Monday, August 31, 2009

SAR #9242

This sure doesn't look like Kansas.

South of the Border: Mexico's petroleum output fell 7.8% m/m in July and exports are down 20% YTD. Its mainstay, Cantarell, is down 41% y/y.

Cognoscenti: Word on the cocktail circuit is that Congress is going to give Obama an Internet “kill switch” to use in case of a national emergency. Such as a flu pandemic, or a bank holiday. Those in the best position to know seem to be bailing out.

Assaulting the Battery : About those electric cars. Why don't I feel relieved that we've got enough lithium to power 2 million cars by 2015. How many cares are sold every year? How many cars in the US fleet? Saved, we're saved?

The Sun Also Sets: Japanese exports to the US are now down 40% y/y and to China down 26%.

Combination Platter: At least one in four US banks is discovering that making bad loans leads to unprofitability. Who knew?

Down, On the Farm: American farm profits are forecast to fall 38% this year – just like the big hedge funds. But according to Tractor Man, nothin' from nothin' is nothin'.

Fools All : People with vast amounts of money invested in Cerberus Capital Management lost 24.5% of their vast amounts last year and now they want 71% of their money back immediately. If “immediately” translates into a sudden need to dump holdings and raise cash, things could get... awkward.

Failing Grade: The FDIC's quarterly report card shows that the Deposit Insurance Fund has fallen to $10.4 billion – 22 cents for every $100 of insured deposits.

Moving On Up: Venezuela, at 1.39 mbd, has moved into second place among suppliers to the US. Saudi Arabia fell to third (1.1 mbd) and Mexico to 4th with only 1.07 mbd. Canada remains the largest source of imported oil for the US.

Porn O'Graph: Deserts in the sea.

Some Cure: Those financial institutions that were bailed out because they were too big to fail have been putting on weight. Not surprising, it was like putting the obese on an ice cream diet.

The Great Awakening: The bubbling of methane into the atmosphere from both the thawing Arctic permafrost and the dissolving of sub-sea methane hydrates continues to haunt scientists. Temperatures in Alaska, Canada and Siberia have risen more than 4.5ºF since 1970 – much faster than in lower latitudes. If the rate of change does not increase, the temperature will go up another 13ºF by 2100. If the methane hits a tripping point and massive amounts escape, “additional warming and unpredictable consequences” will take a decade or two.

Pukka Beads: Sea shell adornments go back 80,000 years, with finds located far enough inland to indicate rather extensive trade. Wonder what went the other way, and what the going rate was.

Help Wanted: Consuming is far more central to American life than citizenship. Americans are more likely to attempt to change society through their shopping – boycotts or patronage – than by contacting an elected official.

Porn O'Graph: Mine's bigger! Or at least a tie.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SAR #9241/Weekender

Wars were once fought over salt.

Cornucopia: To offset the decline of the world's major oil fields, many point to the Kashagan field, beneath the Caspian. It was the world's largest petroleum discovery in 30 years when it was found in July 2000. It is thought to hold 9 billion recoverable barrels of oil – enough to supply the world for four months at today's rate of consumption. The oil is heavy and sulfurous and under immense pressure, and very expensive to extract. To date over $136 billion has been invested, with the hope of one day pumping 1.5 million barrels a day – 1.7% of today's demand. Thank goodness we don't have to fear peak oil.

Essay Assignment: In about 500 words, please explain “What caused the current mess?” without saying “too much debt,” over and over and over.

Interesting Times: OMB assumes that by 2011 GDP will be growing at 4% while unemployment is still hovering around 10%. How they do that? Especially when at least one Federal Reserve official admits today's unemployment is at 16%.

Toil and Trouble: As predicted, global warming is leading to more global warming. As Arctic currents warm, methane is released from sub-sea methane hydrates. Since methane is a greenhouse gas, it causes more warming, which causes more methane to bubble up from the seabed. Over 250 plumes of methane are boiling up from one small area.

What He Said: It’s comforting to think that we live in a meritocracy. But we don’t.”

Ben's Got a Secret: Bloomberg said, “May we?” and the Judge said “Most certainly.” And the newly re-crowned Sir Benjamin said “No way. I can't tell you who we bailed out with your money because we're afraid you won't want to keep you money in such poorly run places.” Well, that's what he meant, anyway.

Joke's On Us: You thought we'd fixed the ozone hole, right? Wrong. The hole is still there, but the 1989 Montreal Protocol banning CFCs was working – it had stopped getting bigger and was scheduled to shrink. But now scientists find that N2O – known as laughing gas and a by-product of fertilizer – will soon be a greater threat to the ozone layer than all other known sources of ozone depletion.

Ready? Insider John Kanas is predicting that another 1,000 banks will fail over the next two years. Most will be smaller institutions – those that deal with mom and pop and the guy thaqt wants to start a small shop down the street. These are the ones that are too small to be saved, too small to buy politicians' support, but big enough to bring down the small towns they are call home.

False Hope: The headline read “US to Scrap Missile Defense”. For a brief moment it seemed possible that 20 years of fake test shots and abject failure had done the project in. But no, politics has simply relocated the boondoggle from Poland to the more malleable Israel.

Lest We Forget: We invaded Afghanistan to wrest power from the Taliban and punish them for harboring Bin Laden and refusing to let Condi's folks build a pipeline. Eight years later, the Taliban are still around, Bin Laden has moved next door, and now we've got a bunch of war lords, drug barons, and petty and not-so-petty thieves on the payroll. And about 100,000 troops plus mercenaries, running around pacifying the place. Sound familiar?

Friday, August 28, 2009

SAR #9240

Reality makes things difficult.

Bare Bottoms: In many locations, house prices seem to have bottomed, along with permits, starts, and sales. But the $8,000 gift is still having an effect and mortgage rates are still very low, so walk softly. with the forecast rise in foreclosures in mid to upper priced houses, the increasing delinquency rates and the falling 'cure' rates, expect it to be a bumpy bottom. Try to hold your breath until Christmas. Christmas 2010 or 2011.

Danger, Will Robinson: Next year the IRS may limit 401k contributions to $16,000 – just about half of an average worker's income.

If, Then... If, as seems apparent, Madoff “paid people to look the other way”, wouldn't at least some of them be in positions of authority? Can you spell 'co-conspirators'?

Ripple: Unemployment insurance claims decreased a little less than 2% last week, but let's hold off on the celebration – 570,000 new claims is still 570,000 former breadwinners.

Biggest Bubble: Government debt. Like those securities based on sub-prime mortgages for chipboard hourse, the Treasury is rushing to issue bonds that, like the houses, may soon be underwater.

Coda: Over the last 150 years, a small portion of humanity has managed to squander half a billion yeas of stored sunlight. This gave us – the tiny minority - a hundred years of abundance, while robbing everyone else of any chance that they would now, or ever, enjoy that same comfort and abundance.

Trifecta: Yemen is running out of oil, running out of water, and over-run with Shite militants, al Qaeda terrorists and discontented citizens. Think of it as a preview.

I'm With Him: “Our view is that the recession is not over, and that the Fed and Treasury have merely papered over the substantial problems that remain, while alleviating the short term credit crunch issues with absolutely massive injections of liquidity directly into the banks.”

Clunk: Early signs suggest that overall car sales are falling dramatically now that the bribery has ended.

Mite-y Powerful: The collapse of honey bee colonies is now being traced to the variola mite which carries a picorna-like virus which in turn damages bee's RNA to the point that it cannot produce the proteins the bee needs to survive.

Between the Lines: Today China uses 8 mbd of oil, about 10% of the world's supply. The US uses some 20 mbd, about 25% of the supply. China has 4 times as many people as the US. If China grows to use half as much oil per person as the US does, it will need 50% of today's output. For the usual prize, explain how this is going to be resolved peacefully.

Old Fashioned: While the big investment banks got in trouble through derivatives and off-book vehicles, most of those that show up in the Friday Failure list got there the old fashioned way – they made a lot of very bad loans. A lot of these questionable loans were in commercial real estate – and they are just starting to domino.

Journal : Sometimes it's good to be reminded of calm and reason. And sometimes there's desert.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

SAR #9239

I'm hearing music from another time.

Democracy, Meaning of: Rep Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) “this is a democracy, and I think the voice of the people have [sic] been heard quite loudly.” Yes, House, Democrats 256, Republicans 178; Senate, 57 Democrats, 40 Republicans; White House; 1 Democrat , 0 Republican. Americans in favor of healthcare reform, 70+%. The voice seems to have been pretty clear.

What He Said: “Now Ted Kennedy is being remembered as a great man. The thing is, he didn't change – he always was.”

Cart, Horse? In past global slowdowns, the United States invariably led the way out, followed by Europe and the rest of the world. But now the catalyst is coming from China and the rest of Asia, where resurgent economies are helping the still-shaky West recover from the deepest recession since World War II.

Report Card: Nearly one third of US banks have already reached the failure point in one or more key facets of their operations.

It's All Over, Except: The recession is all over except for the stillborn housing market, increasing negative equity, collapsing commercial real estate, excessive household debt, increasing bank failures, falling personal income, dormant consumer spending, and oh, the shouting. There'll be lots more shouting.

Whose Ox? The destruction of the world's forest is contributing far less carbon to global climate change than is generally claimed. Or so claims Brazil, which is busy burning down the Amazon.

