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But now the sounds of population fail?

By Michael J. Smith on Wednesday September 22, 2010 09:34 PM

A correspondent drew my attention recently to this site, with these dire news:

15 Bone Chilling Signs That Part Two Of The Double Dip Housing Crash Has Begun

[T]here are a whole lot of signs that things are about to get quite a bit worse. U.S. home sales have hit record lows in recent months. An increasing number of sellers have started to reduce their asking prices, and there are signs that home prices are already starting to slip substantially in many areas of the country. Meanwhile, the inventory of unsold homes in the United States continues to rapidly increase. Home foreclosures and bank repossessions of homes continue to set all-time records. What this all means is that the U.S. housing market is being absolutely flooded with homes for sale at a time when there are very few buyers.... The home buyer tax credits that the U.S. government was bribing home buyers with helped stabilize the U.S. housing market for a while, but now the tax credits have expired and things are getting scary out there.

[T]here simply is not going to be a "recovery" in the U.S. housing market until there is a jobs recovery. But at this point, even the most optimistic cheerleaders for the economy are admitting that unemployment is going to remain high for quite some time.

But if the American people do not have good jobs then they can't buy homes.

This sounds kinda reasonable, actually.

The author goes on to list his 15 signs of the real-estate apocalypse. I'd be interested to hear the response of those more astute about matters economic than I am.

The site has, to be sure, a somewhat nutty flavor, with links to ad mashups for "Emergency food", "Gold coins", and "Personal security." But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, as my grandma used to say.

I don't like the writer's habit of referring to houses as "homes" -- a nasty salesman's euphemism which I've always hated. And of course my bones are anything but chilled about the news he brings. I'm rooting for a collapse so huge that it makes people scared to buy real estate for the next generation or two.

One fetish object down, and one to go. Now if we could just convince people that cars make you fat -- as in fact, they do.

Comments (55)

Boink, Dest-astute Observer the Economy:

"One fetish object down, and one to go. Now if we could just convince people that cars make you fat -- as in fact, they do."

Are you claiming some credit for the housing meltdown?

I thought that the housing price collapse was simply the operation of the invisible hand... a return to the historical trend line that only looks like a catastrophe because people had accepted the idea that house (not "home") prices could only rise over time and thus they could pay just about anything to 'get into the market' without risk (and getting in sooner was, therefore, wise) and so they paid just about anything.

Well, that isn't quite right. Government policy and financial chicanery also played a role. But no one actually HAD to buy a house, especially at the inflated asking prices of the last 20 years.

On the other hand:

What would convince people to avoid car ownership? Under the circumstances most of us in the provinces would simply starve if we didn't have a car. That would, of course, offset the tendency towards obesity.

Boink, Lousy Copy Editor:

OF the economy

"Nutty" doesn't begin to describe the flavor of that Web site. Check out this article:


...and click on some of the links listed. My favorite: The Survival Mom, http://thesurvivalmom.com/ , a site designed like your classic "chick site", except that the cutely-drawn Mom figure has a rifle slung over her shoulder, and one of the featured articles asks what to do if you're a "prepper" and your husband is -- as the lead so delicately puts it -- a "skeptic" (or, to be more truthful about it, if your husband thinks you're a stone-cold k00k).

And, yeah... there does seem to be quite a buttload of ads from outfits looking to unload their unsold Y2K inventory. But, still, as your old grandma -- or was it Mark Twain -- like a busted clock...

Are you claiming some credit for the housing meltdown?
I only wish I could...

the key economic stat is new building

the vanishing of bubble lot values might well need another down draught
to get to over shoot
we are close to deal values
for the deep pockets

Al Schumann:

Boink, for shame! Where's your rugged individualism? Scrap the car and get with the equine agenda.



That link just grinds its gears on my mac.

No, it's just self defense. When I first moved here drivers going in opposite directions would stop in the middle of bridges to chat while traffic collected behind them in both directions. THEN you could use a horse. Not now. If you stop for a blow out you get rear ended. The roadsides are full of rotting deer meat. Of course, death on horseback might be better than starvation.

Dean Baker (among others) has a simpler view, namely that the housing bubble has not entirely deflated. For example: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/beat_the_press/~3/PI6rj3QHY70/what-does-a-qstablilizedq-housing-market-mean-to-the-washington-post

Al Schumann:

Sorry about the gear grinding. Do a control click and open it in a new window. Or, click through here.

