Saturday, October 30, 2010

SAR #10303

Our Motto: nobody cares.

Grossly Distorted by Politics:  The government announced  Q3 GDP grew at a 2 percent annual rate,.  What, you expected an honest number just before the elections? G et me re-write.

Saving the Savages:  British austerity plans, aimed at lowering the nation's budget deficit from 10% to 2% of GDP over the next 3 years, “will soon be needed in the US,” according to Citigroup.  The British cuts are “very savage but no more savage than what the U.S. will have to endure.”  Just imagine how cheerful the US  economy will be with a $1 trillion reduction in government spending at a time when consumers have no money to spend and companies no incentive.

Head 'em off a the Pass:  The big banks want to sit down, preferably behind closed doors, with the 50-state task force investigating U.S. foreclosure practices – and it's not to help the investigation.

Less To Come:  Next year US mortgage lending – combined new purchases and refinancings – will drop below $1 trillion for the first time in 15 years.

Say No Evil: In the last 5 or 6 years the price of a barrel of oil has risen from $10 - $20 to $75 - $80, while the production of crude oil has stuck at about 75  million barrels a day and the demand for oil by China, India, and the economies of the producing nations themselves has increased greatly. No wonder the economy stumbled and is having trouble getting back up – its energy habit costs about 5 times what it used to.  This suggests there will be little or no growth for a long time for most of the world's economies.  But don't tell, it's a secret.

Ah, There's The Rub:  Health insurance companies are beginning to reduce both their sales staff and the commissions paid to them in anticipation of sharply lower income as the health reform act phases in over the next few years.

Timber! Researchers have shown that while a shot of CO2 may briefly accelerate the growth of trees, a lack of a corresponding increase in available soil nutrients quickly puts a halt to the increased growth and its uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. Another carbon sink sunk.

Protecting Democracy:  A federal court has ruled that the US military can continue to pretend that the secret prison at Bagram air base (Parwan) doesn't exist, even though the 800 prisoners incarcerated there are routinely subjected to “advanced interrogation techniques”. The military admits that 80% of the (unacknowledged) captives “are not hardened terrorists”.

The Big Lie:   “No one was wrongly thrown out of their home” as a result of the various frauds in the foreclosure process.  This big-bank spread nonsense is demonstrably false.  Why do they keep getting away with it?

Porridge: The US workplace consists of an increasing number of high skill, high income jobs, an increasing number of low skill, low pay service jobs, and a rapidly disappearing middle class.  Many middle-class jobs are being off-shored and/or automated – globalization and increasing technology have made the middle class obsolete.

Avalanche Ahead:  Nearly 7 million more houses – the nation's shadow inventory – are poised to come onto the market in the near future, driving prices down even further.  Drive carefully.

Porn O'Graph:  Where's Monty Python when we need them?

Friday, October 29, 2010

SAR #10302

Oddly enough, right and wrong still matter.

Behind the Curtain:  Here's the Heritage Foundation's version of the Republican budget cuts.  Can you say 'privatization”?  Can you say “goodbye” to social programs?  Can you say “goodbye” to the country once known as America?

Bye-Partisanship:  John Boehner says the GOP would welcome Obama's involvement in governing the country only “to the extent the president wants to work with us, in terms of our goals."  I told my wife we could go anywhere she wanted to go on vacation as long as she picked from my list.

Orders, Please:  Bernanke has asked the nation's Primary Dealers how much money they want and when they would like it delivered.  Pretty much makes the Fed's Board of Governors redundant, doesn't it?

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service:  Indiana, like most states, has to cut its budget because tax revenues have fallen, thus it must cut services.  For example, the state can no longer provide care for severely disabled people and suggests that families drop the disabled off at homeless shelters when they can no longer care for them at home.  Anybody seen my country?

Cat/Bag:  Algeria has acknowledged that its oilfields are in decline, and that “quantities, production and exports will decline” in 2011.  They do not seem inclined to pencil in more reserves, unlike some of their OPEC partners.

Rooms to Rent, 50¢:  According to Republicans, government policies like extended unemployment benefits only encourage workers to pretend “their jobs” are going to come back.  Mostly, the argument goes, they will not and the unemployed should be 'encouraged' to take whatever work they can find at whatever wages are offered. Which is why they think the minimum wage needs repeal.  And the anti-slavery laws.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell:  The largest CO2 emitters in the US, including several whose advertising touts their green efforts, are fighting to keep the EPA from identifying the companies and (especially) disclosing how much CO2 they spew into the atmosphere each year.  It's not easy being green when you are not.

Nutritional Information:  Tea Party:  Contents consist of popular anger  being stolen by the Republicans who are cleverly misdirecting  it to elect the party mostly responsible for the financial mess in the first place.

Bill of Goods:  Credit Suisse says that by 2006, 49% of all mortgage originations were liars loans.  Independent studies suggest that by then some degree of fraud was present in 80 – 90% of those loans.  There was fraud every step of the way:  Borrowers lied, appraisers overvalued, brokers oversold risky loans to unqualified buyers and coached them how to lie,  securitizers sold the same loans multiple times, credit rating agencies knowingly overrated securities for fees and investment banks colluded with hedge funds.

Prosecution Rests:  Climate change is real. The average temperature of the Earth is increasing. This is almost certainly due to mankind’s influence on the environment, especially the emission of carbon dioxide. Some politicians and many industrialists deny this. They lie.

Choices:  Given the limits to oil production (peak oil flows) and the increased demand from China push is going to meet shove pretty soon. Either we get some serious energy breakthroughs (unlikely), China's growth slows (unlikely), or the standard of living in much of the developed world will drop.  Place your bets – and deploy your carrier fleets.

Bedfellows:  A lot of the objections to lowering corporate taxes come from corporations.  They are afraid that the lower rates would be accompanied by the plugging of specific tax loopholes that let them avoid taxes altogether – and no taxes is better than some taxes.

Porn O'Graph:  Koch'a

Thursday, October 28, 2010

SAR #10301

Apparently you can major in fraud at most B-schools.

Markdown:  While officials sitting in offices in the Middle East keep punching numbers into their computers and increasing their nation's oil reserves, the USGS went and drilled a bunch of holes and discovered that of the 10.6 billion barrels of oil previously thought to be held in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, less than 10% actually are there.  Can't wait for them to check out ANWR.

Public Service Announcement:  As a public service during this last week of election adds, we'd like to remind you that in the last 2 years, nothing has been "nationalized" except banker's losses, the Employee Free Choice Act emasculated unions, health-care reform was based on the Republican model, Big Pharma got richer off the prescription deal in Medicare, all the loopholes for business will work – ask Google, and much of the stimulus money went to tax cuts and bib banks, not ACORN.

Sizzle vs. Steak:  JD Powers says that, despite the advertisements, in 10 years only 7.3% of passenger cars sold globally will be hybrids or plug-ins. The rest will still burn gasoline, if they can afford it.

Nutshell:  Data shows that the unemployed are not spending much and that the upper crust doesn't see the problem.