FDR Was Wrong: It is not only fear itself, but the idiots at TSA. How much longer will the traveling public pretend to believe the story about monsters under the bed? Or, in this case, in the seat-back pockets? Why do we have this Ministry of Fear?

Strange Fruit: There's a recovery going on – in the US, Europe, China – a world wide recovery, except. Except Japan's exports have fallen for 10 straight months. Except China's exports are over 20% down from last year. Except the Baltic Dry Index – a measure of how much stuff is getting shipped in this recovering environment is down 35% from last years low figure.

Feeding Time: Remember how JP Morgan, Countrywide, et al. made all that money palming sub-prime mortgages off as AAA investments and brought on the credit mess? Now the taxpayers are going to give them $21 billion more – supposedly to help out those now in trouble with their loans – the ones JP Morgan etc. were so proud of. More rewards for the guilty.

New House News: The number of new houses sold was up about 10% in July, m/m, while prices were down 10% y/y. How the $8,000 first-timer gift affected sales and prices is unknown. Quite possibly it increased not only the number of sales, but the prices, too.

Petri Dish Economics: By 2030 the population will increase 30%, demand for food will increase at lest 30% and more likely 50% if incomes rise, demand for water will increase by 30%, and the demand for energy will increase 50%. What happens when the 2 billion newbies find out that demands don't necessarily elicit supply? Better question: How many people will the planet actually be able to feed, water and provide for in 2030. Bonus question: How do we lower the population that much that fast?

Straight Line: Move up. Get a $50 to $200 rebate to help pay for that new fridge, freezer. The idea is to get the old inefficient ones off the grid and replace them with Energy Star stars. Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper just to rule that any appliance that doesn't get the equivalent of 32 mpg can't be sold? Or is this about selling appliances, not saving energy?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SAR #9238

Math had its chance.

Gift Horse: Here's the real clunker: The $4,500 wasn't really $4,500. The $4,500 is part of the car's price and you had to count it when you paid the sales tax. And the state views it as income, and will be collecting its cut next April.

Healthy Reform: Since 2002 our health insurance premiums have gone up 87%, while their profits increased 428%. Medical bills are the most common cause of personal bankruptcies – yet 70% of those forced into bankruptcy by medical bills have health insurance.

Quoted: “A singular absurdity of the 21st century is that the nation that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined needs to hire mercenaries to fight wars against enemies who have no defense budget at all.”

Eratta: The CBO now projects that unemployment will be above 10% for most of 2010 and will not return to normal levels until 2013 or 2014.

Technical Terms: To “the economy is in a recession” and “a recovery is in process”, a new descriptor is needed to accurately describe the moment. Stagflation doesn't quite fit, and Krugman's “we're in purgatory” seems a tad too hopeful. For most who do not work on Wall Street a simple “we're screwed” might do the trick.

Medium Rare: China plans to reduce or end exports of several rare earth metals that are essential to the manufacture of to advanced technological devices found in everything from hybrid cars to supercomputers and precision-guided weapons.

In the Center Ring: The US Chamber of Clowns Commerce – hoping to keep Congress from making their members pay to clean up the mess they make – wants the EPA to hold a 'Scopes'-like trial of the scientific evidence that climate change is man-made.

It's their money: US District Judge Preska has ruled that the money the Fed hands out is the citizens' money and they have a right to know what Ben's been doing with it.

Tunes: The Philadelphia Fed reports that the recession was still widespread in July. The Case-Shiller House Price Index reflected price increases in much of the nation's housing in June. The Baltic Dry Index reversed it's brief uptick and fell 45%in July.

Symptom: 34 % of workers have only one week – or less – of savings.

Smallest State Shrinks: Most of Rhode Island's state workers are getting an extra 12 vacation days. Without pay. 19 other states have similar plans as they try to bridge that gap between tax income and state expenditures. Pretty soon we'll see how we like that smaller government the GOP recommends.

Colonel Jessep. Tiny Tim says that telling the citizens what the Fed has been up to would be “problematic” and that it would be better if they didn't know. Better for whom?

The Play's the Thing: The first act of the great North American Oil Crisis is scheduled for late 2011, when Mexico runs out of oil to export. The second act opens with the US trying to replace its old reliable partner while Mexico tries to remain a country without having any income. The third act is a real mess.

One Step Forward: Many types of plastic break down faster in seawater than was previously suspected. But the byproducts of their decomposition are poisonous contaminants. One lump, or two?

Porn O'Graph: The Bell Jar – to zero by December 2010?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SAr #9237

If you believe this is over,

you don't remember the picture of the earth from space.

Piggy Bank Nation: Now that China is “showing reduced willingness” to buy US debt, it is every citizen' s responsibility to smash the kid's piggy bank and finance his own debt. How cutting off one end of the sheet (future income) and tacking it on the other (debt spending) makes the sheet bigger is still a mystery. More likely, a self-hoisting petard.

