The remains of Olympics past.

I’m not a sports fan and as such I don’t tend to watch the Olympics, but I think the oft-promoted “spirit” of the Olympics isn’t a bad idea even if it’s not really why anyone participates anymore. That said, you’d think there’d be a way to host said events in a way that doesn’t involve the building of massive sports infrastructure most of which will be abandoned after the event is complete.

This was brought to mind by an article over at Wired: See What Happened to the Venues of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Russian photographer Anastasia Tsayder offers an illuminating case study in Summer Olympics, a series that revisits some of the venues the Soviet Union built for the ill-fated 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. “[I wanted] to tell a story about the hopes for a utopian future encapsulated in this architecture,” the photographer says, “and about how far from reality these expectations turned out to be in the end.”

[…] Hosting the Games is not cheap, and many cities spend lavishly on infrastructure that is underutilized, if not abandoned, afterward. Greece, which hosted the 2004 Summer Games, spent billions building stadiums, arenas, and tracks that are now abandoned. Four years later, Beijing hosted what was at the time the most expensive Olympics ever; today, many of the venues stand empty.

Interior of Dynamo Stadium in Russia. Photo by ANASTASIA TSAYDER

Interior of Dynamo Stadium in Russia. Photo by ANASTASIA TSAYDER

Click through to the article to see all the pictures. As it turns out Russia has done a better job of using their left-over facilities than some other countries. The links in the second paragraph above have photos of other host cities that are left with massive complexes that are little utilized, if at all.

Detroit has bid to host the Olympics seven times — more than any other city — and has never won. The best it ever did was second place for the 1968 games which went to Mexico City. Detroit was invited to bid on the 2024 Olympics and they turned it down due financial uncertainty at the time and the fact that it costs $10 million just to make a bid. Detroit declared bankruptcy shortly after that so it was probably a smart move.

That said, with more and more places opting not to bid because of the expense of hosting only to have so much of what is built sit idle after the event is done, there’s been talk that the IOC is starting to get a little panicky and may be trying to figure out how to do an Olympics on the cheap. That led to at least one article in the Detroit Free Press on the idea of a joint Detroit-Windsor hosted Olympics that would require very little new construction:

“For the most part, the infrastructure is already here,” said Greg McDuffee, chairman of Urban Land Institute Michigan. “If we’re serious about re-establishing our city as a preeminent global city — what is the acid test for that? It’s being awarded an Olympic games.”

Under one possible Detroit-Windsor scenario, the only major event venues needed to be built from scratch would be a canoe slalom course on Belle Isle, a cycling velodrome perhaps on the Windsor waterfront and an Olympic Stadium at the old state fairgrounds that could later become home for a professional soccer team.

There would be no need to dig an Olympics-ready swimming pool in Detroit, thanks to the new Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre. Indeed, the biggest likely hurdles to a joint Detroit-Windsor Olympics would be marshaling the money and political will.

“From a technical perspective, there is no reason why Detroit couldn’t host a games. It actually has some natural advantages,” said Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports management and economics at the University of Michigan who has researched the possibilities for a 21st-Century Detroit Olympics bid.

Even in the scenario described above there would still be the expense of three new venues to consider. Soccer has never been huge in Detroit so the idea that a new stadium on the old State Fair grounds being used for a professional soccer team after the Olympics is optimistic at best. I’m not even sure Detroit has a professional soccer team. (I just Googled it. No professional soccer teams, but a few minors. They are trying to bring pro soccer to Detroit along with a new stadium. Good luck with that.) I could see the possibility of opening up the canoe slalom course on Belle Isle to the general public after the games and having that get some use. Not as sure about the cycling velodrome. Though if the latter were built on the Windsor side then I suppose that’d be their problem to figure out what to do with it.

All of that assumes that the IOC would be happy using already existing venues that aren’t as extravagant as something built from scratch specifically for the Olympics. Given the number of articles over the years about the arrogance of the committee, I doubt they’d be willing to settle for that:

Oslo 2022 bid hurt by IOC demands, arrogance – USA Today

Conservative lawmaker Geir Inge Sivertsen publicly came out against the Oslo bid days before the vote, but said there was no doubt that the latest “very strange demands from the IOC” swayed the party, which he thinks had been narrowly in favor of underwriting the bid.