Research Paper:  There's a lot of talk about needing an educated work force, more college graduates, etc. etc.  The assumptions are that those who graduate college make more money, the more graduates we have (making more money) the more the economy will grow.  Is there any actual evidence that either of these is true?  How many people at the local Grab & Run have been to college?  At least 17 million people with college degrees are working places that do not require a bachelors.  “Do you want fries with that?”

Belaboring the Obvious: Researchers have discovered that the Supreme Court favors business these days.

Shortfall:  The Republican thirst to slay the budget is going to run up against reality.  Cutting $100 billion from the federal budget’s discretionary ledger amounts to cutting 21% of every 'discretionary'[ item: medical research, student loans, agricultural programs, health and human services, the National Cancer Institute....  And so on.  But it makes a good sound bite.

Colors:  The administration prevented the Fed from joining its homies (a group of 20 big banks) in asking the Supreme Court to block taxpayers from finding out which banks received taxpayer money.  The Fed's theory is that just because it's the taxpayers' money doesn't mean they should know how it was spent.

All In the Family:  After pledging their undying love and eternal faithfulness to the task of soothing trade tensions, the G-20's finance chiefs have returned home and begun “acting to slow gains in their currencies” by weakening them to gain competitive advantage.  I've had one-night stands that lasted longer.

Goal?  The administration and the banks want nothing, not even perjury and fraud, to slow down the foreclosure flood, as though the market needed more distressed housing on the market.  It does not.  The current “elevated inventory” is sufficient to depress existing home prices and increase their sales at the expense of new construction (which actually benefits the economy).  There were 24,000 new houses sold in September, down from the previous record low of 28k back in 1981.

On A Roll:  Kimberly-Clark says they've found a way to do away with the 17 billion pasteboard tubes produced annually in the US to hold toilet paper.  They claim this will save over 150 million pounds of trash.  They did not say how much cash this will save them, nor did they say anything about how much paper was saved when they reduced the width of rolls a while back, while keeping the price the same.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SAR #10300

Self-interest, like self-evaluation, breeds self-deception.

Accounting:  600 NATO troops, mostly American, have now died in the Afghan war, at the same time that Karzai admits regularly receiving 'bags of money' from Iran.  Wonder what the ratio is...

The Objective:  What does Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell say the most important GOP goal is ?   a) reducing unemployment,  b) resolving the foreclosure crisis and finding ways to keep Americans in their homes,  c) lowering the deficit,  d) obstructing governance to insure that Obama does not get re-elected.  Right,  “d” it is.

Y'all Come:  In Iowa they all go to church on Wednesday night for choir practice, kids groups, couples workshops, and family dinners.  Well, they will, once the GOP get in power and outlaw all non-church activities on Wednesday evenings.

Steel Yourselves:  Worldwide steel demand is weak, especially in China. Can't build bricks without straw.

Define "Spending":  A lot of folks are convinced that no country has ever spent its way out of a depression.  When it is pointed out that the US deficit spending on WWII ended the Great Depression, these folks claim that going into debt to destroy stuff and kill people works but that building infrastructure and improving people's lives through deficit spending would not.  Don't know, might be nice to try it and see.

Just Sayin':  10,000 tons of garbage piled up in Marseille during a week-long strike.  How are we going to get rid of the garbage once petrol is too expensive?

Educated Guess:  The Pell Grant program, which provides higher-education grants to lower and middle-income students, faces a $5.7 billion shortfall which will result in the 9 million recipients receiving 15% less next year.   Republicans already were planning to cut $9 billion from the program.  Wouldn't want the unemployed to be overqualified.

Make an Offer:  The S&P/Case-Shiller1 Home Price Index reflects a slowing in the rate at which house prices are increasing, now at 2.6% annually, down from the annualized 4.3% reported 3 months ago (all non-seasonally adjusted).

Count Your Fingers:  There are at least 5 US agencies working to regulate privacy so as to remove any trace of it from the American landscape.  Meanwhile the Pentagon (well, Fort Meade's NSA, actually) is going to protect your computer from attacks by Chinese hackers by monitoring what you do and reporting it to Homeland Security.

Economic Difficulties:  Macro-economists regularly fail at the impossible – predicting the future behavior of a bunch of humans. Extrapolating from the past is fair but doomed, for things keep on keeping on until they don't.  But the future is not causally determined only by what happened, but also by what we think might happen.  What we do because of what we think changes everything, including both what happens and what we think will happen next

A DIY Guide to Mortgage Based Fraud:  Everything you need to know so you, too, can sell the same mortgage multiple times without anyone catching on until it all comes tumbling down.  (Hint, a supply of the gullible is required.)

Tick, Tick, Tick:  For nearly 18 months, more than 30 states have been borrowing money from Washington in order to pay extended unemployment benefits.  By law they must start paying that money back. But they have fewer payroll taxes coming in and ever more unemployed, and there is no way to cut the cloth to fit.  The GOP is not about to let this slide, much less lend them even more.  Happy days.

Subversives:  The worlds top-ranked prosperous nations are: Norway, Denmark, and Finland.  Damned socialists must have cheated – we're in tenth place.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SAR 10299

And then we went to war...

Steps:  If “nobody will defend quantitative easing without fiscal stimulus” why is Bernanke plunging ahead?  Perhaps he thinks it can be done by smoke and mirrors.  Oh, wait, we’ve already tried that.

Suicide Pact:  The bipartisan commission charged with finding ways to kill any hope of an economic recovery to lower the deficit suggests reducing child tax credits, abolishing the mortgage-interest deduction, eliminating the deduction for health insurance premiums and anything else anyone earning under $200,000 could claim.  Let's write in and suggest we stop invading other countries and save a trillion or so a year.

Freedom of Information: Bloomberg News xxxxxx FOIA xxxxxxx xxxx the US Xxxxxxxxxx for a list of xxxxxxxx Citigroup xxxxxxxx for a $300 xxxxxx from the xxxxxx xxxx. Now, xx xxxxx, they xxxxxxx useless xxxxxx.

Scattered Sunshine:  US Treasury tax receipts, an indicator of payroll growth, are improving. Tepidly, but at least a positive.  The improvement seems to come from employers restoring hours to their employees, not new hiring.

Clearing Things Up:  The International Energy Agency says that the recent increases in claimed oil reserves by Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are "good news," but it remains unclear whether they will contribute to future oil supplies.  I guess they're the sort of reserves that never get off the bench.

Reading Assignment:  “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science”  An everybody read.

One More Time:  Repeated experiments with the US economy have demonstrated that tax cuts do not pay for themselves, no matter how many times Republican snake oil salesman make the claim.  If they cannot learn from their own experiments, why should we trust them with any responsible position?  Like being a Senator.

Credit Where Due:  QE2 amounts to a decision by the US government to shorten the maturity of its outstanding debt, paying off long-term bonds while borrowing short-term...  It’s just as if Treasury sold 3-month T-bills and used the proceeds to buy back 10-year bonds.

