SteadyBlogging on Twitter (SteadyTweets?)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Next stop: Mumbai

We just boarded an Air India flight, non-stop JFK to Mumbai. The next ~15 hours will be: Indian food, Hindi movies, hopefully some sleep, and working thru some of the reading material we brought: a pile of this week's newspapers (one of my favorite parts of flying..going thru and discarding a stack of paper) and starting the mere 2 books we packed..

Remarkable that we brought only 2 books: one fiction: "Inheritance of Loss" by K Desai; and one non-fiction, "The Argumentative Indian" by A Sen. The prior we picked up a last summer, at that bookstore across from Magnolia in the W Village (before a session with the Cornell guys @ Whitehorse); the latter Ina gave me as a birthday present a few years ago. This seemed like a good trip to finally read them.

Remarkable because I considered a whole shelf of books at various pts for this journey: Nehru's "Discovery of India", Niall Ferguson's "Empire" (see my previous post re Ferguson), "India: A Million Mutinues Now" by Naipaul, Gurcharan Das's "India Unbound", another more recent one about modern India by some guy named Luce.

Remarkable also that my reading interests have shifted so much to non-fiction. The only novels that I considered were "Midnight's Children" and "White Tiger"..til Anj suggested "Inheritance of Loss."

Lots of Indians on this flight..prob 95%. Actually, lots of South Asians in the terminal: in addition to the hundreds of Indians checking in for our flight, there were hundreds of add'l S Asians checking in at the Kuwait and Emirates Air counters (I say S Asian since my guess is that many were Bangladeshi..perhaps connecting to Dhaka? I certainly heard more than one person in the terminal speaking some very heavily East Bengal-accented Bengali!)

That reminds me of something else I'd planned to blog this week--previous trips to India (because in '95 we took Gulf Air via somewhere in the UAE, connected to Dhaka, and then Biman to Calcutta). I think this is my 8th or 9th trip to India: def '77, '84, '88, '95, '96, '01, and '02..and maybe one more prior to '77, but I'm not sure about that..will have to check with my parents.

But this is the first time I'll be visiting my extended family in Calcutta without my parents around..should be interesting. And also the very first time Anj and I will travel, just for a bit, on our own..

Should be interesting..
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, January 26, 2009

Morning's Top Stories (Jan 26 '09)

This is something I may try to make a regular (dare I say daily?) feature: a few links regarding top/interesting news stories.  Here's what I see as today's top stories, based on my own interests and media sources:

  • The Senate votes later today on Pres Obama's nominess for Treasury Secretary, Tim Geither.  He appeared before the Senate Finance Committee last Wednesday, with the committee voting 18-5 recommending confirmation.  If you're very interested in this story, here is a blog post about part of Geithner's 102 (!) pages of written responses to the Finance Committee.  More briefly, here are the first few paragraphs of a CNN Money summary from yesterday:

The Senate is set to meet Monday evening to vote on Tim Geithner's nomination as the next Treasury Secretary. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said he expects to hold a vote at 6 p.m. ET.

Geithner is expected to easily win confirmation from the Democratic-controlled Senate. Democrats on Capitol Hill have spoken of the need to quickly confirm Geithner, who will spearhead President Obama's response to the financial crisis that threatens to unravel economic growth around the globe.

Reid warned Friday that Republicans "would not be very wise politically" to try to hold up the nomination, which last week won the support of all the Democrats and half the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee. He added that Democrats could block any attempt to filibuster.
On Thursday, the committee recommended in an 18-5 vote that the full Senate confirm the appointment of Geithner, who is currently president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to succeed Henry Paulson.
Much has been written about Geithner since Obama somewhat surprised by nominating him back in November.  I've saved a bunch of what's been written about him--I'll get around to posting sometime over the next few weeks, since, assuming the confirmation goes through today, we'll be hearing a lot from and about Geithner over the next couple years.

  • The situation with the banking system continues to be very dicey; the latest debate is over outright nationalization.  This debate has been raging among economists and other commentators in the blogopshere, occasionally bubbling up into the mainstream media.  There is a News Analysis piece on the front page of this morning's NYT:

Nationalization Gets a New, Serious Look
NYT, January 25, 2009

Go here for excerpts from and summary of the above, and here for a list of about 20 links to blog posts from the last few weeks about bank nationalization.

