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November 29, 2012

The term "Black Friday" originated in Philly in the 50s and referred to how much it sucked to work retail on that day

The "it's the day retailers are in the black" thing is pure malarkey. My Annual Black Friday Post | Mother Jones
But it goes back further than that. A couple of years ago I got an email from a Philadelphia reader who recalled the warnings he got from the older women at Wanamaker's department store when he worked there in 1971: They warned me to be prepared for the hoards of obnoxious brats and their demanding parents that would alight from the banks of elevators onto the eighth floor toy department, all racing to see the latest toys on their way to visit Santa. The feeling of impending doom sticks with me to this day. The experienced old ladies that had worked there for years called it "Black Friday." "For years." But how many years? Ben Zimmer collects some evidence that the term was already in common use by 1961 (common enough that Philly merchants were trying to change the term to "Big Friday"), and passes along an interview with Joseph Barrett, who recounted his role in popularizing the expression when he worked as a reporter in Philadelphia: In 1959, the old Evening Bulletin assigned me to police administration, working out of City Hall. Nathan Kleger was the police reporter who covered Center City for the Bulletin. In the early 1960s, Kleger and I put together a front-page story for Thanksgiving and we appropriated the police term "Black Friday" to describe the terrible traffic conditions. Center City merchants complained loudly to Police Commissioner Albert N. Brown that drawing attention to traffic deterred customers from coming downtown. I was worried that maybe Kleger and I had made a mistake in using such a term, so I went to Chief Inspector Albert Trimmer to get him to verify it.

Is it time to get rid of federal flood insurance?

Honest question on my part. This is one of those ideas that seems simple on its face but rapidly becomes extremely complicated once you try to place the question in our reality. Doing away with flood insurance would effectively mean that any middle class person or poor person who lives near the coast could have their entire wealth swept away in a freak storm and end up penniless and homeless and still on the hook to the bank for the home loan for the home they no longer own. Should we force private insurers to offer flood insurance at a cost people could afford? How could that possibly be better than the feds doing it? It seems to me that as long as people live by water (which is most people in America) then we will need flood insurance. Especially as the seas continue to rise. End Federal Flood Insurance - NYTimes.com
IT’S no surprise that it can be very expensive to live near the ocean. But it may come as a surprise to American taxpayers that they are on the hook for at least $527 billion of vulnerable assets in the nation’s coastal flood plains. Those homes and businesses are insured by the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program. You read that right: $527 billion, which is just a portion of the program’s overall liability of $1.25 trillion, second only to Social Security in the liabilities on the government’s ledgers last year, according to government data. The flood insurance program was created by Congress in 1968 to fill a void: because of the risk, few carriers provided flood insurance. Now, private insurers offer flood insurance in a partnership with the government — but taxpayers shoulder all the risk. It has turned out to be a bad bet. The program is $18 billion in debt, a sum the government acknowledges probably will never be paid back by premiums, and it is likely to need a new multibillion-dollar infusion to pay claims from Hurricane Sandy. It is long past time for the government to stop subsidizing home and business owners who live and build in dangerous flood zones. Homeowners and businesses should be responsible for purchasing their own flood insurance on the private market, if they can find it. If they can’t, then the market is telling them that where they live is too dangerous. If they choose to live in harm’s way, they should bear the cost of that risk — not the taxpayers. Government’s primary role is ensuring the safety of its citizens, so the government’s subsidizing of risky behavior is completely backward. . . .