Long Term Investment : Holding a stock over the weekend now qualifies as a long term investment. 70% of all stock market trades are held for about 11 seconds.  And in that 11 seconds computers can generate 15,000 quotes, playing with the price. I'm old enough to remember when humans and the law of supply and demand had some passing influence on the market.

Bén Tre:   The Friends of Democratic Pakistan say they can save Pakistan from its energy crisis by increasing energy prices by 200%.  With friends like this it's no wonder Islamabad tolerates al Qaeda.

If, Then, But:  Serial prognosticator/economist Jeff Rubin sees the price of oil rising to $100 “in a few weeks” but thinks that the claimed 170 billion barrels of Canadian tar-sand oil will never be “completely tapped” because the cost of production will have a serious and significant dampening effect on the world economy, eliminating the demand that would pay for the production and ending globalization.

Curiosity:  Reports claim the US wants to increase the CIA's presence in Pakistan “to help Pakistan” in areas the US military cannot reach through (illegal) cross-border raids.  Can't anyone keep a secret?

Death and Texas:  Texas needs to cut $25 billion from its two-year budget – which is 25% of the current budget.  Even education programs face cuts, along with significant governmental lay-offs.  Note that a 25% budget cut must come out of the discretionary budget, which is about half the budget.  So 25% cuts really means 50% cuts in aid and services. New York, too, faces the same problem.  Want to guess how long before the wheels come off?

Porn O'Graph:   Where the boys are.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SAR #10298

The assumed effect of austerity programs is an abrupt increase in virtue among the lower classes.

Quiz:   What countries would object to an international agreement that would prevent them from having a current account surplus in excess of 4% of their GDP? A) Those with such surpluses. B) Those which aspire to such surpluses. C) Germany and Brazil and Japan. D) All of the above.

This Just In:  Fox News has decided that feeding hungry children destroys American families.

Mission Accomplished: The Supreme Court has succeeded in privatizing US elections.  Anyone rich enough - emphasis on the “one” and “rich” – can start a group and dump unlimited money into campaigns to support their chosen candidate as long as they do not “coordinate” with the candidate.  One dollar, one vote.

Simpleton Math:  According to JP Morgan, about $2 trillion of the $6 trillion in MBS are likely to default, at a cost of $1.1 trillion. Everyone involved – borrowers, lenders, mortgage brokers, mortgage servicers, MBS originators, MBS holders, title insurers, MBS rating agencies, Fannie & Freddie and Mrs. Fletcher from down the block – will try to sue everyone else while begging Uncle Sam for a handout.  A new circus.

Gotta Be True:  “Vending Machine Sells Live Crabs”

Foreclosure Forecast:  Absent government intervention to stop foreclosures, over 11 million borrowers will lose their houses. That's one in five people with a mortgage, about 10% of the population – another 33 million on top of those already foreclosed on, plus the economically homeless. How long can this keep on?

Define 'Accidentally':  Google acknowledges that it had inadvertently gathered information from private wireless networks via its “Street View” mapping – stuff like emails and passwords.  But only in a few dozen countries.  And only inadvertently.

Franchising:  America is quite literally for sale, at rock-bottom prices, and it's being bought up by foreigners with lots of money, using very careful paperwork so we cannot find out who our colonizers are.  Assigned reading.

Beyond Hope:  The anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List, doesn't understand why it isn't allowed to use lies in its campaign against Democratic congressmen.

Ageless Warfare:  Another 'let's scare the youngsters' article on Social Security, gleefully reporting that those born in the 1980's stand only a 13% chance of getting their full benefits – if there are no changes in current law. And how likely do you think that is?  And the only solutions suggested are an increase in payroll taxes and/or an increase in retirement age.  One wonders why the obvious solution – taxing all income instead of excusing the rich – wasn't mentioned.  And it ends with this whopper: “Laws and tax policy that favor one ... group over all others have no chance of acceptance.”

Buck Rogers:  “US firm to ship Alaskan water to Middle East via Mumbai.” And the containers will be recyclable.

Your End of the Boat is Sinking:  Foreclosed properties sell at deep discounts and drag down the prices of nearby houses.  The economic penalty paid by those owning the nearby houses is a huge cost imposed on them by the banking industry.  In the last decade banks have effectively gutted the US housing market for their personal profit and continue to do to the detriment of wholly innocent and non-involved homeowners.  It would seem to fall under the reckless endangerment laws.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SAR #10296

Some of learn from their mistakes, others will vote for more deregulation.

Mini Skirts and Hula Hoops:  People adopt whatever's 'in' no matter what it is or how bad they look.   Austerity is in fashion.  Not for any good reason, and against a lot of prior experience.  So now the British are donning economic mini-skirts and entering the hula hoop competition. They won't win and it won't be pretty.  Why are they doing this?  Because the leaders see a way of demolishing the welfare state.  Pay attention and be prepared.

Some Things Just Gotta Be True:   “Man quit Qaeda over lack of health care.”

Bad News Leads:  Only 37% of Americans feel the GOP vendetta to repeal the Affordable Care Act makes sense, and another 36% want an even more ambitious modern health care system, not less.  If those who buy the GOP line understood what they will lose if the Republicans get their way that 36% would soon be over 50%, pleading for more, not less.  And why do the 37% conned by the GOP get all the press while the 36% who want even more government sponsored health care reform never get mentioned?

It's A Job:  Christine O'Donnell, professional candidate now running for the Senate for the third time, admits she has used $20,000 from campaign contributions to pay her rent and other personal expenses.

Appetizer:  California home sales dropped 17% in September y/y and 3.1% m/m.  The median price, however, was up 1.9% m/m and 5.6% y/y. More coming to a neighborhood near you, soon. Clear Capital is reporting a dramatic nationwide 5.9% drop in house prices in the last two months. Winter's coming.

Gathering Nuts:  When Congress straggles back after the election they will be faced with another 1.2 million unemployed whose jobless benefits expire November 30th (besides the '99ers who have already exhausted all available benefits).   Only the upcoming election got the Republicans to let the last extension pass, now the former workers will have to depend on basic human decency.  Wish 'em luck.

Hush Money:  The US is giving another $2 billion in “military aid” to Pakistan as payment for letting the US continue to kill its citizens in the Northwest Territories.

Good News: High-ranking Republican says there is 'not a chance' a GOP Congress will impeach President Obama.  Actually, they said “not a chance at this point.”  Makes you wonder why they brought it up.

How Much is A Lot? Bailing out Fannie and Freddie will cost upwards of $363 billion through 2013.  How many fraudulent mortgages is that, Ollie?

Attention Span:  We've forgotten Haiti, just as we've forgotten New Orleans.

That Sinking Feeling:  The Obama administration is downplaying the foreclosure scandal because they don't want to encourage the trusts that bundled mortgages and issued MBS to force investment banks to buy back the underlying (fraudulent, undocumented) mortgages at the original cost. Those mortgages are now worth far less now and even a relatively modest forced buy-back would put paid to the lie that the big banks are solvent.

