Poor Us: The Great Depression 2.0

June 1, 2009

Are Gun Sales Silver Lining for Gloomy Stock Market?

Filed under: Harbinger — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 6:13 pm


By  Poor Us Guest Contributor srhansen

In cloudy times it often suits to look for a silver lining. According to many reports, gun sales are booming.  Peter Bronson, in an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, quotes a clerk at One Shot, a local gun store,”Go anywhere else and the economy is in trouble, but walk into a gun shop and you’ll think the economy is fine.”

A story by Frederick Kunkle in The Washington Post, refers to Gary Kleck, a researcher at Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, who indicated that times of uncertainty often spur sales of firearms because of concerns about personal safety. According to the Wall Street Journal, “fear and greed” have propelled a 27 percent spike in background checks for gun sales.

And, for the first time in my life, I heard an advertisement for gun sales on the air–Fox Sports Radio.  I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Fox chose this particular sponsor, and one could argue that it’s aimed at the field and stream folk. But it’s just as likely targeted at soccer hooligans and NASCAR supporters.

The web site is called ColdWarShooters.The home page features a $2,499.99 semi-automatic carbine with a 17.4” civilian legal barrel.  Pistols range from $300 to over $1,000. Since the cold war is over, who is the target consumer? The burglars?  The burgled?  Both?

What’s the sliver bullet, er lining? My guess is silk. Everyone’s looking for stock hunches, so perhaps its time to channel that 401k into AK 47s. Maybe Smith & Wesson? Or Sturm Ruger? My choice is Hillenbrand, parent company of the Batesville Casket Company.  It’s a good bet that whether it’s the good guys or the bad guys lockin’ and loadin’, the end result will be a rising demand for burial supplies.

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May 21, 2009

Bubblicious: From NPR to MGM Recession Tales Defy Reality

Girl And Movie Poster, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1938 by WPA Photographer John VachonA couple of weeks ago on NPR Planet Money, a podcast often referenced by Poor Us, reporter Adam Davidson interviewed TARP Oversight Committee Chair Elizabeth Warren, who also happens to be a Harvard law professor with 30 years of experience studying  contracts and credit. Davidson proceeded to get all “yelly,” dismissing Warren’s focus on the plight of the family in the financial crisis as “not in the mainstream of views on this issue,” and finally instructing her on what her job should be:

“What it feels to me is what you are missing is that — I think we put aside your pet issues. We put them aside. We put them aside until this crisis is over.”

The response from listeners was immediate and fierce as hundreds of comments appeared on the Planet Money blog deriding Davidson on his unprofessional conduct and his undisguised pro-Wall Street,  anti- family bias. Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review blog The Audit explains:

If you want a peek inside business-press mentality, and why certain stories get reported and others don’t, you can do worse than start here. It sees Warren as an outlier whose views, based on decades of research, are suspicious. It would never, ever have badgered a former bank exec, say, like this if one had been chairman of the panel.Davidson has been talking to too many bankers and insiders who sneer at someone not inside their bubble.

It’s really no surprise that Wall Street’s interest in wage-earners ended as soon as our pockets had  been picked clean. Still it was a shock to witness a reporter claim the oligarch’s POV as “mainstream.”  Perhaps Davidson needs to get out of the bubble and visit the “real” America.

Of course, he might get more than he bargained for on his Sullivan’s Travels. In that 1941 Preston Sturges’  satire, a movie director famous for his screwball comedies decides at the height of the Great Depression to take to the road incognito as research for his next picture.

Sullivan:     I want this picture to be a . . . document. I want to hold a mirror up to life. I want this to be a picture of dignity . . . a true canvas of the suffering of humanity.

LeBrand:    But with a little sex in it.

Sullivan: [reluctantly] But with a little sex in it.

