Poor Us: The Great Depression 2.0

March 31, 2009

Jobless, Foreclosed, Broke? Pack up troubles in Uncle Sam’s Emotional Rescue Kit

Filed under: Reduced Circumstances — Tags: , — debacled @ 8:42 pm

Lost your house? Lost your job? Car repossessed? Creditors calling ’round the clock? Don’t know where your next meal is coming from? Suffering from any of these symptoms:

  • Persistent sadness/crying
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Lack of sleep/constant fatigue
  • Excessive irritability/anger
  • Increased drinking
  • Illicit drug use, including misuse of medications

Hey, don’t worry, be happy. Your good ol’ Uncle Sam’s got your back.

The U.S. government is offering an online emotional rescue kit.
Maggie Fox, Reuters, March 30, 2009

The “Getting Through Tough Economic Times” guide at http://www.samhsa.gov/economy/ is meant to help people identify any serious health concerns related to financial worries, develop coping skills and find help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said on Tuesday.

Studies show a serious risk of clinical depression, anxiety and compulsive behaviors such as gambling, overeating and even spending stemming from stress, SAMHSA said.

“By helping people remain resilient, we can help promote the overall recovery of our nation,” SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick said in a statement.


March 30, 2009

Boo Hoo: Another bailout for Wall St. Crybabies

Filed under: Reduced Circumstances — Tags: — debacled @ 4:52 am

It’s OK to cry. Dow Jones Hanky by Design Glut Embroidered with the graph of the Dow Jones from the past 5 years, 2004 to 2009. 100% Linen. 16.5″ x 16.5″ $28.00. Custom pieces also available. For $95, Design Glut will embroider the graph of your stock portfolio.
via BookofJoe

Journalists Now Pounding Jobless Beat

Filed under: Reduced Circumstances — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 2:18 am

Starving_Artist_by_GrayDayAs a journalist who’s looking for work at a time when the newspaper business is in its death throes, I get up each day and wonder how the hell I’m going to find a job.

According to  the American Journalism Review,  about 15,000 other journalists  are asking themselves the same question.

The story offers some bad new:

“For those laid off between 1999 and 2007 who responded to the questionnaire, journalists who needed more than a year to find a job averaged 51 years old. Those who found work in less than three months averaged 46.”

And hope:

Patrick O’Driscoll and Mike Peluso took another popular escape route. They went into media relations. Both are happier men for it, and not because they’re making a pile of money. They were both better paid in their newspaper jobs….O’Driscoll says he has learned this overarching lesson: “Second and third acts can start in your mid-50s.

This story asks the question, “So what do you do now?” that should resonate with journalists or anyone who thought they’d found their life’s work, and are now finding their “Calling” has been rescinded.

Via Renegade Futurist

Is There Life After Journalism?
American Journalism Review, March/April 2009

Many of the respondents have found new jobs. It’s too early to tell about those who lost their jobs within the past year, but for those who did so between 1999 and 2007:

• Just under 36 percent said they found a new job in less than three months. Add those who say they freelance full time, and the total jumps to 53 percent.

• Less than 10 percent say it took them longer than a year.

• Only a handful – 6 percent – found other newspaper jobs. The rest are doing everything from public relations to teaching to driving a bus and clerking in a liquor store.


March 28, 2009

Recession Equity: Wolf at Door of Sinners and Santa Claus

strawberry_prostitution_by_LunasakuramoonThis recession is turning out to be an equal opportunity beast, wolfing down profits in  what sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh calls the underground economy of  prostitutes, drug dealers and fences and then going after Santa, his elves and workshop, too.

