Last Friday I was able to bring my two girls (ages 5 and 3) to see Toy Story 3. These are kids that watch almost no TV and actually thought Mary Poppins was a little scary (when the fireworks were shot at the chimney sweeps). I'm cool with that. I don't see a reason why a five year old needs to burden their mind with intense fear.

That being said, I knew I was taking a risk bringing them to the big screen and was prepared for a little bit of tension and trauma with Toy Story. They made it through - some tears and fears, both of which I shared - and they have now spent the last week playing Woody and Jessie. They went through their wardrobe and found clothes they felt fit the characters. I love their imagination and am looking forward to another weekend posing as either Buzz Lightyear or Andy. 

Go see the movie - it was great. And enjoy the week's news.

  • Unfortunately and all too predictably, the housing correction seems to have resumed in force now that the federal subsidy has expired. Even though the tax credit was relatively small in comparison to the value of the median home, it helped the entry-level market which seems to have had a somewhat cascading impact, perhaps only psychological. This market is so fragile. Anyone out there really believe that we are going to see a housing turnaround any time soon?

"We fear that the appetite to buy a home has disappeared alongside the tax credit," Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics," wrote in a note. "After all, unemployment remains high, job security is low and credit conditions are tight."

  • The credit did more than help homebuyers. Appears a few convicts got in on the act. If you wonder why most of the American population is skeptical of the competence of government, here is another reason. Anyone with the Feds heard of a spreadsheet?

A common scam had multiple taxpayers using the sale of a single home, with each claiming the credit. One home was used by 67 tax filers, the report said. In other cases, taxpayers got the credit for sales that happened before the tax break started.

"This is very troubling," [Inspector General J. Russell] George said. "Congress created and modified the homebuyer credit to stimulate the economy and help taxpayers achieve the American dream, not to line the pockets of wrongdoers."

  • The NY Times has a tragic story this week about a community bank that has been replaced by one of the nationwide operations. It is tragic on so many levels. First, the community bank was actually interested in the community, doing a lot of charity work and favorable lending to really invest in the neighborhoods. National bank, not so much. Then, you read further and find out that a large part of the demise of the neighborhood bank was their investments in government-bastard-spawns Freddie and Fannie, which tanked amidst the housing crisis. To add injury to insult, when this happens and the community bank tries to access TARP funds to keep it afloat, it is not eligible. Those funds are only available for the big, publicly-owned investment banks. Sometimes it just seems like we will not allow ourselves to succeed.
  • As if we needed more proof, research confirms that the best way to reduce the auto-dependent fragility of our economic system is to end standard euclidean zoning and build mixed use developments. We'll add to that finding that it is also the only known way to build places that we can afford to maintain.

If you’re trying to minimize vehicle miles traveled and maximize walking and transit, you’re better off emphasizing mixed-use and destination accessibility than just bumping up density. A dense development in the suburbs, far from transit and employment centers and stores, is probably not going to buy you much in the way of walking and transit use.

  • Of course, one of my twin hometowns (Baxter, MN) is going full speed in the opposite direction. I may make a longer post out of this article, but based on the premise that their population will double over the next 20 years, they are fully committing to building the "needed" motoring infrastructure. The amazing thing is that the underlying premise (fight congestion at all cost) and the sole tool to address it (build more, wider, straighter and more expensive roads) is never questioned. When this comes to an end, it will be ugly.
  • I'm sure that Baxter will ultimately go through a phase like Black Hawk, Colorado, where they have banned bikes on the streets. It's all about the cars.

Michael Copp, Black Hawk's city manager, the equivalent of chief executive of a local council in the UK, admitted there had not been any accidents to prompt the ban, just concern over potential collisions between motor vehicles and bicycles on 19th-century streets that were designed for horses and carriages.

...

"The rules will allow bicycle traffic that originates locally to continue to operate with City Manager authorisation, while still assuring that such traffic can operate in a manner that is not incompatible with vehicular traffic," says another clause.

  • I love a good cat fight. I wonder if they actually used the anti-big box arguments.
  • James Kunstler has a great column this week that demonstrates why, if you can cut through all of the intentionally-provocative language, he is one of the most insightful people in America today. This column is on our "mismanagement" of our current economic contraction, which is exactly how we need to think of where we are at today. 

Reality is telling us to downscale and get different fast. Quit doing everything possible to prop up the drive-in false utopia and all its accessories. Get local. Tighten up. We have no intention of doing that. The idiocy that passes as informed opinion wants the US money managers to kick out the jambs handing out more money created out of thin air to promote a fantasy called "recovery." To what purpose?

  • I've never been to Hawaii but really want to get there someday. Hopefully the United States is not compelled to pawn the dishes like Greece is being forced to do before I get the chance to make the trip.

"I am sad – selling off your islands or areas that belong to the people of Greece should be used as the last resort," said Makis Perdikaris, director of Greek Island Properties. "But the first thing is to develop the economy and attract foreign domestic investment to create the necessary infrastructure. The point is to get money." In its battle to raise funds, the country is also planning to sell its rail and water companies. Chinese investors are understood to be interested in the Greek train system, as they already control some of the ports.

  • The traditional role of the court jester was to be the sole individual that could speak truth to power, with satirical comedy as the sweetener. John Stewart serves this role nicely in analyzing decades of executive futility in achieving energy independence.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
An Energy-Independent Future
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

 

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