“Norway is a rich country, but we don’t want to spend money on wrong things, like satisfying the crazy demands from IOC apparatchiks,” said Frithjof Jacobsen, VG’s chief political commentator. “These insane demands that they should be treated like the king of Saudi Arabia just won’t fly with the Norwegian public.”

[…] “There were two arguments against the bid. One was the financial part — most Olympic budgets end up being much more expensive. But the IOC’s arrogance was an argument held high by a lot of people in our party,” said Ole Berget, a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry. “Norwegian culture is really down to earth. When you get these IOC demands that are quite snobby, Norwegian people cannot be satisfied.”

Personally, I’d be happy if Michigan never hosts an Olympics if it’s going to continue being a lot of expense for little gain. I can remember when we hosted Super Bowl XVI in Pontiac 33 years ago and all the claims of long-term economic benefit it would bring with it. It did pump a couple hundred million into the local economy and transformed downtown Pontiac into a popular area during the event, but it didn’t last all that long. On the plus side we didn’t have to build a new stadium for it and it was relatively cheap compared to hosting an Olympics. These days, however, hosting the Super Bowl is getting to be a lot like hosting the Olympics so you can keep that too.

If we’re going to host big events then I say we should shoot to get a few big e-Sports into Detroit. It’s gaining in popularity and would be a lot less expensive because we wouldn’t need to build a damned thing. Between the number of stadiums and convention centers we have you could whip up a set inside and have plenty of seating for a fraction of the cost of a big sporting event. Yeah, yeah, I hear you laughing, but hear me out. Watching e-Sports events has been huge in Korea for over a decade and with the arrival of MOBAs it’s been gaining in popularity here in the States as well. Here’s a short YouTube video on what e-Sports is:

Those playoffs are no small affair and neither are the crowds watching them. Would it generate as much revenue for Detroit as a Super Bowl or the Olympics? Hard to say, but it’d be a damned bit cheaper to host than either of those things.

 

Michigan’s staggering population losses continue.

Back in January of 2007 I wrote an entry titled Last person to leave Michigan please turn out the lights.

Things haven’t improved since then:

People are leaving Michigan at a staggering rate. About 109,000 more people left Michigan last year than moved in. It is one of the worst rates in the nation, quadruple the loss of just eight years ago. The state loses a family every 12 minutes, and the families who are leaving—young, well-educated high-income earners—are the people the state desperately needs to rebuild.

[…] Michigan’s exodus is one of the state’s best known but least understood problems. Long ignored or downplayed, outmigration has been shrugged off partly because it was assumed that those who were leaving were unemployed blue-collar workers and retirees, groups that, in economic terms, don’t cripple the state with their departure.

But a Detroit News analysis of U.S. Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service data reveals that every day, Michigan gets less populated, less educated, and poorer because of outmigration.

The state’s net loss to outmigration—the number of people leaving the state minus those moving in from other states—has skyrocketed since 2001. Although the Census Bureau does not report totals moving in and out each year, Internal Revenue Service records show that the population decline is a result of two disturbing trends: The number of Michigan residents leaving the state rose 25 percent between 2001 and 2007, while the number of new residents moving in plummeted by nearly one-third.

Since 2001, migration has cost Michigan 465,000 people, the equivalent of the combined populations of Grand Rapids, Warren and Sterling Heights—the state’s second-, third- and fourth-largest cities.

I’ve said before that if I were as smart as a lot of folks seem to think I am that I would have packed up and moved years ago. Anne and I did spend some time discussing the possibility in 2005 during the period when I was laid off for the first time. I’m the reason we didn’t leave the state then and looking back on it that was probably a mistake. It’s probably an even bigger mistake to stay now, but this is my home. I love this state despite all its problems and the sucky economy. It’s totally irrational and it’s probably cost me quite a bit of money, but I still have a hard time thinking about leaving.

• Those leaving Michigan are the people the state most needs to keep—young and college-educated. The state suffered a net loss to migration of 18,000 adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2007 alone—the equivalent of half the staff of the University of Michigan crossing the state line.

