NFL draft 2011

Here’s hoping it is not the last one, what with the players attempting to turn the NFL into a European soccer system where there is one heavy favorite every year and only two other big-spending teams have any shot at the title. My only thoughts on the actual draft this year are as follows:

1) Cam Newton is a stretch and will not be a star quarterback. Great athlete, but I doubt he’ll be able to read NFL defenses or have the patience to stay in the pocket and find receivers. If he’s willing to work hard, his upside is Michael Vick. Not awful, but you’re not likely to win a Super Bowl with him either. Looks like Vince Young 2.0.

2) The Vikings need to draft Mallet or Dalton. Yes, they’re not likely to be stars either and yes they’ll probably be overpaying, but they have more of a shot than Newton and more of a shot to be decent starters than Joe Webb. The NFL is a quarterbacks league. I would draft a QB first every single year until I had a keeper; there is no shortage of bad teams with great linebackers or wide receivers.

In defense of college

This Cracked commenter’s explanation of why college is worthwhile is more than a little amusing:

College sucked for the first two years for me (as in I was one phone call away from talking to an Army recruiter) but then I ended up studying abroad for a semester, meeting some really cool people and professors and took classes in my major (Rhetoric) which were really eye opening and awesome. I started out as a judgmental hyper-conservative p***k and four years later, here I am graduating in three weeks as a well rounded, tolerant atheist. I don’t mean to toot my own horn (although if I could, I would, heh heh) but I’m certainly much better off, mentally, than I was before college. To me that’s what makes my mountain of debt worth it.

So, there’s some good news and some bad news, Mom and Dad. On the one hand, your son is broke, unemployable, and hugely in debt. On the other, he’s now an atheist. It’s a pity college recruiters and high school guidance councilors are not similarly forthright about the statistically probable outcomes.

The other thing that is always rather funny about the comments following post-bubble articles about the value of college is the way most of the people attempting to defend it are still in college. Which is to say that they are presently enjoying the short-term benefits without taking the long-term costs into account.

HBO is on a roll

It appears someone at HBO has concluded that perhaps they might do better producing shows and series that are based on good books rather than repeatedly regurgitating the generic TV formula of cops and docs.

[Neil] Gaiman followed [Good Omens] with another classic, Neverwhere, in 1996 and Stardust in 1997. I have since adored every tale he has turned out. So it was with great interest I learned that nearly simultaneously with the premier of its epic Game of Thrones, HBO has announced that American Gods will be adapted into a new mini-series, with Gaiman himself co-piloting the writing, along with Robert Richardson.

I am no Gaiman fanboy, but I did rather like American Gods. Given that Stardust translated very effectively to the screen, I have little doubt that HBO’s American Gods will be every bit as entertaining as the Harris and Martin adaptions that preceded it.

Some of the other SF/F books I’d like to see HBO eventually address are the Melanie Rawn Dragon Prince series, Ann McCaffrey’s Harper Hall series, (although Dragonriders would make for much more HBO-style material), and Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

The great financial rape

Tyler Durden shows how the banks used the housing bubble to rob the middle class of half their wealth:

The Great Middle Class between those in poverty and the top 20%–56 million households– owns about $2.7 trillion in financial wealth, and the millions with mortgages own an additional $1 trillion in home equity. That comes to $3.7 trillion, or about 6.5% of the total household net worth.

Consumer durables–all the autos, washing machines, jet-skis, etc.–are worth about $2.2 trillion ($4.6 T = $2.4 T in consumer debt). Add the durables and the other wealth, and the Great Mortgaged Middle Class holds about 10% of the total household wealth ($5.9 trillion).

Before the housing bubble, households owed about $5 trillion in mortgages. The housing bubble came along, introducing the fantasy of home-as-ATM-cash-withdrawal-machine, and mortgages ballooned to over $10 trillion.

Back at the top of the bubble, the middle class had $6 trillion more assets on the books. Considering the Mortgaged Middle Class now owns about $6 trillion in net assets, then the bursting of the housing bubble caused their net worth to drop by 50%.

With regards to the importance of real estate and debt, note that household and nonprofit real estate is now worth $18.2 trillion despite its $6.8 trillion decline since 2006. This is non-trivial, given that real estate is still nearly twice the current $8.9 trillion of the M2 money supply. What I find particularly interesting is that mortgage debt and consumer credit are both nearly flat; this indicates that the Fed has successfully resisted the debt-deleveraging thus far while being unable to prop up the prices of certain asset classes.

This is further indication that what we are presently seeing in the equity and commodity markets is a speculative spike driven by liquidity rather than true monetary inflation. The silver market, in particular, has gone nearly vertical, which in most situations would indicate that there should be some further buying opportunities in the relatively near future. Alternatively, if the rising commodity prices are indicative of hyperinflation, we’ll see real estate prices start rising soon and silver could go to 400.

I think, however, that we’re more likely to see prices start collapsing when QE2 comes to an end. For all that the rising prices look superficially impressive, they’re actually quite moderate in comparison with the $5 trillion in global liquidity pumping. No doubt there will be calls for QE3, but given the increasingly obvious failures of the first two quantitative easings and the attention that is being given to the debt, I doubt the Fed will be in much of a position to try it.

Anyhow, the two most interesting signals now appear to be housing prices and silver. Right now, these markets are moving in opposite directions and its as foolish to ignore one as the other. Sooner or later, one of them is going to reach an inflection point and reverse direction and that should provide us with a better idea of whether Federal Reserve pumping has been disguising the deflation or various factors unique to the housing market has been mitigating the effects of inflation in the real estate market.