Thursday, May 21, 2009

Links 05/21/2009

Dark horse Kris Allen wins "American Idol" – Reuters

Arkansas student Kris Allen won the eighth season of "American Idol" on Wednesday, dealing an unexpected defeat to singing rival Adam Lambert on the most popular U.S. television show.

Allen, 23, who won over audiences with his all-American good looks and by putting his personal spin on popular tunes, appeared shocked as Lambert, a 27-year-old musical theater actor, embraced him after host Ryan Seacrest's announcement.

"It feels good, but Adam deserves this," Allen said. "I don't even know what to feel right now, this is crazy."

Feeling the Squeeze, Exclusive Country Clubs Get the Common Touch – The Washington Post

Last month, Uniontown Country Club opened its dining room to the public for the first time -- a change that has blurred the social hierarchy in this mountain town south of Pittsburgh. The economic crisis and shifting demographics have left Uniontown, population 13,000, without enough wealthy residents to sustain a private club, so now UCC caters to the everymen it was created to exclude. Instead of handpicking its members from a waiting list, UCC advertises in the local paper, has relaxed its dress code and features a menu designed for what the new chef calls "budget-conscious eating." Out: the filet mignon for $30. In: super nachos for $7.95.

"We've gone from chichi to Chi-Chi's," one member says.

What Industrial Policy Should Be – Robert Reich

US Dollar Weekly Chart – Jesse’s Cafe Americain

Why homeowners deserve a bailout – Foreclosure Truth

To say, in hindsight, that homeowners should have known better is blatantly ridiculous. And the idea that the firms that made these errors, whether they did so through greed or genuine ineptitude, should receive taxpayer-financed bailouts while homeowners are forced to pay for these lenders' mistakes or face foreclosure will be looked back upon as one of the greatest injustices of our generation.

Five Things for Thursday, May 21 – Minyanville

World Economies Plummet – The Wall Street Journal

On Wednesday, Mexico became the latest country to report a plunge in output. The country's gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 21.5% in the first quarter, the worst performance since the 1995 peso crisis led to an International Monetary Fund and U.S. Treasury financial rescue. This time, Mexico has insulated itself somewhat by arranging a $47 billion IMF credit line in advance.

Mexico's decline followed by a day Japan's report that its economy contracted in the first quarter at a 15.2% clip, its worst performance since 1955. Last week, Germany said its first quarter decline in GDP, an annualized 14.4%, was the worst since 1970.

Momentum Builds For Ron Paul's "Fed Transparency" Act – Clusterstock

For years, Ron Paul has been a lone voice in Congress, questioning the wisdom of the Federal Reserve -- both its various chairmans and the institution itself. His dogged questioning of Alan Greenspan, and then Ben Bernanke, make for great TV (otherwise, those hearings are total snoozefests).

But now, as America wakes up to its dire financial situation and average people talk about things like "fractional reserve lending", the gold standard, and Zimbabwe-like inflation, he's finally getting some momentum.

Couple withdraws money, flees after bank error – Breitbart

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Police launched an international search for two New Zealanders who allegedly took the money and ran after a bank mistakenly put 10 million New Zealand dollars ($6.1 million) into their account.

Rating agency warning on UK debt – BBC News

After propositions fail, California looks to cities for extra money – The Contra Costa Times

Part of the governor's plan to close that gap is to borrow $2 billion from cities and counties across the state, promising to pay the money back in three years.

California Voters Immediately Rewarded For Voting Down Propositions 1A Thru 1E – Mish

Sayonara, SEC – Andrew Jeffrey, Minyanville

In light of its woeful inability to perform even the simplest of tasks -- like making sure the biggest hedge fund in the world, I don't know, makes a trade once every 13 years -- the Obama administration is looking to strip the SEC of certain regulatory responsibilities.

And rightly so.

Freebasing in Caymans Would Be a Banker’s Dream – Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg

Unemployment Claims: Continued Claims at Record 6.66 Million – Calculated Risk


Schwarzenegger missed his golden opportunity to give Californians the truth – The Los Angeles Times

…Revise Proposition 13. Prop 13 is often described as a tax-cutting measure, but that scarcely does justice to the damage it has caused.

By rendering the property tax useless as a revenue device, Prop 13 hit local governments especially hard. Key budgeting authority devolved from cities and counties up to Sacramento, where they have to compete with the state government for money. You want your streets paved or more teachers for your third grade? Stand in line behind the health department, or the corrections department, or Caltrans.