Explaining Southern California's economy

Meet Starbucks, your new neighborhood investment bank

Customers queue for coffee at Starbucks

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome to your friendly neighborhood investment bank. Do you want them to leave room for...return on investment?

Here's an idea that's going to get people talking — and funding small businesses. The New York Times' Joe Nocera writes his column today about Starbucks' plan to partner with microfinance organization Opportunity Finance Network to solve a major American problem: a lack of small-scale lending. The project is called Create Jobs for USA. It's a great idea, but it has at least one significant problem: return on investment for the Starbucks customers who would be putting up their money.

Starting November 1, while waiting for you nonfat vente caramel latte, you can donate, say...$5 to the cause. You'll receive a red, white, and blue "indivisible" bracelet (the bracelet is an inevitable piece of viral marketing these days). Starbucks will seed the fund with a $5 million donation. As Nocera points out, this will enable Create Jobs for USA and OFN to borrow against this fund, utilizing a 7-to-1 leverage ration. Presto! Your $5 becomes $35.

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Tweet of the Day: Making up for BlackBerry outage outrage

Today's tweet comes from @Slate. In an effort to make up for last week's terrifying BlackBerry outage, Research in Motion is giving away $100 in apps to users. You can get Sim 3, Bejeweled, Bubble Bash 2...

Um, look, I'm a BlackBerry loyalist — meaning I haven't joined the 4 million people who lined up to buy an iPhone 4S over the weekend — and I literally have no interest in any of those apps. I mean, I have a BlackBerry. The whole point if using this device is to not play games on it. Except for BrickBreaker. But I never even play BrickBreaker. I'm too busy using my BlackBerry to get stuff done!

In the entire time I've been a BlackBerry user, I've browsed the games section of the app store maybe...once? How about this: a $100 credit toward a BlackBerry PlayBook. And don't restrict it. Let me combine it with other offers. Somehow I think it's more imporant for RIM to get its underperforming tablet in the hands of people who have its smartphones than to get apps on those same smartphones that users won't really use.

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Reportings: Big accounting tricks; Liz Warren; California booming; business class takes a hit

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Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill, on July 22, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Were you wondering why some big banks are reporting big profits, even as markets are driving down their share prices? Blame it on...accounting: "'This is the most vilified accounting rule I've ever seen. It's amazing how universally despised it is,'" said Robert Willens, author of the Willens Report, which analyzes corporate accounting and tax matters." (Reuters)

 

Somebody loves Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren: "She is provocative and assertive in her critique of corporate power and the well-paid lobbyists who protect it in Washington, and eloquent in her defense of an eroding middle class." (NYT)

 

What it was like in SoCal when aerospace was booming: "...dozens of airfields dotted the landscape; test-rocket firings flashed and echoed in the foothills; and the local economy became yoked to the boom-and-bust cycles of defense spending. In the process, aerospace helped drive the extraordinary metamorphosis of California from a rural, agrarian state to the sixth-largest economy in the world." (Zócalo)

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U.S. Treasury says Wall Street reform won't hurt small banks

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

File: A Bank of America branch is seen in Times Square October 19, 2010 in New York City.

Financial regulation of Wall Street matters in Washington. The U.S. Treasury thinks so and has begun to blog about why. Yes, blog. In its most recent post, the Treasury debunks the idea that bank reform is somehow bad for small banks:

Myth #1: Wall Street Reform Hurts Small Banks

Fact:  

This claim is particularly dubious given strong support for enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act by the Independent Community Bankers of America.  Wall Street Reform helps level the playing field between large banks and small ones, helping to eliminate distortions that previously favored the biggest banks that held the most risk.

The operative concept here is risk. It isn't small banks that pose systemic risk to the banking system — it's the too-big-to-fail banks that ignored prudent risk models in the lead-up to the financial crisis. Robert G. Wilmers — a banking executive who runs M&T Bank, one of the few large banks that more or less sailed throught the financial crisis — provides a very succinct take on the problem at Bloomberg:

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Did a desperate business decision by IndyCar lead to Dan Wheldon's death?

IZOD IndyCar World Championships at Las Vegas

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Randy Bernard, IndyCar's CEO, was hoping for a spectacular end to the racing season. IndyCar got the tragic death of Dan Wheldon instead.

At the New York Times' Wheels blog, Jerry Garrett offers a quietly disturbing account of the events leading up to Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon's death in a horrific multi-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway yesterday. The short version is that the racers were worried, even fearful, about the track and the setup for the race, which had been designed to conclude the IndyCar season with a bang. 

It's only a matter of time before the spotlight falls square on the decisionmaking of IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. This is a guy who was a former bull riding promoter, brought over to IndyCar to inject some life into a moribund open-wheel racing series, where the marquee event is the Indianapolis 500 and everything else is an afterthought. 

Clearly, an injection of life wasn't what the racing world got yesterday, as too many cars went too fast on a small track, leading to the carnage that killed Wheldon and ended both the IndyCar season and superstar racer Danica Patrick's open-wheel career on a very somber note. (Patrick is moving to NASCAR full-time next season.)

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