Thursday, May 1, 2008

SAR # 8122

You have to understand the problem in order to begin addressing it.
Robert Rapier

Stimulating: Sales of new houses were down 36% from a year earlier, the lowest rate in 16 years. Median price of a new house was down 13% from a year earlier, steepest drop in 40 years.

Secret Secrets: The Bank of England has imposed a permanent information ban on its $100 billion, 3-year bailout of UK banks. The names of the banks and the amounts of cash supplied will remain secret for 30 years, minimum. George and Dick are envious.

Energy Policy: Leaving aside Bush's foray into fantasy, the Big Three have offered their - useless, unworkable, unrealistic - solutions to the gasoline price/supply problem. First, it's not a problem, it's an opportunity. Second, it's not about gasoline or even peak oil. It's about cars and transportation and our future and it needs to be rationally discussed. But not now; now it's election season.

Green Revolution. Last fall dealers in the Midwest ran out of fertilizer. Today they are rationing their stocks, giving farmers 30 to 50% of their requested amounts. And charging more, too.

More Bad: Wachovia is being investigated by the feds. No, not for the mortgage stuff, but as part of an investigation into laundering drug money. Having learned the Feds were on to them, in January Wachovia cut their ties with suspect Mexican foreign-exchange companies. Inquiries, as they say, are ongoing.

Market Wisdom: In Australia, ten years of drought have made access to water very expensive. Wheat farmers earn more by selling their water rights to vineyards than they do by actually growing wheat.

Raw Truth: For 6 years the Pentagon has conducted secret propaganda campaigns against the American public, recruiting at least 75 retired senior officers and providing them with talking points and placing them with TV networks as "military analysts". If they departed from DoD's script they were dropped from the program. When asked, White House head flack Dana Perino said she did not "think that that should be against the law." Strange, because the question was 'did the President know'. Obviously she was prepared to answer a different - and more interesting - question.

SCUBA Diving: Barclays reports that by August this year, 50% of all subprime and Alt-A borrowers, totaling $800 billion in loans, will owe more on their houses than they are worth. Already 36% are 'underwater'.

More and More! Instead of working towards a sustainable energy future (that's really the only future that includes us) scientists are trying to teach microbes to wear little hard hats and mine old oil deposits, while Bangladesh is urged to begin burning its coal as soon as it gets through burning up its fast depleting reserves of natural gas.

May I? The European Commission approved a $10 billion bailout of Germany’s WestLB Bank by the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, aimed at shoring up its $36 billion investment in questionable paper - most of it traceable to the US derivatives market.

Spring Training: While some economists say things are going to get better later this year or early next, American customers are getting ready for a long haul. "People have started to shift spending as if we were in a recession,” reports Master Card. Y'think?

Porn O' Graph: The Case-Shiller year-over-year housing chart is charming: take a look.

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