Thursday, May 31, 2012

SAR #12151

Consensual reality has disappeared, and civility with it.

Illusions: Before we get to involved celebrating the fourth housing bottom sighted in the last three years, take a pause to appreciate how weak the “signal” is, given artificially depressed interest rates, bailouts, write downs, forgiveness, tax credits and incentives and a buyer's market. Pretend you didn't notice that those wonderful April figures are among the weakest Aprils in the past decade for existing home sales, and that pending home sales fell in April.

Being Prepared: In a few weeks, Abu Dhabi will be able to bypass the Straits of Hormuz with the completion of a pipeline that will carry its petroleum to the port of Fujairah.

Monopoly Money: Money has three basic characteristics: (1) It is a unit of account.  (2) It is a store of value.  And (3)  It is a medium of exchange.  Nothing in modern Greek history suggests that a new drachma will qualify on any of these three measures.

Nostrums: Economists, like doctors, should first do no harm.

Money, Talking: The RNC and the Romney campaign are expected to spend $800 million in this fall's campaign. Separately, “outside groups” (the Koch brothers, Karl Rove and the usual suspects) will spend at least $1 billion to elect Romney. The super-PAC supporting Obama hopes to raise $100 million.

Explanation Explained: Conservative politicians and their tame economists argue that the nation's high unemployment is 'structural' – mostly because the unemployed are uneducated and ineducable louts. Too bad the NBEAR finds that unemployment is high because highly indebted consumers don't buy enough to get the economy going. It's the lack of aggregate demand, stupid. And cutting 5 million from the unemployment benefit rolls is not going to help.

"Militants” Defined: According to US counterterrorism rules, a militant is any human being who is standing in the way when a drone -launched missile explodes. All males in a strike zone are viewed as combatants, unless the corpses turn out to be children.

Take Home Test: Right now, you are living at the absolute historical peak of human wealth. In terms of the energy you consume, the variety of foods and beverages available to you, and the amount of physical labor you don’t have to do every day, you are vastly more wealthy than any generation before you. Your children will be much poorer than you, will have far fewer options about what they can eat and drink and do with their free time, and will have to do a lot more physical labor. Their children will have even harder lives, and so on into the future, as wealth per capita declines for the next several hundred years. True or Sadly True?

Fair & Balanced: Fox & Friends has unveiled a four-minute attack ad aimed at President Obama. The ad was produced by a Fox News associate.

Roundup: A snake-handling pastor in West Virginia has died of snakebite. In Kansas, pastor Curtis Knapp has called for the US government to kill LGBT people. And at a church in Greensburg, Indiana, the congregation cheered as a 4-year-old sang ‘ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven’. Makes me proud to be a devout atheist.

Status Check: The belief that hard work pays off and that your kids will be better off than you is a) The American Dream. b) Something you once heard in a dream. c) Gone with the wind.

Porn O'Graph: Traveling Companions.

The Parting Shot:


Farther on…

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SAR #12150

“Young people are not always right. But a society is always wrong to beat them up.” (Jacques Parizeau, PQ)

The Pain In Spain: Greece is so yesterday. Spain's next; Bankia on it.

Flat On Its Facebook: If you were lucky enough to be one of Morgan Stanley's customers and were able to get in on the Facebook IPO you have lost only 24% of your money. So far.

Counterpoint: Greece will not leave quietly, Greece will not be the only country to drop the euro and the whole process will be chaotic and painful. Those who say otherwise have their own interests at heart and are being disingenuous at best. In excess of 300 billion euros owed to the IMF and EFSSF and ECB will disappear along with the Greeks. As much as 1.5 trillion will vaporize as the dominoes domino. Angela will not be happy, but happiness will be in short supply all over Europe. Someone best be doing some contingency planning.

Takes One To Know One: Christine Lagarde, she of the “tax dodging Greeks” lecture, gets $550,000 a year from the IMF. Tax free.

Golden Oldie: How long has it been since the US has announced the death of an al-Qaeda “senior lieutenant” somewhere in one of our battlegrounds? Well that's too long, partner. Rest assured that Sakhar al-Taifi, al-Qadea's second most senior figure in Afghanistan has been executed during a “precision airstrike” (sic).

Clip & Save: Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser says “there’s absolutely no reason for people in the United States to get all in a dither,” because the Fed has the tools to handle any fallout from Europe. Can't do much about unemployment or the dead economy, but the collapse of the eurozone? No problem.