• Michiganians who fled the state in 2007 took with them almost $1.2 billion more in paychecks than the paychecks of those moving in. That represents a 45 percent increase in lost wages in just one year, money no longer spent in Michigan businesses, paying mortgages or paying taxes.

• The net loss of school-age children was more than 12,000 in 2007 alone, costing individual school districts roughly $84 million in state aid.

• With about 36,000 more households leaving the state than moving in, that leaves 36,000 empty houses and apartments, damaging already weak home values. “When there are more properties on the market, it drives down prices,” said Ron Walraven, a real estate agent in West Bloomfield. “With the layoffs and the buyouts at the auto companies, people are leaving. Some are just abandoning their homes.”

• People moving from state to state are disproportionately young. While almost 13 percent of Michigan’s population is over 65, only 2.5 percent of those leaving are that old. That means outmigration is adding to the costs associated with an aging population, such as the state’s share of Medicaid payments to retirement homes.

• There will be fewer tax dollars to pay for those services, maintain roads or run schools. According to Senate Fiscal Agency estimates, the income leaving the state cost Michigan more than $100 million in personal income tax revenue in 2007 alone.

I’m 41 years old and I still don’t have my college degree, though I am working on one. I don’t own a home yet. My daughter has graduated high school and is attending community college with me. I’m not as young as the other folks leaving Michigan, but I also don’t have as much holding me here so I could move if I could convince myself to do so. Every time I think about it I rationalize it back and forth. For example I tell myself that, without a college degree, it’s arguable if I’d be much better off someplace else over where I am now, but then I’m looking at a couple of years before I’ll even get my associates at the pace I’m taking classes currently so by the time I do have it it’s arguable if moving would still make sense.

Those with college educations were more likely to move than those without a degree. One-quarter of adults still in Michigan have at least a four-year college degree, compared to 39 percent of those who left.

In simplest terms, those with the skills to leave Michigan are doing so; high-skilled people from other states who once might have moved to Michigan are choosing to go elsewhere.

“Migration is good for the migrants but bad for the state they’re leaving,” said Mark Partridge, an economics professor at Ohio State University who specializes in the study of migration patterns. “It’s a vicious downward cycle; the best and brightest leave; entrepreneurs don’t come to the state because the best and brightest are elsewhere; as more people leave, that leaves fewer people to pay for services. Neither one will make Michigan a very appealing place.”

People who know me in real life often compliment me as being amazingly intelligent, but clearly I’m not as bright as I’d like to think I am. The funny part is that I’m quite well educated in how the human brain works in terms of rationalizing and wishful thinking and confirmation bias and yet, in spite of knowing all of that, I still fall victim to the same rationalizing and wishful thinking and confirmation bias as everyone else. I can even recognize the fact that I’m engaging in it and yet I still let it override my decision making process because I don’t want to move out of Michigan.

With all these other people going, I say to myself, I become that much more valuable to the companies that are still here. All the while ignoring the fact that the companies that are still here that I’ve traditionally worked for most of my career are on the verge of bankruptcy and begging the government for bailout funds. Granted I’m currently working for Big Dot.Com here in Ann Arbor which isn’t likely to go belly up anytime soon, but even they are eliminating 200 jobs to trim a little fat in these trying times. And before you ask, no, my job isn’t in danger of being eliminated in the fat cutting. Especially not since we went from three techs to two. The only threat to my current employment is the fact that I’m just about to hit my one year anniversary giving me one more year before my contract comes to a mandatory end. Still, I tell myself, I’m contributing to Michigan’s comeback by staying!

Yeah, right…

As bad as the outmigration numbers are now, Metzger worries they may get worse.

“The pattern used to be that people would move away from Michigan and then move back,” Metzger said. “Now, people are moving and then drawing the rest of their (extended) family with them.”

Gina Damuth’s husband, Fred Damuth, was laid off from Pfizer in 2007. Later that year, they moved from Farmington Hills to North Carolina.

Now, Gina Damuth has convinced her parents to move to North Carolina, too.

“I feel so bad for the people stuck in Michigan,” said Damuth, 34. “I was in the Detroit area recently and I didn’t realize the number of people who walk with their head down. You can see it if you pay attention—nobody smiles, everybody looks depressed. My dad says it’s scarier now. People are talking about how they don’t know if Michigan is going to recover this time.”