Enter the Chorus: This time around you should not be caught unawares. There's trouble brewing and it's being announced. Starting with the death of the Consumer. In which the portion of GDP that is consumer discretionary spending is indiscreet. An 'X' Shaped Recovery – in which the middle class is Xed out. Double Down in which Roubini worries that the central bankers will kill the recovery through fear of inflation, or kill the recovery with inflation. Six, Count'em Six reasons to expect another bear market. Consumers 'probably' are cutting back. A report from the retailers.

Death in Washington: Zombies that won't go away: Reaganomics, supply side anything, efficient and/or free markets, Republicans, oil wars, Rush, Newt and McCain.

Early Days: The current odds from the CDC: About 150 million Americans will get swine flu. 1.8 million will be hospitalized. 90,000 will die (that's three times normal, but we'll also have a 'normal' flu going around.)

Medium of Exchange: I took my 7 year old daughter to the Megamart today. We got two bags of stuff from China and a bag of food from various hungry third world countries. To pay for the goods, I signed a note obligating her to work for the store for a total of 27 hours during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of March, 2027 – earliest dates she had open. We've been looking at a new plasma TV home entertainment center, but will have to put that off until she goes through puberty and can indenture her potential children.

Asked and Answered: Did Professor John Yoo commit a clear act of professional misconduct while in the service of the Bush administration? Yes.

No Crabs: Alaskan villages are slipping into the waves, Alaskan polar bears are slipping into extinction, and Alaskan fishing waters are becoming acidified by absorbing CO2 – and doing so much faster than tropical seas. Fish and crabs were not designed to thrive in acidic waters.

Plausible Denial? If the CIA hires some fellas to chop down a tree, but Congress doesn't hear about it, is it unconstitutional? How much secrecy can a democracy tolerate?

Homework: The middle class – which provides the bulk of consumer spending in the US – has debts that exceed 200% of their disposable income. Try to figure out how much they can pay down their debts over the next two or three years and what they are going to give up to do so.

Strike One: Forget all you think you know about Larry Flynt, and go read his call for a national strike: “Let's set a date. No one goes to work. No one buys anything. And if that isn't effective -- if the politicians ignore us -- we do it again. And again. And again.”

Algebra: Income Inequality + Financialization + Globalization = Destruction of the Middle Class

Damn : During its first two years, Medicare Part D exceeded expations and delivered extended drug coverage to most seniors while saving them money. Think how well it would do if they got rid of the GOP money-saving 'doughnut hole' and let the program negotiate prices with Big Pharma. Don't you just hate it when Big Government does good?

Sobering Up: Five myths you should know about if you are going to pretend to know about health care.

Porn O'Graph: Line the three bears up and yell 'Go!'

Monday, August 24, 2009

SAR #9236

We're nearing the end of Eat, Drink and Be Merry.

Down, then Out: Pemex reports Mexico's July oil output fell 7.8% y/y to 2.56 mbd, while Cantrell – eighth largest oilfield ever discovered – dropped to 588,210 barrels a day, down 41% from a year before. Mexican production has fallen every month since July 2006. Exports to the US are down 33% y/y. This is peak oil on steroids.

Election Day: Report from the poppy fields.

Democracy Inaction: Why does the fate of health care depend on the whims of six Senators who together represent 2.6% of the American people, when Obama's side has 57 votes without any of these guys and over 70% of the people want health care reform?

Lukewarm: The ocean off Maine is 72ºF this summer, and off Ocean City, MD it's 88ºF. The world's oceans are at an all time high – an average of 62.6ºF, over a full degree warmer than the 20th Century average. Near the Arctic, water temps are 10ºF over average. It takes a lot of heat over a long time to do that.

Then & Now: The last time US unemployment was this high, we built the Interstate Highway system. This time around we bought cars to drive around on them.

Foggy, Foggy: Never mind that millions are running out of jobless benefits, millions more will lose their homes in the coming months, states see tax receipts drying up, and that teachers are being laid off – by economists' standards the recession is over. Best not put it to a vote.

Contaminants: You can run fish but you can't hide. All of the fish sampled from 300 streams around the US were found to be contaminated with mercury. Another study found that 92% of all US currency is contaminated with cocaine. Price of admission.

Priorities: Isn't there something wrong with a society that spends $216,000 a year to incarcerate a kid but less than $8,000 to send him to public school?

Mascot: The Republicans should bring back Nancy Reagan – the perfect symbol for the “Just say No!” approach they've adopted.

Fantasy Numbers: In the next few years the Social Security program will bring in less money than it will pay out. So? Why is Social Security a separate item when the Defense Department isn't? Why are there separate taxes for Medicare and Social Security, but not for the Air Force? Taxes are taxes and government spending is government spending. Certainly the government has happily been spending lots and lots of money taken in from Social Security on things like wars. Turn about's fair play.

