2008 - %3, December

Commercial Real Estate

| Mon Dec. 22, 2008 1:41 AM EST

COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE....The residential real estate market imploded two years ago, and the commercial real estate market has never been very far behind. Now big property developers are looking at their own armageddon and have started heading to Washington to get a piece of the bailout action:

They're warning policymakers that thousands of office complexes, hotels, shopping centers and other commercial buildings are headed into defaults, foreclosures and bankruptcies. The reason: according to research firm Foresight Analytics LCC, $530 billion of commercial mortgages will be coming due for refinancing in the next three years — with about $160 billion maturing in the next year. Credit, meanwhile, is practically nonexistent and cash flows from commercial property are siphoning off.

....To head off some of the impending pain, the industry is asking to be included in a new $200 billion loan program initially created by the government to salvage the market for car loans, student loans and credit-card debt.

...."The credit crisis has got so bad that refinancing of even good loans may be drying up," says Richard Parkus, head of commercial-mortgage-backed securities research at Deutsche Bank.

If the government is bailing out commercial banks, investment banks, credit card companies, car financers, and the entire auto industry, can they really say no to the commercial real estate market? Probably not. But who's next in line after that?

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Have You Gotten Your Invitation Yet?

| Sun Dec. 21, 2008 2:47 PM EST

HAVE YOU GOTTEN YOUR INVITATION YET?....According to the New York Times, the printing company that won the bid to produce a million inaugural invitations for Barack Obama is located in the unlikely sounding town of Dumbo. But no. It's not Dumbo. It's DUMBO, which trusty Mr. Google informs me is a Brooklyn acronym for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass." Jeebus. Do New Yorkers have acronyms for everything? If we did this here in Irvine, my neighborhood would be called something like JAFEC — "Just Above the Freeway East of Culver" — which, come to think of it, might be an improvement. Probably wouldn't pass muster with the local association, though.

Elsewhere in the Times piece we learn why this particular company was chosen:

According to Mr. Donnelly, Precise Continental was selected over rival printers because it is a union company, it uses recycled paper and it is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible forest management.

Of course! But I wonder what the equivalent kind of thing would be for a Republican inauguration? A print shop whose health plan doesn't cover Plan B and encourages its employees to come to work packing? Or just a straight-up reward for whatever printing mogul bundled the largest number of maxed-out contributions to the campaign?

There's even a tangential personal connection in the story in this sentence: "The first order arrived by truck on Monday, from Neenah Paper, a Wisconsin company." An old high school friend of mine works for Neenah Paper, so I'm glad to hear they got the order. I haven't actually heard from this friend since, um, high school, but still — good work, guys.

O Frabjous Day!

| Sun Dec. 21, 2008 11:53 AM EST

O FRABJOUS DAY!....Here in the northern hemisphere, today is the winter solstice. This means that tomorrow the days start getting longer again! Hooray!

Blago Update

| Sun Dec. 21, 2008 11:48 AM EST

BLAGO UPDATE....George Stephanopoulos reports that Barack Obama's internal review shows that Rahm Emanuel had only one direct phone call with Rod Blagojevich:

The contact, described as a "pro-forma" courtesy call, came as Emanuel was named Chief of Staff for Obama. Most of the discussion concerned Emanuel's Congressional seat (which had previously been held by Blagojevich), with only a "passing reference" to the Senate vacancy, according to these sources. No deal for the Senate vacancy was discussed.

....The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris....Sources [] confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, "all we get is appreciation, right?" "Right," Emanuel responded.

Apparently Obama is ready to release his review just as soon as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald lets him. Sad news for the press, which will then have to manufacture some other pseudo-scandal to fill up its air space.

Twitter

| Sat Dec. 20, 2008 7:56 PM EST

TWITTER....Today the New York Times christens "The Buzzwords of 2008," and one of them is:

This is designed to memorialize all forms of the word Twitter, whatever they may be. So as long as we're on the subject, can someone help me out with the whole twitter phenomenon? I'm pretty used to things that I'm not personally interested in but that I still get (like, say, texting), but twitter is something that I don't even really get. So if you're a twitterer, tell me in comments what you use it for, why you like it, how it makes your life more worth living, etc. I'm just curious.