Davidson might find out as Sullivan did that “true humanity” is not a  “pet project” with which to trifle. Of course, Sullivan retreated right back into Hollywood’s bubblicious version of reality, but his dream of holding up a mirror to our suffering lives on. As we speak, hundreds of empathy-fueled network execs and studio chiefs are struggling to fathom the petty concerns of the worried, out-of-work sad sacks who litter the landscape beyond the San Andres Fault.  They mean to care, and they certainly want to sell tickets and garner high ratings, yet too often when they let their imaginations roam outside the bubble they get reality wrong.

For expample, what made them think that now’s the moment we’re itching to be reminded  that “greed-is-good”?  Yet they’ve fast-tracked Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2, with the unavoidable Shia LaBeouf in the Charlie Sheehan role.

And surely the perfect entertainment for a nation with  six million unemployed is  Fox network’s upcoming reality show:

Someone’s Gotta Go, where each week employees at an actual small business that needs to cut costs will pick who gets the heave-ho.”

Of course, for every lame attempt to relate, such as this gag-inducing pitch:

The Company Men, John Wells (“ER” executive producer) writing and directing, now in production. Ben Affleck gets downsized from hotshot corporate gig; salt-of-earth brother-in-law Kevin Costner helps him find blue-collar work.

There will be a snarky effort to crack wise like this “Friends” without benefits sitcom:

Canned, ABC, sitcom Group of Generation X friends all get laid off from their banking jobs.

Nonetheless, for all its faults, we’re only on the hook to Hollywood for the price of a ticket, whereas Wall Street and their bedfellows in corporate media cost us everything we’ve got or ever hoped to have. Tip to Davidson: if you or your ilk do step outside the bubble, travel fast and incognito or you could end up in reality according to director Sam Raimi (Spider-man, Evil Dead), who is always looking to tear the bubble a new one. :

Drag Me to Hell, Loan officer (Alison Lohman) forecloses on elderly woman, causing demonic curse. May 29 release.

Here’s a round up of greenlighted economy-themed films and TV series (after jump)  from Recession’s star rises in Hollywood:

Recession Films

(more…)

May 19, 2009

Beach Reading: 2008 Best Notable Government Documents

Filed under: Wise up — debacled @ 4:38 pm

Naked_April_by_NuclearSeasons

Your interest in government documents may begin and end on April 15. Who but geeky reporters or  nerdy law professors would be seen on the sand flipping sunblock-smeared gov doc pages speckled with guacamole and margarita salt? Fair enough. However, there have been some real page turners in the genre. Remember the Pentagon Papers? And I’ll wager a few of you still have well-thumbed copies of Monica Lewinsky’s expert testimony re: cigars in the bottom drawer of your nightstand.

So, just imagine the eye-popping revelations that must be contained within the Best Notable Government Documents : Who doomed the economy? Who killed Kennedy?  Who piloted the Roswell UFO?  Is the answer to all of the above Dick Cheney?

Thanks to the Library Journal’s timely publication of their annual “Best Notable” list,  some sizzling reading matter like Turning Points in Wisconsin History can be downloaded before the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.  And for those of you who have an attention span longer than a Twitter Tweet, you’ll find some of these BN gov docs might be…

Intriguing:

The FBI: A Centennial History, 1908–2008. Federal Bureau of Investigation. It all started with a short memo, dated July 26, 1908, describing a “regular force of special agents” available to investigate certain cases of the Department of Justice. Includes overviews of more than 40 famous FBI cases and an extensive collection of never-before-seen photos.

Useful:

Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World This first comprehensive report on global green job trends and prospects finds that efforts to control climate change are already generating new jobs, with more growth potential in both developed and developing countries. Data on renewable energy, energy efficiency, transit, and organic agriculture indicate that transitioning to a sustainable, low-carbon economy can provide an engine for growth. Though intended for a wide audience, this title is particularly relevant to policymakers, entrepreneurs, workers, and trade unions. Enhanced by many dynamic photographs

And yes, there’s even a few gems for those who prefer the scent of a smoking-gun over sunscreen:

Thanks to the man who brought us EDGAR, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) database of corporate filings, Carl Malamud is particularly noted for “ripping” information from clunky government servers, which either charge users for downloads or make the information so difficult to find as to be virtually unworkable. He then posts it freely on his web site. Government agencies accustomed to making money off taxpayer-funded data have naturally been displeased, but librarians have been delighted. Malamud has posted over 80 million pages of legal documents on the site Public.Resource.Org, including federal appeals court decisions, navy papers, and building codes from all 50 states (some states claim copyright over state legal material).

