• Raw Data: The Price of Housing in America

    How much has the cost of housing gone up over the last few decades? There are several different ways of measuring this, but here are five:

    • The CPI for shelter since 1990, deflated by the overall CPI. This measure accounts for both housing prices and rentals.
    • The Case-Shiller index since 1990. This is a national index of home prices only, not apartment rentals.
    • HUD’s affordability index for both homeownership and renting.
    • The 10-City Case-Shiller index since 1990. This provides an idea of how much housing costs have gone up in our largest cities.
    • An interpolated estimate from StreetEasy and Miller Samuel of average rents in Manhattan since 1992.

    Note that I’ve removed the period from about 2000 through 2013 in some of the charts. There’s a lot of spikiness during that period thanks to the housing bubble, but in the end housing prices were only a little bit higher. Getting rid of this noise makes the long-term trends a little easier to see.

  • Donald Trump Is Mad at Maggie Haberman

    Donald Trump is unhappy with today’s New York Times piece about how he treats Michael Cohen “like garbage,” which might cause Cohen to flip:

    Ha ha ha ha. Trump spoke with Haberman at least four times last year, on March 26, April 5, July 19, and November 1. Maybe more! How about it, Maggie? How many times have you spoken with Donald Trump since he began his campaign?

  • California Bullet Train Suffers From a “Number of Miscalculations”

    The LA Times reports today about a minor little cost overrun on the California bullet train. Over the course of five years, the cost of utility relocations along a short section of track near Fresno increased nearly 6x, from $69 million to $396 million:

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority board on Friday took up the problem, hearing from its staff that the original estimate contained a number of miscalculations. The number of linear feet of utilities that have to be moved was underestimated, as was the cost per foot for the job, according to a staff memo. Then, there were utilities that nobody even knew were in the ground. The authority changed its mind about some of the work, as well, the report said.

    ….The history of the utility relocations suggests some turmoil in management decisions — which the rail authority staff said it would not repeat in the future….The staff said that “best management practices,” along with a new database, will enable it to better estimate costs in the future. “Additionally, the assumption that utilities will perform relocations will not be repeated,” the staff memo said.

    No worries! This won’t be repeated in the future! I feel relieved.

    The California bullet train is obviously one of my bugaboos, and I figure that all bloggers are entitled to one or two. But seriously, reading this stuff makes me wonder if anyone involved in this boondoggle has any experience whatsoever with large construction projects, let alone high-speed rail projects.

    POSTSCRIPT: In fairness, I want to note that that this is not, strictly speaking, a new cost overrun. It’s all part of the “worst-case scenario” unveiled in January.

  • Yet More Camera Stuff

    High-speed photos never get old, do they? Actually, yes they do, but I have an excuse for posting yet more of them. It rained a bit on Thursday, and later in the morning the sun was bright enough that I could crank the camera’s shutter speed all the way up to 1/32,000th of a second. Does that make a difference compared to 1/16,000th of a second? As near as I can tell, it doesn’t improve the hummingbird but it does improve the honeybee:

    April 19, 2018 — Irvine, California

    Since I’ve been shooting the night sky lately, I’ve also been experimenting with noise reduction. Here’s the problem: on a digital camera, if you keep the shutter open for an hour or two you’ll get lots of random dots caused by individual sensors firing for no good reason. So the camera has a noise-reduction feature that removes the dots. If you take, say, a one-hour exposure, it closes the shutter at the end of the shot and then keeps going for another hour. It’s basically taking a pure black photo during that time. It then compares the noise in the image to the noise from the black photo and removes the corresponding dots. Something like that, anyway. But it sure does work. Here’s a pair of two-hour exposures:

    April 16, 2018 — Irvine, California

    And finally, here are the moon and Venus last Tuesday, because why not?

    April 17, 2018 — Irvine, California
  • Raw Data: The World’s Most Expensive Cities

    Via Deutsche Bank, here are two interesting charts. The top one shows the average annual salary of residents in the world’s most expensive cities. The bottom one shows the average rent for a “mid-range” two-bedroom apartment as a percent of monthly salary.


  • Friday Cat Blogging – 20 April 2018

    Who’s photobombing whom? It all depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?

  • Donald Trump Is Pondering How to Help the Coal Industry

    President Trump is desperate to help out coal miners, but the problem is that nobody wants coal these days. Old coal-fired generating plants are being shut down, and earlier this year the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission turned down a request to subsidize them. So now the Trumpies are looking further afield:

    Under the approach, the administration would invoke sweeping authority in the 68-year-old Defense Production Act, which allows the president to effectively nationalize private industry to ensure the U.S. has resources that could be needed amid a war or after a disaster….The statute classifies energy as a “strategic and critical material” and gives the president wide latitude to protect providers, including by ordering businesses to accept contracts for materials and services. It was previously invoked in 2001 to keep natural gas flowing to California utilities to avoid electrical blackouts.