That recovery will be harder because of the people who have left, said University of Michigan economist Don Grimes. “You can’t grow your economy if you’re shrinking. You basically have an infrastructure built around a certain size of economy, and if you shrink below that scale, you have fewer people to support the infrastructure.”

That can mean higher taxes, poorer services or both.

Some of those costs won’t be felt for decades.

“When you lose people in their 20s, in five years, you won’t have their kids entering school; in 20 years, you won’t have their kids entering the work force,” Grimes said. “It puts you in a downward spiral.”

Indeed, demographers have said the sharp population losses from 1979 to 1983, when the state lost nearly a half-million people in four years, created an “echo dip” in the state’s population nearly two decades later. The current migration, which has seen similar total losses, has lasted twice as long.

I can see it right in front of me: Things are bad and they’re likely to only get worse. Michigan has the highest unemployment in the nation (11.6% in January compared to 7.9% nationally) and has held that status for years. We’ve lost the most jobs out of all the states between January 2007 and 2009 (-7.3% versus national average of -2.0%). Again, if I were as smart as I’m supposed to be, I’d have moved back before I wrote the first entry about Michigan’s population losses. If I were smart I’d use this entry as the motivation to finally make the move now.

But I probably won’t. I don’t want to move out of Michigan. I love this stupid state and I want to see it succeed. Call it misguided loyalty. Call it stupidity. I won’t deny it. I’ll probably still be here in another two two years when I write the next entry about Michigan’s continuing population decline.

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi on how fucked we are.

If you have problems with your blood pressure then you probably shouldn’t read Matt Taibbi’s essay for Rolling Stone magazine titled The Big Takeover. It’ll probably give you an aneurysm. It very nearly gave one to me:

In essence, Paulson and his cronies turned the federal government into one gigantic, half-opaque holding company, one whose balance sheet includes the world’s most appallingly large and risky hedge fund, a controlling stake in a dying insurance giant, huge investments in a group of teetering megabanks, and shares here and there in various auto-finance companies, student loans, and other failing businesses. Like AIG, this new federal holding company is a firm that has no mechanism for auditing itself and is run by leaders who have very little grasp of the daily operations of its disparate subsidiary operations.

In other words, it’s AIG’s rip-roaringly shitty business model writ almost inconceivably massive — to echo Geithner, a huge, complex global company attached to a very complicated investment bank/hedge fund that’s been allowed to build up without adult supervision. How much of what kinds of crap is actually on our balance sheet, and what did we pay for it? When exactly will the rent come due, when will the money run out? Does anyone know what the hell is going on? And on the linear spectrum of capitalism to socialism, where exactly are we now? Is there a dictionary word that even describes what we are now? It would be funny, if it weren’t such a nightmare.

It’s a very long read and in it Taibbi outlines for us how the financial crisis we’re currently experiencing has been years in the making and how the current approach to solving it is just more of the same old bullshit. The more you read the article the more angry you’re going to get as you realize just how bad things were allowed to become and just how screwed we really are. When you’re done you’ll no longer be surprised at the stunning arrogance of Wall Street fat cats expecting to be able to collect their promised bonuses using taxpayer money in spite of being the cause of the crisis. The worst part of it is the fact that the people Obama has running the Fed are pretty much from the same group that fucked us over to begin with.

Who do you think they’re going to be looking out for? You or their old friends on Wall Street?

This American Life: Bad Bank

Want to understand the whole banking crisis thing? Go listen to the most recent episode of This American Life:

The collapse of the banking system explained, in just 59 minutes. Our crack economics team—the guys who explained the mortgage crisis, Alex Blumberg and NPR’s Adam Davidson—are back to help all of us understand the news. For instance, when we talk about an insolvent bank, what does it actually mean, and why are we giving hundreds of billions of dollars to rich bankers who screwed up their own businesses? Also, two guys go to New Jersey to look at a toxic asset.

I’m far from being an economist, but this put it all into perspective for me. It also brought home just how fucked we are. This is going to hurt regardless of how it’s handled the only question will be how much will it hurt and that depends on how it’s handled. The idea that we, as taxpayers, will see the government recoup the money they’ve given the banks is probably a bit of false hope given out to make the bailouts more palatable. We’re going to end up paying either way.