Wikileaks: Congressional Research Service (CRS)

Last February, WikiLeaks released a total of 6780 CRS reports going back to 1990. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the nonpartisan research arm of Congress, has never systematically made its reports available to the public. This institute, funded annually by $100 million of taxpayer money, writes well-researched and informative studies for members of Congress to assist in the making of our laws…CRS reports have long been scattered and difficult to obtain—until now.

And don’t forget to have some fun under the sun, too!

Looking Back, Moving On: 2008 Best Notable Government Documents

h/t Resource Shelf

May 18, 2009

Interactive Misery Map: Watch US jobs disappear before your eyes

June 2007June 2008 March 2009

A lot of people are unemployed, even 24-hour cable news anchors tell us that much; and we can turn to the internet to fill us in on the multi-million dollar Wall Street paydays that remain a fact of life. Still, while we’re told things are getting better, everyday people continue to tell stories of hardship. So how can we get a handle on the impact the recession is having on the nation? Slate’s recently updated interactive map of job loss across the country did the trick for me. The trio of images above provide national snapshots of employment –blue for job growth, red for job loss– in June 2007, June 2008 and March 2009 (updated last week using the latest figures ). For the record, the number of jobless claims — those drawn by workers collecting benefits for more than one week — rose 202,000 in the week ended May 2 to 6,560,000, the highest level since the government started keeping track in 1967.

When Did Your County’s Jobs Disappear?An interactive map of vanishing employment across the country, updated with the latest figures.
By Chris Wilson

The economic crisis, which has claimed more than 5 million jobs since the recession began, did not strike the entire country at once. A map of employment gains or losses by county tells the story of how those job losses first struck in the most vulnerable regions and then spread rapidly to the rest of the country. As early as August 2007, for example—several months before the recession officially began—jobs were already on the decline in southwest Florida; Orange County, Calif.; much of New Jersey; and Detroit, while other areas of the country remained on the uptick. Updated Thursday, May 14, 2009 The Slate map uses the Labor Department’s local area unemployment statistics for each county in America. Because the data are not seasonally adjusted for natural employment cycles throughout the year, the numbers you see show the change in the number of people employed compared with the same month in the previous year. Blue dots represent a net increase in jobs, while red dots indicate a decrease. The larger the dot, the greater the number of jobs gained or lost. Click the arrows or calendar at the bottom to see each month of data. Click the green play button to see an animation of the data.

h/t Creditslips

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May 15, 2009

There’s A Pony In There Somewhere: US Owns 38,000 (and counting) Foreclosed Homes

Pony Rides by kirawolfess Deviantart.com

How do the rich get richer? Now that Bernie Madoff is out of business, a lot of previously well-fixed folks are themselves trying to remember the magic formula.

Rest assured, for every never-rich person such as myself contemplating work without end, there is a get-rich schemer scanning the economic wasteland for ways to turn catastrophe into cash. A handful will undoubtedly succeed in finding a pony wrapped up in all that bad paper.

Case in point: I once worked for a man of significant wealth who had made his money buying up real estate abandoned by the military following WWII. Sites in strategic military locations like the strip of ocean frontage now known as Marina del Rey, CA.

That’s why when I read today’s headlines about the governments’ growing stockpile of foreclosed homes, and burgeoning tent cities I can’t help but think that somewhere someone is seeing the ghost neighborhoods of Detroit the the floating cities of the future or Hobbity tree-house retirement villages for eco-sensitive baby boomers.