The Other Chicago School, by Elisabeth Eaves, Forbes:”There’s far greater competition for whatever meager resources there are. The folks down on Wall Street peddling drugs, they’re fighting. The sex workers are trying as hard as they can to retain their clients,” Venkatesh says…

Venkatesh is watching black market workers slip into despair along with the rest of the population affected by the economy. Lest legal workers consider this a distant problem, one conclusion of Venkatesh’s work is that the underground and mainstream economies are intimately entwined. “The boundaries are fluid, particularly in the global city where the black market has become instrumental–one might even say vital–to the overall economy,” he says. (read on) via Economist’s View

Santa Gets New Landloard As Recession Hits Santa Park, Finnish Lapland

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Pounded by the global recession and facing a sharp economic contraction in 2009, Finland said Tuesday it would sell its stake in Santapark, home to Father Christmas, to local investors.

Finland said it would sell its 32 percent stake to Santa’s Holding Oy, which will also buy shares in the Lapland-based park from the city of Rovaniemi and travel firm Lapin Matkailu Oy to take its stake to 56 percent. (read on)

March 26, 2009

Tick Tock: New Watch Foretells Disaster

Filed under: Harbinger — Tags: , , , , — debacled @ 2:08 am

If only Swiss watchmaker Borgeaud had come up with with their disaster predicting watch a couple of years sooner and peddled it aggressively to Wall Street Derivatives Brokers–who were probably always in the market for watches in the $2000 to $250,000 range–Just think how much less disastrous the world might be today. Unfortunately we can’t claw back time any easier than AIG bonuses and, anyway,  who’d want to know when the next crash is coming?

Here’s the story via WalletPop

Borgeaud, a Swiss manufacturer of premium watches, has teamed with Indian astrologers to produce a fortune-telling watch. The company’s

“Panchang” line allegedly combines “the best of Swiss watch-making and one of the world’s oldest almanacs” to produce a timepiece that will tell users when disaster is poised to strike.
The silver-faced watch features what Ananova describes as a “bedpan-shaped” cutout. The space is generally blue, but occasionally will fill with a brown color, indicating that astral forces are poised to wreak havoc on one’s life. These looming terrors correspond to the “Rahu Kaal;” according to Indian Vedic astrology, these dark periods are inauspicious times in which to begin new undertakings.
Bedpan commentary aside, the watches are quite attractive. Beginning at $2,000, they can run up to $250,000, depending upon the accessories that customers choose. Given that the watchmaker is only producing 650 of them, it is reasonable to predict that the timepieces are going to increase in value. (read on)

If you can’t afford a Panchang watch, you can keep up with the Rahu Kaal and Vedic Astrology Stock Market predictions here:

March 23 –27 –  This week appears to have some potentially negative influences that may make it difficult for the market to add to recent gains. On Monday, the Sun is in a square aspect with Pluto.  This may indicate some tension and struggle surrounding large organizations and government.


March 24, 2009

Watch “Frontline” Tackle the Ten-Trillion Debt Tonight

Filed under: Wise up — Tags: , , , , — debacled @ 5:58 am

usa by piko72 via DeviantArt.com

After NPR: Planet Money, the folks at PBS: Frontline are the best explainers when it comes to telling the sort of complicated, multi-layered, ambiguity-laden news story that stump the talking heads cast as journalists on the 24-hour cable news networks.   So, if you ever hope to understand just exactly how broke we are, the report premiering online and on many PBS stations tonight is must-see TV  :

Ten Trillion and Counting: “All of the federal government’s efforts to stem the tide in the financial meltdown that began with the subprime mortgage crisis have added hundreds of billions of dollars to our national debt. FRONTLINE reports on how this debt will constrain and challenge the new Obama administration, and on the growing chorus on both sides of the aisle that without fiscal reform, the United States government may face a debt crisis of its own which makes the current financial situation pale in comparison. Through interviews with leading experts and insiders in government finance, the film investigates the causes and potential outcomes of—and possible solutions to—America’s $10 trillion debt.”

Stay tuned: next week “Frontline” takes on the health care crisis.

A look at the health-care crisis, which finds some 46 million Americans uninsured and many more underinsured. The episode highlights the problems faced by small businesses and employees, who often pay more for less.

