Friday, July 31, 2009
Prognosis: With no public option, whatever they call the bill that finally slithers through Congress, it won't actually be either health-care or real reform. But such was never in the cards. The US spends $2.2 trillion on health care - at lest a third of that is administrative costs and profits. Actual reform would cost very powerful drug, hospital and financial corporations $1 trillion a year. The sick are big business - that's why there will be no reform.
Supply Side Economics: In Florida and Nevada, 1 of every 5 properties is in some stage of foreclosure. That's a lot of supply building up.
Weakly Employment Data: The latest number for initial unemployment claims is 584,000, up 25,000 from the prior week. Big shock - the recent downward spike in claims was "spurious" and unemployment is still on the rise. So is the Dow - go figure.
Ownership: We, the people, now own 34% of Citigroup. When do we get our bonus?
Money Quote: "There is no clear rhyme or reason to the way banks compensate and reward their employees." "Citigroup and Merrill Lynch suffered massive losses of more than $27 billion at each firm. Nevertheless, Citigroup paid out $5.33 billion in bonuses and Merrill paid $3.6 billion in bonuses. Together, they lost $54 billion, paid out nearly $9 billion in bonuses and then received bailouts totaling $55 billion."
Greatly Depressing: The Great Depression did not end in 1Q 1933 after 3 years of contraction. It had just started and had 7 more years to go. The current experience isn't going to end in 3Q 2009, either.
Runs With Scissors: According to the British Foreign Secretary, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatened to stop the longstanding intelligence-sharing arrangement if Great Britain disclosed "creditable evidence" that the US had tortured at least one British citizen. Given the overall quality of US intelligence, it doesn't seem like that big a threat.
Contagious! Spain's current 17% unemployment is expected to reach 22% in 2010. Let's quarantine them.
Crystal Balls: PIMCO expects lower profit growth with little growth in consumer spending and a permanently high unemployment rate. Stocks will sink to P/E's in traditional ranges (not 100x?). High risk bonds, CRE and some municipal bonds "may suffer more than cyclical defaults." In short, stocks to sink, buy bonds. Buy bonds from PIMCO - that's what they sell.
Thank Cod! A 2-year study of 10 large marine ecosystems show that in at least half of them curbing overfishing is beginning to bring back endangered fish stocks.
There Goes the Neighborhood: The House has authorized Fannie and Freddie and FDIC covered banks to hold onto foreclosed houses and rent them out for up to 5 years. Instead of owners, we'll have renters. we'll also have lots of folks billing Uncle for managing the properties, mowing the lawns etc, etc. Called the neighborhood Preservation Act, it will preserve neighborhoods much in the style of public housing.
Essay Assignment: Does population growth impact climate change? (NB: Use of words of one sylable is encouraged.)
Bulking Up: India plans to develop low-cost shipyards and build 100 new warships to counter China's naval strength. Thirty-two vessels are already under construction. India is also modernizing its army.
Are You In Zinc: Studies suggest that zinc increases the body's activation of those cells (T-cells) that fight invading bacteria and viruses.
The Harder They Fall: There are 24% fewer large-diameter trees in Yosemite park than in the 1930's. Scientists suspect warmer climate conditions have played a role, but I suspect the trees all joined Jenny Craig and stuck to it.
Exactly: The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
What, Me Worry? Corporate insiders have recently been selling their companies' shares at a greater pace than at any time since the top of the bull market in the fall of 2007. They wouldn't be trading on insider knowledge, would they?
Same Old Song: Once again the Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than expected. Seems ice knows more about melting than the climate modelers do.
Jingleheimer-Smith: John Towery, going by the alias John Jacob, was a member of Fort Lewis' Force Protection Service when he was assigned to spy on civilians. Did Bush quietly over-ride Posse Comitatus? In the same vein, the US military is planning to "assist civilian authorities" by deploying troops within the US this fall under cover of an H1N1 outbreak emergency.
Paper or Plastic? Six in 10 Americans don't pay back their credit cards every month. Simply put, they spend more than they make. Patriots all.
Real Clunker: The government has already paid to have 4,000 25-year old clunkers crushed - costing us $17 million and probably not doing much for either the environment or the recovery. The goal is to get 250,000 clunkers off the road (or, alternatively, to sell 250,000 new clunkers). Are there really that many oldsters still on the road. Cars, I mean cars.
Just the Fats, Ma'am: Childhood obesity in the US has tripled in the last 25 years. Acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.
Genuine Artificial: Starbucks’ wants you to support your local community coffee shop – as long as it is a Starbucks with a different name. It’s called “de-branding” – giving stores different names and pretending they're part of the neighborhood.
Redundancy: Arizona legislators, having looked in the mirror, have decided to sell the House and Senate buildings, too.
G'way Kid, Y'Bother Me: Subprime mortgage do not do mortgage modifications because it's not worth it to them. The government needs to use either a bigger stick or a bigger bribe.
Acrobatics: Honda's net income "tumbled" 96% in the first quarter. Might as well have been working without a net.
Bird in Hand... China is relaxing the one-child rule so there'll be enough kids around to support mom and dad in their old age. Did someone wave a Little Red Book and make a thousand rice fields bloom? This only makes sense if resources like energy and arable land are in unlimited supply, and they are not. Having more kids so they can starve along with the parents isn't inspiring social engineering.
Piecework: Would US health care be improved by paying doctors a flat salary or at least a set fee for their time? Would healthcare be more affordable if for-profit hospitals were abolished and community (or government! Gasp!) hospitals re-established? Perhaps what needs reform is the for-profit part and not the medicine part.
