Sunday, November 09, 2008

End of the World as We Know It

Two things...

First, I've been meaning to share this for about a month now, but kept getting distracted. There is an excellent (and terrifying) post by Chris Farrell at Marketplace Money titled The Sky Will Fall on Many People.  If you're in a position to make your own investments, I highly recommend giving it a read.  Now, don't panic and shake up your portfolio overnight, but I sincerely believe that we need to start considering some of the scenarios described in that post.

If you aren't familiar with Marketplace Money, a little quick background: it is a weekly newsmagazine broadcast on NPR that covers personal finance.  It is run by the same people who do Marketplace, but is focused on the practical issues that affect all of us (saving money, planning for retirement, interviewing for a job, etc.) and not the day-to-day effluvia of individual stocks rising and falling.  Because of their backing and structure, it is a sober and practical program; they don't have an agenda that encourages them to move you one way or the other.  (At the same time, it may be one of the most entertaining of the many programs I listen to on NPR.  The correspondents have great attitudes, pick interesting stories, and they have what may be the best music of any show on NPR.  Several weeks ago they started a program by playing "Don't Fear the Reaper."  They also are the only people I know who have played Massive Attack, either on or off commercial radio.)  They preached caution and prudence during the speculative real-estate boom.  Now that things are going down, they are once again urging people to be cautious and not be rash.  In that context, it's a little shocking to see them talk about the Depression as much as they are.

Incidentally, if you're feeling a bit lost in the market madness and wondering exactly what you should be doing with your money, I can't think of a better crash course into personal finance than plugging into the Marketplace Money podcast and picking up a copy of Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People.

Now, on a totally unrelated note: I've gotten a fair number of questions from non-California people about the whole Proposition 8 situation.  Part of me feels like I shouldn't comment at all, since as I've noted before, I was completely surprised that it won.  My curiosity at what happened led me to poke around a little, and I figured I'd report back what I found.

Basically, the reason I was surprised is because I don't watch television.  If I did, I would have seen these ads and many more like them in the weeks leading up to the election.

So, what happened here was that the nature of the debate was successfully changed.  Instead of being a debate over rights - which they would have lost - the Yes on Eight campaign changed it to a debate over primary education.  Yep, that's correct: this vote really DID become a case of "Oh, won't someone think of the children!"

Other still-developing election news:

Measure B is oh-so-close, but it doesn't look like it will make it.  Officials are now openly talking about starting the expansion and doing as much as they can, which will probably just mean running as far as Milpitas or Berryessa.  I hate being in this situation.  On the one hand, yeah, partial BART is better than none, and it would be a first step towards what we need.  On the other hand, Mipitas is almost as useless as Fremont.  It isn't until you hit downtown San Jose and Diridon that you can link up with VTA light rail and Caltrain, where it will really become a viable option for a large number of people.  Part of me wants to get started ASAP even if we can only make it part way, while the other wants us to hold out and try again in 2009 to do it right.

Finally, the election in Minnesota is utterly fascinating.  Norm Coleman's lead has now shrunk from 700+ to 200+.  It looks like this could end up being a nasty, Florida-2000-style precinct-by-precinct slugfest between the Republicans and the DFL.  On the other hand, it IS still Minnesota, so at least it's polite.  If any of you liberals still have money burning a hole in your pocket, this is the race to drop it on.

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