Gilding the Rose:  After spending $19 billion in the last 6 years trying to develop ways to detect explosives, the gold standard is still a dog's nose.

E Pluribus Unum: In 2009 there were hundreds (well, 294 plus 124 by Irish nuts) of terrorist attacks in Europe, most the work of ethnic separatists.  About 40 were credited to extreme leftist movements and a few from the far right.  One was by a Muslim.

Tutorial: A lot of charges and counter charges have been made about China's rare-earths.  An excellent discussion of the various factors – from global economic and political maneuvering to simple considerations of resource longevity and environmental damage – is just what was needed. Luckily, this is one.

Boogeyman Watch:  A University of Michigan study found the major underlying factor driving the foreclosure crisis was loan originators' aggressive marketing of refinancing using adjustable rate mortgages.   'Aggressive marketing' sounds so much better than screwing the buyers, doesn't it?

Friday, October 22, 2010

SAR #10295

People have not so much lost their trust in their government as discovered that their government is not trustworthy.

Slip Sliding Along:   Again the corrections. Unemployment claims, they say, fell 23,000 last week – nearly 5%.   Trouble is the “fall” was after a 13,000 upward revision of the previous report, which cuts the 'improvement' in half.  This makes 25 out of 26 weeks with upward revisions, so let's not light the candles just yet.

Up, Up and Away:   Following careful study of the baseless claims of increased oil reserves by Iraq and Iran, Kuwait has tossed 12 billion new barrels into its reserves.  It claimed the 'finds' had been made studying old fields that magically refill themselves.

Delegates:  The Afghan government has asked Saudi Arabia to help negotiate an end to the American war with the Taliban.  The announcement was unclear as to which party the Saudis were to speak with, or for.

Keeping the Faith:  It's refreshing to know that two of the biggest frauds perpetrated by science have been conclusively disproven.  Glen Beck hasn't ever seen a half-man, half-monkey and reading the Bible proves that climate change “is a flat-out lie.”  Could someone send for Mr. Mencken ?

Start Your Motors:  Federal Reserve officials say the Fed will begin pumping money into the economy via $100 billion in monthly bond purchases. Maybe inflation will catch on this time.

On Being Average:   The enlightened think reasoning works and are constantly surprised that it does not win over the unenlightened.  Rational people believe in rational decision making.  Alas, most of us are not rational, we are emotional.  When we hear new information we accept that which supports our positions and pay no attention to the rest.  Confronting people with inconvenient facts only hardens their resistance to change.

Self-Test:  Complete the following: Google's effective tax rate is ___%, (about $__ billion dollars less than it should be).  Hint: Google “Google Tax Loopholes”.  The answers are 2.4% and $60 billion.

In Your Face:  Making their results unmistakably clear, climate scientists have reiterated that carbon dioxide is responsible for the greenhouse effect that is warming the earth and that water vapor and clouds alone are unable to provide the feedback effects observed.  Thus to stop global warming the production of carbon dioxide must cease, which means burning fossil fuels must stop or all is lost.  All, therefore, is lost.

Gone Fishing:  Even catfish farmers face globalization's pressures as steeply increased grain costs combine with cheaper Asian fish imports to erode already thin margins.  Fish competing with cars for corn.

Wishing Well:  Groups of non-believers, un-believers, non-theists – yes, there are enough of them in the USA to form groups – have been advertising their heresies on the grounds that every time they expose the idea of non-belief in public, the public becomes more tolerant of their dissenting views.  And that, in the end, everybody wins because society becomes more open, inclusive and free.  Talk about faith.

Enough Said:  The Obama administration is seeking to insure that all communications networks - telephone and broadband carriers – be designed so the government can easily wiretap any and all transmissions.

Allowances: Republican "Roadmap for America's Future," plan would slash Social Security benefits in the long-run -- by 10 to 50% of what they are now.  The plan's author claimed that releasing the information was a “partisan attack” and warned that the status quo would bankrupt the program.  That is not true – not until long after 2037 anyway.  It might, however, damage the Federal budget as Congress tries to replace all the money they've 'borrowed' from the program over the years.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SAR #10294

The future, like the past, will be Darwinian.

Negotiations:  Now you see it, now you don't. The US alleges that China has halted the export of rare earth materials to the US (and earlier to Japan). China says this is not true. This could quickly escalate into a lively trade war or be a short-lived tiff, just China making a point. Stay tuned.

We've Come Undone:  Anyone who believes the foreclosure crisis can be contained is deluded.  The real issue is trust in the government's ability to govern.  The available evidence suggests control has passed from the government to a very small section of the governed.  The financial princes are no longer constrained by even the appearance of legality. Mama, it's too late.

The Divine Right Of Kings:  It has taken over 200 years, but the Executive has within its grasp the reins of absolute power, the very same our founding fathers were rebelling against.  The Supreme Court seems prepared to grant then Attorney General Ashcroft absolute immunity from prosecution no mater how manifestly illegal and egregiously repugnant to the rule of law his actions were.  A marvelous precedent.  The only good new is that Bush&Company are not in power.  The bad news is that their descendents well might soon be.

'Nuf Said:  Drug Companies Pay 17,000 U.S. Doctors to Market Drugs to Other Doctors

Insulation:  Conservatives are shocked to discover that there has been fraud and waste in federal weatherization projects that were part of the stimulus spending.  This, they claim, is proof of government waste. Actually, it is proof of capitalists doing what they do best – getting as much profit as they can from as little effort and cost as possible.  It is a failure of government regulation of the marketplace, not of government.

Silliest Headline Award:   “Will the Federal Reserve Cause a Civil War?” No.   The civil war that the Fed is supposed to be fighting has long since been won by the 1%ers.  The main victims of the Fed's QE2 – the old, the poor, the unemployed, the great unwashed – have long since been gelded.

Do Tell:  Military recruiters have been instructed to accept gay applicants. The new recruits can be dishonorably discharged after the new bunch restores order.

The Perfect Storm:  “An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.  We’re losing our democracy to a different system.  It’s called plutocracy.”

A Chill in the Air:  Applications for new mortgages fell 6.7% last week and refinancing applications decreased 11.2%.

The New Math:  The NY Fed says there are at least 3 million excess vacant housing units and until we sell enough houses to eliminate that number (and the new foreclosures added daily) up will be just a word on a packing crate.

Decline and Fall:  The final bits and pieces of the once great British Empire are being swept up and put in the dustbin as the new government finds the cupboard bare and flings the country into the latest reincarnation of the Shock Doctrine, where fiscal crises are seized on to take funding from the many for the benefit of the few.  Pension ages will increase, government jobs cut, welfare programs gutted, police budgets sharply reduced.  But no mention of higher taxation on the rich to go along with the suffering heaped on the masses .  The state will be destroyed in the pretense of saving the state. Bondholders will be paid on schedule.

