First of all, although I'm on record as being quite pessimistic about what's liable to happen to the Democrats in 2010, odds are that Obama's approval will have to be somewhat worse than 50 percent for the Democrats to lose the House. The relationship between Presidential approval and his party's fate at the midterm elections is quite linear. An approval rating of 50 percent would typically be associated with a loss of about 26 seats.3) Arthur Schack is the only man standing between people and a life on the streets. He's a foreclosure judge in Brooklyn. "I'm a little guy in Brooklyn who doesn't belong to their country clubs, what can I tell you?" he says, adding a shrug for punctuation. "I won't accept their comedy of errors," he says of the big bankers who appear before him daily.
You know we're near the depths of recession when men's underwear is used to gauge the nature of the economy.
The Washington Post says the economy, apparently, is turning around:
Here's the theory, briefly: Sales of men's underwear typically are stable because they rank as a necessity. But during times of severe financial strain, men will try to stretch the time between buying new pairs, causing underwear sales to dip.
"It's a prolonged purchase," said Marshal Cohen, senior analyst with the consumer research firm NPD Group. "It's like trying to drive your car an extra 10,000 miles."
It's a theory first publicized by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan with NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich.
Other consumer staples have been variously portrayed as the coalmine canaries of the economy:
Lipstick - The theory was that when times are hard because women who cut back on clothing purchases will turn to buying lipsticks for a relatively inexpensive pick-me-up, according to the Wall St. Journal.. It's a theory, however, that has now been dismissed.
Cardboard boxes -- Makes sense, right? If people are buying things, more cardboard boxes need to be produced. Earlier this month, industry analysts said cardboard box sales have risen to a level not seen since last October.
Scrap metal prices -- Greenspan was fond of tracking scrap metal prices, the Wall St. Journal said, because it indicated higher industrial production. Prices have risen only slightly over the last year, but the indicator may not be valid this year since Cash for Clunkers is flooding salvage yards with scrap metal.
Guilty or not, a Milwaukee-area woman today became the "poster child" for people ripping off social-service programs.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today published an investigation showing the woman -- Latasha Jackson -- was running what police describe as "a child care ring," and that Wisconsin officials didn't stop it until they found out the newspaper was about to publish the story.
She has received more than $2.9 million dollars for child care, the newspaper said.
The story shouldn't have come as a surprise to the people in government who say they're surprised. The state's Legislative Audit Bureau released a report in June saying nearly $19 million was improperly distributed via the program last year.(1 Comments)
Comic books are still a big deal. Somewhere.
In the biggest media deal of the day, Walt Disney Company today agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. The deal adds Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four to the Disney empire. But it's mostly a demographic play. The company of princesses and Snow White wants to attract more young men. Young men read comics and watch superhero movies, I guess, and favor action heroes over sleeping beauties.
There is, however, some concern over whether Marvel's "grittiness" will be compatible in Disney theme parks, where everyone plays nice.
Can the characters co-exist? Or is it M.O.D.O.K. vs. The Mouse?
Said one Marvel writer on Twitter today, "My main concern is that my checks still have Spider-man on them. The bank teller won't be so impressed with Mickey Mouse.
California is where disaster and art always seems to intersect.
And so it is today with the wildfires that have hit the western states. A massive fire in the Angeles National Forest nearly doubled in size overnight, threatening 12,000 homes today in a 20-mile-long swath of flame and smoke and surging toward a mountaintop broadcasting complex.
Video blogger Eric Spiegelman posted this:
Here's Spiegelman's Vimeo page.
Our sister-station -- KPCC in Pasadena -- has its broadcast antenna on that mountain. Audience members have been sending in their own photos. Many are quite beautiful in their depiction of the disaster.
(AP Photo/DAN STEINBERG)
Update 2:52 p.m. I asked MPR meteorologist Paul Hutter, who also writes the Updraft blog, whether we'd see the effects of that smoke in some fashion in these parts. Here's his reply:
1) Is there enough volume of smoke to reach the Midwest? Looking at the GOES 1km visible satellite today over So Cal I see the plume just north of L.A. from what I assume is the La Canada area. The plume is drifting northward. The question is does it have enough volume to reach the Midwest in a significant way? My guess is most of it will dissipate unless increased smoke volume is generated by the fires. http://weather.cod.edu/analysis/loops/satmaster.pl?S_California
2) Will the flow between 10k and 20k feet reach the Midwest? It looks like the general trajectory over the next few days will move smoke over the central and northern Rockies, then eastward around the ridge toward Minnesota. If there's enough smoke, it could get here. If it does, it should create redder sunsets. http://www.nco.ncep.noaa.gov/pmb/nwprod/analysis/namer/nam/12/fp0_024.shtml
If you want to see the future, look toward Europe.
On Tuesday, the ban on incandescent light bulbs begins in the EU, the New York Times reports. It's part of an attempt to limit greenhouse gases but the debate continues over whether the cure is just as bad.
Any substantive conversation about the U.S. ban disappeared when Rep. Michele Bachmann filed a bill to delay implementation, not so much because there aren't some legitimate concerns about the replacement, but -- let's face it -- because it was Michele Bachmann.
But there are some concerns about the CFL bulb, even beyond the mercury content. Stick one in your garage door opener bulb socket sometime. It doesn't last very long. I tried. Several times. What about the little light bulb in your fridge? Or your oven? Or work lights (Don't talk to me about those LED work lights; I tested one of those -- for $35 -- this year and next to the day I got married and the day my children were born, the day I tossed that junk in the trash was the happiest day of my life)? CFL bulbs have improved, but not by a lot. LEDs may be the answer in some applications -- autos, traffic signals, Christmas lights -- but not a lot of everyday ones.
There maybe be a solution on the way. NPR has the story this evening about a firm that is making a hybrid incandescent bulb that uses less electricity than the the CFL. Expensive? You bet.
But back to the UK for a minute. The government has asked people to keep an eye on shopkeepers who still sell incandescents. Some are said to be importing the "illegal" bulbs from China. And that brings up another likely problem when it disappears from the U.S. scene -- the underground bootlegged incandescents. Incandescent speakeasies. Mysterious men in overcoats who whisper, "Psst, buddy. Want to buy a light bulb?"
Which is why I'm stocking up. It could be the answer to my 403B woes.
(Light bulb photo above: