China’s Speculative Real Estate Bubble

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In a front page article on October 20, 2010, the New York Times reported on how the Chinese government encouraged a real estate investment binge that has resulted in a growing number of empty, speculatively built ghost cities. Now the video media has picked up the story in the well-done story linked to above and cited below.

Williams, Ian, reporter. “The Roads Not Taken: Visiting China’s Ghost Cities.” Broadcast on the Today Show, Sunday morning, May 30, 2011.

The “Disneyland Dream” Lives

Liberal columnist Frank Rich writes of the home movie “Disneyland Dream”—with a measure of eloquence, but unfortunately also with a measure of condescension and sarcasm. In the end, he believes the dream is dead.
But Rich is wrong. Disneyland is still the happiest place on earth, and Walt Disney’s entrepreneurial spirit is also still alive.
Here are a couple of the more eloquent bits of Rich (though not entirely devoid of sarcasm):

(p. 14) “Disneyland Dream” was made in the summer of 1956, shortly before the dawn of the Kennedy era. You can watch it on line at archive.org or on YouTube. Its narrative is simple. The young Barstow family of Wethersfield, Conn. — Robbins; his wife, Meg; and their three children aged 4 to 11 — enter a nationwide contest to win a free trip to Disneyland, then just a year old. The contest was sponsored by 3M, which asked contestants to submit imaginative encomiums to the wonders of its signature product. Danny, the 4-year-old, comes up with the winning testimonial, emblazoned on poster board: “I like ‘Scotch’ brand cellophane tape because when some things tear then I can just use it.”
. . .
. . . The Barstows accept as a birthright an egalitarian American capitalism where everyone has a crack at “upper class” luxury if they strive for it (or are clever enough to win it). It’s an America where great corporations like 3M can be counted upon to make innovative products, sustain an American work force, and reward their customers with a Cracker Jack prize now and then. The Barstows are delighted to discover that the restrooms in Fantasyland are marked “Prince” and “Princess.” In America, anyone can be royalty, even in the john.
“Disneyland Dream” is an irony-free zone. “For our particular family at that particular time, we agreed with Walt Disney that this was the happiest place on earth,” Barstow concludes at the film’s end, from his vantage point of 1995. He sees himself as part of “one of the most fortunate families in the world to have this marvelous dream actually come true” and is “forever grateful to Scotch brand cellophane tape for making all this possible for us.”

For the full commentary, see:
FRANK RICH. “Who Killed the Disneyland Dream?” The New York Times, Week in Review Section (Sun., December 25, 2010): 14.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated December 25, 2010.

Part 1 of “Disneyland Dream” via YouTube’s “embed” feature:

Part 2 of “Disneyland Dream” via YouTube’s “embed” feature:

Part 3 of “Disneyland Dream” via YouTube’s “embed” feature:

Part 4 of “Disneyland Dream” via YouTube’s “embed” feature:

Georgia Taxpayers Pay for “Go Fish” Museum in Former Governor’s Home Town

BassLargemouthGoFishMuseum2011-05-19.jpg “A largemouth bass dominates the hatchery display at Go Fish Georgia Educational Center, a museum financed partly by the state and approved when the economy was more robust.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A14) PERRY, Ga. — Every weekend, Michael Morris and his 2-year-old son, Jacob, visit this small town’s enormous new $14 million fishing museum. They watch bream and bass swim in aquarium-size tanks. They play with an interactive model of a fishing boat and try to catch fish on a computer simulation using a rod and reel connected to a video screen.

And because the museum, the Go Fish Georgia Educational Center, is primarily financed by the state, their father-and-son outings cost only $5.
. . .
But not all Georgia taxpayers are so thrilled. Even before the museum opened in October, “Go Fish” had become shorthand in state political circles for wasteful spending. Republicans and Democrats alike groaned over $1.6 million a year in bond payments and operating costs. And even supporters concede that the museum would never have gotten financed in 2007 if the legislature knew where the economy was headed.
. . .
And then there is the controversy over the museum’s location — in the home county of its main supporter, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican who left office this month after two terms.

For the full story, see:
ROBBIE BROWN. “New Fishing Museum Becomes Symbol of Waste in Georgia.” The New York Times (Tues., January 18, 2011): A14.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 17, 2011 and has the title “Fishing Museum Is Symbol of Waste in Georgia.”)

“A Lonely Ghost Uttering a Truth that Nobody Would Ever Hear”

(p. 26) He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage.

Source:
.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: The New American Library, 1961 [1949].

By Canadian law, 1984 is no longer under copyright. The text has been posted on the following Canadian web site: http://wikilivres.info/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

“He Was Cool Before Cool Became Cool”

BogartHumphrey2011-05-19.jpg

“Humphrey Bogart starred in “The Maltese Falcon” in 1941.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. C4) He was the very image of the quintessential American hero — loyal, unsentimental, plain-spoken. An idealist wary of causes and ideology. A romantic who hid his deeper feelings beneath a tough veneer. A renegade who subscribed to an unshakeable code of honor.

He was cool before cool became cool.

For the full review, see:
MICHIKO KAKUTANI. “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Talent Is What Made Him Dangerous.” The New York Times (Fri., February 15, 2011): A18.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 14, 2011.)

Government Finally Allows Steve Jobs to Creatively Destroy His Own House

(p. A18) WOODSIDE, Calif. — There may not be an app for it, but Steve Jobs did have a permit. And with that, his epic battle to tear down his own house is finally over.
For the better part of the last decade, Mr. Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, has been trying to demolish a sprawling, Spanish-style mansion he owns here in Woodside, a tony and techie enclave some 30 miles south of San Francisco, in hopes of building a new, smaller home on the lot. His efforts, however, had been delayed by legal challenges and cries for preservation of the so-called Jackling House, which was built in the 1920s for another successful industrialist: Daniel Jackling, whose money was in copper, not silicon.
. . .
“Steve Jobs knew about the historic significance of the house,” Mr. Turner said. “And unfortunately he disregarded it.”
Mr. Turner said the mansion, which had 35 rooms in nearly 15,000 square feet of interior space, was significant in part because it was built by George Washington Smith, an architect who is known for his work in California. But Mr. Jobs had been dismissive of Mr. Smith’s talents, calling the house “one of the biggest abominations” he had ever seen.

For the full story, see:
JESSE McKINLEY. “With Demolition, Apple Chief Makes Way for House 2.0.” The New York Times (Fri., February 16, 2011): A18.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 15, 2011.)

Corruption, Inefficiency, Inflation and Bad Policies Lead to Decline in Foreign Investment in India

ForeignDirectInvestmentGraph2011-05-19.jpg Source of graph: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) While inefficiency and bureaucracy are nothing new in India, analysts and executives say foreign investors have lately been spooked by a highly publicized government corruption scandal over the awarding of wireless communications licenses. Another reason for thinking twice is a corporate tax battle between Indian officials and the British company Vodafone now before India’s Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the inflation rate — 8.2 percent and rising — seems beyond the control of India’s central bank and has done nothing to reassure foreign investors.

And multinationals initially lured by India’s growth narrative may find that the realities of the Indian marketplace tell a more vexing story. Some companies, including the insurer MetLife and the retailing giant Wal-Mart, for example, are eager to invest and expand here but have been waiting years for policy makers to let them.

For the full story, see:
VIKAS BAJAJ. “Foreign Investment Ebbs in India.” The New York Times (Fri., February 25, 2011): B1 & B6.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 24, 2011.)