Porn O'Graph: The past is prologue...
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Problem: The public wants health care reform, but also wants politicians to "keep your government hands off my Medicare." The health care industry simply wants to protect its profits. Americans are easy to scare over "single payer universal healthcare" because they haven't the faintest idea what it is. Neither does Congress, which is hatching a plan that doesn't include the government-run insurance option. And that's the part that would keep the for-profit insurers in line.
Super-size me! Why are car buyers are taking the $4,500 rebate for cars they could sell for more? Or rushing to get rid of paid-for cars that have another 5 years on them?
Heresy: Unemployment is at 9.5% and rising. If 16%+ of the workforce (U6) is not drawing a salary, won't that put a sizable dent in consumer spending? And won't that put a dent in the "recovery"? Is a jobless recovery actually a recovery? Is 10% unemployment the new reality? Maybe unemployment is not a lagging indicator after all.
With Straight Face: Goldman Sachs does not own the government; it's just renting the Congress and there are no former Goldman Sachs employees on the Supreme Court. Yet.
12 Step Program: If you've been drinking too much "Recovery Spirits", here's the cure.
All Bark: TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky, thinks that bailout funds should be publicly accountable, but Geithner wants to continue recapitalizing banks and consolidating weak banks with stronger ones. Paulson said TARP would "lead to increased lending." He lied. Barofsky better sit with his back to the wall.
Dead is Dead: There won't be as much damage from Option-ARM recasts as once feared. Most of them will be foreclosed long before the recast date.
The Big Five: Five of the Usual Suspects hold over 80% of derivatives - BofA, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP MorganChase and Morgan Stanley. They are just holding them until they can get the Fed will buy 'em for your account.
Asked and Answered: Can The Fed Be Trusted? I agree with Eliot, 'No!'
Choices: California is going to short college aid, public health, child welfare, AIDS prevention, and elementary schools - but keep spending $49,000 a year each to keep pot heads in prison.
Riley, Life of: The wealthiest 1 percent have never had it so good. Their share of America's income is the highest it's been since 1929. Their taxes are the lowest in two decades. Don't mention that taxing the top 1% a minuscule 1% more would pay for universal healthcare, you socialist.
Shocking: A university study has discovered that newspapers slant the news. Give the whole class a C-Minus.
Local/Global: Weather, like real estate, is a local phenomenon. Climate is global and getting warmer. June's global average ocean surface temperature was the warmest ever recorded (since 1880). June's combined average global land and ocean surface temperature was the second warmest on record.
Porn O'Graph: Foreclosures beat remods.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Spin Cycle: Here's the great unwashed data on June new house sales: They were down 23% y/y. Prices were down 12% y/y. This is what three consecutive months of improvement looks like. Yes, on a monthly basis it was "the biggest gain in 8 years". Should I cue the band?
Meditate on This: 34 times as much money ($10.6 billion) has been bet on emerging-markets mutual funds than on US stock funds.
New Track: Now the professional nay-sayers conclude that the "pesky 5 billion" in the non-industrial world aren't going to do their part so we shouldn't even try. Besides, cutting back on carbon emissions would cut into profits and bonuses. Especially bonuses.
Compromise: Bribepartisan Senators have agreed on healthcare reform without a low-cost public option and without requiring employers provide health insurance for employees. The agreement pleased both the US Chamber of Commerce and PhRMA, the drug lobbying group. Healthcare reform without the health care or the reform. Words are slippery devils, aren't they.
Quoted: “Job insecurity, together with declines in home values and tight credit, is likely to limit gains in consumer spending.” Y'think? No wonder we pay Ben the big bucks.
Bad New/Worse News: Geithner admits that we cannot restructure Fannie and Freddie right now "because they are the entire mortgage market in the country.” They are also failing and will need lots more money "soon." Me, too, especially now that I'm buying cars for the neighbors.
Accomodation: We've suffered from inflation so long we think it's normal. It's not. It's a product of the Federal Reserve.
More is More, Sort Of: Faced with falling sales, Lay’s has decided to reverse the old trick of putting less in the same package and actuallyl put more in the same package and charge the same price. They say it’s because they wanted to give the customer greater value. Nope, it’s because they want the customer to continue giving them money and the 20% more doesn’t cost near what loosing sales does.
What's Wrong With This Picture: 'US Eyes Private Guards for Bases in Afghanistan' Maybe there's an argument for hiring out KP duty, but guarding the base? Are wars necessary or just for profit?
Mirror, Mirror: Over 7 million have lost their jobs so far; we've erased the last ten years of net job growth. In the "real economy" where people work, get paid and spend their earnings, the working and getting paid and spending parts aren't working.
There, Piggy, Piggy: There were about 100,000 new swine flu cases in England last week.
Faith Healing: Before you get excited about China's continuing growth - GDP up8% even though exports are down 20% - remember their 'stimulus' was the same as the US handing out $4.5 trillion and forcing the banks to lend it (not pay themselves bonuses). Bound to have an effect. Also bound to end poorly.
Short Answer: Will America lose the clean-energy race? Yes, to Mother Nature
Rhetorical Question: "Is the US Economy Close to Hitting Bottom?" Most financial and economic commentators say "Yes." They didn't see it coming, but they claim to be able to see it going. Me, I'm gonna sit here and take notes.
What's Good for GM... Detroit's schools, which stopped working years ago, face imminent bankruptcy.
