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December 31, 2009

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Nice review, Mr. Talton.

In a light vein, regarding the comments in the first paragraph, don't forget the ubiquitous skulls.

While I'm in curmudgeon mode, allow me to add that, unless your name is Elvira Mistress of the Dark or you're attending a Halloween costume party, black is not an appropriate shade for nail polish.

Also, I can recall a time when appearing in public in your underwear or pajamas was a common anxiety-nightmare. Now it's a fashion statement.

The irritating, omnipresent, sibilant scratching of bad music turned up to deafening levels on someone else's headphones was bad enough for public transit commuters. Now, despite the advances of a digital age for audiophiles everywhere, all too many of these fellow travelers have abandoned headphones (too discrete!) for the open speaker of their cellphone, intruding even more into the consciousness of those trying to concentrate or relax, with audio harking back to the cheapest, tinniest 60s era transistor radios ever produced by Hong Kong.

Presumably these are the same nincompoops who, when able to drive a car or truck, mount monster bass cannons in their trunks, played at volumes so high that they literally shake the vehicles with vibration. The sound produced is so distorted that it could not conceivably be a source of musical enjoyment -- much less inside the cab of the vehicle itself -- even by someone who appreciates the subtle pleasures of thumping accompanied by atonal and unintelligible vocals, but it has the undeniable virtue of drawing everyone's attention to you, like a fart at a dinner party.

Nice post, Emil. Happy New Year to you and also to you, Jon Talton. I still think you rock.

Terry Dudas

I occasionally discuss comparative American calamities with people who remember a recession or two decades earlier with vivid horror. They say this one is not as bad and we'll bounce back quickly. It's the optimism of those who recall unions and the remnants of America's manufacturing might as definite downers.

The jujitsu that the American Right has played on American consciousness has been a stunning success. Jimmy Carter's inflation was tamed by Ronald Reagan, who also tamed unions, the Evil Empire, and the federal government. The 1990s were dripping with appeasers and Quislings, ready to turn America into a politically correct, terrorist-coddling therapy program. Thank God, George W Bush changed all that. Now, a Muslim mole is threatening us again with socialism and political correctness aimed at stifling Christian witness. Le plus ca change....

Arizona's decline is evidence of something but it won't lead to reappraisals or systematic analysis. We are so painted into our corner that real estate and tourism exist as our only viable options. But it's fascinating how Arizona is not that different from other states. If there's some chastened cheerleader on CNBC or writing for Forbes, they've yet to surface. What we keep seeing is that old time religion, tax cuts and government spending freezes, that will solve everything. You gotta believe! That's why we still love Reagan. It's why Sarah Palin is the latest human cartoon promising manna from heaven for True Believers.

And who are we, liberal ironists, to mock these real Americans? We have so little faith in authentic American dreamers that no one wants to listen to us. All these hoaxes like "global warming" only prove to real Americans how liberals hate success and self-reliance. We want the government to take care of everybody! And provide health care even though it's not in the Constitution!

Predictions: 2010 will seem even worse than 2009. The recovery will sputter but the "haves" will start spending more. The jobless rate will exceed 11%. States will lobby Washington hard for another stimulus bill. Obama's approval rating will continue to slide. And Republicans will capture 40 House seats and five Senate seats. The Middle East will continue to roil and oil will pass $100/bbl.

.....le plus ca meme.

The scary thing is,if you are only half-right,we are so screwed.

Jon, when we no longer hope, we might as well pull the sod over us. When I read the long recitation of our miseries, I also wonder what might have happened if the Bush debacle had been followed by a McCain reign. At least such a reflection would give us some perspective . . and just maybe a smidgen of hope!

Incidentally, quite a number of Mr. Talton's assessments for Arizona were supported in a recent Arizona Republic article by the talented business writer Betty Beard.

Despite the upbeat headlined assigned by editors "Arizona's road to recovery mapped out", it becomes clear from the article both that: (a) the road is basically the same one as before the recession; (b) it's going to be slow going along that road for a very long time.

"What Arizona needs most to come roaring back is more residents. Newcomers would generate more businesses to absorb all the empty buildings and spark the construction industry."

(The article goes on to mention the flatness of recent demographic trends, noting that "Without more people, commercial construction is unnecessary", then goes on to cite "Scottsdale economist" Elliott Pollack who "said he doubts another major office building will be built here for five to seven years".