I've been wanting a horse to help me cope with the spandex yuppie cyclists with the SUV mentality. I'd need a good boar spear too. It would be pretty funny to chase them, get in their way, force them to cycle through generous piles of horse shit. Stuff like that. I see myself jeering at them from a Clydesdale, as it unburdens itself, yelling "I've got your critical mass right here!". For the cars, however, I'd definitely want a carbine.


"I would not build a house for myself, and I count it as part of my good fortune that I do not own a house. But if I had to, then I should build it as some of the Romans did – right into the sea. I should not mind sharing a few secrets with this beautiful monster." - Nietzsche

Brian M:

I know all you good socialist purists are pining for the days we are all forced to live in cold water communal state-owned apartments four people to the room, but most people...I admit it myself included...would prefer a single family housing unit, even in a subdivision, to a unit in the estate at Karlmarxstatdt 567B. When that is no longer possible, I am not sure I will be celebrating that fact.

Sometimes you guys sound as bad as any fundamentalist preacher calling doom upon the sinful gay-lovin' liberals.

Brian M:

And Al:

I know as a good working class hero you hate the yuppie spandex cyclists but love the good ol' salt of the earth working class heros plowing down country roads at 90 mph in their SUVs or monster pickup trucks. I know the better lifestyle option is to spend your time in political meetings or in front of the television, but give us cyclists a little bit of a break. Has this site been hijacked by Larry the Cable Guy?


Brian, I have no problem with cyclists per se, just with their sanctimony. And I haven't enjoyed the near-dismemberment experiences I've had while crossing New York streets in the path of the sanctimonious ones with no regard for pedestrians --- the greenest travelers of all, I might add.

By the way, my family and I happen to live in something akin to a unit in the estate at Karlmarxstatdt 567B. We're quite happy there. You can keep your single-family dwelling. Just don't come crying to me for help with your heating bills when we reach peak oil.

Brian M:

Well, Geoff...if you are happy in a small apaartment, that's fine. I don't actually live in a single family house (a rowhouse, actually), LOL.

I live in California and I ran my heat maybe six hours last year, so...no crying for heating oil from me. Especially because the utility guy told me I really should not use the furnace unless I want to gas myself (or pay $5K which I don't have for a new one).

Sure, there are sanctimonious cyclists. People suck. But, the post above by the usually perceptive Al contained all the tiresome cliches about cyclists propoagated by the usual fat asses who don't do anything but sit in front of the television all day. Very few urban cyclists probably fall under Al's stereotype anyway.

I will defend my sanctimony against the working class heros and their Ram 350S and SUVs, though. Oh no! He rode through a stop sign! Horrors, I will step on the gas and drive 20 mph over the speed limit so I can run him off the road with my surrogate penis!

Sorry to be tiresome, but this is one of my pet peeves.


"slip substantially. . ."

If you remove all the adverbs in the passage cited ("absolutely", "simply", "rapidly") and one hackneyed phrase ("all-time high"), the report is pretty unalarming. Not that the double dip couldn't be happening (and why only a double dip -- how about a triple dip, or fall o the cliff?), just that this guy fails to convince.

Al: I love your "spandex Yuppies with an SUV mentality". You must live in Sausalito!

Brian: Good riposte, but I side with Al. We're not talking about folks who bike because it's sensible, but because they like to show off their buffed up torsos in freaky garbs and terrorize plodding pedestrians still living in the 19th century. They hunt in rat-packs, furthermore, further suggesting a fascist mentality. Judging from their pride of possession and masters of the universe manner, the guys I see do not live in row-houses, but represent San Francisco's finest financial sector rising middle managers.


What is wrong with showing off one's buffed off torso, LOL? eye candy is eye candy. It's a great hobby. It's FUN. It's ultimately sensible to be fit and healthy and engage in a healthful pastime rather than doing the usual American pastime of television. if that makes me self-righteouss, so the f$#@ck what!

Besides, the demand for all human activities to be "sensible" is yet more puritanical Marxist religion. Sensible according to whom? Some leftist intellectual, or party hack, or central committee? Sorry, Pastor Westerby, if my passionate cycling hobby does not meet your approval. I will confess my sin.

Plus, I don't know too many hard core recreational/racing cyclists in Spandex who spend their time riding in heavily pedestrianized areas of San Francisco. Nope. More righteous (religious even) stereotyping! As a pedestrian (yes, I walk too) I have never been rode down by a cycling middle manager. Nope. It is either children (understandable why children would ride on sidewalks in a cycling hostile central city, but still, they are an absolute menace)

OR even more likely pedestrians are hit by a member of the virtuous working poor, too often a celebrated working class icon like a bicycle messenger. or, the homeless ABC guys (alcoholic bicyclists club...long DUIed out of a drivers license) and unable to even pilot a bicycle safely. Or a hipster Marxist poet trust fund baby on a fixie riding to his next poetry slam bemoaning imperialism, man. See...we can all engage in the fun moralistic activity of competitive stereotyping, per our own proclivities.