    I can hardly wait for this. Maybe Trump will nationalize the country’s coal plants. Maybe he’ll nationalize the mines. Maybe he’ll force companies to buy electricity at inflated prices from coal-fired plants. Who knows? Maybe he’ll just order the federal government to buy lots of coal and then dump it in the ocean. It looks like exciting days are ahead for free-market capitalism.

  • Philippe Reines Is Writing a Book

    Atrios doesn’t like Philippe Reines:

    One of the great mysteries of Clintonland is they both surrounded themselves with people who are truly horrible at their jobs.

    Perhaps no one could have gotten good coverage for Clinton given the weird psychosis she inspires in the political press, but also Reines is uniquely bad at that job. He’s a horrible and incompetent person!

    I’ve never met Reines and I don’t know anything about him. Maybe he’s a huge sexist pig. Maybe he lies constantly. Maybe he’s a gigantic pain in the ass.¹ Maybe he’s grossly incompetent at being a campaign spokesperson.

    I doubt it, but you never know. But I will say two things about him. First, his Twitter account is great. Second, if he’s really writing a book, I will buy it the very first instant it appears. If I can steal a copy earlier than that, I’ll do it. It just might turn out to be the greatest campaign narrative ever told. Don’t let me down on this, Philippe.

    ¹Actually, even his friends seem to agree that he’s a pain in the ass, so I guess there’s no “maybe” about that one.

  • A Campaign Reporter Looks In the Mirror—And Isn’t Happy With What She Sees

    Remember this?New York Times Magazine

    Amy Chozick, who has covered Hillary Clinton on a daily basis for the New York Times since 2013, recounts what happened on Election Day when Clinton realized she wasn’t going to win:

    “I knew it. I knew this would happen to me,” she said, now within a couple of inches of Mr. Mook’s ashen face. “They were never going to let me be president.”

    ….I figured that if anyone knew whom Mrs. Clinton was referring to with that insidious “they” that, like some invisible army of adversaries (real and imagined), wielded its collective power and caused her to lose the most winnable presidential election in modern history, it was me.

    They were the vast-right wing conspiracy. They were the patriarchy that could never let an ambitious former first lady finally shatter “that highest, hardest glass ceiling.” They were the people of Wisconsin and James Comey. They were white suburban women who would rather vote for a man who bragged about sexual assault than a woman who seemed an affront to who they were. And yes, they were political reporters (“big egos and no brains,” she called us) hounding her about her emails and transfixed by the spectacle of the first reality TV show candidate.

    But wait. This story evolves into something more interesting. It starts on October 7, the day the Access Hollywood tape was leaked. That was also the day that Wikileaks released hacked emails that included excerpts from Clinton’s infamous Wall Street speeches:

    Mrs. Clinton’s refusal to release the speeches had been such a cause célèbre in the Democratic primary that I regularly saw protesters holding signs that said, “I’d rather be at home reading your Goldman Sachs speeches.” Now the juicy parts of this most sought-after trove of documents had landed in our laps.

    But it wasn’t a scoop. It was more like a bank heist. Editors and reporters huddled to discuss how to handle the hack. Everyone agreed that since the emails were already out there — and of importance to voters — it was The Times’s job to “confirm” and “contextualize” them. I didn’t argue that it appeared the emails were stolen by a hostile foreign government that had staged an attack on our electoral system. I didn’t push to hold off on publishing them until we could have a less harried discussion. I didn’t raise the possibility that we’d become puppets in Vladimir Putin’s master plan. I chose the byline.

    And finally this:

    In December, after the election, my colleagues in Washington wrote a Pulitzer-winning article about how the Russians had pulled off the perfect hack. I was on the F train on my way to the newsroom when I read it. I had no new assignment yet and still existed in a kind of postelection fog that took months to lift. I must’ve read this line 15 times: “Every major publication, including The Times, published multiple stories citing the D.N.C. and Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.

    The Bernie Bros and Mr. Trump’s Twitter trolls had called me a donkey-faced whore and a Hillary shill, but nothing hurt worse than my own colleagues calling me a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence. The worst part was, they were right.

    ….[Now] I’ve started to see the “they” she spoke about on election night differently. They were Facebook algorithms and data breaches. They were Fake News drummed up by Vladimir Putin’s army. They were shadowy hackers who stole her campaign chairman’s emails hoping to weaken our democracy with Mr. Podesta’s risotto recipe. They were The Times and me and all the other journalists who covered those stolen emails.

    Chozick doesn’t mention the biggest “they” of all, though: the carefully orchestrated Republican campaign to keep Clinton’s State Department emails in the news, and the reporters who covered every one of those orchestrated twists and turns as major events. I would very much like to see an accounting of this that doesn’t just wave it off with “Are you saying we shouldn’t have covered the emails?” The question has never been whether news outlets should have covered the emails. Of course they should have. The question is whether they should have been patsies who covered them relentlessly no matter how trivial each new daily leak was.

    But that’s just bitterness speaking. I’m genuinely grateful that Chozick wrote what she did. I don’t think it will change anything—I expect the same tsunami of crap in 2020 and I expect it will be covered the same way—but it’s nice to see someone acknowledge it. It’s a start.

  • Raw Data: Total Housing Units as Percent of Households