Blogs

Digging into AIG bonuses and other aid recipients

On Sunday March 15, 2009, American International Group, Inc. revealed the identities of some of the beneficiaries of about half of the nearly $180 billion the US government has committed ($173 billion actually paid out so far) to support the ailing international financial giant. As we now know, AIG sold credit default swaps (CDS) that paid off if the market value of some bonds fell.  read more »

Buffett Update: Downgrade from Oracle to Seer?

A day or so after he was on CNBC, Warren Buffett went on Bloomberg Television and told them that he’ll continue to sell derivatives contracts. He’s getting deeper into investments that he has called “financial weapons of mass destruction.” Apparently he’s betting that there will not be a crash (which would require a payout) in corporate junk bonds, muni bonds or stock markets in the UK, Europe and Japan. Here’s the punch line: his stock is up 17.2% since he started talking!  read more »

Blagojevich Misdoings Could Have National Fallout

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's arrest, impeachment and removal from office assured his place as another famous name in our state’s corruption hall of disrepute. But it turns out the selling of President Obama’s Senate Seat was only a minor part of Blagojevich’s misdoings – and some of this could have greater national political fall-out than is commonly imagined.  read more »

NGVideo: East St. Louis (Part II)

The second part in the series on East St. Louis gives views of downtown today, shows how its history can be seen in the city, and explains why the city could still be a good place for new development.  read more »

I’ll have a $14,000 vacation with my lobbyists, please.

Democratic lawmakers from California recently took a break in the midst of “intense state budget negotiations” to travel up to a wine-country lodge complete with gourmet food, rooms, and cocktails with a trio of interests footing the $14,000 bill.  read more »

Transit Captures Little of Driving Decline

Over the past year, transit ridership has risen and that is a good thing. At the same time, driving has declined, due to both higher gasoline prices and the economic downturn. Some analysts have implied that people are giving up driving and using transit instead. An analysis of just released transit and urban roadway usage indicates no such thing. During the fourth quarter, the transit increase from a year earlier represented just 0.7 percent of the driving decline. This is even lower than the 2 to 3 percent figures registered in the first through third quarters.  read more »

Not All Retail is Tanking in this Recession

A reader forwarded along this video of a bustling recent weekend at La Gran Plaza, a shopping center serving the Latino market in Fort Worth, TX. Just a few years ago, La Gran Plaza was a failing conventional shopping center before developers purchased it and completely redesigned and repurposed the mall to cater to Latinos. Partly because it serves a more insular, cash based clientele and largely because of brilliant design and programming choices, this mall seems to be thriving during a very tough period for retailers.  read more »

Proposed Obama Cuts Will Impair Maintenance and Expansion of Nuclear Energy

The days of the nu-cu-ler presidency may be over, but nuclear energy continues to be a hot-button issue, even if pronunciation isn’t the problem.

As it stands, President Obama plans to “slash the budgets of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the national nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada,” reports eco-watcher Paul Taylor.  read more »

Obama Administration to Repeat Protectionist Errors of 1930s?

In a potentially ominous development, Television New Zealand reports that the Obama government has postponed free trade agreement discussions under the proposed Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (P4) with New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile. Along with the United States, Australia, Peru and Vietnam were to have been involved in the expanded free trade area. It is reported that the postponement is related to an assessment of trade policy by the Obama administration.  read more »

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Fantasy Default Scenarios

Imagine the following scenario. John, Paul, Ringo and George are the only members of a society and each has amassed a pile of currency over his lifetime. John and Paul each have 100 utils, Ringo has 300 utils and George has 500 utils. All told, the size of the entire system is 1000 utils.  read more »

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