Sick Around America, premieres on PBS stations and online March 31

via Paul Kerdosky’s Infectious Greed

March 23, 2009

“Arrre you kidding?” WWD’s Snarky Suze Orman Bio

Filed under: Who knew? — Tags: , , — debacled @ 5:01 pm

Suze Orman

Over at Celebrity Perfumery–a blog that imagines the perfect aromatic mix to match their original celebrity caricatures–they douse professional scold Suze Orman  in a no-nonsense bouquet of:  “Pleather, Foundation, Hairspray, Cuban heels, Sea breeze, Microphone foam, Mascara, Egg salad sandwich, Fabric softener, Nail hardener, Home sewing machine, Treadmill handles, Facial bleach, Primrose capsules, Freshly minted cash, Crisp linens and Seltzer”

And you can almost catch a wiff of that heady scent while reading today’s snarky bio in Women’s Wear Daily.  My favorite quote: “Even the victims of Bernie Madoff don’t get off scot-free when Orman gets going. “You walked right into that financial concentration camp, my loves.”

There’s almost no one out there as ripe for parody as Orman, 57. There’s the highlight-heavy blonde wedge haircut, the chunky gold earrings and the way she cocks her head to the left and furrows her brow when asked a question about whether to declare bankruptcy, take a loan out on a 401(k) or switch credit card companies.

Her populist rage is just as pronounced off-camera. Sitting in a green room after her TV interviews, she lambasts everyone from Alan Greenspan to Larry Summers to the former president of the United States, who holds an especially dark place in her heart. “Commander in Chief?” she says of George W. Bush, with a mix of disbelief and scorn. “You blew up every single financial vessel we had and if you think you aren’t personally responsible, well, the blame starts at the top. There is no higher top than you, SIR! If I were you, I would feel so absolutely horrific that I would take every penny I had and distribute it to anybody and everybody to help them in whatever way I could. You owe the American people every penny of your fortune and your family’s fortune.” (read on)

via The Consumerist

March 17, 2009

Mad about A.I.G bonuses? Wait’ll ya see their new ransom demands

Filed under: Harbinger — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 5:51 pm

money by joefuckingjudd via DeviantArt.comWhile we’re readying the pitchforks and torches to storm AIG Headquarters over bonuses:

AIG Planning Huge Bonuses After $170 Million Bailout

Under a deal reached last week, A.I.G. agreed that the top 50 executives would get half of the $9.6 million they were supposed to get by March 15. The second half of their bonuses would be paid out in two installments in July and in September. To get those payments, Treasury officials said, A.I.G. would have to show that it had made progress toward its goal of selling off business units and repaying the government. The financial products unit is now being painstakingly wound down. (read on) via New York Times

AIG has been busy drafting a 20-page ransom note demanding, well, whatever cash we’ve got and as much more as we can raise.  Here’s a succinct threat from their Risk Summary:

The inability of AIG to immediately secure additional assistance from the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury threatens not only AIG’s sales process [selling off their businesses that are still viable like life insurance], but also consumer and business confidence around the world [if their insurance business tanks, it’ll take down the entire industry].

The failure of AIG would cause turmoil in the U.S. ecomony and global markets, and have multiple and potentially catastrophic unforeseen consequences.

AIG-Risk-Bankruptcy-Report h/t Paul Kedrosky’The AIG Blackmail

View this document on Scribd

March 13, 2009

Generation P’wn3d: “The vast majority of baby boomers will be approaching retirement with little wealth outside of Social Security.”

Woodstock was a music festival, billed as An Aquarian Exposition, held at Max Yasgur’s 600 acre farm

Were you a citizen of the Woodstock Nation? If not you may belong to Generation P'wn3d.

“Let those poor go to the prisons and the Union workhouses, and if they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Ebenezer Scrooge

If you know all the words to In A Gadda Da Vida and claim you can pick yourself out of the crowd in the photograph at left, then you are no doubt a member of the baby boom generation and the subject of the report recently published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research: ” Wealth of the baby boom cohort after the collapse of the housing bubble.  We’ll get back to you  in a moment.