  • Finally, the big news on the business pages is a good old traditional M&A: Pfizer is going to acquire Wyeth.  This is quite a big deal, both in the literal sense--Pfizer is paying ~$68bn for Wyeth; and in a figurative sense--some $22bn of that purchase price is being provided as credit by a consortium of five banks. This story also made the front page of the NYT, but for the sake of variety, here is this morning's WSJ article:

Pfizer to Pay $68 Billion for Wyeth 
WSJ, January 26, 2009

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Niall Ferguson on Fareed Zakaria GPS / "The Ascent of Money"

    Historian Niall Ferguson was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria for Zakaria's GPS show on CNN..I believe it was for the Jan 18 episode. The clip is below, pulled from the CNN website for GPS; it's only 8 1/2 mins, so give it a viewing:

    Ferguson discusses the current financial crisis (the clip is titled "Is it bad"? on the GPS website), and segues into a discussion of his recently published book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, by arguing that we need to put the current crisis into historical contect--that leads into a a discussion of the Great Depression and Japan in the 1990s. Ferguson identifies the prior as a worst-case scenario, the key difference being that governments and central banks are using very different monetary and fiscal policies to "repress" a depression scenario (and hence coins a nice phrase: "the Great Repression"). More interestingly, Ferguson points to the latter, Japan's "lost decade" of essentially zero economic growth, as not only a distinct possibility, but as a relativey good scenario! "We'd be getting off lightly if we can get by with a decade of 1% per annum growth," say Ferguson.

    He continues: "At the moment, I'm really quite apprehensive that the process of deleveraging has far from run its course; there's no floor in sight in the real estate market. And these things have a self-perpetuating quality--one of the lessons of history is that depressions tend to feed on themselves. There is after all a pychological dimension to this: once people get really spooked, it's very hard for the market to find its bottom. And remember, stocks sold off between '29 and '33 by nearly 87%. So you have to have a sense of orders of magnitude here. Financial crises happen infrequently on this kind of scale, and that's why we need to have historical knowledge, to have an understanding of their dynamics."

    (Ferguson touches on a lot of interesting topics here: the great deleveraging, still not completed after 18 months (I posted this re deleveraging in October, after hearing Sanford Grossman speak on the crisis); the pyschological dimensions of depressions, i.e., the busts that follow bubbles, and how markets can go into a freefall in such situations; the need for "a sense of orders of magnitude"--I take that to mean that the current crisis is not on the same order of magnitude as the Great Depression--stocks have sold off merely 40-45% from their peak. That peak occurred in Oct 2007, by the way; with a remarkably large portion of the drop occurring in the first half of October 2008.)

    The clip ends with Ferguson's response to Zakaria's question about how people will look back on this period in history: "I think they will look back and say, you know what, there was actually one country at the heart of the global economy in the early 21st century, and it was called Chinamerica: China plus America, and these two economies were symbiotically linked, they were intertwined with one other. China did the saving, America did the spending. China made its funds available through currency interventions, and the United States took the money and piled on the debt. This worked pretty well for nearly a decade. It took us from the Asian crisis in '97-'98, right up to the American crisis that began in 2007. The question that historians will grapple with--and this is the thing that fascinates me now--is whether or not Chinamerica was able to survive this crisis. If China and America continue to interact economically, then it seems to me we're in with quite a good chance of avoiding another Great Depression."

    I could continue transcribing, because it's quite fascinating--Ferguson sees two possibilities: China continues to support its export-based economy by continuing to buy "10-year Treasuries and other dollar-denominated securities" (i.e., those aforementioned currency interventions), and thus propping up the globabl market for those exports--by enabling further borrowing (bailouts) by the American government and consumer . Or, and this is what's truly fascinating, Ferguson says that China could turn inwards; China could say "we're going to focus on our own resources, our own consumption, we're going to say goodbye to the world market, and revert to being an introverted Middle Kingdom." This, Ferguson says, is the end of globalization, and is the scenario which Ferguson believes could take us back to the '30-style Depression: he argues that it was a breakdown of global trade which led to the protracted depth of the Great Depression.

    For background on Ferguson, see his personal website and/or Wikipedia. His personal page is a much more extensive (and flashier) version of his faculty page at Harvard (where he has appointments in both History and the Business School).

    I'd come across a few of his books on the history of empires, perhaps just while surfing through Amazon:
    I bought a copy of the latter last year, as a gift for my father-in-law, since the British Empire is one of his favorite conversation topics. I just borrowed it back from him, with the intention of reading it soon..