And, again, the problem is not pedestrian-cyclist conflicts. Cry me a river if a "wolf packs" delays some schlub driving a giant SUV. Or, given you mention Sausalito why are you crying your river of tears about those folks being delayed? Sorry...I don't care if a UPPER manager in an SUV is delayed a few minutes on his drive to the 5,000 square foot lime green "villa" in the hills.

I love the writings of Al and Pinky. It's just sometimes you guys are so moralistic and even humorless (despite Al's amazing wit!), religious and sure of yourselves that I am not even sure I would want to live in a world controlled by The True and Only System. Would a world run by leftist intellectuals meeting in committees (or even by Union Bosses meeting in smoke filled rooms) THAT big of an improvement? Sometimes I wonder.

Sorry if I double posted.


Anonymous (once Brian): is this about cycling, or about lefties? I don't think the two are incompatible, or rather, not all lefties are anti-cycling, and up to now I didn't think that all cyclists were Ayn Randites. Furthermore, "sensible" is not exclusively, or even hardly, a leftie value. That's more for your liberal greenie. In fact, if you follow the postings of our esteemed OP, I don't think the word has ever come up. Let's keep the categories straight.


sometimes you guys are so moralistic and even humorless


Wrong planet.


"the usual fat asses who don't do anything but sit in front of the television all day"

double caution light

merit class improver-compulsive
in vicinity
get your ass in gear !!!

or serious sniffing and scoffing may commence

in the end we don't deserve this abuse
at least the republicans
sell us donuts


not arugula



"See...we can all engage in the fun moralistic activity of competitive stereotyping, per our own proclivities. "

did it feel good pal
did it feel really good

tip work on your serve some
right now
its too easily returned


father S is to modest ..or at least
wishing to seem so

he is a co founder and long time agitator for the urban and urbane cyclist

there was a time
b4 spandex when father s ...
well not sure if today he's as buff
as back here
as a young novitiate


i'm told that was snapped
just be fore he was devoured
by a delegation
from the local.....hierarchy

Al Schumann:

Brian, for pete's sake get ahold of yourself! Look, I polled the working class before I commented. This is a scientific blog, when all is said and done, and polling matters in the social sciences. The majority view of the working class is that spandex yuppies should be hunted with boar spears and horses when they're cycling, and carbines and pickup trucks when they're driving their automobiles. It's really that simple. It's not a question of road rage, socialist purity and cold water flats on Karlmarxstatdt. It's a question of justice. You all shouldn't have tried to dismember pedestrians. That's a major wrong.

But, we have a problem. Horses are very expensive. So I'm obliged to ask you for a contribution.

Brian M:

Well...to a degree both. There is a purism that comes through here sometimes. And, I am reacting to that.

And, no, of course I really don't claim this site is always humorless.

I am reacting to the reality that as a cyclist I face unremitting hostility from the SUV-bound fat asses that dominate the roads.

So...perhaps I am being a little humorless myself, but there is a difference between aggrssive cyclists (who certainly exist) and aggressive drivers piloting 4,000 pounds of steel. Certainly avid cyclists are often members of the professional classes, but does that make them worthy of attack.

Brian M:

op: There is nothing wrong with self improvement in and of itself. Heck, I even have a degree from some college or other (hangs head in shame). I guess I am just not a good enough proletarian for the Priesthood here.

Al: They can sneer at my spandex. I'll laugh at the lifted pickup trucks.

Al Schumann:

Brian, is that a way of saying you didn't try to dismember pedestrians? If so, I believe you, in spite of the credentialed shame you bear. You've done nothing wrong (except, possibly, the spandex), and therefore you have nothing to worry about.

Brian M:

Spandex exists for a functional reason. (the wild advertising graphics...that is another story, but it's tradition, you know?) All sports uniforms are ridiculous in isolation from the sport. Heck, football jerseys look silly on a middle aged goofus with a giant gut, so...

As for pedestrians...If they are walking four abreast and blocking both lanes of a bicycle path...and grin at you idiotically unmovingly as you announce yourself and try to pass...I'm not sure I can blame myself entirely for the justifiable carnage. On the other hand, I'm sure said pedestrians were members of the professional class, heck, maybe even traitorous Chinese middle class engaged in exploiting the workers, so the bloodshed would not be a problem, right?