By the Numbers: In the first great depression there was no branch banking. If branches were counted as the equivalent of 1930's free-standing banks, we've closed over 3,600 so far this year.

Meanwhile: If recovery depends on consumer spending, then it'll be delayed a bit. US Personal Income has taken its worst annual decline since 1950. Until the US median wage improves relative to the cost of living, there will be no recovery.

With A Straight Face: The administration now says the 10-year deficit will be $9 trillion, up from $7 trillion. Monopoly money.

Drill, Baby Drill: From a peak in 2001, through the era of $141 a barrel, the number of rigs drilling off-shore has consistently fallen. Could it be that even at over $100 a barrel the oil companies didn't have places to drill? And as drilling falls off, can production be far behind? Yet the EIA predicts a large rise in off-shore production...

Numb-ers: If the 40% of the $10.1 trillion in mortgages that are underwater are only 10% underwater, that's a trillion dollars missing from the pot.

Porn O'Graph: In Comes before Out goes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

SAR # 9234/Weekender

Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet.


Real Money: Trillions. Health care will cost trillions! Well, at least a trillion. But that's over 10 years, only about $100 billion a year. That's about what Iraq has cost us every year since we went to that party, about what Afghanistan goes for now. If we cut out invading countries in the name of democracy, maybe we could tend to our folks – in the name of democracy. But the GOP loves war and war profits. And it loves health care profits. What it doesn't care much for is people. So let's keep on keeping on.

Because We Can: The US dropped in on a Pakistani village yesterday, killing 12 – mostly women and children. Drones take the guilt out of it.

The Group: Twenty-one percent of Americans believe in witches, 21% believe they can talk to with the dead and 21% have confidence in congressional Republicans, but I repeat myself.

Whose Recovery? The stock market class – the upper 10% - are doing fine and will soon be doing better. But the middle class is sliding into the depths: some have lost their jobs, many have lost their homes, millions are running out of unemployment benefits and no longer have any health insurance. Hope is in pretty short supply, too. And the poor are still poor. The US is fast becoming a third world nation, with extremes of income, health, and living standards. But the market's up.

Bribes Work: Existing-home sales rose m/m as first time homeowners were lured into debt by the careful waving of $8,000 in incentives and 3% down payments. This doesn't help the mid-to-high priced market.

Fairly Unbalanced: Losing GOP Presidential candidate John McCain will be on TV for an hour Sunday, telling Obama what the people want. Gee, I thought they made it pretty damned clear that what they wanted was not John McClain.

It's a Dead Budgie: Folks are suing JP Morgan Chase because their access to home equity loans has been cut off. They feel this is discrimination, just because their homes have fallen in price and they have no more equity is not a valid reason for the bank to stop lending them money.

Asked & Answered: Is End of Recession Near? No, not even close.

Too Much of a Good Thing: In 2001 83% of Americans supported the war in Afghanistan. Now only one out of three still thinks it is a good idea and 57% say it has gone from bad to worse. And it has. Obama’s irrevocable commitment to the war will give McChrystal more time and more men even though he knows “military power alone will not win this war.” Neither will clicking your heels, Mr. President.

Strategy and Tactics: Our strategy in Iraq is to call the complete failure of the Petraeus/Odierno surge a “tactical issue.” Some say Iraq is full of corruption, cronyism, nepotism, and greed. And the Iraqi's aren't much better.

Overkill: As though the worldwide race to supply the cheapest labor were not debilitating enough, robotics continues to improve – if being able to do low-level human tasks is improvement.

Insurance Scam: The FDIC “insures” about $5 trillion with a piggy bank that had but $13 billion in it on March 31st – and has since bailed out 56 banks at a cost of $16 billion. Don't worry, your savings are as sound as the federal government.

One Less Worry: Stop worrying about approaching 'peak oil', it's come and gone. We've been on a plateau since 2005 and are about to fall off the edge. The recession has driven demand down less than 3% - that's about the average rate of world-wide production decline from existing fields. The doubling of oil prices so far this year – with no expansion in consumption – is the message. Push will come to Shove when the economy tries to pick up again.

Civilization is an intensely fragile construction, built on little more than belief.”

Another quote from Uncivilization. Go read the whole thing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

SAR #9233

If we learn from our mistakes, why aren't we getting smarter?

Arrogant Investment Group: AIG's new leader thinks that the government should shut up and let him run the place his way. He promises pay back the $182 billion, but won't be rushed. He forgets – we own 79.9% of AIG and AIG signed on to pay back the bailout funds within two years. Then he says that if we want our money back already, we shouldn't have come to AIG's rescue in the first place. At least he's right about that.