"And right now, Arizona is dead last in the country for job creation.

"Retirees, who have flocked to Arizona deserts for decades, are reluctant to move now because their homes and investment portfolios have lost value and many are continuing to work.

"Over time, metro Phoenix's growth machine could face other challenges. Water supplies are already tight in the state. And if gas prices soared again as they did in mid-2008, the practice of continuing to build single-family homes farther out from the urban cores could change."

Also:

"A large reason the state's economy is hurting and budgets are out of balance is that consumers, whose spending makes up two-thirds of the economy, have less to spend and remain hesitant to shop.

"...Pollack said consumers gained wealth in the 1990s from the stock market and in the mid-2000s from housing values. Now, they have no such source other than what they earn. As they pay down debt and save more, those actions will continue to crimp retail sales."

That's one bumpy, dusty road.

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2010/01/01/20100101biz-recession0101.html

"Phoenix will tread sunshine"

Great phrase!

That's a very harsh but very real and truthful look into 2010.

The most positive thing you can think of going into this January is that 2010 is a new decade and we can only hope that we started it bad and will come out of it good.

Mr. Talton and Mr. Hamblin, I borrow from each of your perspectives on this year in review, in noting that I am horrified at recent public discourse both nationally and in Arizona; yet I remain hopeful, based on the incremental changes that 2009 has brought us. The nature of the dialog is at least changing, which I find quite refreshing. Whether it lasts through the next potential bubble remains to be seen, but all we can really do is keep trying to make things better, ask tougher questions than most seem comfortable answering, and continue to argue our views. I remain hopeful that Ravi Bhatra's view of class struggle will ring true in 2010-2011, at which point the intellectual and working classes will align to recapture our power center. And on the subject of economists, thanks to Emil for placing quotes around Pollack's title as "Scottsdale economist." The guy is a glorified residential development consultant at best.

BTW, did anyone see this article from the AZ Republic today/yesterday: http://bit.ly/5JKg4w. Not bad, but I fear that the sound analysis/advice will be promptly forgotten by many of our leaders....

IMHO our greatest hope lies in the Republicans getting their way and all the dire predictions of Mr. Taltom and Mr. Pulsifer and Mr. Kunstler coming true. We must hope also that Democrats continue to be ineffective in planning, communicating and using their current majorities.

Until the situations(s) become undeniably bad (to a majority of Americans), we will not have enough people motivated to undertake the kinds of change we need. Until Global Warming is 'known' to be true (regardless of causes) we will not take the painful actions that it requires. Until peak oil 'happens' we will not change our addiction. Until the guy I spoke to at the bar understands that America is no longer the 'greatest country on earth in every possible way', we will not remake our government back into a democracy-in-fact

Despite what has happened so far, the Republican messages and plans can still be believed. There is still room to doubt the dire predictions of Rogue and others. There is still hope that this is another recession that will pass. One can still hope that the 80's-90's version of the American Dream is viable and can recover.

As I've said before,Americans are not quick to change. We always wait (almost) too long to act. If we can pull off a last-minute act-as-one one more time, we may still make the needed sea-changes.

What we are (or at least I am) waiting for is the next Pearl Harbor, the next Hiroshima, the next Sputnik, the next Martin Luther King.

We did get 9/11, but the "leaders" we had then chose to spin it as justification for the status quo- "Freedom", while simultaneously legislating many freedoms out of existence.

No, we need something big to get our attention, combined with enlightened leadership. Maybe, if Obama had been in office during 9/11, he could have done it then. (yes, he was too inexperienced then...) If we get the next BIG THING during 2010, he might be the one to lead us in the right direction.

The BIG THING obviously hasn't happened yet, or maybe our generation doesn't have the same chops as those of 1929, or 1941, or 1959.

Clearly there are some people around with a grasp of the present and a vision of the future- present company specifically included- but the public at large doesn't see it yet.

I'm very sad that that the country seems to need such a sitmulus in order to act, but it remains my greatest hope, my last hope.

Buford, that's a dangerous viewpoint. When things fall apart, and the center cannot hold the question should be asked, "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

I don't think anyone should assume that under current political circumstances, the result of anarchy loosed on the world will be a progressive solution. Who will lead that? Where is the political party and grassroots political infrastructure to support that?

More likely that a strong-man would make use of the ready-made morons conditioned by years of listening to Glenn Beck and such like. Be careful what you wish for...

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