Chester and the Next Generation

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Chester River Turtle.jpg
(Chester the Turtle, lives in Chester River, Chestertown; photo credit: Andrew Oros; click image for larger version)
I love cities — but love nature too, and this very big Maryland snapping turtle crawled up into my back yard recently, dug itself a big hole for the next generation of turtles in our river and creek, and went back off to the blissful muck created by living on the edge of tidal flow waters.
We may never see Chester again — and yes, I know that this is a female turtle — but her little ones will be hatching in 60-80 days and we’ll be protecting them, making sure they all get out to the water safely.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “Chester and the Next Generation

  1. questions says:

    Fascinating generation changes:
    http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2011/05/bridging-the-mathematics-generation-gap.html
    This one is about mental math, the use of calculators in early elementary school and the concomitant lack of “number sense” in students who one day end up in an econ class and can’t do basic mental math.
    It’s worth noting that perspicuous notation is at issue here. Calculators will allow some things to shine and some things to fade. Mental math will allow some things to shine and some things to fade. Elementary schools have moved to calculators in the hopes of keeping kids tuned in long enough to be ready for algebra in 7th, 8th, or 9th grade. If you make a lot of calculation errors early on, you get turned off really quickly and you never make it through a reasonable math sequence.
    Old fogy econ and math profs complain that they don’t know what their students don’t know, but they don’t think about what their students DO know, and they don’t think about how many more kids might make it through, say, 2 years of math in high school because they weren’t drilled and killed in 4th grade.
    Trade offs one and all. Isn’t that what economics is supposed to deal with?
    *****
    And this truly amazing piece:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/30/health/policy/30docs.html?hp
    Doctors have abandoned individual practices in droves and now work for The Man.
    When you’re not in business for yourself, when you’re a worker, you’re more likely to be a dem!
    So the AMA and doctors in general are less Republican than they used to be, more patient-centered, actually concerned about public health and child welfare and the environment and insurance. They also care less about malpractice premiums because the hospital groups they work for cover the premiums for them.
    The generation shift is striking, indeed. You become a doctor not to be in business for yourself, but to care for patients. Hmmm. Who’d’a thunk?!
    Further, the economics of malpractice premiums might change without anything much in the way of legislation. Hospital groups might be big enough to put countervailing pressure on premium prices in a way that independent physician practices could not ever have done.
    So the competition comes not from colluding multiple insurance companies, but rather from access to doctors groups.
    Ya mean, if we’re joined together in a solidarity movement we can bargain collectively and gain better conditions? Ya mean, like, unions??? Sort of? In a wealthy person’s field, at any rate? Will there be anyone left in the Republican Party, one day?
    The times they are a’changin’.
    Which reminds me, the sting of the loss of Gil Scott-Heron is indeed a sting.

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  2. questions says:

    There’s a really interesting debate via Thoma and DeLong on health care inflation and whether or not it’s real.
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/05/what-has-the-health-care-inflation-rate-been.html#comments
    Many commenters have many things to add.
    Are the prices on a single basket of goods higher from 1960 to now, or is the basket of health care goods so much bigger and more improved that we’re no longer talking about “inflation” but about some other thing like technology improvement?
    Commenters note things like we used to go home and die and now we have treatments for a lot of things; and it’s cheaper in other countries and not simply because of labor costs; and our outcomes aren’t superior to those in other countries despite the extra money spent.
    But the core question of whether or not the price of a basket of goods has gone up is interesting. And somehow I think it’s related to the issue that comes up regarding cash transfer/TANF/Welfare payments and the CPI — do we transfer less money to these people simply because there is better phone service and computers are better than they used to be? That is, is there really less inflation than we think because stuff is really better than it used to be and different from what it used to be such that the CPI really overstates “inflation”? Generally this argument is used to deny that low/no income people need ever more money to manage. After all, do you really need an extra 75 bucks a month when you can make a cell phone call from inside a concrete building?!
    In the end, it might not matter as much if there’s real inflation in health care as opposed to “inflation” in health care.
    Indeed, health care is a policy arena that simply has to account for the fantasies and fears of a set of creatures who are largely unable to manage risk assessment.
    We know, for example, that it’s a good idea to eat well, sleep well, exercise well, wear a seat belt, have suspicious lumps and bumps checked out, have good genetic stock, avoid drinking the water and breathing the air. Still we will die.
    But what do we worry about? If we don’t pay extortion prices to pharma, they won’t make the drug that will cure MY rare disease, and since I’m sure I’ll get a rare disease, I’d better pay up now.
    If we don’t charge several hundred thousand dollars to med students, we’ll have some kind of odd selection process such that we’ll have the worst doctors. Oh noes. So we don’t want to subsidize med school, produce enough doctors that we can supply the country well.
    If we go through every procedure and drug one at a time and make sure they have some vague efficacy, well, we’re all gonna diiiiie. Or at least I will. We ignore the fact that medicine makes mistakes, drugs turn out after enough years to do significant damage, and maybe we should be more proactive on this. Proactive seems to suggest MORE drugs and no controls and corporations running amok. But perhaps proactive is fewer drugs, fewer procedures, more government control with enough other inputs and chances to appeal decisions that maybe we get something good.
    Look at the record of bad medical advice over time, lousy procedures, screenings that kill more than heal…. There are decision-making problems that are systemic.
    Sadly, these decision-making problems run smack into our national fantasies. I don’t think reason wins out over fantasy. Ever.
    Medicine is in a kind of bubble, but it’s one we might end up sustaining for a very long time. I wouldn’t even begin to know what a crash could look like.
    ********
    And by the way, speaking of fantasies, indiemcemopants (that’s indie mc emo pants, I’m pretty sure) over at kos has a nice piece on the Republican use of “shoving down our throats” as a metaphor for everything the Republicans fear. He hit the fear of teh gayz, but doesn’t hit the fear of incorporation. That the policy BECOMES part of you through consumption seems to terrify a large number of people who have latched onto this image. Majority voting is suddenly force incorporation. Really interesting.
    ****
    DeLong has up a baker’s dozen list of things to remember when Republican talking points come ’round. Useful counter to everything conservative for now. Actual evidence, information, and correctives for the typical range of talking points.
    *****
    I/P — read a Jacqueline Rose essay yesterday. Interesting look at a psychoanalytic read of displacement in the I/P mess.
    Also, the Egypt/Gaza border opening may do far more good than the press is suggesting. If there is little pressure left from Israel’s border closings, if Gaza starts to normalize all the more in this continuation of something vaguely akin to the normal (still not much in the way of goods and services, but a lot more mobility and a feeling of being more normal, and medical care in Egypt, and human contact across borders, and things’ being more legal rather than not), then Israel has less to fear by opening its side eventually.
    De-demonization is really important, really hard to do. National fantasies don’t go away easily, and the Israeli identity for many is pegged on the demonization of the Gazan/Hamas/Palestinian other.
    Sarah Roy has a book out on social and economic structures in Gaza, esp. regarding Hamas.
    As the not-so-anarchic and not-so-scary side emerges, as Hamas does all the more to govern, it may become evident to Israelis that, well, they’re here, they’re here, get used to it.
    But, geeze, indiemcemopants had to write today what he wrote, so, you know, national fantasies are useful things for politicians to sustain. They are the stuff that goes bump in the night, the monsters in the closet, the creature under the bed, the Wizard behind the curtain….
    We are a frightened species.

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  3. questions says:

    A fascinating look at what “we” think about all sorts of things — the debt limit, SoSec, complexity and confusion all around. It’s both touching and downright scary as confused people try to make policy demands and as politicians try to represent their constituents.
    The socio-economic tensions scream out. Autos, elderly, conservatism. What a clash.
    http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/main-street-bigger-problems-than-the-debt-ceiling-20110527?page=1

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  4. questions says:

    A must read to help avoid being spun by events that don’t mean what you think they do because they never had before meant any such thing and you had no idea because you have been spun over and over again and it would go a long way towards helping DeLong learn to stop fearing and loathing the press because it would make the press corps be a better thing:
    http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2011/05/26/how-political-science-can-help-journalists-and-still-let-them-be-journalists/
    A (restaurant review) taste:
    “We argue that political science can help journalism in five ways:
    providing structural context on episodic events
    providing fresh angles on the news
    countering spin about the effect of an event for a politician or party
    better describing historical trends and points of comparison
    clarifying what questions are not well-understood by scholars, and why”
    There’s lots more at the click.
    And they have a really nice xkcd cartoon up on the generation of random numbers and the concomitant use of said numbers to generate narratives! Monkey Cage, current front page.

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  5. questions says:

    Shopping! Signs of life! At 25 bucks a sq ft instead of 40! Woohoo! Or something.
    Lifestyle shopping malls — who knew? They are apparently suburban fake city-like-entities with “wine tastings” and no anchor stores and people are supposed to go there and feel urban, I guess.
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0527-lesiure-mall-20110526,0,6068374.story
    “The 268,000-square-foot Glen Town Center, a pristine, theme park-like Main Street plunked down on the site of the former Naval Air Station in Glenview, has struggled since opening in 2003. Blaming the downturn, San Diego-based developer OliverMcMillan began talks to renegotiate the center’s $41 million mortgage two years ago. The workout process is ongoing despite an occupancy rate that reached 94 percent this spring, with five new retailers opening, according to a company spokeswoman.
    The Promenade, developed by Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises as the downtown that Bolingbrook lacked, is a 740,000-square-foot center that hit a leasing wall during the downturn, losing bankrupt Circuit City and dropping to about 85 percent occupancy in early 2009.
    “That was a tough time for any retail overall,” said Bill Ross, Forest City’s senior vice president of asset management. “We opened with some vacant spaces we were looking to lease up, and those stayed vacant for a while.”
    Bolstered by anchors Bass Pro Shops and Macy’s, the center has since recovered to about 90 percent occupancy, said Ross, with store sales increasing by nearly 7 percent this year. The developer has not sought to renegotiate the center’s long-term mortgage.
    The Arboretum opened in September 2008, the weekend after the collapse of Lehman Brothers precipitated the financial meltdown on Wall Street. Its inauspicious launch included the prompt bankruptcy and closure of Circuit City, one of its largest tenants, leaving a gaping hole that dropped occupancy to a low of 75 percent in its first year.
    Meanwhile, shoppers stayed away.
    “At the end of ’08 and ’09 the consumer was scared, and the national retailers and many local retailers just stopped opening stores,” Jaffe said.
    While occupancy has rebounded to 86 percent, with a mix that includes L.L. Bean, Chico’s, Pinstripes and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, leases are averaging about $25 per square foot, far below the $40 rate the center had hoped to command.

