Explaining Southern California's economy

American Airlines goes bankrupt: Why the airline business is so bad

American-BK-Getty

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 29: An American Airline Plan sits on teh tarmac at Toronto Pearson Airport on November 29, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. American Airlines and its parent company AMR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy November 29, reportedly in an effort to shed debt and reduce labor costs.

The not-so-big news this morning is that American Airlines has filed for bankruptcy. There had been rumors circulating that this would happen for months, so no one is all that shocked. In fact, American Airlines has simply lived up to the apparent destiny of all airlines. Bankruptcy seems to be baked in the businesses cake.

This is from the Washington Post:

American Airlines on Tuesday joined a long list of airlines that have filed for bankruptcy protection. American was the only U.S. legacy airline that hadn’t yet filed. Several airlines have filed multiple times; Delta and Northwest filed on the same day six years ago. There have been 189 total since 1990.

So why is the airline business so lousy? Slate offered a good explainer back in 2005, on the occasion of the Delta-Northwest bankruptcy-palooza:

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Business Insider's BlackBerry-iPhone anxiety

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A man checks his email on a Blackberry.

Attack the iPhone, get over 210,00 page views. That's what Business Insider's Matt Lynley has achieved with this post about why he likes the BlackBerry more than the iPhone

OK, it's a slide show. That's part one of what I should recognize by now as a classic bit of BI linkbaiting-and-switiching. It's also a bait-and-switch in that Lynley only seems to prefer the BlackBerry because he's bored with the iPhone, which he's been using for four years.

However, he makes a very salient point along the way. 

The BlackBerry still absolutely kills it with email. So it was in the beginning. And so it is still.

There's a whole grand saga playing itself out in the mediasphere these days, as business-minded BlackBerry users (read: productive types) grapple with the decline of BlackBerry's makers, Research in Motion, and adapt themselves to the giddy world of the iPhone, much of which seems designed for esthetes and teenagers (read: they like toys), but which is...getting better at the whole enterprise thing.

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Debt no more: Steve Keen's radical proposal

The video is of economist Steve Keen, on the BBC's HARDTalk, laying out his plan to escape what he considers a second Great Depression. It's out there. Way out there. But he also presents a very clear analysis of what went so horribly wrong with the global financial system in the lead-up to the financial crisis. Stick around for the part at about 22:30 when Keen talks about being the "non-orthodox" economist with the "biggest mouth."

The upshot is that Keen wants to use the government's ability to "create" money to relieve private debt. Basically, the bank loaned out money it shouldn't have, so the debtors shouldn't be blamed. But you don't make the debt vanish, you empower the debtor — in fact require him or her — to pay it off. You pointedly don't give the money to the bank on the assumption that it will loan it back out.

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Occupy LA: Time to go — peacefully

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Occupy LA protesters demonstrate on the front lawn of Los Angeles City Hall after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am Monday to dismantle their campsite and leave. This morning, although some arrests were made, police have not yet cleared the camp.

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28: Los Angeles Police Officers in riot gear deploy around the Los Angeles City Hall after the deadline to dismantle the occupy campsite expired on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last week gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am today to dismantle their protest campsite and leave. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Los Angeles deadline for dismantling Occupy LA Encampment passes

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Occupy LA protesters block the streets around Los Angeles City Hall before the midnight deadline by Los Angeles city officials to shut down the encampment on November 27, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on last week gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am today to dismantle their protest campsite and leave. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Occupy LA

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Mike Ferry yawns after a long night showing down with the police

Occupy LA

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Image

A member of Occupy LA camps out in a tree after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired in front of City Hall in downtown on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dismantles Occupy LA Encampment

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28: Members of the Los Angeles Police Department wearing riot gear ride on the sides of trucks after the midnight deadline set by city officials to shut down the encampment expired in front of City Hall in downtown on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last week gave the protesters outside City Hall until 12:01 am today to dismantle their campsite and leave. This morning, although some arrests were made, police have not yet cleared the camp. (Photo by Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

Occupy LA

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Protestors check out the police helicopters above OccupyLA


Of all major U.S. cities with Occupy movements, LA has been by far the most calm — and the city government has been the most accommodating. The City Council voted early on to support the movement, while Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has affirmed the protesters right to assemble, as well as nodded favorably toward their cause. The city also gave the movement a lot of time to prepare for what was supposed to be a departure today from its encampment at City Hall.

But they're still there. And filing a lawsuit to stick around.

To borrow a line from "Gladiator," some people should know when they're conquered. Or, more accurately, when they're been treated with kid gloves for an exceptionally long period of time. To its credit, LA is taking the sluggishness of the Occupy departure/non-departure in stride. That's consistent with how the city has dealt with Occupy so far.

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Tim Geithner, technocrat

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Robert Giroux/Getty Images

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

As the sovereign debt crisis continues to roil Europe, the eurozone is currently in the process of trying to save the euro single currency by deposing elected political leaders — Papandreou in Greece, Berlusconi in Italy, the socialists in Spain — and replacing them with "technocrats," or economic experts who, in theory, will be able to make the dispassionate, non-political, utterly essential decisions that need to be made.

Can't happen here, right? Well, maybe it's happened already. Take as Exhibit A one Tim Geithner, U.S. Treasury secretary and according to the Atlantic's Dan Indiviglio, a man disliked by all but his boss, one Barack Obama. 

Geithner is probably the closest creature to a technocrat we have in American government. And he runs practically the entire economy (the Federal Reserve runs the rest, and its part is extremely not insignificant). So who needs to hire technocrats when we already have one in the top job?

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