Been There, Done That:  Fourteen states are seeking ways to deny citizenship to the children of immigrants.  Even this Supreme Court is not about to let individual states start whittling off parts of the Constitution. That's their job and they are getting pretty good at it.

Asked & Answered:  Will Americans follow Europeans into the streets with mass protests when draconian austerity measures are imposed?  No. And what makes you think the US is going to impose any austerity measures?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SAR #10293

Crime still pays.

First Things:   Bank of America, speaking for the TBTF, says it will dispute “any unjustified demands [that] it repurchase defective mortgages.” What it is talking about, specificity, is $47 billion in fraudulent MBS that PIMCO, BlackRock and the NY Fed seek to have made whole. [This may be just a feint, but sooner or later, Alice, to the moon!]  The banks will allege that “persistently high unemployment and other economic trends” [for which they deny any responsibility] caused the foreclosures that led to the decline in the MBS values.  Insufficient record keeping, fraudulent loan origination and multiple pledging of the same properties had nothing to do with it, so they say.

In order to hide some of their malfeasance, banks may begin offering mortgage modifications to many delinquent borrowers, for signing a modification creates a new and valid loan document.  Most mods go to default within 6 months, but if the banks get clean title out of the process it will be worth their effort.

The big loser in this will be the country as a whole.  If no one knows who really holds a mortgage, who may have legal rights to sell or foreclose, or what sort of limbo the other houses in the neighborhood are in – how can normal real estate transactions be undertaken?  The FHA is sending 'review teams' into FHA servicers “to see how they are handling foreclosures.”

The big threat is the systemic risk contained in these mufti-layered frauds. It is not just BofA.  All of the big banks that thought they owned the country.  Turns out the banks had a defective deed.  The losses will not be just the initial $47 billion claim – they could be in the trillions of dollars.

Maybe this time someone will go to jail. Until they do, this topic has lost most of its interest, as the usual and boring Kabuki theater is about to get under way.

Our Usual Programming Resumes:

One Size Fails All:  “The administration has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  And soon there will be no more opportunities to miss.”

Magnanimity:  Carefully re-asserting its position that the 1990 Oil Pollution act apples to the Deepwater damages, BP has voluntarily waived the $75 million cap for some oil spill claims, but only for a select few.  The rest will be evaluated .

Answered, Asked:  Sociologists and political pundits keep trying to divine the skeleton beneath the Tea Party phenomenon.  They talk about economic insecurity, about anger and bitterness, they even hint at jingoism and racism.  What no one dares point out is the obvious:  Tea Partiers are afraid.  They don't know what they are afraid of, they are just afraid.  But the thing we have to fear is not fear itself, but the ends to which a manipulative few will apply the fears of the masses.

Gymnastics:  Prices for commercial property in the US tumbled for a third consecutive month, falling to the lowest level in 8 years – down 45% from their 2007 highs.

Wolf, Wolf:  The first round of QE worked because of the willing suspension of disbelief by all concerned.  Everyone agreed that having the Fed buy up all the dreck somehow magically transformed bad assets into good assets.  That never happened, but everyone agreed not to notice the lie.  A second round may not be swallowed whole.

Cherry Picking:  The headlines scream “Housing starts increase in September.”  Yes, but the data lumps multi-family and single family housing together, and together they did increase because people are building a lot of apartments to rent to former house owners.  Single family housing starts have been stuck at the bottom of a trough for the last six months, with only slight twitches up and down.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SAR #10292

Turns out the bankers weren't idiots, they were crooks.

Tough It Out:  Drawing a line in the sand and refusing to be deterred, no fessing up and paying up, the banks have decided to simply forge ahead.

For Sale:  Ever smiled at the sign on the lawn that says “For Sale By Owner” - like who else could sell it, right?   Turns out banks regularly 'sold' the same mortgage several times by pledging the same assets as collateral to different trusts or in MBS packaging. If you sell what you do not have the right to sell you commit a crime.  If banks do it, it's profitable.  Can you say 'epidemic'?

Doom:  “In America, the bet is still that we will somehow find ways to get people spending and investing again.”  Stanford economics professor Robert E. Hall, on our salvation.

Keeping score:  No one knows how much money is at risk at the MBS end of the foreclosure game.  A commonly cited figure is $1.3 trillion in non-government backed MBS still lurking about.  Even without the foreclosure/ownership mess or the double and triple pledging of the same mortgage,  if 20% of mortgages flounder, that's over $250 billion the packaging banks have to cough up to make the MBS holders whole after fraud is found on their doorstep.  The banks are worried, and when the banks are worried the taxpayers had best bar the door.

Money Quote:  "Nobody in this country knows for sure who owns any real estate"

Fare Fight:  The US is complaining that China is cheating by subsidizing its clean energy industries while the US only subsidies the coal and oil burning industries.  Imagine, using the people's money to benefit the people. Where's the profit in that?

Reality Check:  The only US product that increased last month was fraud. Industrial production fell 0.2% and capacity utilization decreased to 74.7%, 6 points below its long term average.

Explanations:  China is not a major economic power because, according to Professor Krugman, it doesn't behave like one.  Apparently there is a secret set of rules that major economic powers adhere to for the good of all, and China's protectionist, China first last and only approach disqualifies it for membership in the club.  China does not want to be in the club, it wants to wield it.

Bricks Without Straw:  The current Fed effort is to keep interest rates low in order to convince companies (who already have surplus capacity) to expand and for the citizenry (who are tapped out and unemployed) to refinance their homes and spend, spend, spend. Jobs? We don't need no steenking jobs.

Got'cha:  Republican 'voter integrity squads' are once more fanning out to minority precincts in order to prevent blacks from voting voter fraud. Someone should point out to them that the only case of voter fraud of late has been Ann Coulter.

Just So:  Research on Egyptian mummys and other early human remains suggests that cancer is a modern, man-made disease caused by environmental factors that arose with the industrial revolution and have been increasing ever since.  It's not just the cigarettes.

Lowest Common Denominator:  Accident and happenstance cannot explain the emergence of the type and magnitude of 'errors' in the foreclosure process.  “Willful, systemic fraud” does.  Capitalism depends on respect for and adherence to contract law and the underlying property rights.  The process is long and carefully detailed to insure that nothing falls through the cracks.  “We cannot have free market capitalism without this process. So what does it mean if banks have been systemically, fraudulently and illegally undermining this process?”

Chain, Chain, Chain: Foggy is a good description of the state of real estate, mortgages, foreclosures and MBS.  “Re-evaluating” a few, or a few hundred or even a few tens of thousands of foreclosures is one thing. Having the ownership of vast amounts of real estate and the validity of enormous quantities of real estate based financial paper in serious doubt is more than a little serious.  Read David Kotok's long essay, which concludes “if the chain of title of the note is broken, then the borrower no longer owes any money on the loan.”

Porn O'Graph:  Convention wisdom?

Monday, October 18, 2010

SAR #10291

Two dozen wrongs don't make a right, either.