    What’s interesting about this article is first that someof the the mall developers and the banks did work outs rather than foreclosure/evictions. We didn’t do this with housing because, ummm, homeowners are all deadbeats who counted on an ever rising market while mall developers are deadbeats who counted on an ever rising market. Hmmm.
    Actually, I’m guessing that an empty mall is a bigger thing than an empty house, and a deadbeat mall developer has a lot in common with a deadbeat bankster, while deadbeat homeowners suffer from that dread disease “moral hazard.”
    Another interesting thing is that rents have come down to something like an equilibrium and there is something like a recovery point at a much lower rent. 40 bucks down to 25 per sq ft is a big drop. If people saw a greater than 50% drop in their mortgages, how many might still be “homeowners”?
    Another thought is that these ‘burban/urban-lite spaces are things people seem to like. Is this the way forward for housing? Just plunk down some multi-family units near “lifestyle centers” and people will have “lifestyles.” If the multi family units can be architecturally designed to be a)cheap and b)not looking so multi (there actually are designs that do this), then maybe this is the start of the DeLong boom that has to happen.
    Plunk down BRT or light rail that ties to something urban and you could possibly do ok with this kind of development. As long as the rents are low enough.
    Retail can’t compete with the internet unless you have “lifestyles” like wine tasting. Can’t get drunk on the ‘net!
    And if you’re ‘burban to the core it might all feel authentic enough to work.
    There is still the issue of schools — the big draw for the ‘burbs. I would guess some developers might do some charter school funding to get things going.

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  6. questions says:

    Totally great reason (snark) to move back to the gold standard –
    “Toto Willie has little to show for a decade

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  7. questions says:

    When will the baby turtles be born/hatched, when will they go to kindergarten, age 4, age 5, or age 6?

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  8. questions says:

    Could you teach Chester to write better than this:
    “It would have been fun to see the president contradict that impression and play against type when he and the first lady sat down to dinner in New York. It would have been interesting to watch him bust loose and reach for something rich, messy, decadent, gluttonous: a plate of fatty lamb ribs at Resto; some p

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  9. questions says:

    It might be kind of interesting if Chris(t) Christ(ie) prepares for 2016′s Repub nomination
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/27/nyregion/christie-pulls-nj-from-greenhouse-gas-coalition.html?_r=1&hpw
    By doing stuff like this that the 2012 electorate wants, but then by 2016 the Republican electorate starts to give up on opposing climate change the way they are slowly giving up on opposing gay rights. One wonders if by 2016 sufficient evidence will be in such that the only denialists left will be those still predicting the rapture any second now.
    It’s kind of fun to watch the TeaGuvs sinking in the polls. The right of the right may well be burnt out such that anyone who wants a future in the Repub party will have to contort his/her way out of it all.
    But they don’t need a future in electoral politics so much as they need a juicy book contract, a ghost writer, a great cover photo, some bulk sales, and a speaking tour. THAT’s the future of the Republican Party! Infotainment without the info.
    (Note by the way, apparently the non-event of the rapture was proof of the rapture. The relationship between CT and a certain kind of religious thinking is thick. Everything is proof, regardless.)

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  10. Paul Norheim says:

    “Dear Tea Party: If all your distrust of the federal government doesn

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  11. questions says:

    Maxim of publicity, anyone?

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  12. questions says:

    So now they want to spend some money on pre-K. Good for them.
    Pre-K starts long before kids are 4, though. I hope they keep this in mind, as there is likely already a gap by age 4. Remember, high pitched, baby-focused talking to 8 month olds matters. So pre-k starts with teaching parents how to talk to their babies.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/obama-aims-to-boost-early-learning-programs/2011/05/25/AGa1JHBH_story.html
    h/t Ezra Klein
    ********
    DeLong has up a piece that if I’m reading it right uses Friedman against the conservatives. Clever! (If I’m reading it right.)
    He also wonders what caused the recession with the help of Matt Ronglie.
    The recession, it seems to my unschooled head, is one of those “events” — overdetermined, complex, causes of many colors kinds of “events.”
    How does anyone decide to: move to a new city, get divorced, go to an ashram, buy a motor home and travel, start a war, open up a new business, start smoking, stop smoking, predict a rapture, plan to be raptured, or any other life altering change of habits?
    Generally these things are overdetermined. Often people read “messages” from their environment and decide that they have been informed that they need to do something.
    So perhaps mass delusions of great wealth, of no wealth at all, of the need for security and the like, perhaps all of these work the same way “events” work. There are really a lot of different microevents that spiral or network into a macroevent. The macro event is overdetermined by the microevents and there is a feedback loop.
    If something like this could be slightly more formalized (I’m not at all the person to try), then maybe we’d have some vague sense of the sectors that could do the damage, even if we’d never be able to tell the precise moment.
    But then, sometimes, one of your friends shocks you with a change in lifestyle so major and so seemingly untelegraphed that you’re just in shock and you have to adjust your whole worldview based on the actions of that friend. So maybe we don’t really ever know what is overdetermined until it has happened.
    ***
    I would guess that a bubble sector that impacts us all has to be pretty thoroughly networked into the system. There has to be a way to transmit the contagion across fields. Probably fantasies have to take a hit. Probably there has to be something there we really value and we’ve been striving for that suddenly we can’t value anymore. Without such a valuing system there wouldn’t be a buyer for every seller. And suddenly there isn’t a buyer for every seller. Then we have to retrench, and the retrenchment is painful.
    Meandering thoughts on a Thursday.