The surprising bit is the fact that Americans, as a whole, are at least partially responsible for the mess. Sure the banks shouldn’t have been handing out some of the loans they have, but the truth is most of us have been living beyond our means for a long time now. Which is particularly frustrating to someone like myself who has been doing his best to live within his means for years and is still going to get hurt by the financial melt down.

Hollywood may set up shop in Michigan.

When I was younger I knew I wanted to be an actor when I grew up, but other than a small voice role in an anime dub, an impossible to see stint as an extra in Hoffa, and being cast as the lead in a community theater production of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown that I had to drop out of due to work commitments, I’ve never actually achieved that youthful dream. A lot of that is because it would have required moving to either New York (for stage plays, which I’m not fond of) or to Los Angeles (where they have earthquakes and wildfires) and I’ve just never been motivated enough to do that. There’s enough theaters and such around Michigan that it’s possible to make something of a living as an actor locally as my brother-in-law has managed to do, but it’s nothing that’s likely to result in you hitting it big time. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve had absolutely zero training as an actor outside of a high school drama course I took 20 years ago. But perhaps that’ll change as more and more of Hollywood moves to Michigan. With stuff being produced locally there’s the chance that I could at least have some fun being an extra a couple more times.

And the chances of that are improving as things heat up in Michigan’s new film industry. Early last year our state legislators passed a bunch of laws and tax breaks designed to make Michigan much more attractive to film and television productions and it’s already worked quite well. There’s a whole bunch of movies filming in Michigan with more on the way and now word comes down that we may end up with some full fledged production studios too:

State film officials say they are on the verge of sealing an $80 million development deal that would create three film and television production studios in southeast Michigan, boosting one of the state’s few fast-growing industries.

Two of the potential locations for the permanent studios — including one in Detroit — haven’t been used in years, while the third site would have to be built. One of the facilities would be a multi-studio complex that would occupy up to 130 acres, state officials confirmed. Another facility would be geared toward post-production work, such as audio and editing.

The Detroit facility, if the deal is finalized, could be in operation by the end of the year.

[…] “It’s a game-changer,” said Anthony Wenson, CEO of the Michigan Film Office, the agency that promotes the local film industry. “We truly (will) have a year-round industry. We can see a television series shot here. We can provide space for filmmakers to build large-scale sets. We can greatly expand our offerings to the video and digital media community.”

The state film agency has been working on the deal for months and contends it would create the infrastructure to support what has become a $100 million industry in the nine months since Michigan passed the most aggressive film industry tax incentives in the nation.

That would be wonderful if it does grow that big as Michigan is in desperate need of a shot to its economy. Plus, who knows, maybe I’ll finally get a chance to live out that youthful dream.

Found via the Michigan Messenger.

 

I have come up with a solution for fixing the economy.

It’s simple, elegant, and relatively cheap. Here’s my idea: The government should take a few million dollars from the $700 billion of Wall Street bail out money and give it to me. Then I will spend it and thereby help improve the economy.

I promise to spend it only on things I need rather than things I really, really want. Stuff like furniture. We’re a tad short on furniture since we moved into the townhouse and a nice sectional is a practical necessity so I can use the futon we’re currently sitting on as a guest bed. At the very least we could use an armchair or two. A coffee table would be nice as well as some end tables. I’ve got no place to put any lamps at the moment. For that matter I could use a few more lamps. We definitely need a dining room table and the chairs that go with it. A nightstand to sit my alarm clock on. Some whatnot shelves. We’ve got plenty of bookcases, but a couple more wouldn’t hurt. But not a Grandfather Clock. That’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, but don’t really need.

A new car comes to mind. I don’t actually need need it yet, but I probably will soon. Though I could argue that a more efficient car could be considered a need. I need some new clothes too. Especially socks. I’m picky about my socks and the brand I prefer are not carried in very many stores. Shoes. I need new shoes. New boots will soon be a necessity. I need some dental work done so that’s another area I could help stimulate. Stocks. I need some stocks so I’d even be helping out Wall Street in my own way. Food. Always needing food. Seems like we have to pick up more food every damned week.