Al Schumann:

Brian, I attribute most ambient rage and aggression to shitty jobs and economic insecurity. Rather than strive for righteousness on who should and shouldn't get hurt, I'd like to change work and insecurity. If my theory is wrong, and the aggression continues there's nothing significant lost. It's simply time for Plan B. There are good lefties (notably, Jay Taber) who know how to organize mixed use of public spaces and how to set things up to minimize hostility. It's a lot more effort, of course. But a whole lot better than brutality.


" I attribute most ambient rage and aggression to shitty jobs and economic insecurity"

and the fucking new york yankees !!!

Brian M:

Ah, Al. I am sure you are right. This just pushes a button for me. But fundamentally, if you are so beaten down by life that one threatens other human beings with 4,000 pounds of steel piloted drunkedly at 45 mph, forgive me for worrying more about my safety than one's sucky boss and bad job. I am not a fan of the sense of privelege and self righteoussness of drivers of all social classes.

And, by no means is it only or primarily working class folks driving pickups trucks. A well-paid goofus* on the local Clear Channel monolith opined the other month that bicyclists who "get in his way" should be run over. So...I am sensitive...

*Who proudly promotes himself as the voice of the "militant middle" whatever that means

Al Schumann:

The "militant middle" sticks up for the managerial royalists who want to run over cyclists.

And seriously, I am sympathetic. You're quite right. Everyone I know has, or has had, a shitty job and a boss with a prehensile rectum, and all of them make it a point to control themselves.

Repas du Midi:

You guys ought to get a drive time radio show.

Did Al turn all serious halfway through that 4:44PM post?

I thought this thread was about whether Smith can take credit for the Reichstag fire or sumpin'.

Anyhow: Back in the day, the guy that raked my off my Raleigh 10 speed with the mirror of his Ford Explorer was a dewy-eyed 16 year old and as svelte as a willow wand... my last ride ever, after a solid decade of self-propelled bliss. My hours on the bike were as delicious as playing hookey and I miss them. Wore spandex but only under demure shorts.

Repas du Midi:

raked my me off

Brian M:

Repas: That's too bad.

I've been pretty lucky...and the reality is that the vast vast majority of people are very tolerant of us brightly colored goofballs.

Given my predilections for gluttony, it's take the risk of cycling or balloon up again and face the joys of self-injected insulin (given my family history). :)

Brian M:

Might I also speculate that atomization of people is one of the reasons why automobile ownership has been so heavily promoted in this country? It's easy to dehumanize the other when one is encased in air conditioned steel.

It's also interesting that car ownership seems to be falling out of favor among the younger generations. (Anecdotally). Kids that I am acquainted with seem less eager to get their licenses than we were.


I still ride the bike myself, though being no longer buff, or anything like it, I've given up the spandex, exciting as it was.

I see a lot more people riding bikes to work these days. One of the nice things about New York is that there are a lot of non-spandexy cyclists out there. I used to see the late Murray Kempton riding around my neighborhood in a Brooks Brothers seersucker suit, Panama hat, and trouser clips. Oh and he was smoking a pipe.

The usual utility-cyclist look isn't always that chic, but you see lots of very well-turned-out girls -- fishnet stockings, short skirts, shoes with heels -- I can't go on; doctor's orders.

The spandex types tend to be recreational cyclists, or exercise fiends. Not the best class of two-wheeler. People who are on the bike mainly to get somewhere are my faves these days.


Just one more. A natural alternative to spandex ... bamboo!



The fishnets are great, but the bike's a little too cutting-edge. Am I mistaken, or are the wheels different sizes? And those two little cables replacing the down tube -- that looks like a very bad idea to me. Particularly since they're obviously quite slack. What does it feel like when they go taut? You wouldn't want to be in the seat at that point, would you? Even if you were a girl, but especially if you weren't?


I hadn't got quite so far as the cycle. Slow 'reader'.


Bamboo and bicycles are a recurring motif:


But does it keep you cool and dry in the summer?


Bike geeks always go right for the bike. It's not that we don't notice the fishnets, exactly. But fishnets are fishnets, while a good bicycle is a ride.


*Nothing* keeps me cool and dry in the summer, and the bamboo short-shorts frankly don't help.


Just bleep 'em, if they offend. I won't mind.


Oh, no question of offense. I already ordered a pair for the SO.