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  13. questions says:

    Ths housing market:
    “There’s a three-year inventory of homes in foreclosure for sale, and that’s devastating home prices.
    Las Vegas has so many foreclosures that 53 percent of all the homes sold in Nevada are in some stage of foreclosure, according to a report from RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosed properties.”
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chibrkbus-3year-supply-of-foreclosed-homes-hurts-home-prices-20110526,0,1821212.story
    There’s more at the link.
    If we have a three year inventory of homes, assuming we don’t add another single foreclosure to the pile, well, it’s 2011 right now, so three years is, ummm, 2014….
    During that time, of course, buildings will decay and renovations will be needed and the population will increase and we’ll need to stuff people somewhere. And maybe they won’t want to live in the decaying homes around Vegas, and so we maybe will have to build something or renovate something.
    But first people will need income, and then they’ll need psychic healing, and then they’ll need to feel excess and exuberance, and then they’ll need inducements to locate somewhere (schools, space, taxes, easy commutes…).
    A lot has to happen before we get a recovery to trend.

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  14. questions says:

    Ahhh, a charitable look at Arne Duncan from a grateful bio teacher on the occasion of Duncan’s Teacher Appreciation letter. We do know Duncan’s long career “in education” is clear evidence of his appreciation of teachers:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/05/25/979407/-Biology-Teacher-Eviscerates-Obamas-Education-Secretary?via=siderec
    “Mr. Duncan,
    I read your Teacher Appreciation Week letter to teachers, and had at first decided not to respond. Upon further thought, I realized I do have a few things to say.
    I’ll begin with a small sample of relevant adjectives just to get them out of the way: condescending, arrogant, insulting, misleading, patronizing, egotistic, supercilious, haughty, insolent, peremptory, cavalier, imperious, conceited, contemptuous, pompous, audacious, brazen, insincere, superficial, contrived, garish, hollow, pedantic, shallow, swindling, boorish, predictable, duplicitous, pitchy, obtuse, banal, scheming, hackneyed, and quotidian. Again, it’s just a small sample; but since your attention to teacher input is minimal, I wanted to put a lot into the first paragraph.
    Your lead sentence, “I have worked in education for much of my life”, immediately establishes your tone of condescension; for your 20-year “education” career lacks even one day as a classroom teacher. You, Mr. Duncan, are the poster-child for the prevailing attitude in corporate-style education reform: that the number one prerequisite for educational expertise is never having been a teacher.
    Your stated goal is that teachers be “…treated with the dignity we award to other professionals n society.”
    Really?”
    Click for more…… There’s truly fine stuff here!
    ******
    On the “success” of welfare reform, as noted by the most excellent Paul Ryan, and critiqued by CBPP….
    http://www.offthechartsblog.org/welfare-reform-not-the-%E2%80%9Csuccess%E2%80%9D-ryan-claims/
    (h/t Thoma)
    The one other issue with welfare reform is that it didn’t end white resentment. Indeed there’s some study floating around from the past couple of days that suggests that white people feel the sting of reverse racism like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t believe it, at any rate. What a bizarre world.
    ****
    Thoma also has a link up to Angry Bear and a graph showing the fall in durable goods orders. The Great Slowdown would seem to be well upon us.
    ***
    NY-26 to Paul Ryan: Keep Your TeaHands Off My Medicare
    ****
    Horrible storms across the south. Petulant Republican response really rotten.
    ****
    And this from the NYT:
    “But the new emphasis on declining workplace activity also represents a major shift in thinking, and it suggests that health care professionals and others on the front lines against obesity, who for years have focused primarily on eating habits and physical activity at home and during leisure time, have missed a key contributor to America

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  15. questions says:

    Interesting housing factoids:
    “Banks own 872,000 foreclosed homes, according to RealtyTrac
    So we can anticipate that an increase in lending rates or an uptick in sentiment/market activity will result in an additional 800K-2M homes that could make themselves available. While I wouldn’t go so far as to predict a significant drop in the housing market (as they probably wouldn’t flood the market simultaneously), it would seem that the American housing market is in for a prolonged trough. ”
    From a commenter at calculatedrisk.
    Meanwhile, the calculatedrisk people have a post up that suggests that consumer sentiment is strongly against an upturn anytime soon in the housing market. Some 54% of us according to a Trulia and Realty Trac survey think it’ll be past 2014 before the housing market comes back.
    And meanwhile, DeLong is pretty insistent that one day there will be a recovery and a huge building boom of some sort as we ought to get back to some previous trend of building and as the downfall in the markets was disproportionate to the real downfall from overbuilding.
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/05/built-to-bust-by-j-bradford-delong-project-syndicate-project-syndicateorg-view-original-built-to-bust-by-j-bradfor.html
    Some questions that pop up in my head are how much is the bust in finance directly related to the housing bust, and how much is some other odd alchemy from derivatives market? It seems that the disproportion has much to do with the secondary or tertiary or beyond markets and not so much to do with housing itself, though the housing problem brought on the other stuff which then cycled back to housing and made the housing market that much more of a disaster.
    A new building boom, then, would seem to need to come a little after the market clears from foreclosed properties and existing homes people want to dump. And after debt is cleared. And after people can get credit. And after people have stable and sufficient income. And after people get desperately sick of living smaller.
    A new building boom will also need some land deals, utility hook ups, new schools and other fairly pricey infrastructure investments that developers have to fund and towns have to agree to. Not sure what the desire for bigger neighborhoods is anymore, and equally unsure how much farmland anyone is going to want to convert to ex-urbs.
    In-fill makes a little more sense to me, and rehabbing. And maybe some pressure for zoning changes to increase density — but that’s a hit on property values and a hit on one’s identity as a suburbanite.
    National fantasies can swing, and I would think that a lot of people who have seen the bust of huge mortgages, huge houses, huge commutes, and school cutbacks even in the toniest of ‘burbs (NYT recently had a piece on school cutbacks in tony Bronxville) — maybe we all just think it’s not worth the rat race anymore…. But national fantasies do swing.

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  16. questions says:

    Here’s bonddad on the housing front:
    “Going forward, I think prices are cheap enough to continue to bring buyers into the market. But, I don’t think there will be a big pop in demand because of the overall macro situation. So, I think the current sales pace will continue barring an unforeseen shock and the prices may fall a bit more (say 10%-15%) but that if we’re not at the bottom, we’re pretty close.”
    Lots of graphs. Like, lots. And they all seem to show a level field for a while, a big hump, a slide down and a near return to the level field.
    I don’t know that these graphs include a comparison of the non-housing issues that play a significant role in housing purchases — things like people’s income, the availability of finance, the number of marriages or new families, the general feel of the worth of buying/owning, the general feel of future stability, the feel of resale-ability, the amount of money older parents might have to kick in to down payments, preferences for subdivision living given gas prices, and on and on.
    In other words, yes there’s this level field on the left hand side of each of these graphs, but that level field is there because of a broad array of other factors that might simply not obtain on the right hand side of the graph. Not for now, perhaps, and not for ever and ever again, perhaps.
    And because the housing market is the basis for much of our consumerism, the impacts of this change in how we live (if it is that) could really keep us slow for a very long time.
    I think we need a new, non-home related hobby.
    http://bonddad.blogspot.com/2011/05/will-home-prices-fall-any-further_25.html

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  17. questions says:

    h/t nakedcapitalism/Bloomberg
    Food prices rising, and being passed on to consumers. With unemployment high, there isn’t a lot of room for price increases and the concomitant substitution of cheaper food for better food, but some substitution is likely, along with some health consequences I’d guess.
    ***
    WSJ article notes that one family had to pay something like 4400 dollars in PUBLIC school fees for the family. When we don’t tax enough, we charge user fees for “free equal and basic public education.” Truly sad result of gaming.
    We all benefit from well-nourished, well-educated neighbors and co-workers.
    ********
    From the NYT:
    “At the University of Michigan, more entering freshmen in 2003 came from families earning at least $200,000 a year than came from the entire bottom half of the income distribution”
    So we’ll charge more AP fees and then we’ll get even fewer students into the tonier state universities.
    Note that families with 200,000 dollars in income can indeed afford the nearly 60 grand in tuition, room and board, and fees that private schools charge. These families should not likely be subsidized particularly much by state schools. Of course, their ability to pay full tuition makes them all the more desirable for state schools that are losing state support. I get the feeling that one could work out some version of a death spiral here.
    *****
    DeLong goes after some left-beloved types like Castro and Chomsky and Leiter. That flexible trunk is grasping! What’s interesting about this is that the left is quite forgiving of a range of sins if certain other sins are not being committed. So Chomsky’s seeming, if accidental, embrace of a Holocaust denier (Faurisson) is forgiven because he’s Chomsky, and Castro’s embrace of being a dictator is forgiven because he’s anti-capitalist.
    There’s a nuanced and understandable side to the position DeLong is attacking — capitalism as practiced by significant numbers of capitalists is indeed fairly thoroughly death-dealing and misery-inducing and the left sees this death-dealing and inducing of misery as the most fundamental problem there is. So the left is willing to make a trade off between silly and accidental embraces of Holocaust-denialism and embraces of totalitarians in order to weaken the strangle hold of capitalism.
    Is it a great trade off? Who knows. Is there some nuance here? For sure. Are left wing thugocracies still thugocracies? Yeah. It’s good for the left to remember this side as well. And when DeLong delivers a smackdown, he should see the left in totality instead of in mere naivete. (Though there is some naivete to the left. That’s the charm of it all.)
    ***
    De Long also has a piece up about whether or not there are too many houses. The piece he links to notes that if social/living patterns have changed, then there may well not be a shortage of housing.
    There is a lot that goes into what kinds of housing and how many units there should be and where they should be built.
    The costs of transportation, the quality of the schools, property taxes, job availability, size of homes, zoning issues, density and the like all play a role in the housing market. The boom and bust didn’t hit the whole country equally, and the issue of shortages and a possible new boom one day in the future to make up for the lack of current construction will also likely be uneven.
    Income and schools and the financing of mortgages would seem to be pretty significant factors to look at. And, just as people can adapt to cheaper food in the face of food inflation, so people can adapt to much cheaper housing by doubling up, having fewer kids, delaying marriage, renting out rooms, living in tent cities, being homeless completely.
    The costs of single family detached housing may simply be above the price point of an ever-growing share of the job market.
    If this is the case, the building boom isn’t really going to be so widespread. There may be urban in-fill rehabbing, there may be something of a boomlet in acquiring foreclosed properties once the prices drop to the point that just-above minimum wage workers can afford them. There could be room for in-filling suburban subdivisions by changing zoning laws.
    Or maybe there will be significant wage increases such that people can afford housing on their compromised wages.
    Debt-financing, I hope, does not come back to its previous levels in quite the same way it was here for the boom. But if appetite for risk increases, I’m sure there are plenty of suckers out there still.
    I think one place for research might be just what segment of the income distribution are we adding to with our increased population. If wealthy people are being added, houses will rise. If unemployed people are being added, well, no boom is likely.

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  18. questions says:

    Rebeccca Solnit on DSK:
    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/05/23/colonialism_imf_sex_scandal/index.html
    A really fine essay.
    DSK and DNA…..
    *****
    We don’t have enough money:
    http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2011/05/nearly-half-of-americans-are-financially-fragile.html
    Things happen, and then you collapse.

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  19. DonS says:

    Shorter Questions: why don’t we have a president with some convictions that translate into effort instead of caution?

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  20. questions says:

    Courting a DeLong-delivered questions smackdown am I…. I have the good fortune of not being noticed, though.
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/05/commute-time-thoughts-meditating-on-the-construction-bust.html#more
    I think he’s saying we had a boom of a certain size. Then we had a much much bigger bust that is ongoing. And that one day, when we have income again, we will have to make up for that building bust by building lots more buildings to get back to the boom sized equilibrium.
    Almost as if there were a natural amount of building that should happen, and that would happen absent a bust.
    So I ask, first, is there a natural amount of building that should happen absent a bust, and were we really there? The concept of nature in economics is perhaps not a great one to lean on.
    Yes, we do hate living with our in-laws, and they certainly hate having us there. Except that we get built-in daycare and they get built-in grandkid time– both of which have been missing for a long time because of the job and income racket. And they will be older by several years by the time anyone has any money. Then there will be another major dislocation as elderly parents who need care, well, need care. And in needing care, will perhaps do better having their multi-generational offspring right there.
    If Medicaid cutbacks really do cutback services, nursing home care is at the top of the list. If nursing home care goes, in comes multi-generational living.
    And yes, a lot of speculators built and financed a lot of single family homes that maybe can’t be sustained as they were well beyond any kind of actual demand. Maybe a lot of people owned more than one home in the hopes of flipping them all. So maybe there were way too many homes.
    There was certainly way too much retail space being built. Somewhere between our adjusting to internet shopping (which needs WiFi and a credit card and some warehouse space and big servers with lots of electricity nearby) and our shopping a little less, we might just not need anywhere near the store front space we used to. Retail centers might simply not come back.
    And then since I know nothing about demographics, where are we in the first time home buyer population? Is there a baby boomlet ready to buy soon? Will they buy? Will their jobs pay enough to buy? Will their parents have the 20% down payment dowry/wedding gift/graduation present to help them out, or will their parents have spent that money in their 50s and 60s waiting for SoSec to kick in? Will they have so much in student debt that they actually need to delay buying a home for a pretty significant chunk of time? Will we get used to renting such that we realize that it’s nice not to have to replace roofs, windows, HVACs, plumbing and appliances and the like. And that it’s nice not to get property tax bills regularly.
    There might be some thick changes to how we live that make in-law-living more rather than less workable. Or sibling living. Or friend living. Or stranger/roomie living.
    I do not know.