Gov’t losses big in home market – USATODAY.com

Since 2007, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has acquired at least 110,000 foreclosed houses, its records show, spending about $12.2 billion to reimburse lenders after the owners defaulted on government-backed loans. So far, HUD has been able to recover only about $5.5 billion by reselling them. It has about 38,000 homes still for sale.

The government’s houses are divided among a handful of agencies. Most came into federal hands when borrowers defaulted on government-backed mortgages; in some cases, the government foreclosed on loans it wrote, or took over foreclosed properties from private lenders. The list doesn’t include homes repossessed by federally chartered mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Gov't losses big in home market - USATODAY.com

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News Business Tanks; Business News On A Roll

Corporate Failure  by VitamEternum via Deviant ArtThe dire condition of print journalism has been making headlines recently as newspapers around the country fold or are on the brink of doing so. The situation has become so worrisome that last week Sen. John Kerry held a hearing on” The Future of  Journalism” that featured testimony from Internet journalists like Arianna Huffington, and print journalists like former Baltimore Sun reporter, and producer of “The Wire” David Simon.

The hearing itself although temperate in tone managed to stir a snarky response from Joe Weisenthal of The Silicon Valley InsiderThe Ridiculous Newspaper Bailout Begins:

Yesterday, Sen. John Kerry held a hearing on the “Future or Journalism” — but we’ll just call it what is was: A hearing about a possible newspaper bailout.

Which inspired an immediate retort from Kenneth Corbin of  InternetNews.com suggesting  Weisenthal should Stick to the Facts: No One’s Bailing Out the Newspapers.  So if the good ship Future of Journalism seems to be sinking rather quickly,  it could be due to the increasingly leaden weight of all the last words being stockpiled by members of the crew.

In other news news, the much maligned business journalists (Mother Jones How Could 9000 Business Reporters Blow It? And the Huffington Post answer,  How 9,000 Business Reporters Blew the Mother of All Meltdowns, with even a discouraging word thrown in by Poor Us) are finally feeling the love. Not from the Pulitzers or any big deal awards outfit like that, but from the nonetheless very honorable UCLA Anderson School of Management.

The Loeb Awards are the highest honors in business journalism. They were established in 1957 by Gerald Loeb, a founding partner of E. F. Hutton, to encourage quality reporting in the areas of business, finance and the economy in order to inform and protect private investors and the general public. Presented by UCLA Anderson School of Management since 1973, the awards recognize writers, editors and producers of both print and broadcast media for the significant contributions they make in this field.

If you want to catch up on your Financial Crash history, the work of the 2009 nominees provide an excellent reading list (allow me to particularly recommend Charles R. Morris’s  book “Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash.” It’s the only one of the three nominees I’ve read, but Morris provided a clear and thorough explanation of the causes of the current crisis)

And here are all of the  2009 nominees:

Large Newspapers Category

The finalists in the large newspapers category (circulation of more than 300,000) are:

* Gretchen Morgenson, Peter S. Goodman, Charles Duhigg, Carter Dougherty, Eric Dash, Julie Creswell, Jo Becker, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Stephen Labaton for “The Reckoning” in The New York Times (more…)

May 7, 2009

“What need is there to weep over parts of life?”: A Timely Essay on the Folly of Optimism

Filed under: Wise up — Tags: , , , , , — debacled @ 6:40 pm

Hope over Fear by Lee026 via Deviantart.com  “The whole of it calls for tears,” is the philosopher Seneca’s punch line to the titular quote. Ah, despair. What a perfect antidote to the populist rage fomented by Matt Taibbi in yesterday’s post, which was the first of the Poor Me posts published during the current Poor Us flu crisis. 