    It was only after the books above sparked my interest in Ferguson that I discovered he is also an expert in the history of finance: prior to his new "The Ascent of Money" book, he published a 2-volume history of the Rothschilds and also a book titled "The Cash Nexus":

    So he's written enough to keep a student of history and finance busy for years. Apparently he's quite a teacher too. A friend took an intro undergrad course with him at Harvard; if I recall correctly, he said it was the best course he took at Harvard.

    If you want to view more of Ferguson and get a better sense of the contents of his new book, turns out he did a documentary for PBS, also titled "Acsent of Money." It seems that it aired on most PBS stations just a couple weeks ago..but it also seems you can stream the whole thing through the PBS website.

    It doesn't seem that I can embed the video from the PBS site; you'll have to go to the PBS site, which you can do by clicking thru on the following photo of lower Manhattan, which is what the documentary begins by showing:

    Thursday, January 08, 2009

    Attempting to live-blog Obama's speech

    My plan this morning was to get out of the house early, head to one of the branches of the Brooklyn Public Library where I've got books to pick up. But around 10am I discovered that the branch I'd planned to hit today, Carroll Gardens, does not open til 1pm on Thursdays. And at just that moment, Brian Lehrer came on WNYC...

    I've become addicted to Brian Lehrer's show--it's on 10am-12pm weekdays, and he deals with a wide range of current events, from the local to the international--and often the intersection of the two. For example, today's show which I had been hearing about all week, was an interview with Elliot Sander, the head of the MTA--the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which all of us who live in the NYC metropolitan area depend on for public transit.

    Over the past couple months, since I've started using Twitter, I have occasionally been posting "tweets" (still don't like that term) about what Lehrer has got on the show. Today I took it a steo further and essentially used Twitter to take notes on Lehrer's interview.

    To see them, you could go here and scroll back to find the relevant posts (it's recently been occurring to me that Twitter could the archiving and searchability a lot better, if in fact people are using this as a form of micro-blogging, as I am here).

    The Brian Lehrer show led right into Obama's big speech this morning, on the proposed stimulus/infrastructure plan. So I decided to go with the flow and try live-blogging the speech via Twitter. Again, go to the SteadyBlogging Twitter feed I set up (for the ever-expanding SteadyBlogging empire!), and find the posts between 11-11:30am this morning (Jan 8, 2009).

    The next step is to take these notes and use them to compose some actual thoughts. Look for that to appear here later this afternoon...after I get back from Carroll Gardens!

    Monday, January 05, 2009

    Hope and dreams in '09 (according to Dilbert)

    Here is a quick one, to welcome you back to your desk on what is, for many, the first working day of the year...  

    A Dilbert cartoon that I swiped from Greg Mankiw's blog, in a post he titled "Get Ready for a Tough Year":

    (Go here for the full-size image.)

    Saturday, January 03, 2009

    NYT Real Estate: "Someone Still Has Money"

    We went out to dinner last night with some old-school UofC friends, and somehow the NYT came up. One of our friends mentioned that the Real Estate section is the first part of the Sunday paper she reads. I read it too, but usually later in the week..

    One of their features is "Big Deal", on p2: it's usually 3 short item on big residential transactions--sort of NY real estate porn, for the 99% of the population that can't afford such real estate. The lead in tomorrow's Big Deal is truly a big (large) deal (a handful of the Sunday paper section actually get delivered on Saturday--the sections which aren't news-dependent), appropriately headline "Someone Still Has Money":

    Despite faltering sales, it appears to be far too soon to declare the luxury market dead, especially now that we can raise a glass to what may be the most expensive condominium ever sold in the city, per square foot: a three-bedroom apartment on the 38th floor of 15 Central Park West, which changed hands for $27 million. The price works out to $9,480 per square foot, not counting the 22-foot-wide terrace facing Central Park.

    Even so, that sale, filed with the New York City Department of Finance last week, reflects some of the new realities of the luxury market, now that the boom years are over. Deals are still being done, the records show, but often far below the asking price, and bankers and hedge-fund types, who once drove prices ever higher, are a fleeting presence.

    It takes a detour into the type of non-hedge fund types who are still buying::

    In deals that came together over the last month or so, the buyers included Bruce Nauman and his wife, Susan Rothenberg, who are both artists; an Italian fashion designer who sold his business just before the retail slowdown; some lawyers; and a wealthy writer who is a small-magazine publisher.

    Or as David Javerbaum, the executive producer of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” observed in an interview, “Having a comedy-writing job these days is steadier income than having a job on Wall Street.”