Then Came the Lawyers:  BP promised to “do what it takes” to make the Gulf “whole again”.   BP's lawyers now say that what it takes is the $75 million liability cap set by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.  The $2 billion dollar figure was just a talking point.

Night/Day:  As the rich got richer they were able to take over more and more of the political realm, until they essentially controlled government for their benefit.  Now with corporations freed to unleash their money directly into political activism we can confidentially predict that the government's redistributive powers will be exercised to benefit corporations.

Fighting Dirty:  Things are really getting ugly now as countries spurn military confrontation in favor of financial warfare using debt-created money to buy up foreign resources, real estate and infrastructure.  The real tragedy is the legion of turncoat US dollars that have enlisted to support China's juggernaut.

Not Necessarily the News:  Republican climate gangsters are funded by Koch Industries (coal) and Murray Energy (oil).  In America, you get what you pay for.  Or at least they do.

Impartiality:  CFTC Administrative Law Judge George Painter claims that fellow CFTC judge Bruce Levine promised then CFTC chair Wendy Gramm “that he would never rule in a complainants favor”.  And he never has.  Imagine, Wendy Gramm condoning ideological bias in legal decisions.

The Old One – Two:  While Goldman sees “substantially higher prices” for oil in late 2011 into 2012 as global petroleum surpluses are drawn down, OPEC Members are disinclined to wait, seeking $100 a barrel oil soon to compensate for the 13% decline in the dollar.

Feast, then Famine:  In Cancun, as at the failed Copenhagen gathering, world leaders will make stirring speeches about the necessity of other countries doing something to cut back on global warming, while carving out exceptions to permit continuing their own climate-killing growth in hopes of more jobs, more profits.  Better they should stay home and not embarrass themselves.

Believe It Or Don't:  “Democrats actually shrank spending, deficit in last fiscal year.”

Quarantine:  Surrounding states are erecting barriers to prevent whatever massive illness has struck Connecticut from spreading, because they don't want their health insurance rates to jump 47% in a year.  Blue Cross of CT claims the federal health reform requires them to raise their rates now, before a cap on fees is imposed.   If they don't screw their customers now, they might not be able to later.

Wrong Again: The headline read 'Food Inflation Coming to a Grocery Store Near You.'   What the article said was that an increase in demand and a serious decrease in supply were driving up the prices of food.  It said nothing at all about a surplus of money (inflation).  Higher prices are much tougher on the poor than inflation.

Quoted:  “Without taxes there is no wealth, without taxes there is no civilization, without taxes criminals take life and property with no redress.” Well, two out of three...

Leadership:  Two thirds of The Business Council, CEOs of the largest US companies, think their own industry will prosper over the next six months. This is the same cohort of insiders that is selling dumping their stock.

Porn O'Graph: Peak everything.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

SAR #10289

There is no Plan B. - Chris Martenson

First Principals: In the US, housing is central to the economy, to the financial system, and to the society. It has failed. And with it the consumer economy has lost its main support, so, too, have employment, taxation, the social contract and governance. The replacement, in each case, is fear. And not far behind the fear is the gathering recognition that doom, that collapse is just off stage, waiting.

There is no rational way to discuss one aspect or another of the hydra facing us. Yes, fraudulent affidavits were used to keep foreclosure mills running. Why not? The mortgages were frauds at inception – deceitful loans made to deceitful buyers. The fraudulent mortgages were quickly passed on to the slice and dice middle-men who knew what they were cutting up was fraudulent but didn't care as long as they could pass it on – nudge, nudge, wink, wink – as MBS given fraudulently high ratings by firms that were no better than houses of prostitution. A “service” industry grew up that was designed to keep all the players fat, dumb and happy until they were starved, very unhappy, but still greedy, still dumb.

The housing market has disappeared into the hated federal government – no one else would lend money into such a market, nor offer MBS stuffed with fraudulent documents and backed by no-loss covenants. All the banks do is collect fees and distribute bonuses.

The rule of law disappeared along with the magic of deregulation – what are laws except inconvenient constraints on profits? Common sense left town years ago. Readers ask why I've not written about the 'foreclosure fraud', this is why: It is too big to grasp. We are living in a world made by fraud and it cannot but all fall down. Anyone who thinks this is all trivial technicalities is wrong.

I truly thought our doom would flow from the increasing decline in petroleum production, years from now. I was wrong.

Friday, October 15, 2010

SAR #10288

It's become all fraud, all the time.

Headline News: “Massive Trade Deficit Raises Prospect Of Disastrous Christmas If Shoppers Don't Come Through.” Six too many words.

Fair & Balanced: Here's a neat graph comparing the money spent (in 2007) on renewable energy development compared to that spent on oil Iraq.

Minority Report: DARPA, fresh from an afternoon matinee, hopes that by reading your emails and secretly friending you, they'll know whether you need arresting now for things you might do later.

Same Old Same Old: Afghans allege that abuse continues at secret US prisons. Surprise, surprise. Note that torture is still a war crime.

Only In America: The federal government, shocked to discover that insurance companies failed to live up to commitments made while negotiating health care reform, has turned to state governments urging them to force health insurers to sell coverage for children. In that health insurers don't live up to the contracts they write, why is it surprising they don't live up to handshake agreements that would cost them money?

Too Little, Far Too Late: Former Army Chief of Staff (1997-2001)Gen. Hugh Shelton now steps forward to say that Bush “got us enmeshed in Iraq based on extraordinarily poor intelligence and a series of lies,” that Rumsfeld was the worst Seckretary of Defense ever, and that John McCain “would break into erratic temper tantrums in the middle of a normal conversation."

Stop Me Before I Buy Again: American jingoists are calling for a crackdown on China's 'unfair' trading practices. They should stop sending their stuff over here and making us buy it. Same thing goes for those Latin American drug cartels.

Appropriate Punishment: If Californians elect Tea Party/GOP congressional candidate David Hamer, he promises to do away with public education. Which would certainly balance California's budget. Be careful what you wish for.

Police Action:  New York City has paid nearly $1 billion over the last decade to settle claims against NYC police by citizens – everything from shooting them to running over them with patrol cars. Protect and serve.

Tipping Point:  Someone's figured out that as the rich get richer, the rich get even richer, and so on in an “accelerating feedback loop”. In nature such loops bring about radical changes.

Again:  Unemployment claims went up again this week, as did the four-week moving average of initial claims. For some reason this sort of thing is still “a surprise”

Running on Fumes:   The continued weak or no growth in the use of diesel fuel indicates a continuing slowdown in the shipment of materials and merchandise. This in turn suggests....

Pelican:   Iraq, which last week invoked the gimmie clause and increased its reserves by 15% after promising to increase its production capacity from 2.4 mbd today to 12 mbd in 2017, has proudly announced it will take the first step next year with a 300,000 bd capacity increase. At that rate, 2017 might fall sometime about 2041.

Shell Game: The Philippines has fined Shell $567 million for   “misdeclaring and misclassifying 52 shipments” - what used to be called smuggling.