Tip of the hat to the always fascinating and usually uplifting website BookofJoe where I stumbled upon the following ray of sunshine published last week in the Financial Times

The essay, which explains why we should fear hope above all, was written by Alain De Botton, author of The Consolations of Philosophy , How Proust Can Change Your Life and more recently The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.   It almost makes having the flu seem like the least worst thing that could be happening to me this week. For that I’m grateful.  It’s about the only comfort to be found here, as precious little as that is, but if you follow his advice, you’ll do as I have and take what you can get and be glad you got that much.

For a happier life, shake off your misplaced optimism

It has been clear for a while, at least since the first talk started about “green shoots” of recovery, that what we have to fear above all is hope. Attempts to trust that the worst is over and to stop frightening ourselves seem doomed to project us into yet worse disappointment. We are not only unhappy but – believing calm and happiness to be the norm – unhappy that we are unhappy.

It is time to recognise how odd and counter-productive is the optimism on which we have grown up. For the last 200 years, despite occasional shocks, the western world has been dominated by a belief in progress, based on its extraordinary scientific and entrepreneurial achievements. On a broader perspective, this optimism is a grave anomaly. Humans have spent most of recorded history drawing a curious comfort from expecting the worst. In the west, lessons in pessimism have derived from two sources: Roman Stoic philosophy and Christianity. It may be time to revisit some of these teachings, not to add to our misery but precisely so as to alleviate our sorrow.

To focus on the first of these sources, the philosopher Seneca should be the author of the hour. Living in a time of financial and political upheaval (Nero was on the Imperial throne), Seneca interpreted philosophy as a discipline to keep us calm against a backdrop of continuous danger. His consolation was of the stiffest, darkest sort: “You say: ‘I did not think it would happen.’ Do you think there is anything that will not happen, when you know that it is possible to happen, when you see that it has already happened … ?” Seneca tried to calm the sense of injustice in his readers by reminding them – in AD62 – that natural and man-made disasters will always be a feature of our lives, however sophisticated and safe we think we have become.

If we do not dwell on the risk of sudden calamity, in the money markets or elsewhere, and pay a price for our innocence, it is because reality comprises two cruelly confusing characteristics: on the one hand, continuity and reliability lasting decades; on the other, unheralded cataclysms. We find ourselves divided between a plausible invitation to assume that tomorrow will be much like today and the possibility that we will meet with an appalling event, after which nothing will ever be the same again. The Goddess of Fortune can scatter gifts, then watch as with terrifying speed a 50-year-old company disappears or a balance sheet is destroyed by toxic assets.

Because we are hurt most by what we do not expect, and because we must expect everything (“There is nothing which Fortune does not dare”), we must, argued Seneca, hold the possibility of the most obscene events in mind at all times. No one should make an investment, undertake to run a company, sit on a board or leave money in a bank without an awareness, which Seneca would have wished to be neither gruesome nor unnecessarily dramatic, of the darkest possibilities.

Given our financial prowess, we have for too long thought of ourselves as in control of our destiny. We have trusted in the mathematical geniuses who promised us “risk management” and fashioned derivatives so complex we dared not look inside. Such trust could not be further from a Stoic mindset. We must, stressed Seneca, expand our sense of what may go wrong in our lives: “Nothing ought to be unexpected by us. Our minds should be sent forward in advance to meet all the problems, and we should consider, not what is wont to happen, but what can happen. What is man? A vessel that the slightest shaking, the slightest toss will break. A body weak and fragile.”

Christianity only backed up the Stoic message. It pointed out that while humans might strive for perfection, it is a problem – indeed a sin – to suppose that such perfection can ever occur on earth. Nothing human can ever be free of blemishes. There cannot be an end to boom and bust, mayhem and death.

We have tended to cast such gloomy messages aside. The modern bourgeois philosophy pins its hopes firmly on two great presumed ingredients of happiness, love and work. But there is vast unthinking cruelty discreetly coiled within this magnanimous assurance that everyone will discover satisfaction here. It is not that these two entities are invariably incapable of delivering fulfilment, only that they almost never do so for too long.