Getting Ready: In preparation for the 2012 Olympics - or something - British coppers have been given the power to enter homes and confiscate pamphlets and posters and "announcements and notices of any kind."
Wholesale: Condo/Hotel units in south Florida's luxurious One Bal Harbor project are now selling for 94% off their one-time prices.
Efficiencies: US fuel efficiency has improved by 3 miles per gallon since Model T days, average commuting speeds have decreased
Porn O'Graph: The Fed's "stable prices".
Monday, July 27, 2009
The government cannot be sued; it can be overthrown.
The Sting: In gambling, peeking at your opponent's hand tips the odds in your favor. Same thing in the stock markets, where it is apparently legal as long as Goldman Sachs is doing it.
Health Reformatory: The reformed US healthcare system will consist of insurance companies that profit even more from illness, for-profit hospitals that profit even more from illness, larger than ever profits for large drug
Pithy: "What's Good for Goldman is Bad for the Nation." "If the four biggest banks earned a combined $11 billion in the last quarter...who did they take the money from? Who's got that kind of money?"
Check's Not in the Mail: At least 16 states are borrowing money to pay unemployment benefits. By year's end it'll be 30. Bankers, meanwhile, get ever larger bonuses. Christmas turkey.
Quicksand: Government Sacks and Sillybank may be reporting great profits but the companies that actually make things and contribute to society are not - Caterpillar, UPS, Microsoft, 3M, TI, GE. What, me worry?
The 'Ayes' Have It: Deflation is outpacing the spread of swine flu, with the World Bank, the IMF, the Bank of Japan and the Fed's Bernanke all warning of a global deflationary spiral. Britain leads the pack, with a 5.6% GDP decline. This doesn't mean that food, energy and healthcare costs won't continue to skyrocket, even while your income falls...
Inside Straight: Futures markets long since ceased to be primarily for producers and users of various commodities and have evolved into giant crap shoots where manipulation is expected, accepted and encouraged. The only supply and demand involved is the supply of suckers demanded by the manipulators.
Things We Knew: The Fed is a Ponzi scheme.
Terminator's Terms: In an attempt to provide lawyers full employment, California plans to cut funding to schools and public health programs, collect income taxes before they're due, steal local property taxes from cities and use Hollywood accounting to conjure up another $8 billion. California - The Comedy.
Fine Print: Occidental Petroleum brags it has discovered about 200 million barrels of oil equivalent hydrocarbons. (A) Most of it - 66%- is natural gas which is a drug on the US market, (B) about 40% of the actual oil will be recoverable, thus (C) they've found a little more than two days of US petroleum imports.
Faint Praise: China is downplaying the threat to the dollar's dominance as a reserve currency, saying the yuan won't replace the dollar "for at least a decade."
See comment 1 for a vacation report.
Monday, July 20, 2009
We're hiding out from reality this week. While we're gone, your homework assignments:
Go to The Oil Drum and learn about Peak Oil.
Google "Export Land Model" and write a short report.
Daily reading: Ilargi's intro to The Automatic Earth.
Work on your suggestions as to how we're going to reduce global population to a reasonable number withing 100 years without scaring the horses.
Figure out how you and your family are going to ride out the shortages brought about by the disruptions to ordinary life once the H1N1 pandemic gets going this. Hint: Stock up on peanut butter.
Try not to think about global warming's effect on your grandchildren's life.
See you in a week.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Sad Question: "Is Obama Continuing the Bush/Cheney Assassination Program?" Again, no mater what the answer, it is sad that the question could even be asked.
Shin Bone's Connected to... The general consensus among rational forecasters is that the end of cheap petroleum will arrive before 2020 at the latest. American health care, they say, will not be able to function without cheap oil. The question isn't what sorts of futuristic stem cell cures we will have by then, but how we will manage to continue immunizing children against common diseases. Sounds doomsterish, but we're waiting for someone - you? - to make a valid counterargument.
Man of Steele: RNC Chair Michael Steele plans to attract blacks to the GOP through "fried chicken and potato salad." He forgot the watermelon.
With a Straight Face: The rabid right says we must prevent health reform in order to save the unborn voters. At the very minimum they will insist that a health care reform not include abortion services. They don't want bureaucrats making health-care decisions, unless it's to abolish abortions, when bureaucratic interference in medical care is a Good Thing.
Up Up and Away: The administration is considering allowing homeowners to delay, defer or simply skip their mortgage payments. Well, "considering" is too strong a word. Floating beautiful balloons, more likely.
Say Ahh! The largest Arctic glacier is losing a Manhattan-sized 'tongue' of ice. All part of God's secret plan to rebuild the Garden of Eden in Greenland.
Fixin' To: Pemex 'plans' to recover 48% of the original oil-in-place in its Cantarell oilfield. On average, comparable fields have yielded only 36% - using the best technology available. In Texas they wouldn't be hookin' up the team just yet.
Bailout 2009/The Story Thus Far: “We have saved financial services... without a proven benefit to the wider economy... , we have not created a single job. We are still bleeding jobs.”
Ah, That Explains it: The Boomers, who in 2008 comprised 38% of the US population, eat out four or five times a week. Is that possible? Does that explain the obesity epidemic?
Unscientific Assumptions: It is hopeless to expect a scientifically illiterate nation to understand the threat of global climate change, much less support the efforts needed adequately respond to the danger. A country that rejects evolution and thinks God created this whole mess only 6,000 years ago, certainly isn't going to be convinced by something as flimsy as evidence.