    But the more interesting part is at the end, about the apartment in 15 CPW--a building which was just built over the last couple years, in a rare instance of new construction overlooking Central Park (click on that link for an example of the views!). I happened to read an architecture review in the New Yorker (from Aug 2007) and have been noticing items about transactions in the building..the list of owners reads like a who's who of NY high finance; from the New Yorker review:

    Among the buyers have been celebrities like Denzel Washington, Sting, Norman Lear, and Bob Costas, but, in truth, the more spectacular units went for prices that would make even a movie star blanch. The most expensive of all—a forty-five-million-dollar penthouse bought by the hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb—was for a while the most expensive apartment ever sold in the city. A plurality of the buyers come from the world of finance, including Sanford Weill, the former head of Citibank, and Lloyd Blankfein, the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs.

    There was also a Market Movers blog post about that aspect of the building, titled "The Attraction of 15 CPW" (Market Movers is a great finance blog, btw.)

    I'd walked by this building a few times--if you live in NYC, no doubt you have too: it's on CPW @ 61st/62nd, just north of Columbus Circle. (Click here) for a Google Map.) But it's not remarkable from the outside..but apparently quite fancy inside. (Google turned up

    Back to today's NYT piece, which mentions Weill's apartment, and also the details of the recent sale:

    The record-setting apartment on the 38th floor of 15 Central Park West at 62nd Street has 2,848 square feet, a lot by Manhattan standards (and a bit more than Mr. Javerbaum’s new apartment). But it lacks the spaciousness of some other apartments in the building.

    It is small, for example, compared with the 6,744-square-foot penthouse bought in 2007 by Sanford I. Weill, the former chairman of Citigroup, for $42 million, or $6,287 a square foot.

    Still, the apartment has 14-foot ceilings and huge windows with views on three sides. The master bedroom faces Central Park, the two other bedrooms face the Hudson River, and the living room looks south over the city.
    The seller was Richard T. Fields, a developer of casino resorts, who recently bought the Trump Marina hotel and casino in Atlantic City for $316 million.

    Mr. Fields signed a contract to buy the apartment for $13.35 million in March 2006, while the building was under construction. But when he closed on it at the end of June 2008, he immediately put it on the market for $35 million.

    Many people were amazed at the asking price. Mr. Fields was forced to reduce the price by 23 percent, but the property still set a record. The identity of the buyer was not disclosed in the city filing.

    I'm not someone who's envious of the lifestyle of the very rich (and may or may not be many of have heard of Daniel Loeb, or Ashok Varadhan, for that matter?). But I'm interested in real estate and architecture--esp in NYC, these days. And having been immersed in Wall St for a year or so, it's interested in see how that part of the city interacts with and affects other spheres of the city...and it will be interesting to see how all that changes, now that we've hit an inflection point (or rather, perhaps, a global maximum?) in the history of the city.

    Friday, January 02, 2009

    closing thoughts on 2008: our bipolar world--the best of times/worst of times

    Here we are, at the beginning of 2009. Try as we might to live in the present moment, the habits of looking back (and forward) are not shed easily. I sat down this morning to write out some quick thoughts on 2008, but this ended up going in a different direction. Let me know what you think..

    So, 2008: the famous, paradoxical, insistently inconsistent Dickens lines ring true: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    (A google search on that phrase reveals that I'm not the only one to think in such cliches w/rt 2008--3rd hit is ABC News' 2008 Year in Review piece:

    But the first hit, reassuringly (Google knows all), gave me what I was looking for--the whole opening passage, on Which is worth quoting in full:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
    Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
    English novelist (1812 - 1870)

    A lot of that rings it winter in America? Or morning in America? It all sounds very much like the present period indeed (though can someone unpack that last segment for me? "the superlative degree of comparison only"?? I lost him there..)

    The most obvious examples of the two sides of 2008's metaphorical coin were the US presidential election and the financial/economic crisis. The bipolarity of it all was enhanced here in NYC--living at the epicenter of the latter, but also within the capital of blue America. The best thing I read on this was Kurt Andersen's piece in New York Magazine this fall, titled, appropriately, "Whiplash City", with the subhead "In this terrifying, giddy fall, our days are numbered like never before. And somewhere between the polls and the Dow lies destiny" and the following cover:

    Andersen's virtuosic opening paragraphs:

    So seldom do we motley millions all think and talk about the same thing at the same time—let alone two great big things, let alone intensely and continually for weeks at a time.