You get the picture. There’s literally thousands of industries I could help to stimulate if I had a few extra million dollars to work with. Compared to what it’s going to cost to bail out Wall Street giving me a couple of million is dirt cheap. And I’d work extra hard at making sure I do my part to stimulate the economy by spending that money. I think it’s a great plan and I hope Congress will give it the serious consideration it deserves.

“People want the illusion of control.” Online psychics raking in the cash.

Fear makes people stupid. The fact that we re-elected George W. Bush is one form of proof for that theory and another is the fact that people worried about the stock market crash have been wasting money consulting online psychics:

While it doesn’t take a psychic to see that tough times lay ahead for the economy, online practitioners of the divination arts say they’re seeing a marked sift in the questions posed by their clientele, with anxious consumers increasingly asking what’s in store for them financially in the months ahead. Believers who normally seek psychics for advice on a cheating spouse are now asking whether a pink slip is in their future, and internet psychics across the board saw a spike in traffic in the days following the initial market crash.

The boom in superstition is a predicable response to troubling times, says Columbia Business School professor Gita Johar, who’s studied the phenomenon. “If the future is uncertain, people turn to psychics,” Johar says. Consumers tend to embrace the supernatural when confronted by stress, combined with uncertainty. “You have an illusion then that you can then control the outcome. People want the illusion of control.”

The problem with illusions, of course, is that they aren’t real. That doesn’t stop the psychic snake oil peddlers from charging you a hefty fee for it:

Spears is one of many self-described psychics, empaths and mediums who make a living giving online readings by instant message or phone on sites such as LivePerson.com and AT&T’s Keen.com. Spears performs readings by online chat for $2 to $3 a minute, and says that since September she’s been talking almost exclusively with Americans who are concerned about their economic futures.

“People ask if they are going to lose their house or if they are going to find a job soon, or am I going to be laid off,” says Spears,

“Usually I can give some time frames, and for some people, it is clearly ‘yes,’” Spears says. “I can tell them if another job is coming and a time frame for when they will get another job.”

Hourly rates for online psychics typically range from $100 to $1,000 per hour, but those steep rates haven’t seemed to deter the monetarily anxious from reaching out.

Another IM reader, Pure Empathy, says his business has soared since the economic downturn. He charges $2 a minute and says he gives away lots of free time.

“It’s really starting to pick up,” he says. “People are more depressed, and I can easily make $150 to $200 a day.”

“Finances are coming up a lot more lately,” he adds. “People want to know when their finances are going to get better. I tell them I don’t see it happening until middle of next year — we are going to have a long down period.”

The sad part is you don’t have to be a psychic to figure out things are going to be painful for awhile to come. All you have to do is pay attention to current events. What I find most amusing, though, is a lot of what these psychics are selling is just plain old common sense and they even admit as much:

All three say their job isn’t just about making future predictions, it’s also about giving good advice and listening to people’s concerns.

“I answer all of my questions using my cards or gifts, but I make sure to tell them to use common sense in spending, to not quit a job that is a sure pay until another job is secured, and to make sure to use a budget and stick to it as best they can,” Elliot says. “I also remind them that readings are entertainment and not a necessity, to keep in mind the things that are wants and the things that are needs.”

Sometimes people ask the obvious, according to Spears.

“Sometimes a person asks what does that person feel about me,” Spears says. “If he doesn’t call you in four weeks, that tells you other things are on his mind, and you are not it.”

Can you believe there are people out there who pay these charlatans for that? They don’t need a psychic, they need a swift kick in the ass.

A couple of blogging notes and WTF gas prices

I’ve updated my picture in the sidebar to something a little more autumn-ish as well as current (some of the other pics of me were a couple of years old) and I’ll be leaving the color scheme as it currently is as some folks seem to like it.

That pic was taken just this morning right outside our townhouse with the sun behind me which explains why my eyes are so puffy. It was a comfortably cool morning for early November. Fresh with the promise of a new day after an election that made history. As you can see I took the shears to my head last night before bed though I didn’t bother to apply a razor as I was already tired. The hair is about as close to the skin as you can get it with standard shears. I had an alternate pic with more of a smile and a bit of the sun flaring around the side of my head, but I wasn’t sure it was as good of a pic as this one. Maybe I’ll post it later if anyone’s curious.