The End Is Near:  Chesapeake Energy CEO McClendon says the shale-gas party is over and that “By the end of 2011 there won't be any more” big finds. So you'd better bid up his shares...

Nanananana:  Iran has assumed the OPEC presidency.

Tag Sale:  Krugman says we need $8 to $10 trillion in new stimulus spending to prevent Bad Things from happening. We'll never know if he was right.

--> Surprising how well a net-book works balanced on my tummy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

SAR #10287

Health insurance is a tax on people who don't know how to vote.

Another opportunity to test the limits of my own health insurance has befallen the author.

SAR will return when my doctor say I can once more do the heavy lifting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SAR #10286

At this point identifying the guilty is useless.

No Country for Old Men:  Investors – that quaint bunch whose investment horizons extend a few years into the future, planning for things like retirement – have not done well in the last ten years.  The S&P over that period has returned a minus 0.03% annually, total return, including dividends.  And there is no reason to expect any different result over the next 5 years.

How Free is Free:  The Supremes, noting that the appeal was not filed by a corporation, has declined to consider whether ordinary citizens can be kept from public events because of their bumper stickers.

Accent Marks:  Investor Marc Faber sees interest rates beginning to increase by the end of the year and claims stocks will do better than government bonds as the Fed inflates a new credit bubble.  Warren Buffett (as always, talking his book) agrees that the market may have reached an 'inflection point' where equities will perform better than bonds.  Maybe so, but mark me dubious.

Water is Wet:  Just as we suspected, people keep blowing themselves up just to embarrass the US.  Research shows that most of the suicide attacks in the last 30 years were protests against military occupation, and we've done more of that than anyone else.

Tectonic Shift:  China has replaced the US as the world's largest energy consumer, providing about half of the new, increasing demand for oil. While their per-capita energy use is still far below that of many industrialized nations, China has a lot of 'capita' and its energy use will continue to increase even while supplies decrease.

Plotline:  Make a movie showing the disappearance of 80% of the animals and plants in the world's tropical forests.  Hold it for release in 2100 as an historical documentary.

Leg Bone/Hip Bone:  If no one is building houses, trees remain standing, sawmills stand idle, and fewer rail cars carry lumber and other forest products to market.  And right now, after a brief period of increase, fewer rail cars are carrying lumber to market.  It's what's known as a clue.

Class System:  There are the employed, the unemployed, those working part-time because they can't find a full time job, those working far below their previous income level, 'those marginally attached' to the labor market, and 'discouraged workers'.  When the unemployment rate is mentioned, you have to wonder which unemployment rate?  The nominal 9.6%, the mostly true 17.1%, or some figure above 22% which would be the more or less real rate?

Porn O'Graph:  There's population and there's jobs, and one grows much faster than the other.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SAR #10285

The middle class is over.

Sclerosis:   The IMF is showing signs of severe hardening of positions as nations cling to their 'beggar thy neighbor' plans to save themselves at the cost of the rest.   Never a good plan, especially if the myth of globalization's goodness is to be perpetuated while everybody tries to export his way out of this mess.

Huff & Puff:   "If clear title can't be obtained, how can these places be sold – ever?"   This gets drawn out into a long and prosperous feeding frenzy for the lawyers while nearly everyone else suffers. What's new?

Click Your Heels:  Iran upped its claimed oil reserves by 14% overnight (without announcing any new finds) and promised that even higher numbers would be made up soon if Iraq upped its guesstimate once again. Last week Iraq claimed 143.1 bbl to top Iran's claim of 138 bbl in reserves.

Where's The Beef?  Tea Partiers and Republicans (ah, I repeat myself) claim Obama has expanded government employment, raised benefits for the poor, coddled the unemployed and recklessly increased government spending.  Too bad none of this is true.  What new programs?  What infrastructure programs?  What's been socialized other than Wall Street losses (and don't tell me health care, not while the insurers rake in ever larger profits and companies dump coverage for their workers with no single-payer plan in sight!)?  All that spending never happened.  It should have, but it didn't.

Good Question: “Why is Tony Hayward still a free, and rich, man?”  If he'd peed in the Reflecting Pool he'd still be in jail.

Breadcrumbs:  About 11.5 million new jobs are needed to bring unemployment down to the pre-recession rate.  A good first step would be a couple of months where job creation just broke even with new entries into the work force.  Write if you find work.

Costumes:  When the doorbell rings later this month, will you be greeted by a zombie homeowner or a zombie bank?  Does it matter which bunch – the underwater homeowners or the insolvent banks – gets the candy corn? But please, no accountants – they're far too scary.

The Quote:  “We're from the government and we're here to help.” T he speakers?  US Special Forces sent to rescue Linda Norgrove, who was killed in the attempt.  The military first blamed the Taliban.  Can you say “Pat Tillman”?

Trip Report:   The Association for the Study of Peak Oil -USA's annual gathering settled on a general consensus that 'peak' means 'plateau' and we have been on a 80 mbd plateau for about 5 years and have about 5 more years to go before oil supplies start to tumble downhill.  Many, if not most, also felt that the current economic downturn was directly tied to the dramatic rise in oil prices from 2003 to 2008, and that it had been but a taste of things to come.  Move along, nothing new.  Move along.

The Big One:  Why are underwater homeowners still paying their mortgages? a ) Hope.  b) Innumeracy . c) Inertia.  d) Fear.  e) Location, location, location.

Vegetarians:  Too bad for us carnivores that the meat we crave comes from vegetarians, especially vegetarians which eat corn.  Meat prices will continue to rise (already up 14%) as the US corn crop falls along with the number of feeder cattle and hogs.  If it gets really bad we may have to forgo 15% ethanol in our gasoline.

Porn O'Graph:  Homeland Security, the global game.

Monday, October 11, 2010

SAR #10284

Rage is not a plan.

This blog was started back in the good old days when predicting doom was not a mainstream activity.

The sub-prime collapse, coupled with concern about future petroleum availability for an economy dependent on cheap and abundant oil and grave concerns about the climate changed and climate challenged world I was leaving to my granddaughters, provided the impetus that got SAR started. I've had a week off, visiting the non-blog based world and have come back convinced that there has been no improvement in housing, employment, politics, the economy, oil supply, or global warming. Population remains unmentionable in polite circles.

So here's my current view for the next few years:

Housing – prices continue to spiral downward and foreclosure increase, although glacially due to the complexity of the various frauds committed along the way,  the immense and growing overhang of houses and the paperwork morass. Eventually 1 out of 5 mortgages (and 1 out of 10 houses) will be foreclosed, for sale, and forsaken. House prices will continue downward, eventually overshooting, but not for many years.

Employment – real unemployment of 17% will trend into the low 20's, the long term unemployed will become a chronic dole-dependent underclass. These people will not be customers any time in the next 4-5-6 years. There is a relatively straight-forward inverse relationship between house sales and unemployment.