The Shipping News: The bad news is that US rail car traffic is down 19% y/y. The good news is that it can't fall much further and thus a turn-around is just ahead. Or is that just a roundhouse?

Unexpected: Initial jobless claims edged up 2.5% last week, while the number drawing unemployment payments remained steady at 6.24 million. Despite a fleeting glimmer of improvement last week, economists still expect unemployment to be over 10% next year. Why anyone would expect otherwise is a mystery.

Next: Appliances.

Budget Buster: New York's tax income in the latest quarter is down 24% y/y, $3.6 billion below last year's collection. Not quite California numbers, not yet, but is that a trend forming? US federal tax receipts are down about 15 percent. Great Britain's down over 33% while German corporate tax receipts have dropped nearly 60%.

Hello? Anybody there? Industrial civilization is about to hit the wall at full speed. Even though we still cling to the hope that some magical 'progress' will let us continue our comfortable lifestyles, it is too late to stop the inevitable. The 'sustainability' dream is not sustainable, it is a form of denial. Our governments can't even agree not to grind the last fish into catfood, much less reverse our dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere, or prepare for oil's slow demise. How can there be hope?

Consider the Source: House prices rose 3% in June according to Radar Logic. This is probably the result of the spread of defaults and foreclosures to more expensive neighborhoods. It's not that prices are going up, but that the bargains have larger price tags and larger discounts. 13% of all mortgaged houses are in some stage of default or foreclosure – and a growing number are prime mortgages.

Hit the Road? How far will California's economy have to fall before hordes of Joads pull up roots and start looking for nirvana – or at least a job -elsewhere? Are the neighboring states ready, or even willing, for an influx of migrant 49ers?

Grist: The world's temperature has cooled a tad since the 1998 peak. Never mind the scientific explanation, climate change deniers will jump to proclaim that the recession global warming is over.

Looking for Hope: For US households to lower their debt to income ratios to the long term trend level of 115% would require a 4.5% decrease in spending for the next two years. If the customer reverts to the 1990-2000 ratio of 91% debt/income consumer spending (the heartbeat of America) would drop 15% for the next two years. If a recovery is to be consumer driven, perhaps it will be by Chinese consumers.

A Quote: “Some of the most strident opposition to health-care reform stems from the literally fatal misconception that markets are the answer to our medical needs.”

Serfing: “Is there a government anywhere that less represents its citizens than the US government? “ My, I love a good rant: “The US is ruled by powerful interest groups who control politicians with campaign contributions. Our real rulers are an oligarchy of financial and military/security interests and AIPAC, which influences US foreign policy for the benefit of Israel.” And it gets better from there...

Porn O'Graph: Deflationary expectations.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SAR #9232

How do you recover from something that's still happening?

Quick, Name Four GOP senators are reportedly afraid that an investigation into torture during the Bush administration would threaten the ’security of all Americans’, especially high ranking members of the Bush administration.

At Last... Dems plan to go it alone on healthcare. Plan to? They've been quite alone since day one.

Democracy in Action Our Man Karzai and the power elite (aka warlords) in Afghanistan are committing vote fraud on an epic scale, far worse than Florica, while the government forbids journalists from reporting on the Taliban's rather successful bombings aimed at keeping voters at home. Out of this is going to come “the free expression of the people” in forming another US puppet government. As long as the flow of US dollars and opium is not disturbed, it will be yet another victory.

Successful Surge: A sudden surge of violence in Baghdad left 95 dead and nearly 600 wounded. At least US troops were doing neither the killing nor the dying.

Quit When You're Ahead: The left would do well to stop pointing out how silly the GOP is being about health care. The more the far right gets besmirched, the more Obama can move to the center and away from the left – because the left is the choir and they're not going anywhere. The left should leave the far right alone and start making noise about what they want – or else they don't have a chance of getting it.

The List: Current deflationary indicators.

Numbers Racket : Global climate change science daily becomes increasingly well established and increasingly dire in its predictions. The growing consensus is not that we must stop putting CO2 into the atmosphere – its that we must stop today and begin lowering CO2 from the present 387ppm to below 350 as quickly as possible to prevent feedback loops from prompting abrupt, irreversible, and probably catastrophic warming.

Cash for Clunkers, Part II: World trade has shrunk so much that it's cheaper to junk container ships on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and such than to keep them afloat. More container capacity has been junked so far this year than used to go through Oakland in the 1960's when it was one of thw world's largest ports.

Dirty Commiess, Socialists, Obamaites: Studies consistently show that nonprofit nursing homes provide better care than money grubbing private homes. How can that be? That's contrary to everything the GOP and the for-profit health care people say.

Cracked Mirror: The allegation is that American industry is falling behind not because of ineffiencies, but because the federal government has not done enough. Gee, I thought American industry was falling behind because they'd shipped all the production overseas in search of lower wages, higher profits and to get away from having to pay health insurance.

