Superstorm

A lot of people tried to warn us. Here’s another one:

PHILADELPHIA — In the documentary “Shored Up,” scientists warn that with a rising sea level, a major storm could put New Jersey’s barrier islands underwater and create devastating storm surges. In other words, what happened last month when Superstorm Sandy slammed into New Jersey and New York.


For Ben Kalina, the Philadelphia filmmaker who was nearly finished putting together the documentary when the storm hit, it meant that the ideas in the film that may have sounded far-fetched – or at least, discussions of something that may happen sometime in the future – were suddenly immediate.


“Until Sandy, we were making a film about something much more meditative, really,” Kalina said. “And now the stakes are suddenly much more real.”

Not a good sign

UPDATE: Looks like all they did was displace crowds to the middle of the night.

So I slept right through my alarm this morning and did not get over to the Black Friday protest at my local Walmart. I rode over when I woke up, but there were no signs of a protest (although I understand they’re planning in-store actions, too). The parking lot wasn’t anywhere near as full as you’d expect, and I thought, “Good, people are observing the strike.”

But as I rode around, I noticed business was light everywhere: the parking lots at Lowe’s, the Home Deport, Kmart, even (gasp!) Target weren’t anywhere near as crowded as usual.

Now, I have nothing to compare. This is the first time I have even left the house on Black Friday, so I don’t know what’s “normal.” But it sure looks to me that people aren’t very interested in shopping this year — and that doesn’t bode well for the economy.

How about you guys? Anyone venture out this morning?

Foaming the runway

I can’t believe the administration – especially Tim Geithner – is still trying to excuse their ineptitude on the housing crisis. I mean, we’ve read the books from administration insiders like Sheila Bair and Neal Barofsky since they’ve left, and they complain about the same thing: Tim Geithner’s fixation on helping the banks instead at the expense of homeowners, and Obama’s acquiescence to Geithner’s choice. Until it’s acknowledged that this was the wrong decision, I don’t have much faith in the ones they’re going to make now:

One year and one month before President Obama won reelection, he invited seven of the world’s top economists into a private meeting in the Oval Office for their advice on what do to fix an ailing economy. “I’m not asking you to consider the political feasibility of things,” he told them in the previously unreported meeting.


There was a former Federal Reserve vice chairman, a Nobel laureate, one of the world’s foremost experts on financial crises and the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund , among others. Nearly to a tee, they said Obama should introduce a much bigger plan to forgive part of the mortgage debt owed by millions of homeowners underwater on their properties.

Obama was reserved in response, but Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner interjected that he didn’t think anything of such ambition was possible. “How do we get this done through Congress?” he asked. “What could we actually do that we haven’t done?”


The meeting highlighted what today is the biggest disagreement between some of the world’s top economists and the Obama administration. The economists say the president could have significantly accelerated the slow economic recovery if he had better addressed the overhang of mortgage debt left burdening Americans when housing prices collapsed. Obama’s advisers say that they did all they could on the housing front and that other factors better explain why the recovery has been slow.


The question is relevant because though Obama won a victory earlier this month, the vast majority of voters still say the economy is weak and not getting better. Policymakers in Washington are now focused on another type of debt — the public debt owed by all taxpayers — but the slow economic recovery, which depresses tax revenue, makes that problem harder to solve.


[…] “Housing was the neglected piece. They have the kind of attitude that they don’t believe this is a good value for the money, this is politically unpopular, and there’s not much we can do,” said Alan Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman consulted frequently by the White House. “There were obvious things to do that academics and others started pointing out back in 2008. That could have shortened the recovery time.”


Obama’s economic advisers dispute that notion. Geithner said the administration chose the best of the feasible options to deal with the housing crisis.


“We knew the hit to wealth would be damaging. We knew the level of debt had the potential to restrain the strength of recovery,” Geithner said in an interview. “The only issue was, what could you do about it? What were the feasible options available?”

Walmart workers on strike

I’m happy that workers are standing up:

A year and a half after retail workers announced the founding of a new Walmart employee group, five months after guest workers struck a Walmart seafood supplier, and seven weeks after the country’s first multi-store Walmart strikes, the Black Friday strike has begun.


Walmart stores opened at 8 PM, drawing additional ire from employees required to come into work on Thanksgiving earlier than ever. But workers’ protests got off to an early start too. Around 7:30 PM EST, 30 workers from three Miami stores went on strike, joining 100-plus supporters for one of several nighttime rallies across the country. “It’s been so long that I’ve been working for people that had no respect for me,” Miami striker Elaine Rozier told The Nation. “They retaliated against me, and they always treated me like crap. And I’m so happy that this is history, that my grandkids can learn from this to stand up for themselves.” In the past, said Rozier, “I always used to sit back and not say anything…I’m proud of myself tonight.”

Earthquake

Yes, I really did feel an earthquake late last night. Funny thing is, people from NJ were talking about it on Twitter several minutes before I felt that now-familiar rumbling through my office chair:

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