When an exception is misrepresented as a rule, our individual misfortunes, instead of seeming to us quasi-inevitable aspects of life, weigh down on us like particular curses. In denying the natural place reserved for longing and disaster in the human lot, the bourgeois ideology denies us the possibility of collective consolation for our fractious marriages, unexploited ambitions and exploded portfolios, and condemns us instead to solitary feelings of shame and persecution for having stubbornly failed to make more of ourselves.

We should, of course, instead remember the great pessimistic voices of history. There are two quotes I cherish for these sorts of times. One is from Seneca: “What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.” The other is from the French moralist Chamfort: “A man should swallow a toad every morning to be sure of not meeting with anything more revolting in the day ahead.”

bookofjoe: ‘We are hurt most by what we do not expect’ — Alain de Botton

May 6, 2009

Matt Taibbi sez “Stop Whining About Populist Anger!”

Filed under: Wise up — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 9:45 pm

Character, Southern Illinois, by Lee Russell, WPA 1937

My own populist outrage has been muted by the flu just when I should be bulking up my torch-waving arm for a march against  big investors angling to take over banks (and steal what’s left of our prosperity). Luckily, journalist Matt Taibbi has enough for both of us and then some.

Start your blood boiling below, but then read Taibbi’s full fury here  … and just know that I agree with him even though I’m currently too sick to shake a fist much less a pitchfork.

“As for the credit card companies, fuck them. The biggest of them are engaged in one of the all-time great scams right now, gorging themselves on cheap money lent to them by the Fed or the government via bailout programs and then turning right around and further widening their spread by increasing prices to the ordinary consumer. Imagine an oil company that got to buy government crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a discount during the Katrina crisis and then turned around and gouged consumers during the shortage.

Think there would be public anger then? Maybe. This is close to the same thing, and let’s not forget who these motherfuckers are: they are the people who spent most of the last decade and a half showering congressmen with cash in order to get the Bankruptcy Bill passed. That bill made it significantly harder for people to declare bankruptcy to get out from credit card debt so that they could keep their homes. A study by the New York Federal Reserve last year concluded that there are roughly 32,000 more foreclosures per quarter because of this bill than there would have been had the old bankruptcy laws remained in place. The study estimated that the bill resulted in about 400,000 additional foreclosures total since its inception.

Gee, you think that played a role in the financial crisis at all? Forgetting all the predatory practices that these people are known for, they were a major accomplice in the financial disaster — and now they’re fighting tooth and nail to keep Congress from forcing them to stop arbitrarily jacking up fees on consumers. In other words the same banks (like Citi, for instance) that got a hot sexy multi-billion-dollar massage from the Fed and TARP when they pushed their debt-to-equity ratios to insane levels, borrowing 30 and 40 dollars for every dollar they had and investing them in the housing casino and the derivatives market, now are arguing that ordinary losers like you and me who might have $5000 or $10000 in revolving credit card debt shouldn’t get a break on their fees just because times are tough (or because they’re too stupid to hire a $500-an-hour lawyer to decipher their insane consumer contracts). In other words, when you borrow $500 billion against $20 billion and blow all of it at the roulette table, you should get a bailout; but when you take out a $10,000 credit card to pay for gas and groceries, you should pay whatever freight the company deems fit.”

Matt Taibbi – Taibblog – Stop Whining About Populist Anger! – True/Slant

May 1, 2009

Banks Still Calling Shots; Senate Pulls the Trigger

Irrational Exuberance via bighplotkinartcom-It was called the “Mortgage Cramdown Law” and it was supposed to help mortgage holders–consumers, struggling families, voters– deal with banks and stay in their homes.   It was a big deal.

How big? The chair of the bailout watchdog committee, Elizabeth Warren, quoted by  Reuters on Monday, insisted that “bankruptcy judges must be allowed to reduce home mortgage debt or the Obama administration’s housing rescue efforts could fail in the areas where they are most needed.

