Poor Us: The Great Depression 2.0

March 12, 2009

Watch The Daily Showdown: Stewart vs. Cramer 2nite

Jon Stewart by Foxy Roxy237 via DiviantArt.comIt certainly has been a pleasure to watch Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert take on CNBC’s team of “reporters,”  who, as The Daily Show‘s clips have demonstrated, are about as “fair and balanced” about Wall Street as Fox News is on neocons.

What’s even nicer to know is that according to CNET, calling out Jim Cramer and company has done for Comedy Central what CNBCers failed to do for their Wall Street buddies (or for that matter CNBC), drive the stock way, way up.

“Traffic to the shows’ Web sites has been at its highest of the year so far in the past week, at over 60 percent their weekly average for 2009. ComedyCentral.com, which hosts video clips of both programs, also had its best traffic of the year, and the digital version of a viciously funny clip called “CNBC Gives Financial Advice” logged over 1.3 million views in a week, the sort of numbers usually reserved for grainy videos of cats behaving unnaturally.” via CNBC spat mints online hits for Stewart and Colbert | The Social – CNET News

Meanwhile, Mad Money’s mad man Cramer has been making the rounds on NBC and MSNBC pretending to be all hurt that he’s been made a laughingstock, which just may turn out to be the least of his problems:

Jim Cramer Shorting Stocks, Manipulating Markets, Saying The SEC Doesn’t Understand via Huffington Post

In light of the current economic crisis, and with the hullabaloo ignited recently by Jon Stewart over the accuracy of CNBC’s reporting, we thought it might be useful to revisit this shocking 2006 interview Jim Cramer gave to TheStreet.com’s Aaron Task. (more…)

March 10, 2009

Precarity: The Art of Living Dangerously Close to the Edge

Filed under: Uncategorized, Wise up — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 10:46 pm

The news is bad: “In addition to the 651,000 lost jobs in February, the government increased its estimate of the number of jobs lost in January to 655,000 (up from 598,000), while December’s was bumped to 681,000 (up from 577,000),” the Dallas News reported Friday. “It’s the highest national unemployment rate since December 1983. The number of job losses in February was the highest for one month since October 1949 – except, of course, for December 2008 and January 2009.”

And it’s making us stupid(er)–although given the self-inflicted lameness of our plight, it’s almost impossible to imagine we’ll be dumber still before this is all over, but that’s the Dallas interpretation:

“People who concentrate on all the news work themselves up emotionally and become much, much more likely to make unwise decisions” like selling investments at a big loss, said Daniel Howard, a marketing professor and consumer behavior specialist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.”

What’s clearly needed is an alternative method for finding answer to our pressing questions such as this a new age take on the Old World tradition Tarocchi di Precariomanzia or the Tarot of the Precaromancy.  Produced in Italy for May Day 2007,  the cards were designed to address the precarious situation the working man finds himself in these days. “We are precarious because our choices are limited by the blackmail of the companies, coming by the day with new and surprising shapes: the housing issue, the income lack, the job torture, the self-awareness of our body and soul, our educational system, the possibility to learn and share knowledges and technologies,” the precaria.org authors explain. “The precarity tarots are a symbol to be interpreted so as to read the reality around us. They do not think they can actually foretell the future. The 22 Major Arcana represent desires, ambitions, or needs of our present, of our past, or our future.”

XV The Bank

The Bank is money. The world lives by exchanges, and to have money to exchange for goods, you must work. Food, the Estate, the present for one’s daughter, everything is touched by the hands, the moods and the sympathies of the Bank. It is the necessary evil one has to come to terms with to survive and struggle. It stands for the interested help, for the lack of scruples, for the price of everything, for that which one has to give up in order to be able to get, with no certainty of what one will be able to get at all. The Bank could profit from the fall of the Towers and squeeze money out of the Intern. It is a negative tarot, even if some other tarot could lessen its ill portent. Opening the game, the Bank stands for an initial disadvantage and a bank account below zero. Closing the game stands for the debt with one’s destiny.

