Tag: money

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The Conqueror

The big digger seen at the corner of El Cajon and Mississippi on April 12, 2021 triumphs atop a mountain of dirt upon which once stood three buildings; in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood. Someday soon, another cathedral of unaffordable housing will rise like the Tower of Babel.

My prediction: Cities all over the country are currently overbuilding to accommodate the massive Millennial population from which fewer babies are being born. Fast forward a decade, perhaps just five years, and rising Baby Boomer deaths coupled with falling birth rates will lead to a glut in housing—particularly multi-family properties. Is this construction site one of many future ghettos?

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What’s Your Definition of Temporary?

I captured the Featured Image on March 18, 2021, presuming to never need to publish. How mistaken. As of today, more than 13 months after California Governor Gavin Newsom issued his first lockdown order and nearly a week after San Diego County moved into the (supposedly) less-restrictive Orange Tier, the Wells Fargo in Hillcrest is still closed.

You got to love that “branch temporarily closed” sign and wonder why it all seems so permanent. For anyone banking there or thinking that the state really is opening up, don’t be a fool: the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 misery is far from over—and I don’t mean you ever becoming sick.

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Don’t You Mean Four Bucks?

Someone tell me where Joe Wallace lives, because I want to go there. Yesterday morning, I read his Wall Street Journal story, “Leap in Gas Prices Puts $3 a Gallon in Sight“, in state of disbelief. In sight, as in coming? Because here in San Diego, that reference means looking back. We passed three bucks a gallon well more than a month ago. In fact, before President Executive Order killed off the Keystone Pipeline, the price had been $2.86 for months—and that was up 30 cents from Summer 2020—at my local economy filling station.

“Gasoline prices at pumps in the U.S. hit an average of $2.88 a gallon over the past week, according to the AAA”, Joe writes. “In California, the most expensive market, average prices stand at $3.88, according to AAA”. Hours later, I shot the Featured Image, with Leica Q2 Monochrom, specifically to illustrate this essay. Granted, Chevron charges more than many competitors but not outrageously greater than the $3.88 at nearby Valero. 

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Surely There is a Better Way to Help the Homeless

I specifically shot the Featured Image, yesterday using Leica Q2, to illustrate this essay. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 11:22 a.m. PST. The carts belonged to one of three homeless men gathered together a few meters away on the Hillcrest side of Washington Street Bridge (University Heights is on the other). For sure, San Diego has a significant indigent population. But I write about San Francisco and something that surprises me—and perhaps will you, too.

According to the SF Chronicle (sorry, subscription required), the city is “currently sheltering more than 2,200 homeless people in about 25 hotels” and the “monthly program costs range from $15 million to $18 million”. By my math, that works out to between $6,818.18 to $8,8181.82 per person each month. If these people were paid, the equivalent annual salary would be between $82,000 and $98,000. Oh, and looks like the United States government will cover costs through the end of September 2021.

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Somebody is a Quick Study of Capitalism

Four days ago, I posted about the clever entrepreneur selling double-layer, home-made face masks for a buck. They’re a bargain no more! Since seeing the unattended sales display on Jan. 9, 2021 along Maryland Street in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood, something changed—the price! Four dollars more—a 400-percent increase! Granted, the presentation is fancier, and Venmo payment is now accepted—with QR code option, no less.

Smooth sales tactics, reminiscent of retail operations everywhere, are evident in the “originally $10 each”, too. That’s not the price I photographed last week, hehe. I wonder why the change. Were too many selling at $1? Was the price below product cost? Were passersby abusing the honor system and stealing them? (Behavioral studies show that people are less likely to swipe things that are more valuable.)

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The 2020 US Quarter Honors Bats–Supposed Source of SARS-CoV-2

Am I delirious, or delusional, or is that a bat on the 2020 American quarter? Earlier today, I picked up three rolls from the bank, for laundry, and one of them was filled with these freshly minted surprises—and they’re freaking me out. Humanity is in the grips of a viral pandemic that started in China and supposedly jumped species—from bat to Homo sapiens. So why is there one—no, two—on this year’s 25-cent coins? Is it coincidence? Prophetic? Subliminal manipulation? For that last one, pick your X-Files conspiracy-theory protagonist: Chinese Communists, American liberals, US conservatives, President Trump, greedy capitalists, or— why not—alien invaders seeking to control us all through mind-controlling vaccines.

As I write, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—has killed 144,047 people in 185 countries and there are 2,157,108 confirmed cases. And those are considered to be relatively good numbers, compared to recent projections. Apparently, the majority of countries closing most businesses and all schools, while encouraging citizens to stay home, has dramatically slowed spread of the contagion.