On a totally unrelated note, but something I’ve been meaning to mention for awhile now, what the hell is going on with gasoline prices? Last Friday I filled up the tank at a station selling gas for only $2.09 a gallon! Checking MSN Autos’ Gas Price Finder there’s at least one station in my area selling gas today for $1.99 and the average price has dropped to $2.05! I can only figure the switch from the summer formula to the winter mix must be part of it, but that’s an amazing drop in price. Thanks to living so close to work and school I’m only filling up once every other week these days, but I’ll take the lower gas prices just the same.

My one concern is that some folks will take this as a sign that they can go back to buying big gas guzzlers as the “crisis” is over. It appears, though, that the shitty economy is keeping people from buying cars at all. GM’s sales in October plunged 45%, Chrysler down by 35%, and Ford was down 30%. Even Toyota saw sales fall by 23%. None of which is good news for Michigan. Hopefully when things improve enough for sales to pick up folks will make wiser car buying decisions and not rush back to the huge vehicles because gas is cheap.

There’s a few Christians out there that need to read their Bible more.

What’s (amusingly) wrong with the following picture:

It’s a bunch of Christians praying fervently to God in front of a statue of a bull for his (God’s) help in fixing the financial market. This was apparently the idea of a noted Christian “leader” by the name of Cindy Jacobs who’s been hearing the voice of God a lot lately and passes on his message in this article at the 700 Club:

In January of this year, Cindy Jacobs was in a worship service when the Lord spoke to her, “Cindy, the strongman over America doesn’t live in Washington, DC – the strongman lives in New York City! Call My people to pray for the economy.”

[…] The Lord further said, “October 29 was Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed, and Satan wants to do it again.” We must be proactive in prayer. At the beginning of the year many intercessors began to hear from the Lord that without divine intervention, a major shaking was coming to Wall Street. This would spread until there were food shortages. Some think that 2009 would be worse than 2008. Of course, it goes without saying that this would affect markets around the world.

Who knew God gave a shit about the stock market? All that talking by Jesus of giving away all your money to the poor and chasing off the money changers was just him pulling our leg. God DOES care about money (which explains why the clergy are always asking you for it on his behalf) and he’s willing to help so long as we’re willing to pray to him asking for it:

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.  “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”

Wait a minute… wasn’t there something in the Bible about a golden calf and Moses and God not being too happy about it? Yes, yes there was. Granted those ancient Jews were praying to the statue itself and not to God while laying hands on the statue like they did in New York, but still that’s gotta be an annoying thing to be reminded of. It also seems somewhat against the message of Jesus to be begging God for money. Not that God can’t afford it seeing as he’s got all these suckers followers giving him money all the time. I guess it all depends on how you interpret the whole “ask and God shall provide” idea. I realize I’m no religious authority, but it seems to me that this particular venue was an awkward choice.

The Dow tanks again today to lowest level in five years.

The folks at CBS News didn’t pull any punches saying Dow Falls Off A Cliff:

(CBS/AP) The Dow Jones industrials plunged 679 points on Thursday, driving the blue chip index below the 9,000 mark for the first time since 2003. A steep decline in General Motors stock helped to fuel the decline.

The blue chip index extended its selling to a seventh straight day as investors grapple with worries about the credit markets and the economy.

[…] “The story is getting to be like that movie Groundhog Day,” said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. He pointed to the still-frozen credit markets, and Libor, the bank-to-bank lending rate that remains stubbornly high despite the Fed’s recent rate cut.

“Until that starts coming down, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone getting excited about stocks,” Hogan said. “Everything we’re seeing his historic. The problem is historic, the solutions are historic, and unfortunately, the sell-off is historic. It’s not the kind of history you want to be making.”

At close the Dow was at 8,579 which puts it within striking distance of the last record low of 8,235.81 which occurred just after 9/11. The recent rate cut by the Feds and the $700 billion in taxpayer money that’s been promised have done nothing to stop the bloodshed. Hold onto your butts. Things are likely to get worse before they get better.

But always remember that John McCain thinks the fundamentals of our economy are still strong!