For more on the notion of precarity, read Bruce Sterling’s The True 21st Century Begins: “Precarity is, of course, the condition of existing precariously. The condition of losing one’s safety and security, of losing predictability and the ability to rationally plan ahead, the condition of being humiliated and in danger.”

March 7, 2009

We’re going to need a bigger band aid to cover the “wound market”

Filed under: Harbinger, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — debacled @ 7:35 pm

Greed by mscottsart via Deviantart.comThose Wall St. fat cats may have outfoxed themselves this time (again?). Since the collapse of the economy (thanks to the aforementioned’s hi jinx) we impoverished civilians have less  money to squander on food and booze, which means that far fewer of us will become “obese diabeticswho develop ulcers on the soles of their feet that do not heal, a condition that can become severe enough to require amputation,” thereby creating “a potentially huge market for innovative skin replacement products”

If  it were me,  I’d be investing all my ill-gotten gold in a technology that reconfigures cold hard cash into something useful like food or water for “the potentially huge market” in life sustaining “replacement products” I’d be happy to have when the  real ones run out. But then, it’s not me, it’s just my money, and the guys who have it are bullish on suppurating wounds.

Still Growth Despite Recession in Skin Ulcer Treatment Market

“There are many markets that will be impacted by the current economic climate, but the treatment of wounds is not one of them, according to a healthcare market research publisher’s latest report on the wound care industry. In the skin ulcer segment of the wound care industry, there are rapid changes as new products and devices enter the market. Estimates compiled by Kalorama Information and published in “Wound Care Markets, 4th Edition, Vol. I: Skin Ulcers” valued the market at $5 billion in 2008 and with annual growth of 8% through 2013 despite the current recession.

These new therapies will result in shorter healing times and hence cost savings. They will also increasingly focus on special populations, especially diabetics and the obese. Smith & Nephew reports that about 1.5 million diabetics per year develop ulcers on the soles of their feet that do not heal, a condition that can become severe enough to require amputation. So there is a potentially huge market for innovative skin replacement products.”


Is this the “Greatest Depression Ever” or something worse?

Filed under: Harbinger — Tags: , , — debacled @ 3:20 am

We Are Screwed by Stence via Deviant ArtBoom2Bust reported on a guy, trend expert Gerald Celente,  I first heard the on fringe journalist Linda Moulton Howe’s Earthfiles podcast in December of 2007. Back then he was predicting the collapse of  major financial institutions such as banks.

I gave Celente about as much–maybe even less– credence than I did to Howe’s UFO and crop circle stories.  Three months later Bear Stearns collapsed followed by the  rupturing, teetering and unraveling of much of the rest of the financial industry.  Just as Celente had predicted.

Gerald Celente thereby earned my attention and it seems only prudent to keep track of his predictions even as he cranks up the dire warnings to panic-attack levels.  Here the latest bad news via Boom2Bust:

The “Greatest Depression” Is Upon Us
“We are going to see economic times the likes of which no living person has seen… The bigger they are, the harder they’ll fall.” Gerald Celente

“Celente, who correctly forecast the subprime mortgage crisis, the dollar’s decline, and gold’s rise, said that the subprime fiasco was just the first “small, high-risk segment of the market” to collapse. He predicts that derivative dealers, hedge funds, buyout firms and other market players will also unravel. Massive corporate losses will also be an integral part of the “Panic,” which will result in a lower U.S. standard of living.

Okay, so Celente was wrong about a dollar crash and gold skyrocketing (at least in 2008), but he’s off to a good start with the remainder of his forecast.

So what’s the trends researcher saying these days? Plenty. He wrote on HoweStreet.com Monday:

The ‘Greatest Depression’ that the Trends Research Institute forecast, well before Wall Street or Washington would acknowledge recession, is upon us. (more…)

March 6, 2009

The New Hoovervilles Via New Deal Journalism

Filed under: Harbinger — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 6:34 pm

Intense_by_urbanpirate33 via Diviant ArtA few months back The New York Times blog Freakonomics asked a handful of people what they would do if they lost everything.  Their glib self-assurance that they would weather adversity with gritty aplomb and “some sort of basic shelter, like a bed of sweet-smelling straw”  just might help explain how we got in this financial mess to begin with.  Just like the AIG guys who sold trillions in Credit Default Swap “insurance” fully believing they’d never have to pay a claim, the professionals polled by Freakonomics  didn’t believe circumstances would dare thwart their ever upward progress.