Funny, I am avoiding this subject of 2-wheeled human-powered traveling machines, despite my many opinions on it.


>>>I'd like to change work and insecurity.... It's simply time for Plan B.

Al: How do we get from here to there, from A to B? And what is Plan B? I am stuck in A.

Owen: Fear not. The Fucking Yankees will soon be dethroned by the proles in Florida or Wobegone-land.

Al Schumann:

Geoff, you've hit my weakest spot. The short answer is a movement to create a parallel society with welfare provisions.

There are plenty of examples of people attempting it on a small scale, in discrete efforts. Community farms and community supported micro-industry crop all the time. Community-based health care, transportation, housing and delivery of professional services make stabs at it as well. They generally enjoy local political support, right up until a corporate entity with strong influence at the state and federal level finds an opportunity to make a fast profit off their work. There's no protection without scale, and scale is hard to achieve.

The apparently insuperable problems to taking it national and keeping it strong enough to make lasting difference are coordination and co-opting. Coordination of people who are eccentric in the existing social context is a herculean task. It's tremendously labor intensive. It requires self-sacrificing diplomats. It requires people with librarian and communication tech and logistics skills.

The "Socialism In One Neighborhood" successes tempt theft, by e.g. real estate developers, and tempt the organizers into cashing out when they hit a brick wall. Brick walls are common. Even good friends fall out over minor things. Expensive blunders in the use of heartbreakingly expensive materials can wreck an otherwise congenial group.

The most enduring efforts are authoritarian intentional communities, organized around charismatic religious leaders. They're strong, until they go off the deep end.


People talk about organizing the working class into micro-socialism and mutualist enterprise without, really, having any clue that the working class is where it's always, already happening. There's no need to organize it. Just a need to lend a hand.

The working class's nascent, parallel mini-societies are atomized by "labor mobility" and strained to the breaking point in meeting basic needs. They're further impeded by politicians posturing as friends. Hence, tangentially, SMBIVA. Capitalist politicians are as friendly as a feudal lord's bailiffs.


Plan B, as referred to in the bicycle versus car versus pedestrian dilemma, presupposes enough coordinated micro-success to make a serious, nation wide mixed use plan viable. Any sane, adult response to real social needs is won in the teeth of capitalist opposition. And that takes some strength. I mentioned Jay Taber because he's got the chops and experience of doing it on a local level.


I hope I've made sense. I'm tired and hurting. If it needs clarifying, I'll do my best later on.


The cosmicomic poet who writes, "Boink, for shame! Where's your rugged individualism?" is not permitted to write, "I'm tired and hurting."

Take a couple of naproxin sodium and a nap and go pick some tomatoes. you'll feel like a new man.


Al: You've made great sense.

My frustration is always where to begin. The older I get, the more the answer is: as locally as possible.

This struck a chord: "I attribute most ambient rage and aggression to shitty jobs and economic insecurity."

I think you're right, but I also think that rage and aggression is baked so deeply into American culture that it long precedes shitty jobs and economic insecurity; or perhaps they've always been features of the society and culture.

Chomsky recently said that we have the relentless fears of a settler-colonial society, hence the need ever to lash out at ---and deeply fear --- one bogeyman after another.

Al Schumann:

Boink, all the rugged individualists assure me that hypocrisy is the highest virtue. They're united on that, as on so much else, including their rights to my tomatoes. I think I may have made a mistake when I signed on to their program...

Geoff, that assessment of the cultural tendency is compelling. I haven't the least idea of how to address it directly. And I take it on what amounts to faith that it could be finessed or marginalized if there were a strong movement of the kind I outlined.

It's interesting that the working class and refugees from bourgeois propriety are harder to control through settler-colonial fears than the "mainstream". They have a healthy skepticism of power, and a much better understanding of its psychoses. The mainstream drives itself to neurotic self-defeat, even as it (correctly) bemoans the treacheries of the political managerial class.


here's my unsolicited take on the plan b

it better include all of us and pretty much all at once

first step build a national party
i of course do not mean an electoral party
using a euphemism i'll call it .....
a social change party

we are clearly far from that point

we have only circles made of cells

cells of two three four five folks in partnership

this site might spawn a few

amoebas looking to form a slime
some day

but amoebas already plunging
in to
the movements out there


Al: I don't know that that cultural tendency can be addressed directly. Perhaps it's just helpful to know it's there, or to know what lurks.

Quite true about the working class and refugees from bourgeois propriety. They are often unruly, ideologically and otherwise.

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