Shoes Make the Man

| Sat Dec. 20, 2008 2:21 PM EST

SHOES MAKE THE MAN....Bloomberg is on the case with news you can use. The original shoes tossed at George Bush in Iraq last Sunday may have been destroyed, but there are plenty more where those came from:

The brown, thick-soled "Model 271" may soon be renamed "The Bush Shoe" or "Bye-Bye Bush," Ramazan Baydan, who owns the Istanbul-based producer Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., said in a telephone interview today.

....Baydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said.

....Baydan has received a request for 4,000 pairs from a company called Davidson, based in Maryland. He declined to provide further details.

Maybe Barack Obama needs a pair or two?

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Pew Releases "Final Verdict" on Bush

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 9:35 PM EST

As Bush's reign of error winds down, his supporters are working hard to sugarcoat his legacy, first with the Bush legacy project, and then the "Speech Topper on the Bush Record." But as Karl Rove and Bill Kristol recently discovered when arguing against the motion "Bush 43 is the worst president of the last 50 years," it's an uphill battle.

Pew's "final verdict" shows that Americans aren't falling for these last-ditch efforts. That is to say, only 24 percent of Americans currently approve of the administration, down from a high of 86 percent following 9/11.

bush-approval.png

Here are a few highlights, including how George W. compares to Clinton, Bush Sr., and Reagan:

  • Nearly three-quarters of 18-29 year olds disapprove of President Bush, the most of any age group.
  • More than one-third of respondents believe that Bush will go down in history as a poor president, as compared to Clinton (11 percent), Bush Sr. (4 percent), and Reagan (5 percent). (The options were outstanding, above average, average, below average, poor, and don't know.)
  • Approval of state and local government has declined 3 and 4 percent respectively since 2002. The federal government's favorability rating has fallen 36 percent.
  • 83 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Independents, and 33 percent of Republicans believe the Bush administration will be best known for its failures. In 2001, only 13 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of Independents, and 43 percent of Republicans said the same about Clinton.
  • Blacks disapprove of Bush more than whites by a fairly wide margin, 83 to 64 percent. And women disapprove more than men, 70 to 65 percent.
  • Interestingly, college graduates are slightly more approving of Bush than Americans with no college education.

Methane Leaking Into Arctic Ocean

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 7:56 PM EST

800px-East_Siberian_Sea_map.png The carbon pool beneath the Arctic Ocean is leaking. A study on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf found an increase in methane bubbles rising from chimneys on the seafloor in 2008. In fact more than 1,000 measurements registered the highest dissolved methane concentrations ever seen in the summer Arctic Ocean. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

These new data from the International Arctic Research Center indicate the underwater permafrost is thawing in one of two (or both) ways. First, thawing permafrost initiates the decomposition of previously-frozen organic material, releasing methane and carbon dioxide. Second, ice-like methane hydrates trapped underneath the permafrost seep out when the permafrost thaws.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is a shallow continental shelf stretching 900 miles into the Arctic Ocean from Siberia. It's known to be a year-round source of methane to the globe's atmosphere. But until recently scientists believed that much of its carbon pool was safely insulated by underwater permafrost. Not anymore. Now the fuse is lit on the methane time bomb. . . . And we're still talking about drilling for new sources of oil? WTF? Listen up Barack Obama: The promised change has gotta be faster than the melting methane.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the PEN USA Literary Award, the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal.

U2 Set to Release New Album in March

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 6:53 PM EST

U2Irish combo U2 will release a new album, No Line on the Horizon, on March 3, the band's label announced yesterday. Horizon was originally expected this year, but there were some false starts: material recorded in 2006 with producer Rick Rubin was tossed, and longtime U2 collaborators and producers Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite were brought back in; then, as the album was nearing the finishing stages, the band decided it needed two more songs. But I guess they finally finished the thing, and Billboard quotes a source as calling the material "amazing and a little out there." Okay!

Horizon will be U2's twelfth studio album, the follow-up to How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which has sold over 9 million copies worldwide since its 2004 release. The band is also planning a 2009 tour as part of its crazy-lucrative stock deal with Live Nation.

After the jump, RX's brilliant edit of George W. Bush doing "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

Christmas Carols Get 8-bit Makeover

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 6:32 PM EST

mojo-8bitsofxmas.gifWhile most music genres race forward, absorbing new sonic technologies like a giant music-box Borg, the 8-bit phenomenon clings proudly to the past—specifically, the restrictive palette of classic computer and video game consoles. Even artists like Beck have seen the appeal of their buzzy, blippy tones; witness the 8-bit remix of "Hell Yes", renamed "Ghettochip Malfunction":

If you liked that, get ready for a very bleepy Christmas.