Daily Minimum: When the pill says it has "minimum" amounts of vitamins, sometimes it means they have none. But they've replaced it with lead, at no extra charge.
Friday, July 17, 2009
We mostly use energy to transform resources into trash.
Thinning the Herd: WHO says H1N1 is "unstoppable", that every citizen of every country should be vaccinated, healthcare workers first. "The H1N1 virus replicates significantly better in the lungs," it targets the obese -- something never before seen. CDC reports that nine out of ten H1N1 patients treated at an ICU were obese; three died and none have yet recovered.
Getting to Sound a Little Desperate: Obama is said to be considering a way the government can take over delinquent mortgages (hell, Fannie and Freddie hold most of them anyway) and rent the houses back to the current occupants. Who's going to fix the hot water heater?
Night of the Living Dead: For the 3rd month in a row, California foreclosure sales increased y/y. This month it was 25% y/y, down from a 32% increase in May and 35% in April.
Guess Who's Comming to Dinner: UAL, Continental Air May Lead U.S. Carriers to $1 Billion Loss. And then on to the Federal trough.
The Change of Life: "The State of the Future" will report that sustainable growth is not possible on a resource constrained planet and that when growth stops, much of civilization will collapse and billions of people will descend into unending poverty due to scarcities of water, food and energy, as well as the cumulative effects of climate change.
Devil in the Details: Karachi's power company got the local Imams to rule that stealing electric power was a sin. I thought under sharia law they cut off your power cord.
Let's Share: The latest plan to screw the public is to let the banks transform mortgages into shared investments, where you make the payments and they take most of the profits - if any - when you sell the house. No profits? Well, you still owe them the money, naturally.
Can You Hear Me Now: The price of gasoline at the local Grab & Run was $4.12 last summer, $1.67 a month ago, $2.49 last week and I filled up for $2.29 today on my way to protest the additional 3% that trying to save the planet - or at least civilization - through cap&trade will add to my bill.
Ah, A Quote: Republicans are "seeking to crush the economy and then say I told you so."
Another Invasion: Undated pinnatifida, a fast-growing far Eastern kelp is working its way up the California coast from Los Angeles to, now, San Francisco Bay. It grows fast and tall and shades out native life. Attempts to keep it from getting established in the Bay are underway, but will most likely fail. This disaster gets chalked up to globalization, not global warming.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Self-regulation will work no better with financiers
than it has with teenagers.
Clarification: Cheney's secret CIA project was simply to send hit squads around the world putting 'bullets in heads’. Like the Predator drone project, only up close and personal. The claim is that "the plan was never carried out." What sort of odds do you give me on that, Pinocchio?
Molasses in January: The Federal Reserve reports a record 13.6% y/y decline in industrial output last month. Business is slow.
Blue Dog Math: A bunch of Democrats - who would really like to be Republicans - object to the health care bill because we can't afford it. The cost to cover 97% of the population might be a $100 billion a year range. The Bush tax cuts cost $1.8 trillion over a decade. Easy come, easy go.
Tea Leaves: Joining the Baltic Dry Index and Connex usage reports are tallies of Railcar Loadings - which also continue to decline, down 22% y/y.
Back to Nature: The San Joaquin Valley's irrigated fields do not grow much without the irrigation. Owing to the drought, half a million acres now lay fallow and thousands of farmhands have lost their paltry incomes - in a state with no money to help them.
Take That! The US Navy has deployed a destroyer off the Georgian coast for naval "exercises", if putting your thumb on your nose and going Nahhhh! towards Russia can be called an exercise.
Let them that don't want none have memories of not having had any: The Secretaries of Health, Transportation, Interior and Agriculture have sent letters to Arizona's governor explaining that if Arizona, in the person of the GOPs #2 Senator John Kyl, don't want any stimulus funds, well, they don't have to take any.
How Many Times? The Dems accepted 160 GOP amendments to the health care bill. In return they got zero votes from the other side of the aisle. "Slow learners" does not begin to cover it.
Not Your Father's Racism: The GOP objects to Sotomayor because she isn't a white male.
Good Hands: Banks may impose a $35 fee for using your debit card's "overdraft" feature. If you go over by $5 it will cost you $35 - if you make it good within a month. That's 700% interest in a month. Good thing Americans can't do math.
No Shame, #734 : Exiled GM CEO Wagoner, having run one of America's greatest companies into the ground is walking away with medical insurance, lifetime salary, various other little goodies totaly $8.2 million, Which is $8,000,000 more than most of the departed UAW workers are getting.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Quoted: Whitney said. "This is what happens when you delay the inevitable. We're buying time here, but we're not restructuring the economy."
Pass It On: The CDC sees the best case scenario for H1V1 infection this fall at rates of 50 to 70% of the North American population, with a mortality rate of 0.5%. In a normal flu season about 10% ar infected and ony 0.1% of them die. The Asian Flu killed about 2 million in North America. Businesses should plan for significant drops in revenue and up to 50% of their employees staying home due to illness. There will be disruptions in supply chains, and essential services (transportation, power, communications) will be interrupted or degraded by absenteeism. A GDP drop of 20% is possible.
Grim Agreement: All sense of urgency has vanished and we are now watching a slow-motion human disaster. Economists essentially agree a slow, creeping, jobless recovery with unemployment rising well into 2010 seems likely. Millions of Americans will lose their savings and their homes, and their ordinary lives. Wall Street will continue to be bailed out.