“If this were business property, a chapter 11, or a corporate chapter 7 proceeding, there would be no restriction to write down the secured debt to the value of the collateral,” she said. “The law recognizes everywhere the importance, in a financial crisis, of recognizing losses, taking the hit and moving on,” she said.

She said she could only attribute the existence of the exception to the political clout of the mortgage banking industry. If the cramdown proposals fail in Congress, “It means that the banks are still calling the shots.”

So, of course, our elected officials in the U.S. Senate sided with their key constituency on this crucial matter, as reported today by Bloomberg:

“The U.S. Senate rejected a measure that would let bankruptcy judges cut mortgage terms to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, a victory for banks and credit unions that said the legislation would increase loan costs.

The proposed “cram-down” amendment to a housing bill was defeated today in a 51-45 vote, with 12 Democrats among the 51 opponents. The measure needed 60 votes to pass over Republican objections. The House passed its version 234-191 on March 5. via Naked Capitalism

Here are the 12 Democrats who joined the 49  Republicans as bag men for the banksters, may the swine pox befall them all:Democrats voting against the measure were: Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Specter.

And may the acursed swineflueza stricken these grinning fools, too:

Mortgage Bankers Celebrate Victory

You would think this year’s Mortgage Bankers Association annual meeting would be a rather solemn affair — given the criticism the industry has endured in recent months. But an ANP reporter attending the meeting found the bankers in a celebratory mood. The reason? A massive lobbying campaign against bankruptcy reform legislation known as “cram-down” appeared to be working.

April 29, 2009

Fun in Acapulco? Really? Poor Us correspondent reports from Mexico’s travel trade show Tianguis Turistico

Influenza by Cyphermx via Deviantart.com With the global economy tanking and a nasty Narco War raging, the Mexican Ministry of Tourism was really looking to book a win at their 34th annual tourism trade show Tiagnguis Turistico in Acapulco.

I’m sure they imagined the odds were in their favor. What else could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, the bad stuff was just getting started (don’t you hate when that happens?).

The travel industry pros—the people that organize conventions, package tours, weddings, and the people who write about it—arrived in Acapulco on Sunday, the day before a traveler’s advisory went into effect and a pandemic of panic headlines circled the globe faster than the Swine Flu outbreak they were freaking out about.

Luckily, there had been no reported cases of the flu in Acapulco, so they decided to go on with the show, holding meetings outside and nixing discos and other venues where too much mixing with the locals might turn out to be, well, fatal.

So far so good?  Not so fast, the god of screw you wasn’t done with Acapulco yet,  as Poor Us correspondent Traveljones reported: “ We had an earthquake, a 5.6, while I was blogging in the press room. People were sprinting for the exits.”

How fun is that? Despite earthquake, epidemic and the Bullet Flu, (as Jon Stewart nicknamed the drug war),  Traveljones reports that Tiagnguis Turistico stuck as close as possible to business as usual. “Es la economía, estúpido,” is the bottom line on both sides of the border:Fun in Acapulco or is Elvis examining Ursula Andress for Swine Flu symptoms?

Flu news came after the conference started, so it didn’t keep people away, though  some people have left early, partly because of the flu and partly because business is slow this year in general.

I mean the flu isn’t really as huge a topic as you’d think. People are more concerned about the lack of business to Mexico, with US travelers freaked out by yet another story about big bad Mexico and canceling their trips left and right. Some people are wearing masks, but from what’s been said the outbreak has been in the southern section of Mexico City, the huge teeming barrio of bottom rungers.

The narco war isn’t really a topic, since everyone here (travel agents, travel writers) knows that the places with all the violence (Tijuana, Juarez) have never been travel destinations, and those places aren’t represented here anyway.

As far as the recession, most people in this country have been living in permanent recession/depression anyway, farther down the ladder than ours even goes. But yeah, this’ll take them one step lower since tourism is a major industry here. I guess one way they’re dealing with it is the tons of deals they have here now, more than ever. I mean, in general, things are subdued but people are still out, life goes on and they gotta make a buck.  TJ

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