If there were an easy way out of stupidity, greed and debt,
somebody would have found it long ago.
Simon Says: At the G-20. Bush urged European leaders not to abandon free-market principles just because the US has. Gordon Brown was emphatic that the US should not bail out American car companies. Obama was in Chicago.
Happy Un-Motoring: Republicans reject the idea of rescuing Detroit, observing that it wouldn't change anything, just put off the reckoning for six months. Same is true of adding liquidity to Wall Street. Those six months will turn out to be a very long time.
Silly Question: Pundits are debating the right- or wrongness of stiffing your mortgage holder, citing the "moral obligation" to pay up. Wait, we're not talking morals here, we're talking money.
Out: When the dollar was sinking, US exports grew and saved the day. Now, in the face of the stronger dollar and weakening demand througout the world, US exports are taking a dive. To quote Krugman quoting Setser, "Ut-oh."
Follow the Logic: San Jose wants to be the first on its block to receive funds from Paulson's TARP. Just $14 billion, to start with. Told that the TARP was not structured to cover municipal debt, Mayor Reed said, "Not yet."
It's Only 0.33%: AIG has set aside $503 million of the $150 billion it got from the taxpayers to pay bonuses for Christmas. Who was supposed to be keeping Santa's list?
Forgetful: Former Chrysler president Thomas Stallkamp said, " "There's the feeling that next to financial services, automotive execs are the dumbest people in the world." Not really, there's politicians, economists and voters to consider, too.
Mystery Guest: Part of science is finding out what we don't know. For example, we've just found out we don't know why atmospheric methane concentrations are rapidly rising after a decade of stability. Methane is far more effective at prompting global warming than carbon dioxide, so repairing this ignorance seems a good idea.
Standing Invitation: Turns out the US did have invitations to all those weddings they've been dropping missiles on. The US and Pakistan have a "tacit agreement" - which probably means the US paid off the right people - that lets the US kill a certain number of Pakistani civilians and Pakistan gets an IMF bailout.
Easy Payments: GM's flacks say that it would cost the US $200 billion if the company goes under, but only $100 billion to save it. This year. Your mileage may vary.
All Over But the Lawyering: It will take several years to unwind the trillion dollar tangle that is the London end of the Lehman debacle. So far two months of effort have resolved about $5 billion - or one-half of one percent - of the total.
Bended Knee: Ever call the fire department and have them tell you they'll get back to you? Welcome to the G-20. They're going to get together in March to talk about recommendations on how to save their skins.
Who Goes There? Somali pirates are forcing international shipping firms to consider going around the Cape of Good Hope rather than running the gauntlet to the Suez Canal. This will take longer and drive up costs.
Here's My Plan: Reports claim that Iran is converting its financial reserves into gold bullion. Saudi Arabia is buying large amounts of gold. What strong dollar?
For the Shell of It: By 2030 the Southern Ocean will become too acidic for tiny creatures such as pteropods - which form a base of the food chain - as well as shelled animals like crabs and shrimp. The absolute tipping point will be when CO2 concentrations reach 450 ppm, which will happen long before 2100.
Designated Runner: Amid all the corny hoopla, it turns out that ethanol is a fair substitute for gasoline but not for the heavier products of crude oil distillation like diesel and jet fuel. The US cars may run on gasoline; the world runs on diesel.
Prices are Falling : That's the good news. The bad news is that food pantries and soup kitchens are running short on food and long on customers.
Porn O'Graph: How much is that S&P 500 in the window?