Take It, Or Else: California legislators now want the state to mandate that its IOUs are legal tender for all debts owed to the state. Pretty neat, bringing back the company store.
Oops. Don't Tell The Cornucopians: Exxon has drilled a dry hole in the purportedly bazillion barrel off-shore Brazilian Tupi field. A "one off" they claim.
Future Foreseen: The WSJ claims the economy is even worse than I think - which is pretty scary. They see the states eating thru the temporary rescue from the stimulus and facing next year with deficits without end. So other things will end: public services, public health, maybe public education, even sanitation and police cutbacks. But Government supported Goldman and Citi will be fine, thanks for asking.
See / Saw : Morgan Stanley now sees oil at $85 a barrel in 2010, while BNP Paribas says it will fall to $45 a barrel by August.
Noise: Real tales are being spun about last month's retail sales. "Up!" Yes, on a month to month basis sales increased 0.6% which must be pretty much down in the 'statistical static' area. But it made the headlines. On a y/y basis, excluding retail food services, sales were off 10.3%. But that wasn't news that's fit to print.
Test Drive: If you decide to live together for a while to see if you should get married, you shouldn't.
One Size Fits All: According to the Chief Justice, convicts have no constitutional right to DNA testing. "A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man"...it remains an 'open question' whether 'proof of "actual innocence"' is enough to overturn a conviction after a fair trial. Guilty is forever. How do you impeach the Chief Justice?
Sticks and Stones: At the G8 meeting, China said, "We should have a better system for reserve currency issuance and regulation, so that we can maintain relative stability of major reserve currencies exchange rates and promote a diversified and rational international reserve currency system.” All in favor of adopting rational international currency and foregoing the advantage you get from having your currency as the reserve of choice, raise your hand.
Porn O'Graph: Working on the railroad, or not.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Big Rock Candy Mountain: The US plans to borrow $3 trillion this year, the governments of the rest of the wold are looking for $2 trillion. Where's all the money going to come from? Better yet, with everyone wanting more and more, won't the price go up? As in interest rates?
Oxymorons: Sustainable Development. Perpetual Growth. War for Peace.
Sisyphus: The GOP - bereft of any particular relevance in the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor - will use the hearings to promote the idea that their discredited conservative philosophy is actually the view of mainstream America. Which is is not.
Up, She Said: "It's a trading call," Meridith Whitnety said. Banks, in her view, could see a 15% short term gain. And the market went up, up, up. She also said, "then you flatline, then I think you have another leg down." Selective hearing. They didn't heara the part about unemployment reaching 15% either.
Doomsday: Doesn't Goldman's computerized micro-timing automatic trade system destroy any notion of investing based on values other than greed and exploitation? Long term investing is holding a position more than 12 seconds.
Energy = Economy: As Japan's factories slow, electricity consumption falls. Down 5.6% so far this year, much like their GDP. Cuts down on CO2 emissions.
Restoration: Can you imagine someone 50 years from now bragging about restoring his McMansion to its original particle board floors and sheetrock walls? Maybe less than 50 years if Lennar built it.
Tin Foil Hats: Maybe it won't stop the aliens from reading your mind, but a couple of wraps of tin foil will keep NSA from finding you through your ID card. And don't worry about them using power sockets to read what you type on your computer: (1) they can read it on line and (2) all the snooping has turned out to be useless anyway.
Technical Terms: Shiller say that house prices are coming down very slowly (!), there is nearly a year's inventory on the market, and both banks and private sellers are holding houses off the market hoping for better days. Housing is "still in an abysmal situation" and will languish for many years. That's what he said, "abysmal" and "languish".
Science for the Thinking Imparired: Researchers have discovered that swine flu kills the obese more than the skinny. Wow! If you are so fat you get out of breath getting up from the recliner, chances are any illness that burdens the lungs is going to be hard on you.
Haul Duty: Detroit's public schools are headed for bankruptcy. Not only will vendors go unpaid, and bondholders, but teachers will have to take draconian pay cuts. After the schools close and the kids are set free, parents and the community will begin to appreciate how underpaid the teachers were.
Coda: The terrible future predicted for the earth if we continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere is unavoidable as long as stories end with "the bill died in the Senate under intense opposition from the manufacturing, coal and transportation industries."
Measure for Measure: We watch the GDP as though it told us something worth knowing. It doesn't. GDP is a measure of economic activity. If you get cancer, spend $165,000 in a losing battle and die, it is good for the GDP. Rebuilding after Katrina, had Bush done so, would have been simply replacing something that got destroyed, not improving anything. But it would have helped the GDP. If we legalized the drug trade, wow, what a boost to GDP. GDP measures activity, it doesn't make value judgments.
Dry Me a River: Lima used to get its water from glacier-fed rivers. But global warming has melted the glaciers to the point where Lima now has water shortages for many months of the year. No workable solutions have been proposed other than mass migration.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Optimism was once America's greatest export.
Surgeon General's Warning: If reading about Bush's fruitless desecration of the Constitution and Cheney's war crimes doesn't sicken you, then it is unlikely you'll sign my petition for appointment of a Special Prosecutor and televised Truth Commission hearings. Followed by trials.
Quoted: "Before you can cross the threshold in Washington to reach the select few who will actually get it done, you must first cross the palm of some outstretched hand." Bill Moyers.
