhetoric. Pretending that the "elites" who screw the common folk don't include the financiers is a game that worked well for a while, but it feels pretty dated now.
"Obamanomics recognizes that the only resource uniquely rooted in a
national economy is its people -- their skills, insights, capacities to
collaborate, and the transportation and communication systems that link
them together. Public investment is the key to attracting long-term
private investment so that a nation's people can prosper."
Robert Reich frames the "powerful animating idea" behind Obama's policies.
More: "[E]very nation faces an implicit choice of whether its strategic
advantage will lie in low costs or high productivity. For the better
part of the last three decades America's job strategy has tended toward
the former. But this inevitably exerts downward pressure on the real
wages of a larger and larger portion of our population."
Not unrelated: Newtogso comments on the Forbes ranking of Greensboro as a cheap place to do business; we're 115th for educational attainment.
that the number one ranking of cost of doing business isn't necessarily
a positive. That means we are cheapest...that means we are more likely
to attract companies that value that aspect of our populace more so
than our quality of life. It also means that we appear to be more
likely to give away the farm in the form of developer and business
incentives. Look at the cost of doing business in places like Seattle
and Portland. Sure hurts their reputations don't it.
"Lights out for Billy Clyde." A post-mortem on Billy Gillispie's tenure as Kentucky's basketball coach. Matt Doherty is invoked. We are told, "this decision had little to do with wins and losses," and, two sentences later, that Gillispie might have survived if he'd won more. Item 4 is particularly damning. 341 comments and counting.
In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis
is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging
markets (and only in emerging markets)...
...But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business
interests — financiers, in the case of the U.S. — played a central role in
creating the crisis...More
alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the
sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of
its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act
...[J]ust as we have the world’s most
advanced economy, military, and technology, we also have its most
advanced oligarchy...the American financial industry gained political power by
amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system.
Tyler Hansbrough, the ACC's all-time leading scorer, has a chance to move into 12th place on the NCAA scoring list if Carolina keeps winning. But even with longer seasons and four years of eligibility, nobody challenges #1. Many videos at YouTube, including this one, which highlights some phenomenal passes, and the one below.
"While many of its rivals are retrenching in the economic downturn, VF
plans to open 70 stores this year–for a total of 759 stores
worldwide–and may add more if conditions improve." Greensboro's last big company refines its retail strategy.
An endorsement (and clear explanation) of the Geithner plan, with caveats: "It doesn't represent the end of the crisis, not by a long shot. But it
represents the beginning of something we should be applauding, not
condemning: cold, hard reality."
"President Barack Obama unveiled a new war strategy for Afghanistan on Friday with a key goal -- to crush al Qaeda militants there and in Pakistan who he said were plotting new attacks on the United States." Apparently it's 2001 again. I'm going to buy a bunch of housing and banking stocks, and then sell them before the bubble pops.
I don’t think this is just a financial panic; I believe that it
represents the failure of a whole model of banking, of an overgrown
financial sector that did more harm than good. I don’t think the Obama
administration can bring securitization back to life, and I don’t
believe it should try.
Finance got too big and too powerful at the expense of the overall economy -- Wall Street's mystique was its most successful and dangerous product of the last quarter-century. But I don't know how much of the machinery we need to mothball to create a saner system. And I'm still wondering what replaces the chunk of GNP that finance once drove.
"The Blue Devils are no longer the Blue Devils. They’re just another
good program. Good, not great. They don’t have what Duke is accustomed
to having. They haven’t for years. When they get into the grown-men
rounds of the NCAA tournament, they don’t stand a chance." One could say the same thing about their once-fearsome conference.
Another questionable Forbes list. How can so many North Carolina cities rank as "best places for business and careers" when the state unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation? Greensboro is said to be the cheapest place to do business, but educational attainment and projected job growth drag us down to 41st in the rankings.
Debbie Westmoreland and Eddie Murray, with Debbie's godmother, Mabel Loving Hall, on the night of the Page High School senior prom in 1970. The photo will be included in Lisa Scheer's upcoming show at the Greensboro Historical Museum, which incorporates pictures by Lisa and family photos from mill village residents. The exhibition, part of the ArtBeat festival, opens May 1 and will hang for the entire month; Piece Work, a theatrical adaptation of poems by Barbara Presnell, opens at the museum that same night.
"The economic downturn has exacerbated a troubling trend in North
Carolina, [...] adding to the number of
people without health insurance at the fastest pace in the nation." Awesome. We've been among the leaders in job-loss rates, too -- interesting to see how tomorrow's unemployment numbers look.
"Science is not a matter of opinion; it is a question of data. Climate
change is an issue for which Dyson is asking for more evidence, and
leading climate scientists are replying by saying if we wait for
sufficient proof to satisfy you, it may be too late." Freeman Dyson looks at the cost/benefit analysis and says the cost of limiting carbon is too high.
Hagan's heroes: "Mr. Bayh's centrist coalition underscores the fact that many of the
party's gains have come from the South, Midwest and Mountain West, and
its new lawmakers reflect the conservatism of those regions."
C. Yvonne Thomas of Jamestown writes the N&R: "Hagan captured a Senate seat riding the coattails of President Obama.
Now, safely seated, she has become one of the 'ConservaDems,' so-called
by the media because they are not supporting Obama."
I've written a couple of newspaper columns over the years about the value of the Greensboro Coliseum as a marketing and branding tool for the city, over and above the money it brings in to local merchants. Here's a take on that subject from Columbia, SC, which is left off the NCAA host-city list because of the Confederate flag flying at the State House.
For an NCAA basketball event, the host city essentially opens its
front door and asks visitors to drop cash at area hotels and
restaurants. The NCAA covers all expenses...
...Greensboro, a city comparable in size to Columbia, has been hosting
NCAA basketball regionals and the ACC tournament off and on for
decades. Basketball fans around the country know Greensboro as a
mid-sized city in North Carolina that is basketball crazed.
the money Columbia has doled out for music festivals and new slogans
would come back in spades with just one weekend of NCAA tournament
UPDATE: Here's the column by Roubini and Richardson. "With this plan, it will still be a hard swim, but, at least, there is a path to shore."
Roubini kinda likes the cash-for-trash plan. Let's hope this positive take turns out to be as accurate as his negative ones.
Of course, positivity is a relative thing: "Mr. Roubini believes that the Treasury's plan does not preclude
nationalization at all. Rather, he said, it will help to clear the way
to full government takeover of some troubled institutions."