Politics – on the national level, this year will soon be the good old days as complete (and farcical) gridlock sets in. Nothing will pass except for corporate/financial sector written (and demanded) laws. At the state level, 10% – 15% cutbacks will continue for the next few years - each year’s slashed budged a shadow of previous ones. Eventually the states will be able to afford only what can be paid for with ever diminishing federal funds. The state-based social support systems will dissolve.  At the city level, hollowed out municipal budgets will be limited to fire, police, some level of schooling and some minimal form of garbage/water/sewerage. The nation's infrastructure will continue to deteriorate – at an ever increasing rate.

Consumer Economy – the consumer (having already reduced credit card debt by 15% mostly through write-offs) will be forced to reduce spending in real terms as real income will continue to shrink. The unemployed who do find work will find lower paying jobs as the global race to the bottom continues. US jobs will continue to be exported or will simply evaporate in a world where they are no longer relevant.  The billions of dollars withdrawn from the credit economy are not  replaceable – an economy based on falling GDP, falling living standards and falling social cohesion will become the norm.

Oil – the world's oil supply will remain on the current fluctuating plateau of 83 – 85 mbd for a few years and then will slowly decline, even as demand rises and drives the price upwards. Above $90 a barrel or so the price will reduce demand and induce economic slow-downs.   Oil to power a real recovery/growth cycle simply does not exist, nor will there be sufficient cheap energy to reverse the (currently) slow erosion of the oil-driven luxury of the last 75 years.

Low-cost easy-to-get oil is gone, mid-range is running out, but hard-to-get and expensive-to-buy oil will be with us for a long time.

Global warming – As an economic factor over the next few years, global warming will mainly show up as costly storms, heat waves and droughts. In the long term, global climate change may be slowed (but only slowed) by the decrease in the availability of petroleum. There is sufficient coal to assure eventual societal/economic collapse, but on a time-scale that will not affect the time-frame addressed here.

Regular kvetching resumes in the morning.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

SAR #10280

China does not take us for fools, China recognizes us as fools.


I'm taking the rest of the week off – see you Monday.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SAR #10279

Believing something doesn't make it true.

Cover:   The GOP is proud to support Chis O'Donnell's doomed campaign because it lets them pretend to support the Tea Party wing.  Palin 2.0 a young lady who lies readily, doesn't pay her taxes, can't figure out who she is... she is the neighbor girl who ends up busing tables at a truck stop and magically, she's a candidate!  She is, in fact, us.  And the GOP wants her glow to hide their big-business-as-usual intentions.

Danger Zone:  A lot of $85 a barrel oil price forecasts are surfacing for 2011.  None of them suggest that $85 may be the magic number that puts the breaks on any recovery.

Big Dogs:  The oil companies that are California's largest polluters are pouring tens of millions of dollars into an effort to pass Proposition 23, which would delay enforcement of environmental regulations until the state's unemployment drops below 5.5%.  Clever, but it doesn't fool The Governor, who asks  "Does anybody really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts, are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs?  This is like Eva Braun writing a kosher cookbook.”

Impartiality:   Now the US has started using Predator drones to kill German citizens.  Don't see why they should be treated any better than US citizens.

Groupthink:  The cancellation of a TV show - 'Lone Star' in this instance - after just two episodes makes one question the entire decision making process that lay behind airing the show in the first place.  Several highly paid individuals had to be convinced, as did several highly paid groups of 'knowledgeable insiders'.  The pilot scripts were shown to a variety of test groups and polls taken.  And after all this selection, development and promotion another 'sure thing' fails.  Sounds just like politics, doesn't it?

Explication:  Could someone explain to me how Apple can be more valuable than Exxon?

Explanation:  The US has the greatest inequality of income and wealth among western nations.  For some reason Americans do not grasp this.  For some reason they accept it as just the way things are and pretend that things are a lot more equal than they are.  The reason is that the rich have brainwashed the rest of 'em.

Quoted:   “Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts.”

Sophistry: Michigan is auctioning off natural gas drilling rights on 452,000 acres of state lands across the Lower Peninsula.   The gas will be extracted via fracking, a technique that has not been warmly received in other places.  But Michigan says whatever the damage may be it'll be all right because the state's profits will go the the Natural Resources Trust Fund.  Macabre.

Wishes:  The electorate should be careful what they wish for – because they don't really understand what the 2010 Republican Party (and/or the Tea Party subdivision) really intend to do if they get a congressional majority.   Voters will be appalled when they discover just how far to the right this bunch really is.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

SAR #10278

The US spends most of its education dollars on the least educable.

Indirection:  Maybe what the Government really wants to do is to keep US citizens from traveling to Europe and seeing how their citizens take to the streets to express their displeasure at the rich and powerful.

Tempest/Teapot:  There's been a lot of press about GMAC, JP Morgan and others engaging in less than savory foreclosure filings.  But let us not get over excited – the fact is the homeowner took out a loan, the homeowner did not keep up the payments, and in the end the homeowner isn't going to own the home.  He may get to live in it a year and a half while the comedy unfolds, but sooner or later he's out.

Because It's Secret:  The Supreme Court has ruled that NSA does not have to admit that it intercepted electronic communications by lawyers representing Guantanamo inmates.  If they admitted they had it would damage US prestige.  If they admitted they hadn't, same thing.

Liar's Poker:  Iraq now claims to have the forth-largest oil reserves in the world.  Claims being the operative word.

Math:   The Republican Pledge to slash spending by $100 billion would have to take about 20% of the federal funding away from aid to local police, education, cancer research and other 'social' programs.  The trouble with grandiose ideas is in translating them into reality.

The Difference:  Purveyors of luxury items are having a good season – stuff people don't need is selling well.  Meanwhile, those who hawk their goods to the middle class are suffering. Draw your own conclusions.

Future Watch:  In Obion County, Tennessee, the fire department still rolls on all fires. But when it gets there it checks to see if the property is up to day on its payments to the department.  If not,they'll take cash – no checks – or watch it burn.  That's one version of America.  Mine is the other one.

Another One:  Ron Johnson, GOP candidate for Senator from WI,  says global warming is an unsubstantiated theory that shouldn't be used to formulate policies, especially those that would hurt American businesses. He also testified against the Child Victims Bill (which was defeated) that would have given more rights to abused children. He opposed the bill because it would have cost the state more money.

Long Haul:  Across the nation 40 states have slashed budgets to close a $84 billion cumulative shortfall.  Fire stations have been closed, teachers cut, social services eliminated, libraries cut and dog pounds closed.  Next year states will face $72 billion in budget shortfalls and in 2013 the gap will be yet another $64 billion – all to be met by cuts and more cuts until nothing’s left.   What's the point of the state if it cannot provide essential public services?

Summation:   Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi has a long piece on the GOP's Tea Party affiliate which concludes that Tea Partiers are a bunch of pissed-off but irrelevant older white folks who are scared silly of the modern world. Irrelevant, because the Tea Party has been taken over by the BP/Goldmanite powers that already have both major political parties and all the rest of us by the balls anyway.  It doesn't matter who wins on Election Day, enjoy the show.