Explaining Southern California's economy

Lawyers, guns, and coffee: Starbucks may have to kick gun lovers out

Chris Scott/Flickr.

Starbucks re-opening, 2010.

Starbucks has gotten itself into the very definition of an awkward position, particularly in California. The coffee chain is being protested by an anti-gun group for looking the other way when practitioners of what's called "open carry" show up for meetings at Starbucks with their unloaded firearms.

Starbucks has said that it's just respecting the local laws. But there's speculation that 'Bucks is being used as a forum by the open-carry crowd to invite challenges to its rights (they're even come up with a gun-weilding Starbucks alterna-logo that probably horrifies Howard Schultz). And of course Starbucks' core demographic isn't as friendly to the Second Amendment as the core demo of the National Rifle Association.

So Starbucks has a business problem. Gun advocates and gun haters both like coffee. Why would you want to choose between groups?

Read More...

The DeBord Report on "America Now with Andy Dean"

Listen in to my latest appearance on "America Now with Andy Dean." We have a lively conversation about the Greek debt negotiations, U.S. energy policy, and what in the world we should do about the U.S. Postal Service, which is probably going to run out of money by October. Andy is his usual take-no-prisoners self when it comes to things like European socialism, but I make a decent point or two about how we need to look at our national energy future A LOT differently as the discovery and extraction of new domestic resources threatens to turn us into the world's largest energy producer by 2020.

Read More...

Finance beats democracy in Europe

Violence Erupts As Greece Decides On Euro Future

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

GREECE, ATHENS - FEBRUARY 12: Demonstrators throw pfire bombs to riot police during violent protests in central Athens February 12, 2012. Thousands of demonstrators clashed with police as the Greek parliament prepared to vote on a new and deeply unpopular EU/IMF austerity deal, to secure a 130 billion euro bailout, aimed at saving Greece from bankruptcy and what Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warned would be "uncontrollable economic chaos". (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

He doesn't go quite as far as I did yesterday when I said that the ongoing European debt crisis has spawned a series of financial coup d'etat, with democracy being subjugated to the needs of markets. But at Project Syndicate, Kemal Dervis lays out a similar case:

Beyond the specific problems of the monetary union, there is also a global dimension to Europe’s challenges – the tension, emphasized by authors such as Dani Rodrik, and Jean Michel Severino and Olivier Ray, between national democratic politics and globalization. Trade, communication, and financial linkages have created a degree of interdependence among national economies, which, together with heightened vulnerability to financial-market swings, has restricted national policymakers’ freedom of action everywhere.

Perhaps the most dramatic sign of this tension came when Greece’s then-prime minister, George Papandreou, announced a referendum on the policy package proposed to allow Greece to stay in the eurozone. While one can debate the merits of referenda for decision-making, the heart of the problem was the very notion of holding a national debate for several weeks, given that markets move in hours or minutes. It took less than 24 hours for Papandreou’s proposal to collapse under the pressure of financial markets (and European leaders’ fear of them).

Read More...

The parallel universe of Mitt Romney's auto industry rescue

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Rom

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney holds a Caucus election night at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, February 4, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney is doubling-down on his negative view of the the 2009 bailouts and bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler. In late 2008, he argued in the New York Times that a bailout of Detroit would mean the end of the U.S. auto industry. Today, in the Detroit News, he refuses to back off from his earlier position, says that a "managed bankruptcy" of GM and Chrysler was what was needed all along, and that the Obama administration practiced:

"...crony capitalism on a grand scale. The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.

And:

Before the companies were allowed to enter and exit bankruptcy, the U.S. government swept in with an $85 billion sweetheart deal disguised as a rescue plan.

By the spring of 2009, instead of the free market doing what it does best, we got a major taste of crony capitalism, Obama-style.

Thus, the outcome of the managed bankruptcy proceedings was dictated by the terms of the bailout. Chrysler's "secured creditors," who in the normal course of affairs should have been first in line for compensation, were given short shrift, while at the same time, the UAWs' union-boss-controlled trust fund received a 55 percent stake in the firm.

Read More...

Is Bitcoin dead? No, but TradeHill is.

Behold, the cyber-banker. Above, Hermione Way interviews Jered Kenna, CEO of TradeHill, a Bitcoin trading site. He thinks that Bitcoin has a future, and he's probably right. The cyber-currency continues to chug along, even as it has fallen far from its speculative highs in 2011. TradeHill, on the other hand, is a goner, at least according to this post yesterday from the site's blog:

::::: Announcement :::::: TradeHill suspending trading and returning client funds.

Dear Clients,

Effective immediately TradeHill will be shutting down trading / deposits
and returning all client funds.

Due to increasing regulation TradeHill can not operate in it's current 
capacity without proper money transmission licensing. Combined with 
multiple bank account closures and Paxum's decision to close all 
Bitcoin business accounts, we have deemed the best course of action is 
to halt trading and pursue licensing while raising funds.

SEPA transfers for our Euro customers have been enabled.

Everyone at TradeHill has also been working without pay for several 
months after one of our payment processors removed over $100,000 dollars 
from our account without notice. We decided to cover this loss for now 
instead of passing it on to our customers and are taking legal action 
against the processor. We would also like to make it known that our 
relationship with Paxum has been great and hope to work with them in the future.

We will be focusing on Bitcoin.com and are preparing to release a new 
site before the end of the month.

It has been a pleasure working with the Bitcoin community and look 
forward to continuing our business in the future. More details to come soon.

Sincerely,

Jered Kenna
Chief Executive Officer
TradeHill 

Read More...