First Team: Biden, Summers - even Obama's op-ed on the Post website Sunday - have been floating trial balloons about how bad things were and are. It's all preparation so that when Obama tells us America ain't going back to Happy Days, that we have reached the Global Limits To Growth and is truthful about the lowered living standards in America's future, the pitchforks don't come out right away.
Mission Creep: Having saved the big financial houses from their own stupidity, the administration now wants to 'help' small business borrow from banks at lower interest rates. Debt, we need more debt. But no more Thanksgiving turkeys or Christmas parties.
Takes One to Know One: JPMorgan warns that high frequency trading (as practiced by Goldman Sachs) is "a form of parasitic market making" perhaps you should listen. And run away, run away. How many more warnings about what a mug's game playing the stock market is before you learn it's just a set-up for Wall Street to rob your piggy bank?
Short Term Memory Loss: Used SUVs, trucks are back in demand as America forgets its lessons. So much for fuel efficiency and the intelligence of crowds.
Threats: The Fed says that the threatened Congressional audit would hurt the US's credit rating if it revealed to the world how porly the place is run. It also said, with a straight face, that such an audit would "undermine the efficacy of monetary policy." Efficacy - they actually used the word.
Howdy, Neighbors: Every day over 300,000 people are added to the 6.5 billion of us already here. Are you using that spare bedroom?
Signposts: We have speed limits on our roads to protect the many from the selfish, willful and arrogant. Yet we allow the few - mostly in finance and politics - with a pathological drive to acquire and devour beyond all reason to bankrupt and beggar the many in the name of a failed god called "Free Markets". Where's our Luther?
The Real State Of Real Estate: This is not the bottom. This is, if we are very, very lucky, along about the 5th inning and the game won't be over until late next year, after prices fall another 20%.
Too Small To Matter: CIT Group (no relation to Citi) is likely to fall into bankruptcy soon. As financier to thousands of small firms, it is not eligible for government assistance, so its markets will be quietly gobbled up by those too big to fail.
He Said He Said: Wells Fargo is foreclosing on a condo on which it holds both the first and second mortgages. Wells Fargo the first, as part of the foreclosure, is suing Wells Fargo the second in order to get clear title to the property. Clear?
Fine Print: Banks have started adding some fine print in short-sale agreements that make the home owner liable for the difference between the short sale price and the balance of the mortgage. Presto-changeo, the non-recourse mortgage transforms into a recoverable debt. If you can't get out of the overhang, why bother with the short-sale?
One Way or Another: Pay attention. If you are a young adult the politicians have plans for you. Specifically they plan on stealing the rest of the Social Security "trust fund" (never was such a thing) and have the parents move in with you when you get tired of paying the government to take care of them. What a deal.
Brief Books: To the classics of rather short books - Italian War Victories, Biography of Lady Godiva's Tailor - we can now add "The Future of Conservative Ideas".
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Like A Charm: Big Oil says it needs more than the 2% of 'free pollution permits' allocated them under the Cap & Trade legislation. See, they spew a lot more carbon into the air than that and if they have to go out and buy more permits, they'll have to charge more for their products and people will then cut back on their products.... Oh, wait. That's the idea, right?
Minimum Daily Requirement: Eventually the number of newly laid-off workers filing initial claims for jobless benefits will begin to fall - there are minimum staffing levels. The local Grab&Run needs at least one clerk on duty and Starbucks needs two - one to make the coffee and one to overcharge the customer.
Compound Interest: Deaths from H1N1 rose 25% in the last week to 211, 0.5% of known cases. Public health officials estimate that more than a million Americans have had the flu, most having mild cases.
Scientific Literacy: The G8's agreement for the rich nations to cut CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 sounds good. That translates into an 80% reduction in everything that requires energy: transportation, electricity, manufacturing, civilization. And even at that it is not enough to stay below the magic 2C rise. For that we need to totally stop emitting and begin taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. And that isn't going to happen, so some very bad things will. Global warming is already impacting Greenlanders' daily lives. And while an Arctic teeming with life in 2030 sounds cute, if it is warm enough for life to bloom in the Arctic, how hot will it be in Atlanta?
G*d Damn It: Blasphemy has regained its status as a crime - at least in Ireland. This attack on free speech has gone unnoticed in the US, much as Free Speech has.
In the Center Ring - Oil! OPEC says the economic downturn has dried up demand. Even so, Russia wants $70-80 a barrel and Morgan Stanley says oil will rise 35% next year. Saudi Aramco deepened the cuts in supplies shipped to Asia, yet Qatar raised its oil prices to $71.19 a barrel - never mind what WTI is going for.
Timing, Perfect Timing: AIG is about to hand out $235 million in bonuses, just as Citi announces that AIG's net worth is nothing.
Heads or Tails: Russian President Medvedev has been showing his lucky coin to the G-8 leaders. He claims it traveled back from the future, where it is the international currency. The coin bears the motto “unity in diversity," so you know it's a fake.
He Said He Said: Wells Fargo is foreclosing on a condo on which it holds both the first and second mortgages. Wells Fargo the first, as part of the foreclosure, is suing Wells Fargo the second in order to get clear title to the property. Clear?
Over, Over There: Great Britain's producer prices fell at an annualized 1.2% rate last month, the biggest drop since 2001. Japan's corporate goods index fell 6.6% y/y in June. One suspects this may be a successful export item.
Ready, Aim, Ouch: The GOP is loading their trusty flintlocks and taking careful aim at Judge Sotomayor for being a female Latino who followed both the rules and the law on Affirmative Action. This is going to go over well with their base, which is white, male, privileged, xenophobic and used to shooting itself in the foot..
