Explaining Southern California's economy

Eurozone Crisis: Hunker down and suffer time

People stand next to a stand as newspape

LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

People stand next to a stand as newspaper bearing headlines on the greek crisis, are on display on November 7, 2011 in Athens. Greece's top politicians put the finishing touches to a unity government and begin talks on a new prime minister as markets react cautiously to a historic power-sharing deal to stave off bankruptcy and keep the country in the euro. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Martin Wolf is, according to many, the best finance and economics journalist in the world. From his perch at the Financial Times, he dispenses regular wisdom and concise opinion. And it's wisdom and opinion that's backed up by having done time on both sides of the major economic divide of the age: free markets versus central governments.

The ongoing eurozone crisis has involved all sorts of deep-dish coverage, ranging from sovereign debt bond-yield spreads to debates about tax policies and budget cutbacks, with gobs of court-intrigue political analysis and EU-ology thrown in. It's frankly dizzying. Also, the debate has gone exactly nowhere. The eurozone remains in crisis. Whatever political will is being deployed has been, it seems, devoted to perpetuating rather than resolving the problem.

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In SOPA debate, is Hollywood on the wrong side of history?

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Getty Images

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)

The debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act is heating up. The SOPA bill could come to a vote this week in the House, and a similar bill is under consideration in the Senate. This has kicked the so-called "Geek Lobby" into high gear. Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm in New York, has been vocal on his blog, going to far as to symbolically censor his post today as a call to action.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has suggested that the online encyclopedia could go on strike in protest. And California Republican congressman Darrell Issa has broken ranks and proposed his own alternative legislation, allying himself with Silicon Valley against Hollywood and the Big Content industry that supports the SOPA legislation.

The opposition has also created a video explainer on why the legislation is the worst thing that's ever been proposed. It's over-the-top and doesn't present the issue with anything resembling complete accuracy. But it is worth a watch (In the interest of reasonable objectivity, I'm not going to embed it, so follow the link if you're interested).

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LA Times gets fourth editor since 2005

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David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles Times building in Downtown LA

I got in just in time today to discover that the Los Angeles Times continues to be a paper where top editors don't last very long anymore. Russ Stanton, who had been the paper's editor since 2007, "will step down," according to the LAT's own story. His successor is Davan Maharaj, currently the managing editor, who's been with the paper for 22 years. 

Maharaj is the LAT's 15th editor but its fourth since 2005. What's been abbreviating the tenure of the paper's top editors? Problems with Tribune Company management. In 2005, confronted with cost-cutting demands, former Baltimore Sun editor John Carroll left, later to resurface at Harvard's Kennedy School. 

Next up, former New York Timesman Dean Baquet — a Carroll hire — had a famous and by some accounts heroic standoff with Tribune over newsroom cuts. He went down and his by-then sympathetic publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, went with him. Baquet is now back at the New York Times. 

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Want to beat Apple's MacBook Air? Build a MUCH cheaper version!

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple CEO Steve Jobs (right) looks at a display of the new MacBook Air during an Apple special event at the company's headquarters on Oct. 20, 2010 in Cupertino, Calif.

Here's the LA Times' Tech blog on how utterly awesome the MacBook Air is:

[JP Morgan analyst Mark] Moskowitz said that ultrabooks continue to be highly discretionary devices and that pricing for rival offerings must fall below $800 before posing a real threat to the MacBook Air. And beyond price, he said, other devices simply don't look as good or offer as much.

"In our view, Apple's first mover advantage and optimized feature set and form factor command a higher price that early adopters, productivity users, and Apple enthusiasts are willing to absorb," he said. "In contrast, we think that the first round of ultrabook offerings lacks the right blend of features and attractive price points to grab market share from Apple."

The MacBook Air costs $999 to $1,599. 

I've been using a MacBook Air for several months now and it's indeed a superb piece of technology. I'm not sure how anyone could beat it going toe-to-toe. That "below $800" projection for the future competition is notable. It would have to be well under $800! 

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Bad investors v. good investors in the California housing market

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A foreclosure sign sits in front of a home for sale.

This is from AP (via the Washington Post):

A new federal report shows that speculative real estate investors played a larger role than originally thought in driving the housing bubble that led to record foreclosures and sent economies plummeting in Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida and other states.

Researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that investors who used low-down-payment, subprime credit to purchase multiple residential properties helped inflate home prices and are largely to blame for the recession. The researchers said their findings focused on an “undocumented” dimension of the housing market crisis that had been previously overlooked as officials focused on how to contain the financial crisis, not what caused it.

The story goes on to point out that less swashbuckling investors in Nevada are now buying foreclosed, abandoned homes, "fixing them up" and selling them.

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