Bad News From Florida

This from Naked Capitalism…

The debacle in Florida, namely a $27 billion short-tern investment fund being frozen after the revelation it held $700 million of defaulted debt (today reported as $900 million) led to $12 billion in withdrawals, is producing a cash crisis at the government entities that hadn’t gotten their money back.

Aside from the troubles this impairment is creating in and of itself, it will feed “run on the fund” behavior if any other government-operated funds encounter similar difficulties.

Them Curious Japanese

There is this great Japanese TV program that seeks to answer ridiculous questions. The first time I saw a clip from this program it revolved around the question of whether a Samurai sword could really deflect .50 bullets. I was sure that no sword could do that, but it turns out that they can if the bullets strike the sword on its edge. Admittedly this effect only lasts for a couple of bullets before the sword is fatally weakened. But that is still pretty impressive.

The program below seeks to answer the question of whether the world champion fast walker would run or walk if his life was in danger.

Is this funny or sad?

From the comment section at Calculated Risk….

You know what cracks me up though (just a final word on FL vs. NY?) Forbes just listed Binghamton N.Y. as one of America’s hottest RE markets. Oh man I can’t get over THAT one.

It’s “hot” only because you won’t lose your shirt on a house you bought there last year…!

Since “Dale” is someone who is unknown to me, I had to check this out. I could not find the Forbes article that he mentioned online, but I did find this article that seems to back up his claim. It mentions a Forbes article and it shows that prices in Binghamton have gone up almost 20 percent since last year. That puts Binghamton in second place (just under Salt Lake City) in terms of real estate appreciation over the last year.

Who would have ever thought that Binghamton’s real estate market would one day do better then almost every where else in the country?

What is the difference between a riot and an insurrection?

France is having trouble with rioters again. But this time it is different……

In one sense, the unrest seems to be more menacing than during the early days of the three weeks of rioting in 2005. Then, the youth seemed disorganized, their destruction largely caused by rock-throwing and arson and aimed at the closest and easiest targets, like cars. This time, hunting shotguns, as well as gasoline bombs and rocks, have been turned on the police.

“From what our colleagues on the scene tell us, this is a situation that is a lot worse than what we saw in 2005,” Patrice Ribeiro, a police officer and senior union official, told RTL radio Tuesday. He added, “A line was crossed last night, that is to say, they used weapons, they used weapons and fired on the police. This is a real guerrilla war.”

Ribeiro warned that the police, who have struggled to avoid excessive force, would not be fired upon indefinitely without responding.

More than 80 police officers already have been wounded the clashes, several of them seriously, Ribeiro said later by telephone. Thirty of them were hit with pellets from shotguns, and one of the wounded was hit with a type of bullet used to kill large game, he added. It is legal to own a shotgun in France – as long as the owner has a license – and police circles were swirling with rumors that the bands of youth were procuring more shotguns.

Here is a news clip from the early days of the rioting…

Here is more footage of the early rioting…

This is from the second day. Anti-France in its view point.

To be fair to the French, this time the riots did not last long. This from CNN…..

French suburbs stayed relatively calm Wednesday night after 1,000 riot police were deployed to quell disturbances that began when two teenagers died in a collision with a police car, French officials said.

Wednesday was the fourth night of unrest that on prior nights resulted in violent clashes between angry youths and police, and the burning of buildings and cars from the Paris suburbs to the southern city of Toulouse.

No injuries to police were reported, Laurente Wittek, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, told CNN. She said Thursday that there had been a “clear reduction” in the rioting.

Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to punish those responsible for shooting at police. Sarkozy met Wednesday with the families of the youths on the motorcycle who were killed.

The worst bouts of violence were Monday and Tuesday nights, when police made arrests in the northern Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, where the collision occurred.

Nonetheless, this riot still seems to have marked a new high point for anti-state rioting in France. If this trend continues, will the French police still be willing to handle the problem? Or will they turn it over to the army?

Ebooks: Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is one thing that I really want to hold in my hand. I don’t necessarily want to own it (I certainly don’t want to pay the price), but I have no idea what I’ll think of the screen without looking at it. And this screen is absolutely critical to this kind of product. I’ve heard that it is really easy on the eyes, that it doesn’t look like a “screen.” I imagine that it looks something like a calculator screen. Less shimmery than a standard screen, very flat, very static–critical for long term reading.

From what I gather (mostly from Robert Scobel’s rant[ht: slashdot]), really the only major issues with this are emerging-technology issues that can and will be addressed. The Kindle–the current incarnation–has some major user interface design issues. But the key concept and delievery–electronic books on “electronic paper”–seems to be perfectly viable.

This is not going to spell the end of books. People like physical, tactile things. Some people like heavy books partly because they are heavy. People like to dog-ear pages, they like it that they can physically flip right to their favorite part of the book. Sure, a search can find anything–but that’s impersonal. Everybody’s search can find anybody’s anything. I can flip to my favorite part of my favorite book. There’s a difference.

I think this generation of e-books will begin to chip away at the printed book market. It will challenge and industry that dearly needs a shakeup. But in the course of years, a decade or so, the “industry” that’s really going to suffer will not be the publishers. They can retool, reinvest, start printing on demand rather than in obscene batches, sell their books through the new medium. But the public library is going to unravel once this technology becomes cheap and common.

It won’t happen right away, because rights-management will fight it all the way. But when this kind of device gets to be about as common as a portable music player, people will get sick of rights-management and insist on the ability to legally read books for a temporary loan period.

When that is hashed out, it still may cost a small amount of money, and there will certainly still be people who would rather go to the library and get a real book. But a majority of people with money will see no point in going to the physical library with its limited selection and limited number of copies when they can get any book instantly on their reader–and then buy a physical copy after that if they like.

So there will still be people who want to go to libraries, but there won’t be enough people who want to pay for libraries. Probably there will be a backlash, and the libraries will get some funding and some protectionist legislation and so on. But a lot of public libraries are struggling already. When people compare the inconveniences of a library with the inconveniences of an electronic book, the e-book is going to win dollars to dimes, and a lot of librarys will close.

Not all of them. Some people will still love books and the best supported libraries will stay open. But, within my generation, if technology continues to advance and to cheapen, small local libraries are going to close in droves.


The end of free money?

Brad Setser calls this a scary graph. I think that fear factor is a little overdone. The graph only tracks long term flows and I think a lot of investors are parking their money in short term accounts until they figure out what’s safe and what’s not. Still, if there was a prize for dramatic drops this graph would take the prize for the year. And considering how this year went, that is saying something.

Plus, there is an implicit threat in this graph. If the fed does not start to value a sound currency then it is going to have to find 200 billion extra dollars a quarter to keep the US afloat.