Another Brick in the Wall: Scientists have found that plants grown in higher temperatures, with the added UV-B and water stress expected as the globe warms, produce more methane. Methane traps more heat, etc.

Porn O'Graph: Don't spend it all in one place...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SAR #9231

If the recession's over, what's all that stuff around the edges?

Doing Math: Single family house starts in July were at an annual rate of 581,000. Fifty states, that an average of 11,600 per state per year, call it 1000 a month. Per state. More than 37% below last year and they're calling “a silver lining”, and “a turn around”.

Rules of the Game: It is not a debate – it's about fear. And it's not about health care, it's about the far right knowing the only thing they can do is to disrupt the Democrats programs and hope that the noise and disarray and fear will increase the GOP's palatability at the polls the next time around. The GOP doesn't care about health care and they don't care about what might be good for the country, they just want to make the Democrats bleed. The liars are winning.

Delinquency, Rated: Residential real estate, 8.8%. Commercial real estate, 7.9%. Credit cards, 6.7%. Residential real estate charge-offs are up 30% to 2.3%, credit cards up 25% to 9.5%.

Allies: If – for whatever reason or lack thereof – you chose to deny global warming, you are in the same camp as Exxon, BP, Peabody Coal, and now Cargill, Tyson, and General Mills. Of course Exxon, BP, Peabody Coal, Cargill, Tyson, and General Mills are interested in nothing but profits. What's your excuse?

Less? I've got to pay Less?: The Producer Price Index is a minus 6.8%. Lowest since 1949. If you've got money, it goes further. If you haven't, too bad.

Shame? Is backdating stock options wrong if you're not caught?” Is it fair for the US to pressure foreign banks into divulging the accounts of tax dodgers who hid their income overseas in the good faith belief they wouldn't be caught? Both of these discussions took place on CNBC in the past couple of days – with the stars and starlets being mystified as to what might be wrong. Any questions?

Good Question: Why is the US taxpayer subsidizing Chinese participation in PPIP ? China puts up $2 billion, Treasury matches that with $2 billion, and pretends that 2 + 2 = 24 and the Chinese get $24 billion in distressed assets that are guaranteed by the FDIC. I simply do not understand this one.

The plan: Give banks nearly unlimited funds with no particular conditions attached and no supervision, look the other way while the banks take immense risks with the taxpayer funds while paying themselves bonuses. When they get in more trouble, bail them out again. Act surprised when nothing changes.

Exactly: “Americans Want 'Freedom to Pay Too Much for Inferior Health Care'”

What If: Over longish periods of time, the stock market has reflected the earnings of the individual companies. If that were true today, what would an examination of the level, direction, and prospects for future earnings of today's companies suggest the near term future of the stock market might be? Just askin'.

Eat Your Spinach: Your grandchildren cannot vote. Thank goodnes 71% of you want the Senate to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed the House a month ago. You are the one who is going to have to drive a smaller car, bike, or walk. And yes, you'll pay more for gasoline – or do without, live a lower impact life, pay the price to cut carbon emissions. You. But only if you can get your Senators to do the right thing.

Give 'til it Hurts: Clever folks at the U of Vt have designed a tap/spout that will suck 90% more maple sap from a tree, thus increasing the production of maple syrup. Hope someone asked the trees how they felt about this.

Porn O'Graph: We've only just begun... falling?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SAR #9230

The game is over and you are not a winner.

Cautionary Tale: Andrew Cuomo, in taking on Schwab over ordinary financial chicanery, doesn't seem to have learned from watching Elliot Spitzer sit on the hot stove.

Yes We Can: Turns out the citizenry is quite capable of sopping up a lot of the Treasury offerings needed to finance the trillion plus Uncle Sam needs to borrow. Fine, cuts down our dependency on foreigners (read China and Japan). But every buck that goes into bonds does not go into the stock market and the government is far more likely to stiff you than the Chinese central bank.

Housing Prices: The cheerleaders are getting tired, the game is nowhere near either won or over, Ginnie Mae is suiting up, and the fans can't afford the ticket prices.

Sad, But True: Too little, too late – even the MSM acknowledges we've missed the boat and that it is too late to avoid 'harmful' anthropogenic climate change. Don't complain, we chose the clowns that have decided to let it happen. We have reached, and passed, as a society and as a civilization, tipping points that will essentially end our familiar world. Not them, we. Pogo was right.

Quoted: “This court has never held,” Justice Scalia wrote, “that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.” Seems innocence is a matter of law, not fact.

Tab A, Slot B: Forget your fears of inflation/hyperinflation. The CPI has not been this negative in 60 years, import prices are down about 20%, export prices are down about 10%. There's not enough demand and lots of idle capacity to supply. Here's the worry: Is this the early innings of a serious deflationary spiral?