    Reply

  21. questions says:

    DeLong, not to be missed:
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/05/the-economic-outlook-as-of-may-2011-yes-this-is-called-the-dismal-science-why-do-you-ask.html#more
    A clear, concise summation of where we were, where we are, and how we traveled.
    I think that some of the boom and bust cycle might be explained/described/characterized by something I vaguely remember from Bataille about the need to waste, use up, and vomit.
    If you look at the consumption patterns of the boom you start to see how much was really just ridiculous in terms of what one needs for a meaningful life. The bust is all the more busted for the ridiculousness of the boom.
    There was excess beyond excess in the services and products we purchased and all that excess consumption needed to go away. From packaging to dog walking, from things available in too many colors to food available in too many flavors, we simply may have had too much, and we may have needed to purge some of that.
    Austerity is psychically comforting after the binge. Perhaps we are economic bulimics? There’s no reason to preclude psychologico-economic hypothesizing since the collective is simply made up of individuals. If individuals can find bulimia compelling, so too, then, can the collective.
    After the purge comes a quiet time of reflection, disgust at the insanity of all your consumption and the sick feelings leftover from the purge.
    In an individual, the binge and purge cycles destroy the body (teeth rot from acid, the body flips out from the weight loss and nutrition problems). In a whole society, I suppose we’ll see how bad it gets. We certainly seem to be slowing if New Deal Democrat’s charts over at bonddad’s blog are accurate pictures.
    *****
    And on another relevant topic — read together Jane Mayer’s portrait of the NSA and the charges being brought against whistle blowers and the post rapture realization that the world is still here for those who didn’t die last night (because of course, even without the rapture, some people do indeed die every day.)
    The NSA and warrantless wire tapping Mayer describes seem to be the bulwark against a different kind of rapture where bodies fall down instead of flying up, where people blow up buildings and planes fall on us, where bodies explode, where trust is betrayed and more bodies explode.
    The end is near, so we need to save a record of every single e-mail ever sent (even the one where you say to a friend that you really didn’t like the food at the party last night, shhh). Every phone conversation is electronically stored for later retrieval. Every moment of time that should have receded into the past is saved in a time machine as it were. Nothing is ever over and done. Privacy is, if anything, the allowing of moments to have happened. But with infinite-like storage, there is no longer a past that is done with and left unpreserved. The past is present-able. Yikes.
    All of this is far more elaborate than the billboard buying, the house selling, the child neglect, the dump the job and go see America impulses that moved some number of now-betrayed true believers.
    And perhaps the most interesting part of the Mayer/New Yorker piece for me, Obamabot that I am, is that Obama is characterized as being captured by the national security state and is betraying his transparency roots.
    When Obama noted in whatever interview it was that the “hard stuff” comes to him, that if it were easy it would have landed on someone else’s desk, that only hard stuff lands on his, he showed how he runs the White House. There’s a lot of auto pilot delegation, apparently, and things that have a clear path through the courts or through agencies are not going to come to his attention.
    The general tone of “security matters” has been in place from the 12th of Sept 2001, if not before, and that’s our inertial frame of reference.
    So it’s not that Obama is captured so much as he’s allowing inertia to run. The government, at some level, “cannot” tolerate leaks. So it prosecutes. This is all pretty normal. The government that is readying itself for the rapture-like explosions of terrorism must be all the more careful.
    What it would mean to take on the inertia of the national security state, what it would mean to interrupt the collecting of information, what it would mean to do less to “protect” us rather than more would be to go against the rapture preparations even if one were a true believer.
    That is, it would be irrational.
    I get the feeling there’s something like a bubble forming in the national security state that is very much like the Cold War bubble ™, and is very much like the finance bubble.
    We are overinvested in a set of behaviors that will leave us sickened, less well off, with a bunch of crap we don’t want or need, with less that is good and more that is bad if we don’t get this fixed.
    We will crash, only it won’t be the crash we think.
    We’re not really likely preventing a rapture that really is a fantastical creature, we are instead following the boom and bust logic in which every single step seems rational at the time.
    Just remember, tulips, beanie babies, pet rocks, Netscape, pets.com, the Cold War, PT Cruisers, shag carpets, sideburns, and all the other really dumb stuff we’ve done over the years.
    We will become our own worst enemies as we prepare for our own worst nightmares.
    Yikes. And no turtle references thus far.

    Reply

  22. questions says:

    h/t Cheaptalk.org (found on the way to something or other)
    http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/2011/04/perseverative_error_piaget.php
    Babies make a well-documented mistake called perseverative search error, in which they keep looking for an object that has been hidden in the same place even when they see that it’s been hidden in another place. It’s always under A, and even when it’s under B, they look under A. (There’s probably some tie in to Iraq WMDs here, but I’m not giving in to the temptation to find it.)
    The experimenters revamp the experiment to deprive groups of subjects of all the sing songy cues and eye contact and the like that typically occur in adult/infant learning situations.
    The groups so deprived have a much better find-the-object percentage than do the babies who have all the social cues. That is, without social cues, the nature of the hunt changes significantly and the babies are no longer doing the socially expected thing, they are actually looking for the object. Without communication, then, the babies learn a completely different game. With communication, they learn to look under A, and if it’s not there, then that’s just weird.
    Could this experiment point to the earliest development of the softest of soft skills that set infants on the path towards negotiating the world?
    It’s direct challenge to object permanence issues, it seems to indicate that sing-songy infant/caregiver communication is significant for infant learning, and it might be the beginning of locating the real gap in kindergarten readiness. If Head Start is already too late….
    (Of course, all the usual caveats for single studies and who really knows what babies are doing anyway. But if this fits in with soft skills research, then Obama’s call for ending NCLB and replacing with RttT needs to be rethought with this kind of research in mind.)
    I WILL be topical!
    Those poor baby turtles need to be taught how to find objects under boxes, clearly! So Steve and Companion, practice your sing songy turtle voices to help them find their way!
    And then let Arne Duncan administer Turtle Aptitude Tests (the dreaded TATs!) and you’ll find out if you still have your jobs next year based on the turtle test scores!
    (It’s turtles all the way down.)

    Reply

  23. Mr.Murder says:

    A meat market here skins almost anything, mammal or reptile. “Turtle meat sold here” is painted on the wall.
    Turtle eggs sold here?

    Reply

  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Steve — How did Oakley, Annie, & Buddy react to this home invasion?”
    Undoubtedly, were they witness, they raised the kind of hullaballoo WE should raise everytime Netanyahu lands his slimey murderous self on our sovereign shores, laying his eggs of deception and duplicity at our feet.

    Reply

  25. paul lukasiak says:

    Steve — How did Oakley, Annie, & Buddy react to this home invasion?

    Reply

  26. questions says:

    You have a “buy live tortoises” ad up from Turtleshack.com. Who knew! And “all tortoises have a health guarantee”! You should let the Republicans know. That should take care of the “replace” part of “repeal and replace” — just hand out “health guarantees”!
    I agree that after-parties “down” here sound better. (I still don’t quite know why there’s that up/down tradition. It’s all over the Republic, so I assume it’s really old.)
    Hope you have a splendid party tonight! Assuming you’re not ascending, I guess! But you’re probably a whole lot more righteous than the ones who think they are headin’ on up.

    Reply

  27. Steve Clemons says:

    DakotaBorn, very cool bit of history. Thank you.
    And Questions — as my partner just told me who read the
    preamble to your long note, you are assuming I’ll be raptured and
    thus won’t be here to take care of the turtle. So, thanks I think –
    though for what it is worth, I am pretty sure I’ll be one of those left
    behind to enjoy the after parties down here.
    best, steve

    Reply

  28. questions says:

    Well, if the turtles are righteous, they’ll get raptured, if not, you can always hire a service to take care of them during the stuff that follows the rapture.
    And while I’ve introduced an off-topic post via some rhetorical device that probably has a Latin name for it….
    The Rapture, Obama, and the non-Cynical I/P Weekend (and maybe a sneaky reference to some other in the news topic):
    Having read a few articles and a fair amount of snark regarding tonight’s predicted rapture, including speculation about the international date line… I have come to the conclusion that those who are truly hoping for the rapture, and not just hoping but expecting, are some mix of tired of family, life, work, the world, busted dreams, fallen expectations, harshness, disenchantment with life, and Erica Jong’s ziplessness (see how cleaned up my prose is?!)
    The descriptions of getting vacuumed up with clothes left behind to become one with one’s deity at an appointed and joyous moment, leaving behind the kids, the dishes, the housework, the investments, the job, the “friends” (oh, sorry, it’s not for YOU) is one totally life-denying last burst of jouissance during the ascent to whatever is UP, are pretty interesting.
    The underlying theme seems to be something along the lines of nothing matters anymore as I am done with this place, these feelings, this body, these people. And I have earned this last burst of pleasure by being a true believer despite it all. I have held to the world in the most world-denying of ways, and now (actually tonight at 6 pacific time I think it is) it’s my turn not to have to fake it ever again.
    So what does this have to do with Obama?
    Well…. In my feverish imagination, Obama has the very opposite views. He cannot leave the world, he’s not gonna get vacuumed up tonight (nor is anyone else likely to) and he’s gonna wake up tomorrow with…the same players, the same world he went to bed with the night before.
    Who’s in that world? B. Netanyahu, Hamas, Fatah, good faith and bad faith players, the Israeli electorate, the Knesset, settlements, organized political interests, the Tea Party, Cornel West, Zawahiri, global warming, Michele Bachmann….
    It’ll all be there tomorrow, and every day. To be the pres is to accept this sad and joyous fact of the world. We’re not leaving, we can’t stop trying, we do better to absorb the blows of the blowhards than to try to fantasize them away via cosmic vacuum cleaners and the leaving behind of clothing.
    We have to negotiate relationships rather than force them, we have to stay dressed and ready to sacrifice, work, suffer, and reach out to help the helpless. We will have people whose interests differ from ours, whose desires to position themselves really get in the way of rational discourse, we have pain, death, misery and horror all over the place.
    We’re not getting vacuumed up, and we have to negotiate with the world we have. Even when we don’t get what we want, we have to stay engaged and try all over again.

    Reply

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