    Welcome to the extraordinary fall of 2008. As the imploded financial industry is nationalized, and we prepare to elect—can it really be?—an African-American intellectual the next president, New Yorkers are in a kind of breathless, Twittery mind meld about matters of huge historic consequence. Because Wall Street is (excuse the expression) ground zero for the present cataclysm, we are probably experiencing financial vertigo more acutely than most of our fellow Americans. And yet at the same time, because something approaching nine out of ten New York voters will pull the lever for Barack Obama two weeks from now, we are at the same time brimming with uncanny, yes, hopefulness about the imminent change in national leadership and policy. Every day, crazily fibrillating numbers (the Dow down 777 points, the Dow up 936 points) make us feel sick, while another set of equally amazing numbers (Obama well ahead in every national poll, and tied or better in three southern states) puts a song in our hearts. This data-driven combination of sky-is-falling dread and OMG giddiness—meth-laced Ecstasy, anyone?—is bizarre, unprecedented.

    Oddly, I didn't follow the numbers as closely as many this fall. I didn't watch the markets on a daily basis, and I wasn't obsessively checking in the lead up to Nov 4. That is odd, since (a) my thinking has become increasingly quantitative and data-driven; primarily due to the fact that (b) I worked on as a sort of "quant" on said Wall St; up until (c) my employment was swept up and away in said cataclysm; and finally, since leaving the Street, (d) I've become increasingly interesting in matters of politics, economics and policy.

    Andersen's essay is worth reading in full; and also worth revisiting in, say, 7 years. (When we'll be on the cusp of 2015 going into 2016...just wanted to see what those digits looked like in type. They may seem so far in the future, but that's how far we are from 2001, which does not seem like that long ago: the lazy days of Bush vacationing carefree in Crawford in the first 8 months of his presidency; the remnants of the bursting dot-com bubble, with the housing bubble was not even a gleam in investors' (or Alan Greenspan's) eyes; the planes hitting and the two towers going down, and all that ensued...)

    Andersen's next paragraph:

    Exactly seven years ago, we had already become accustomed to the cliché that the previous month’s terrorist attacks had “changed everything.” As we know now, they did and they didn’t. (Irony, for instance, did not die.) Seven years from now, I’m betting, we’ll look back and reckon that this fall changed everything at least as much as the fall of 2001 did, and maybe more.

    One of the fascinating aspects of living in NYC has been talking to people who lived and worked here in the city in Sept 2001--many of them, in fact, worked downtown at the time. Here is more from Andersen: we discovered in the weeks and months after 9/11, there is some solace in the collective experience of disaster. Misery shared is preferable to misery alone, and an ebbing tide lowers all boats. It’s not just one overleveraged bank or brokerage in trouble, as it seemed at the start, but nearly all of them. Everyone who owns stock is watching their wealth shrink at more or less the same rate. And those of us who’ve fretted, passingly, about the growing extremes of economic inequality in America? That problem has been, um, addressed, by the free market: In just two months, the investor class has had its wealth reduced by $2 trillion or more. Thanks to the stock market, the rich got much richer, and now, thanks to the stock market, the rich are getting much poorer faster, in relative terms, than actually poor people.

    A certain leveling is taking place. On the stoops and sidewalks of my Brooklyn neighborhood, there are lots of middle-aged men lounging all day long, comfortably pensioned-off former longshoremen and sanitation workers; I’m thinking that before long, the Upper East Side and Greenwich will acquire their analogous populations of robust, not-old guys without anything urgent to do every day.

    I haven't quite noticed that in our Brooklyn neighborhood--but last time I took the bus out to Bread Stuy (way back in late Sept?), the proprietor (a wise, kind, and funny man) told me he'd definitely seen an uptick in non-rush hour business, plenty of new faces spending days in the cafe (a good counter-cyclical investment? a comfy, welcoming cafe in an slightly gentrified neighborhood, with reliable wifi and relatively affordable eats and drinks..)

    Andersen nails it--I'm one of those (relatively) robust, not-old guys, lounging around with anything urgent to do. So going into '09, the question is, what to do if nothing is that urgent?