It makes you wonder if they’ve read the grim news of mass layoffs, mounting home foreclosures and bankruptcies happening to people who also considered themselves too clever to fail.  However, given that newspapers are going out of business faster than the banks (would if we weren’t bailing them out), journalists themselves have had to do some boot-strap pulling up in order to tell the story of the sorry state of our world.

One intrepid radio journalist, Thea Chroman, went straight to her potential audience, asking them to chip in $550 to fund her reporting on life in a  San Francisco homeless shelter and Fresno’s burgeoning shanty towns.  The result is the two part series  Homeless in California and The new Hoovervilles in California’s central valley (with photos by David Torch).

The  project was done in collaboration with and aired on KALW and Roxbury News, but they only paid for half of the story.  The rest of the funding came from donations made by members of the public who saw Chroman’s pitch on  Spot.us,  a nonprofit project described by it’s founder David Cohn as  “an open source project, to pioneer community funded reporting.”

” Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. All donations are tax deductible and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise, all content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate.”

Will crowd-funding become the new new journalism? Right now San Franciscans are acting as Beta testers, but it’s worth checking out  for reporters and citizens alike who are concerned that there won’t be any journalism–especially of the local news–unless some new deal  is found to fund it.

March 3, 2009

Why so sad? Maybe you live in an unhappy city

Filed under: Reduced Circumstances — debacled @ 4:32 pm

the greater depression by discogangsta Things are tough all over, but if you happen to live in Portland, Oregon, you apparently take it a lot harder than most people do.  According to a Business Week  survey of,  America’s Unhappiest Cities, Portland, Oregon is the epicenter of the world of hurt.

The gloom capitals were ranked based on their rates of suicide, depression, divorce, unemployment, job loss, population loss, crime, amount of green space and cloudy days.  The survey emphasized suicide and depression rates, crime and economic factors.

And the biggest losers are: 1. Portland, Ore. 2. St. Louis 3. New Orleans 4. Detroit 5. Cleveland 6. Jacksonville, Fla. 7. Las Vegas 8. Nashville-Davidson, Tenn. 9. Cincinnati 10. Atlanta

March 2, 2009

Catch up on the crash:Planet Money guys on Bad Banks

Filed under: Wise up — Tags: , , , , — debacled @ 12:47 am


You should listen to this week’s episode of NPR’s This American Life. It’s  an hour devoted to helping us understanding the Bad Bank idea that I highly recommend even though I haven’t heard it yet myself.

I know it’s going to be worth your while because it’s put together by Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson, two of the guys behind NPR’s Planet Money podcast and blog, which is the go-to source of information about this financial crisis for people like myself who have limited experience with money outside of collecting paychecks and paying bills, but who now find themselves victims of the huge,  financial vortex we scarcely knew existed until it started to suck the life savings directly out of our paltry,  direct deposit retirement “savings,” and then went after the actual paycheck.

I first encountered Davidson and Blumberg back in May 2008 when  I heard Giant Pool of Money, the jaw-dropping, mind-boggling episode of This American Life that explained the subprime mortgage mills that sold anything to anyone because Wall Street wanted more mortages to bundle and sell off to hungry investors. In October 2008  they came back with Another Frightening Show About the Economy that cleared up the mysteries of commercial paper and credit default swaps.

In this third installment, Bad Bank, they enlist the help of MIT economist Simon Johnson to explain what it means for a bank to be insolvent, and why we are bailing out bankers who caused their own businesses to fail in the first place.  Johnson who was an economist at the International Monetary Fund, also shows up on Planet Money, and has a very helpful blog The Baseline Scenario, which also provides a great primer: Financial Crisis for Beginners.

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