Thursday, March 13, 2008

SAR #8074


Basket Case: The dollar continued it's plunge, reaching record lows against the euro, pound, yen and a basket of currencies. There seems to be uncertainly overseas about the long-term prospects of the US economy - another of our exports that's gaining in world markets.

Eating Cake: The Pentagon was dismayed to learn that US troops in Iraq had become sick, developed skin abscesses, diarrhea and other illnesses from “unmonitored and unsafe” water provided by KBR. The troops are supposed to use Crystal Spring bottled water to wash in and Perrier to drink.

Business as Usual: Two Bush appointees at HUD “exchanged e-mails discussing” how they could punish Philadelphia Housing Authority Director Carl Green for refusing to transfer a $2 million public property to a business friend of Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson. They didn't get Elliot's memo about emails. Neither did Elliot, apparently.

No Shame: The Farmington, NM, City Council has approved giving Halliburton a half million dollar tax break. It's good to help small businesses get established.

How Big is Big? NSA is hard at work. It now monitors domestic emails, internet searches, bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records, and intercepts phone calls, tracks money movements through the world's bank clearinghouses. If a suspect is believed to be in a US city NSA systems can collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city.

Various Cures: As the government proposes various cures for the housing/credit problems, let's remember how we got here: The government promoted housing when it made no economic sense, to buyers who had no economic sense.

More Soup: S&P and Moody's still rate 75% of mortgage backed bonds as AAA , yet 43% of the underlying mortgages are delinquent. Some $650 billion of these "AAA" securities are held by banks, pension funds and insurance companies. Eventually 50 cents on the dollar will be a good price.

PS 301: The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all, it is to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. - H.L. Mencken

Cracker Jax: US banks must raise more capital. Estimates vary, with guesses from $400 billion to $2 trillion. Even at the low end it is unclear where the funds would come from. Not the Sovereign Funds, that well is dry. Not the speculative investors - they are a big part of the problem. The only sucker in sight is you the taxpayer possible source is the US Treasury. But they'll have to be clever about it. Bush won't stand for the Fed's action being called either a rescue or nationalization, although it will be both.

Black Monday: At $100 a barrel the US will export $475 billion to pay for oil this year. It will be the largest single part of America's balance-of-payments deficit. This will insure the continuing erosion of the dollar. In return, the major oil-producing states will acquire more prime American assets - assuming that Citibank turns out to be an asset.

Learned Living: Americans with more than 12 years of education have significantly longer life expectancy than those who never went beyond high school. Those who are better educated at age 25 can expect to live to age 82; for less educated, 75. Gives new meaning to 'high school dropout.'

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