If on the other hand you are familiar with the term p’wn3d, then you are more likely the offspring of the previously mentioned cohort, and consequently have even more to lose due to the current economic Apocalypse described in the report. You, I’m sorry to say, are Generation P’wn3d.  But before you start reading the bad news about the rest of your life, I want to offer two words that may offer a more optimistic alternative than simply surrendering to cruel, boomer-inflicted fate: Soylent Green.  I’m just saying, think about it.

Now, you’ve probably been wondering, as I have, what will become of us as a  consequence of the current mortgage-credit-industrial-job meltdown? Can you take the truth? If so, I encourage you to read the 25-page  report by David Rosnick and Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.  Whether you’re of the doomed boomer cohort or simply p’wn3d, it should more than satisfy your curiosity.  However, don’t get reckless: definitely do not read while operating heavy machinery or if you’re out of work or have a house that you’ve bought within, say, your current lifetime. Or if p’wn3d through absolutely no fault of your own. (And, really, get in on the Soylent Green franchise before Halliburton sets up shop.)

So, let’s cut right to the chase. This is the concluding summation:

“In short, as a result of the collapse of the housing bubble, the vast majority of baby boomers will be approaching retirement with little wealth outside of Social Security. While the younger baby boomers will still have some opportunities to accumulate wealth in the years until they retire, it is unlikely that the picture will be very different after a relatively small number of additional work years. This means that cutting back Social Security and Medicare from current levels will impose serious hardships on this age group.

Finally, these projections should make clear that homeownership is not always an effective way to accumulate wealth. Homeownership during a housing bubble was a route toward losing wealth, not accumulating it. While typical homeowners cannot be blamed for not recognizing the bubble, the economists and policy professionals who designed policies that pushed homeownership certainly can and should be blamed. It was possible to recognize a bubble at least as far back as 2002 based on the sharp divergence in house prices from their historic trend.The fact that so many economists and policy professionals failed to recognize and warn of this bubble had enormous consequences.  Unfortunately, the people who listened to these experts are likely to suffer the consequences of the experts’ failure, rather than the experts themselves.” (read on)

via Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed

March 12, 2009

Super Fail: Press downplayed ’94 Derivative Risk Report

Filed under: Who knew? — Tags: , , — debacled @ 11:47 am

Nano Journalist by arzamasRemember the infamous intelligence assessment memo that read something like “Bin Ladin to Strike US Really, Really Soon” that the Bush administration totally blew off? Then after the 9/11 attacks they claimed they hadn’t followed up because the warning hadn’t specified an exact date.

Well, journalists can start dusting off their alibis now that The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) has dug up all of the “It’s-no-big-deal” reporting  that  followed a 1994 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled–and I’m not making this up–“Financial Derivatives: Actions Needed to Protect Financial Systems.”  CJR’s Elinore Longobard builds a case to show how reporters seemingly sided with financial insiders’  against  increased regulation the GAO report advocated:

“The two-hundred page report, two years in the making, could have resulted in tough derivatives legislation, which is to say needed regulation. But it didn’t. The reasons why are complicated, and the press is certainly not the only culprit here, but it did play a key role. What happened is this: A triumvirate of the financial industry, misguided regulators and a passive press relegated the report to the dustbin almost as soon as it came out.

This despite the fact that the report was remarkably prescient in its strong warning about derivatives—almost a decade before Warren Buffet’s now-famous derivatives-as-WMD comment.

The report does not entirely condemn derivatives, but it is full of flashing danger lights. First it offers some context:

Derivatives activities are rapidly expanding and increasingly affected by the globalization of commerce and financial markets. Much OTC derivatives activity in the United States is concentrated among 15 major U.S. dealers that are extensively linked to one another, end-users, and the exchange-traded markets. (more…)

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