A Fool & His Money: Now that most investors have lost about half their money following Wall Street's advice, asset allocation has passed from favor. The masses are trying to preserve what little they have left by traipsing into government bonds, TIPs, and gold. What could possibly go wrong?
Friday, July 10, 2009
What's wrong with this question: "Is Goldman Stealing $100 Million per Trading Day?" The answer doesn't matter, what does is that most of us view it as a valid question.
Line Up Quietly: California isn't rushing to close its budget deficit, so state workers are being sent home, taxpayers are getting IOUs as tax refunds, and the National Park Service is set to take back the parks it gave the state if it can't keep them open. Elsewhere, NJ is upping its sin taxes on cigarettes, booze and wealth, Illinois may release 10,000 prisoners to cut the cost of feeding them. Washington dropped 40,000 from their health care program and is hiking tuition 14%, Vermont is closing highway rest stops - which can't save much money and will turn out to be costly in lives.
Go Away! Subprime mortgages aren't fading quietly into the sunset. Having started the housing crunch, now the repos that resulted from subprime foreclosures are being dumped on the market, further forcing down prices.
Q & A: "When Will The Recovery Begin? Never." Robert Reich.
Subsitute: During the Great Depression, most of those in need still had family 'down on the farm.' No longer. Now 33 million Americans are on food stamps.
Know Thy Enemy: Richard Scott has become the rabid right's liar-in-chief on health care ("Obama wants to put bureaucrats in charge of your health care...). Scott should know - his bureaucracy, Columbia/HCA, cheated enough folks that it had to plead guilty to 14 felony counts of criminal misconduct. It also paid $1.7 billion to settle over-billing charges. Yep, gotta watch those bureaucrats. 'Specially those lining their own pockets.
Fixer-Upers: At the end of June some 5,300 buildings across the US were in "financial distress". Over $100 billion in commercial real estate is now in some stage of default/foreclosure.
In Over Its Head: The worlds largest shipper, Maersk Line, with 470 ships and about 2 million containers, lost $559 million in the first quarter of 2009.
Buy the Numbers: China claims that car sales rose 48% in June, and so far this year are up 18%, to 6.1 million units. Is this possible? If so, their demand for petroleum should surge and their output of carbon dioxide, too. Let's hope it's just bragging.
Self-Centered: One quarter of British homeowners complain they can't get a new home loan because the banks are requiring horrible things like down payments and proof of income. This, they say, proves that banks are acting in their own self-interest. Duh?
Imitation: In its pursuit of drug traffickers, th Mexican army has engaged in disappearances, torture, mass punishments, martial law... Much like their neighbors to the north. Or is it the other way around?
Here, Piggy, Piggy: Parts of Great Britain are approaching epidemic levels of H1N1 infection, with 14 dead and nearly 10,000 confirmed cases. London and the West Midlands have the highest concentrations of cases.
Class Wellfare: Justice Ginsburg points out that wealthy women will always have a personal choice regarding abortion - state laws prohibiting abortion only affect those who cannot jet off to a place where abortion is legal.
Cheap Chic: It's a recession, so the top end stores don't do well , the lower end stores scrape by. A&F (sales down -32%) needs to rethink the whole thing.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Fed Up: The Fed's failures are many and obvious. Many wonder if the Fed's next move will be too soon or too late, too much or too little - no one expects it to do the right thing at the right time. Yet Washington seems inclined to give the Fed even more powers over the economy that it has mismanaged for so long. Its failures demand its demise, but letting banks play with the scissors is unacceptable. No suggestion has yet floated to the top of the pond as to what might be a next step.
Two, Tangoing: Mortgage fraud takes two parties, one committing the fraud and one willing to look the other way. The FBI says both groups are busy - seizing every straw that may give them a few more months of feeling rich. There are builder/bailout schemes, short-sales, faked prices, and the foreclosure prevention cons. It's the American way.
Where Have All the People Gone? Apartments stand vacant in the largest numbers in 20 years, even while foreclosures tumble on. Did everyone move back in with Mom and Dad?
Oh, Ship: Globally, 27 million fewer containers will be shipped this year than last - a 10% drop. That's the same as simply shutting down the 5 largest US ports for a year. 2010 is expected to be about the same, with a possible return to 206/7 levels "in several years."
Too Much, Too Late: Ignoring global climate change hasn't made it go away. Carbon trading is but a way to enrich a few without changing overall emissions. Nearly all the "green" stuff is a scam. The carbon already in the atmosphere has given global warming too much inertia for the puny cuts proposed by governements to do any good. If we don't stop global warming, global warming will stop us.
Optimist: "We're halfway through a secular bear market in equities."
Deal 'em In. Or Out: While France joins Russia, China, Brazil and India in calling for review of the world's currency practices, South Korea appears to be seeking safety in gold.
Peak-a-Boo: On July 11, 2008, oil reached its all-time high. Since then the global economy has collapsed, petroleum consumption has fallen, world output and trade have slowed, the auto industry collapsed, unemployment is exploding and the housing industry is comatose. It may or may not have been the actual date of 'peak oil', but everything that has happened since fits into most post-peak doomster predicitons. So let's commemorate 7/11 each year as Peak-a-Boo Day; the day it all fell apart.
Porn O'Graph: Synchronized diving.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Very Interesting: Goldman Sachs is afraid their wayward code could be used to "manipulate the markets in unfair ways." As opposed to the honorable way they have been using it to manipulate markets?