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To Slow the Pandemic, Commerce Crumbles

Last night, Governor Gavin Newsom directed the closure of restaurants—other than take-away or delivery—across California. San Diego County issued legally-enforceable health orders, 11 in all, that impose tighter restrictions. Sizable group gatherings are prohibited, and residents are instructed to stay home. Six days after the World Health Organization (finally) declared SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—a pandemic, commerce shutters, slows, and stops.

My wife and I take cautious walks around the neighborhood, avoiding other people as we can. Today, as we approached Park Blvd from Monroe Ave., a strange sight greeted: Closed LeStat’s. The bustling coffee shop is normally open 24 hours every day of the year. We didn’t explore the remaining portion of University Height’s main street, but for sure the many bars and restaurants are dark, too.

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Microsoft Investors Punch Back at Apple

In May 2010, I wrote about Apple’s market cap passing top-valued Microsoft; it’s only fitting to follow up with an analysis about the unbelievable turnabout that, like the first, marks a changing of technological vanguards. Briefly today, the software and services giant nudged past the stock market’s fruit-logo darling. A few minutes after 1 p.m. EST, the pair’s respective market caps hovered in the $812 billion range, with Microsoft cresting Apple by about $300 million. By the stock market close, a rally for Apple put distance from its rival: $828.64 billion to $817.29 billion, respectively (Bloomberg says $822.9 billion, BTW). Consider this: As recently as October, Apple’s valuation touched $1.1 trillion. But since the company announced arguably record fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on November 1st, investors have punished shares, which currently are down about 21 percent.

Apple has long been a perception stock, even when under the tutelage of CEO Tim Cook company fundamentals deserved recognition. But perhaps Wall Street finally realizes the problem of iPhone accounting for too much of total revenues at a time when smartphone saturation saps sales and Apple pushes up selling prices to retain margins. More significantly: Apple has adopted a policy of fiscal corporate secrecy by stepping away from a longstanding accounting metric. I started writing news stories about the fruit-logo company in late 1999. Every earnings report, Apple disclosed number of units shipped for products contributing significantly to the bottom line. No more. Given current market dynamics, everyone should ask: What is Cook and his leadership team trying to hide? 

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Let the Bears Eat Bear Stearns

I agree with Gretchen Morgenson, writing for the New York Times. The Fed shouldn’t bail out Bear Stearns. The fed crossed a line by keeping afloat a major architect of the housing debacle.

I wrote my first blog post about the housing bubble in August 2005, a year after deciding not to buy a home in the Washington, DC suburb of Bowie. It was already clear to me in summer 2004 that something akin to a repeat of the dot-com bubble was taking place in the housing market.

Had we bought in 2004, we would likely hold a mortgage that exceeds the house’s reduced value. We could never have moved to San Diego. 

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The Corporation

End of last week, I watched a startling documentary, which resonated well with some suspicions I already had. Staunch capitalists probably wouldn’t be moved by “The Corporation“, although hard-core liberals or even communists might delight in the documentary.

My response is neither political nor economic, but rooted in my sense of right, which in part defines good as putting the wellbeing of others above oneself. People or organizations that prosper by harming others do wrong. Many societies recognize cannibalism as wrong, yet those same peoples often do not recognize as wrong another kind of cannibalism: The consumption (or sacrifice) of one person’s livelihood or well being to support another person, group or organization. 

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Housing Bubble Myths Pop

For more than a year I’ve warned that the housing market would retreat with wicked vengeance, with reverberations moving through the US economy as it did earlier in other countries. Today’s Fortune story “Getting real about the real estate bubble” rips apart some of the myths sustaining the bubble.

Shawn Tully whacks the hell out of four bubble myths: “As long as job growth is strong, prices can’t go down”; “the builders learned their lesson in the last downturn. They won’t swamp the market with new houses when the market turns”; “low interest rates will keep values rising, or at the very least, put a floor under prices”; “restriction on development in the suburbs ensure low supply, and guarantee rising prices”. 

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The Empty Commandment

Late last summer, a rap rap brought me to the door and face to face with a Sierra Club fundraiser. I’ve done quite a bit of fundraising myself, and I deplore going house to house. People aren’t home or they rudely close the door. Those folks who take the time to talk often aren’t interested in donating, particularly, as in the case of Sierra Club, if some type of commitment is required. I respect the work the Sierra Club does and pitied this road-weary fundraiser, so I made a donation. For my money, I also got a subscription to Sierra magazine.

The September/October magazine arrived today and turned out to be better reading than some of the other issues. Opening Ways and Means column, “The Devil’s in the Retail: A cult of consumerism is sweeping the planet”, really caught my attention. Carl Pope, Sierra Club’s executive editor, starts by discussing a multi-denominational religious service he attended in San Francisco. Leaders of different faiths—Christians Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, among others—gathered in defiance of what they perceived as a common enemy.