Breathe on the Mirror: Fannie will refi 125% of your loan on your underwater house. Freddie too, as of October. Sort of like pre-qualifying for default.

Pretty Please: The next time you want to make a reservation, dig out the birth certificate. Airlines will require you submit DOB and gender info, along with a valid credit card. It's all to help the TSA folks – if you fly on your birthday, they'll make you a cake. Or something.

Too Late, Too Little, Too Bad: China now plans to curb its CO2 emissions so they will only increase another 57% above today's level and then start falling by 2050. Not the use of 'only' and 'start'. The IPCC might as well base their 'most likely' forecast on the simple assumption that every last hydrocarbon we can get our hands on is going to be burnt – oil, coal,and tar sands - and all the trees, too.

Quoted: “For all its pretense and manufactured consent, our government is just a corporate racket now, and probably will remain so from here on out.”

More Misleading Stuff: The headline reads “Social Security Tax Increase” which will scare the horses and children. But the article is about increasing the income cap to which the tax applies. Increasing the amount of your income that is taxed (and limiting how much you can receive – means testing) is fine with me. I've never earned enough to have income that wasn't FICA taxed.

Two Questions: Can the Amazon rain forest be saved? Yes. Will the Amazon rain forest be saved? Probably not.

Splendor in the Grass: Stimulus spending may, or may not, eventually prove to have been a Good Idea. Germany and France, without resort to big stimuli, are doing as well or better than the US and UK. But the stimulus has done some good – witness the Dow of late. So we got something for the trillions and trillions; but housing and employment data suggests that we're going to be paying the bill long after the thrill is gone.

Not Necessarily News: The richest 10% of Americans are richer than ever, and the top 1% is indescribably rich. The American class system is now: Poor, Newly Poor, Soon to be Poor, Rich (aka the ten percenters), Richer (the one percenters), and that top 0.01%, Richest.

Porn O'Graph: The In's and Out's.

Monday, August 17, 2009

SAR #9229

Change is inevitable. Improvement isn't.

That Thing in the Living Room: It's not really a credit crunch, it's a lack-of-income crunch that has lead to excess industrial capacity worldwide. Plants to make steel, cars, dolls and salad-shooters were built and overbuilt. Output outstripped incomes. Profits grew and grew while real wages fell and fell – to the point where it takes two incomes just to be poor. Until the plants are liquidated and/or the real purchasing power of the proletariat is revived, things will keep on keeping on. It's called a deflationary spiral. Bad things have been known to happen during deflationary times.

Fine Print: Got miles? Not if you miss your credit card payment. On top of the late fees, some card companies donot give you 'reward points' during a month you miss a payment. And they won't let you use the points you've accumulated until you bring your bill current.

Teachers' Pets: The back-to-school season seems to be skipping the traditional back-to-school-shopping.

Supirse, Suprise: The American Petroleum Institute has been caught with its memo down – the one where they plan a “public groundswell” against any attempt to slow global climate change – and thus their profits. The got the idea from the health care industry.

Just Sayin': Happy, well-fed folks who see they are treated fairly by the system do not take to the streets. It is the poor, the downtrodden, those who see the tremendous inequality between us and them that revolt. At this point I'd like to mention that median income per capita has stagnated for 30 years and is now headed lower, and that income inequality in the US has never been higher.

So-So News: Consumer prices have fallen more in the last 12 months than in any of the last 60 years. Great news for those who still have jobs and income to spend.

It's In The Bag: Your right to enjoy the Commons does not trump my right to make a profit. Or so the story goes if you live in Seattle and I make those ubiquitous plastic grocery bags and have spent $1.4 million to overturn the dirty commie do-gooder fees imposed on my profitable but polluting product.

Ah, Diagnosis: Investors Should Stop "Worrying" About Consumers: They Don't Have Any money.

They're Good For It: The Fed has purchased just over $1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities from Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie Mae so far this year. I know you might be a tad concerned, what with these agencies underwriting 90% of mortgages and nearly 40% of mortgages being underwater – but relax, these guys are professionals.

Not What It Used to Be: If you are happy thinking the past is prologue and that life will go forward pretty much as it has in your lifetime, you haven't lived long enough or you aren't looking back far enough.

Biggest Loser: One of Antarctica's largest glaciers is thinning 4 times faster than it did just 10 years ago. It is now losing 16 meters of thickness a year – and the loss is ice melt that flows into the ocean.

Snowballs in Hell: The Treasury says it will prevent insiders from illegal insider trading and wanton profiteering in the PPIP program – the one where they put up $10 billion and the government puts up $40 billion and the insiders get to keep the profits. Why would they need to cheat?

Porn O'Graph: Change is personal income.