No Thanks: Proving that the banks have recovered some common sense, the big guys - BofA, Citi, Chase, WF - have politely declined to treat California's IOUs as money. Which they are not.
Hugs and Kisses: The financial industry, shocked to find itself reviled as a bunch of Snidely Whiplashes, is planning a charm offensive in hopes getting the public to help them avoid government regulation. First they'll tie us to the tracks, but just to get our attention...
Two Degrees, Celsius: What's all the big whoop about a 2C rise? Perhaps it's because we are only 5C above the last Ice Age and with 2C more the Amazon rainforest dries up, and the Congo. And all those rivers fed by Himalayan glaciers. The Arctic permafrost will release enormous amounts of methane, driving the cycle higher. So why is the US standing in the way? Because the coal and oil industry has convinced the voters that global warming is no big deal, a hoax. Like cigarettes causing cancer.
Nose/Face: The average foreclosure nets but 35 - 44% of the mortgage amount. How can it make business sense to chose foreclosure over renegotiation? Wouldn't a bird in the hand - even at a 25% discount - be better than this? Perhaps it's the 20 - 40% default rate on modified loans.
Small Comfort: According to Spain's biggest oil producer, global oil reserves will last another 40 years. Which is comforting to those with less than 40 years to go.
Book of Reservations: Russia, China, Brazil, and now India are making throat clearing noises, but no pronouncements yet on the fate of the dollar. But the odds for some sort of intervention keep increasing. Friends don't let friends...
Inquiring Mind: The failure of the current monsoon season to provide sufficient rain has reduced water supplies in Mumbai by 30%. If it doesn't rain, is it still a monsoon? If it doesn't rain, what do 20 million citizens do?
Salvation: The pilot program to extract oil from Brazil's offshore Tupi oil field will not begin until December 2010. When (and if) commercial production begins it will be the most expensive oil ever extracted - $70 a barrel won't do.
Socialized Demon: In the US, the government pays 46% of all medical bills, insurance 35% and the public pays 19% out of pocket. No, sir, we'll have none of that socialized medicine here.
Something for Nothing: Milwaukee's electric company is seeking a rate increase because its customers are not using enough electricity. The higher price will reduce demand, after which the utility will seek higher rates. Last one out, leave the lights on.
Crystal Ball: PMI Mortgage Insurance Company - which has a lot of skin in the game - expects house prices to continue falling at least into 2011.
Coincidence: Late payments on home-equity loans have been trending up, right along with job losses and unemployment.
Porn O'Graph: Working weekly, weakly.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Patterns: Back in the Great One, economists proposed massive stimulus spending which was curtailed by politicians bedazzled by the glow of balanced budgets. This time Obama gelded the stimulus in order to placate a few Repubicans, who then were not placated. The weakened stimulus is a pale imitation of what was and is needed. Now Biden is floating a 'let's wait and see' balloon - which will make the GOP happy and the situation worse. If we are to try to save the system with a stimulus, then spend! Wheres the WPA? At what levelof unemployment will a new version be acceptable? Just before the riots, or right after?
Can't Get There From Here: Wind power is one of the answers to future energy needs. But the crashing economy has taken 50% of the wind our of the wind generator business. The problem with the future is it isn't here yet, and when it gets here we'll find we couldn't afford to get ready for it.
Schitzo: Last week demand for gasolinehit an 18 month high. Today reports say gasoline prices are peaking because demand is slowing and refinery output is at all time highs. And over the weekend, petroleum fell off the table. An explanation?
Rich Uncles: Wealth is a relative thing. When I was a kid a milionaire was about as rare as a billionaire today. Wealth hasn't increased all that much, just the money supply. Expanding debt expands the money supply (under one rubric or another). It does not expand wealth. Ask Uncle Ralph, we've been spending credit, not wealth.
Sound Familiar? Gazprom is arranging bank loans for the Ukraine so it can buy gas from Gasprom. Remindyou of China and salad shooters?
Misdirection: "Bumper Harvest Eases Zimbabwe Food Shortage" reads the headline. Fact cited: A farmer managed, after two years of failing crops, to grow enough corn to feed six families for a year. All told, Zimbabwe has grown enough this year to feed two-thirds of its population. Some bumper.
Two Things: Did you know that Spain has more land devoted to vineyards than any other country? Did hyou know that Spanish vineyards are being moved to higher ground to escape the effects of global warming? Nowyou do.
Wish I'd Said: There aren't any jobs. There won't be any jobs. We need to figure out another way to make an economy work. People at the top got paid well to figure out how to disemploy the rest of us. They were very good at their jobs. But now we don't have any money to buy the stuf that they can make without our help. We need a whole new apporach. As I've been saying for a couple of years; Capitalism works well, but our distribution system doesn't.
Biased Basis: "Economists merely use models to argue for their preconceived political views."
Mathew 5:5. The poor may inhereit the earth, but not until the rich are done with it. In the last 6 months rich countries & corporations have acquired an area half the size of Europe's farmland from the poor and needy. Son the rish willhire the peasantry at pennies a day to work what is no longer their land. It's been called "land grabbing" or "neo-colonialsm," but what it really is is the return to feudalism.
Self-Hoisting Petard: Iran's net exports of petroleum are declining, as is its production. Only domestic consumption keeps growing. In five years (2014) Iran will export zero oil. None. Nada. If this reminds you of the Export Land Model, good.
Porn O'Graph: More is less in employment.