    I'll close with Andersen's closing paragraphs, which circles back around to our data- and web-driven bipolarity: so many people these last few weeks deeply invested in both equities and Obama, I’ve been toggling like a madman, compulsively and constantly, between Web-browser tabs: from the fever chart of the DJIA on Google Finance over to the national polling page on Real Clear Politics, then back to the Dow, then to FiveThirtyEight for analysis of the new tranche of polling data, back to the Dow, then the electoral-vote map at Pollster, back to the Dow, Real Clear Politics again for the latest state polls, and so on, dozens of times a day. The psychological result, of course, has been a high-frequency bipolarity—thrilled, depressed, thrilled, depressed—powered by Google.

    The steadiness of Obama’s momentum has reflected (not coincidentally, I think) the soothing, absolutely even-keeled steadiness of his public manner since the crisis began. He’s come across like the person in the stuck elevator or subway car to whom all the freaked-out passengers instinctively grant authority. And for those of us obsessing over every tick in the financial and political metrics, it’s additionally reassuring to watch at least one of the graph lines moving in a continuously positive direction.

    This is something that was remarked upon a lot through this remarkable campaign--Obama's temperament, his even keel; how he himself says that he doesn't let himself get too high over the highs, nor too low due to the lows. A middle way...

    Andersen continues, with some anecdotes that echo Thomas Friedman's morning-after column (or rather, if anything, it's Friedman echoing Andersen), which I also posted some thoughts about (here), and that also refer to South Carolina, which coincidentally also came up recently (see here):

    I do leave the computer screen sometimes and get out of the house. Back on the first of the month (the Dow still up almost at 11,000, Obama already five points ahead of McCain), I had dinner in the Village with a friend of mine who lives in the South. He’s middle-aged, wears a suit and tie, and probably voted in the past for a Republican presidential candidate or two. He told me, amazement in his voice, that two different South Carolina pals of his—well-to-do Republican white men his age—had confessed to him they were planning to vote for Obama: one because Palin was a deal breaker, the other because he thought that electing a black guy president would once and for all absolve white America of its historical racial crimes. And so when the conservative pundits started mutinying—Kathleen Parker, who has implied she’ll vote for Obama because of Palin, and William F. Buckley’s son Chris, who endorsed Obama last week—it didn’t shock me.

    And, finally, Andersen's penultimate paragraph::

    I’ve been saying for years and years that the eighties never really ended culturally and politically—not the way the fifties and sixties and seventies did. But 2008 will surely turn out to be the conclusion of an era. Reaganism—the utter devotion to deregulation and hypercapitalism, the unbending antipathy to the federal government, American power as nothing but cheerful bullying—is over. We all enjoyed playing cowboy until too many of us fell off our horses or got shot. The most fundamental form of American exceptionalism—that is, among all developed countries, our peculiar predisposition to magical thinking about human perfectibility and business schemes and supernatural salvation—won’t disappear overnight. But in our economics and politics sane people understand that we’ve reached that Wile E. Coyote running-in-midair moment where reality kicks in and he falls to the bottom of the cliff. Gravity (like evolution, and man-made climate change) exists.

    Here Andersen reiterates an idea that's been in the air since the morning of Nov 5--that we have finally, belatedly, arrived at the end of the Age of Reagan. It's an idea I first came across in Leonhardt's long Aug '08 NYT Mag survey of "Obamanomics" (which I'm still planning on posting an annotated summary of!). Leonhardt attributes the idea to Princeton historian Sean Wilentz (see here), but then it popped up, unattributed, in George Packer's similarly themed essay "The New Liberalism", which appeared post-election in the New Yorker. And if Andersen has in fact been saying that for years and years..well, it goes to show we need to pay more attention to what he's been saying (you could start with this and this, both also from NY Mag and from this fall, both about this moment in time, about Obama and NYC (resp)).

    Also in the paragraph above is the idea of the end of American exceptionalism, of moving into a post-American world--those are both titles of books, the first by Andrew Bacevich, the latter by Fareed Zakaria, that I've added to the ever-expanding to-read list for the new year.

    And the ultimate paragraph, which also encapsulates a theme that's been on my mind: who is to blame for this mess we're in? To quote Mos Def (listen here, at about 1:20 in): me, you, everybody. We all got into this together, and we'll have have to get together to get ourselves back on solid ground:

    We are, maybe, becoming a more reality-based nation again. We can no longer get by on tautological self-love, believing we’re smart simply because we’re New Yorkers, or virtuous because we’re Americans. The debacle caused by our reckless, party-hearty overleveraging of the economy should make us realize that we have met the enemy, and he is us. And then, if we’re lucky, we’ll redeem ourselves by fixing the huge messes we’ve made, and thereby discovering that we really are the ones we’ve been waiting for.