Thursday, February 14, 2008

SAR #8046

There's no such thing as too much ammunition.

All Together Now: As the Senate voted to ban waterboarding, they knew two things: Those who would authorize such acts are criminals, and Bush would either veto the bill or issue a signing statement that said that he was still above the law.

Double Cross: For over 10 years Blue Cross has been sending letters to your doctor asking if there is anything in your medical records they could use to cancel your policy. Having been caught, they said they'd done nothing wrong but would stop sending the letters. Besides, they can probably figure it out from your prescription records.

Fingerprints: Former NY attorney general, now governor, Eliot Spitzer, says that a few years ago he and other governors asked the federal government to regulate predatory lending in the housing industry. Bush operatives told them to let the free market operate freely. Ah, the unseen hand of market forces.

Dibbs! Iran appears to be siphoning oil from more than 15 Iraqi oil wells - to the tune of some $4 billion a year. It was bad enough we planned on letting Exxon steal the Iraqi oil; can't Bush do anything right?

Recession? What Recession? Government-generated economic data such as retail sales, GDP, net imports and exports, balance of trade and a host of others used to be posted here, but it is to be shut up down March 1st to preserve deniability save money. It will be replaced by a monthly fee-based email service.

Mauled: Zacks Investment Research in its retail forecast: "Some companies are closing stores to increase profitability, some are doing it just to stay alive." As for new stores: "...they're going to wish they had just walked away ..... For the next decade, retailers are not going to have to open brand new stores because there's going to be so many empty ones that need to be filled."

Billboard: A month or so ago wheat passed $10 a bushel. Last week prices were over $15. What is it going to take to get you to pay attention, $20 a bushel? Okay, this week, in Minnesota: $20.00. Four times last year's price. It'll soon be cheaper to fill up your car than you.

Hide The Silverware: Bankers propose that Uncle Sam bail them out by expanding loan guarantees by FHA to cover 'troubled loans.' This would replace the bond insurance written by failing bond insurers, save the losses to the rich investors, and stick taxpayers with making good on failed loans. What part of 'free market' does this come under?

Pay to Play: The National Association of Home Builders suspended bribing contributing to politicians because they were not getting a big enough bailout the government assistance they wanted. They said it more circuitously, but a spade's a spade, even in the housing business.

Cross-Dresser: John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, today voted to permit the US to torture its prisoners. Words fail me.

Time Share: Miami banks have a list of 191 condo developments that are no longer eligible for loans. No mater how good your credit, they won't write you a loan for one of these places. If you own one, you are going to own it for a long time unless your buyer has a very big wad of cash. Maybe you can rent it out...

One Foot In Front Of The Other: From a bank's annual report: "The Company has developed and is actively pursuing a plan to manage and enhance its capital resources. [However,] at this time we can give no assurance that we will be able to successfully implement our plan." For which read: We're broke, looking for capital, and not very hopeful.

This Little Piggy: The NY Port Authority tried to market bonds yesterday and was shocked to find buyers wanted a 20% interest rate. In total, 80% of bonds taken to market yesterday - by cities, hospitals and student loan agencies - were not sold; returns were too low. Rather like getting a rock tossed through the window with a "Go away" note wrapped around it.

Lonely Crowd: $40 to $50 billion in home mortgages will reset every month from now on thru the end of the year. "Borrowers never expected to pay the new rates. They assumed they could roll over their mortgages when the time came, but that is now impossible." Britain, Ireland, Germany, and Spain are facing very similar problems.

Holy S&L: JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, Chase and others are begging that FHA "insure" all failing mortgages. They argue that the failure of the greedy will work hardships on the entire population. But a federal bail-out would be a massive transfer of wealth from people who pay their bills to people who made bad decisions. What is the value of that? Isn't capitalism without failure like religion without sin?

Wear Your Mittens: In response to a Democratic proposal to extend home heating subsidies for poor families, The Wall Street Journal said that this "would encourage greater energy use, especially in the Northeast." Especially in the winter, one suspects.

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