Thursday, October 13, 2011

SAR #11284

Greece is a symptom, not the disease.

Think: Greece's 10-year bonds are trading at a 60% discount, but European banks can pretend they are worth face value as long as there is no formal default. These bad loans cannot be made “whole” and Greece will default, no matter who promises what for Halloween, especially when “no details of the plan were released”, and meetings to formulate a “final solution” get postponed.

Remember the Maine! The US intends to use the supposed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador as a springboard for new global sanctions aimed at isolating Iran.

Frying Pan / Fire: The Iraqi government wants to be able to try US troops in Iraqi courts when they commit crimes in Iraq. The US doesn't believe that members of the Legion should answer to minor chieftains in outlying dependencies. Iraq threatens to replace US soldiers with mercenaries private contractors – who don't have a particularly exemplary record vis a vis Iraqi civilians.

Chumming: Applications for new mortgages and mortgage refinancing both rose last week, as loan size decreased 1% to 1.5% m/m. Today's low mortgage rates are projected to generate a "feeding frenzy" of house purchases next spring. Or the one after that.

Pay As You Go: When conservatives complain that 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes, remember that most of them do pay Social Security, Medicare, sales taxes and the extra hit on gasoline and alcohol. They also are most likely to get sucked into giving money to the state via lotteries. They don't pay income taxes because they are poor. As for the pooh-poohing of the Occupy movements, remember that there is not a single metric where the 99% of us control 99% of anything.

Trashing the Place: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital city, hasn't got enough capital to pay its debts and has filed for bankruptcy. The city owes $242 million and is $65 million behind on its payments - mostly for a state-of-the-art trash-to-energy incinerator.

Hippocratic Oath: Financial leaders should adhere rigidly to the principle “first do no harm...”

Unchained Melody: Georgia is not a newcomer to the idea of making prisoners work as unpaid laborers (a fine definition of slavery), so using prisoners as firefighters is a cost-cutting measure just seems logical. And they are not the first to do so; California has more than 4,000 inmates stationed at 45 camps throughout the state for fighting forest fires. Perhaps other states could keep some social services going longer if they used prisoners as playground supervisors, day-care attendants.

In The Center Ring: While everyone was concentrating on the Keystone XL pipeline, the Interior Department approved drilling for oil in the Arctic off the northwest coast of Alaska.

Clarification: Obama's jobs bill did not fail in the Senate – no matter how many headlines claim otherwise. The GOP minority prevented the Senate from considering the jobs bill. A difference with a distinction. Afraid (or rather, convinced) that they would lose a vote on the jobs bill, or worse yet be forced to face the electorate having voted against it, they simply blocked consideration of the bill. Democracy in America, where 'the minority rules' is the rule.

Keep Your Pants On: Levi Strauss says customers didn't buy new jeans for back-to-school. Going forward, the company's CFO says “It is hard to imagine a very robust holiday season..."

The Daily Doomster: The factors (mainly the collapse of debt-driven consumer demand) which caused the first crash are still in place, so what we have experienced so far is simply prologue. Without serious changes, none of which are on the horizon, “another Great Depression is all but inevitable.”

It Still Moves... Bowing to authorities' right to be wrong, a Rice University oceanographer says he will let his article on sea-level rise go unpublished rather than accede to the state environmental agency's demand that he delete references to human-caused environmental changes - which are not in conformity with Texas' state-mandated scientific-political belief system..

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