This is not the moment of truth; truth has nothing to do with it.
Confusion: The government reports initial unemployment claims fell 12,000 last week, while the number seeking continuing unemployment payments increased 129,000. Did unemployment go up or down? Are things better or worse? Who's on first?
Nose Holding: It is pretty clear that any healthcare bill will be a disappointment, falling far short of meaningful reform. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for? How much money must we give the insurance companies? What's the maximum number of Americans we're willing to let die unnecessarily just because they're unemployed or poor?
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: Yes, the rich still run the United States. And most other places...
Recovery, Oh Boy!: Household debt (mortgages and consumer credit) is down 7% to only 120% of disposable income. The recession may technically be over, but the consumer is in no position to demand anything but relief.
Because I Said So: Taking a very broad reading of its authority to oversee the soundness of the nation's banking system, the Fed is going to place regulators directly inside banks to monitor pay and bonus agreements. And they can, because they say they can. And because they control the money.
Check's in the Mail: The Chinese central bank said the country’s economy surged at an annualized rate of 14.9 percent in the second quarter. Bush said Saddam had WMD.
A Quote: “The government's programs and promises to return the country to 'economic growth' is nothing but a con. And it is every bit in the nature of the government to prolong the con, since the country ceased being a functioning democracy long ago. Indeed, we aren't even a capitalist country anymore.” And there will be no recovery, either.
Wobble: The Arctic ice cap did not shrink as much this year as in the last two years, but was the third smallest minimum in history, 24% smaller than the 1979-2000 average. The reason for the pause in the progressive decline in ice coverage was not yet understood.
Peace Victory in Our Time: US General Petraeus acknowledges that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse, but says the mission is still “do-able”. British Chief of Staff Richards warns that a failure to prevail ( aka defeat) would have an "enduring grand strategic impact" on Britain's global reputation and would embolden terrorists. He's sure the allies will eventually stumble into a workable strategy. General McChrystal, our man in Afghanistan, wants 30,000 40,000 more soldiers, bringing the total to 100,000. There were only 30,000 in January. Yet McChrystal admits there are no signs of al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan, even though the Taliban control 80% of the country. Yet we must stay to honor our dead by adding to their number.
Multiple Choice: The future (a) will be, (b) could be, (c) might be, (d) should be, or (e) will not be better than today.
What's In the Bag, Little Girl ? When Wachovia moved in with Wells Fargo after their shotgun marriage, a trunk full of credit default swaps on the weakest parts of Wachovia's commercial mortgage-backed securities was part of the deal. Turns out to be a surprise package, and Wells has no idea yet on how big an exposure it has inherited.
Look Out!: Nobel-winning former World Bank head Joseph Stiglitz didn't get the memo. He says there will be more economic turbulence, that the recession will worsen and will last until at least 2012. He also said bad things about the continued existence of complex derivatives which are not in the public's interest.
Don't Touch That Dial: The unemployment rate, the housing debacle, and the declining consumer economy are inescapably intertwined on a downward spiral, even as those in white shirts and ties declare the recession over. Maybe so, but I'd keep an eye out for the buildup of social tensions between the pain and suffering of the many and the obnoxious bravado of those who want to prevent the government from providing any social assistance. Stay tuned.