If/Then: The International Energy Agency says that by 2035 the use of natural gas could grow by more than 50% “if if local problems with shale extraction can be overcome.” This would cause the global temperature to grow by more than 3.5ºC a few years later.

Essay Question: We now know that austerity economics are bad for weak economies facing large budget deficits. We also know that nearly all western economies are weak and face massive deficits. So why are they all drinking the koolaid?

Buying the Bullet: The fee charged to get a TSA agent to play with your privates will be doubling. You'll have to pay $10 for the service on a round-trip flight.

Reinforcements: The US Special Operations Command wants to establish a worldwide network linking the special operations forces (SOF) of allied and partner nations to establish “regional security coordination centers” under their command to combat terrorism. The need arises because the US is now conducting missions in 75 countries, several of which are aware of these operations. Plans are to expand US special ops to 125 countries by the end of the year and troops are getting thin, thus the need to impress reinforcements from the colonies.

Boosterism: The Case-Shiller March index sowed a 0.09% price decrease from February. That's pronounced “nine hundredths of one percent”. So you can understand why the headlines are screaming “The Housing Bottom Is Here!”

Past/Prologue: Following the mass extinction 250 million years ago, which only about 10% of plant and animal species survived, it took 10 million years for life to recover. At our current rate of extinction, about 70% of all species are expected to be extinct by 2100. Something to think on.

Angels On The Head Of A Pin: The Italian Bishop's Conference, under guidelines issued by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, has informed its bishops that they are “not obliged to report” child abuse to the police. A bunch of moral pinheads.

The Parting Shot:


California dreaming...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SAR #12149

People are not about to suddenly become rational.

In Memoriam: Every day, 18 US veterans kill themselves; more have died by their own hand than in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. One-third of post 9/11 vets do not believe either war was “worth the cost.” Only one-half of one percent of Americans have served in the military in this decade – which may explain why the wars, and the damage to our soldiers, continue. A record 45% of Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans – many having survived multiple deployments - are seeking compensation for their service-related injuries. Caring for these men and women will cost the country nearly a trillion dollars over the next 30 to 40 years – a cost that Bush never told us about.

Tariff vs. Bribe: Leon Panetta says the US will not be “gouged” by Pakistan to get it to allow transit of US supplies into Afghanistan. Wanna bet?

Behave, Or Else: The Germans say their will be no more money for the lazy, tax-evading Greeks until they settle down and submit to their punishment austerity measures. The Greeks, in turn, point out that the half-trillion euros owed to Northern Europe will do serious damage if the EU/ECB/IMF don't come to their senses. Rationally, this standoff should end with a compromise. But rationality has been missing from this discussion for quite some time.

Egos and Immorality: The only part of the Romney/Gordon Gekko myth that is true is the part about making a lot of money firing people and looting pension funds.

The Six Words...Under a FOI request, DHS has been forced to release a list of the words and phases that will get you monitored as a possible terrorist. This blog, in discussing the day's news, regularly uses 17 of the first 25 'triggers'. Words like cops, authorities, recovery, attack, Homeland security, gangs, SWAT, not to mention (ha!) cloud, plume, outbreak, evacuation, and gas. Clouds? Gas?

Details: “For the first time, neither party’s candidate is a white Protestant.” So says Mitt Romney. So, Barak's a Roman Catholic?

Freedom To Fleece: Sen. Rand Paul (Nut-KY) wants a law prohibiting the FDA from interfering with claims by food or dietary supplement companies about the marvelous properties of their concoctions unless it can prove in court that the claim is false or misleading based on published peer-reviewed scientific studies. He calls it free speech and has some diet pills he'd like to talk to you about.

Lobster Rolls: Maine lobstermen have been landing soft-shell lobsters in large numbers since early April - 4 to 6 weeks ahead of normal. Warmer water temperatures and the increased availability of food for the lobsters that comes with the warmer currents may be responsible. No one wants to speculate where the warmer currents might have come from.

Porn O'Graph: On average, healthy is expensive.

The Parting Shot:


A pause that refreshes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

SAR #12148

Governments go to war when they think they can get away with it.

Sympathy From The Devil: Christine Lagarde, said she has more sympathy for children deprived of decent schooling in sub-Saharan Africa than for many of those facing poverty in Athens, and that the “IMF has no intention of softening terms” for Athens. The Bundesbank now refers to Greece as “a failed, corrupt state.” The Powers That Be are telling the Greek voters to pick the right man, pay their taxes, or expect to be punished severely. Why? Because they can, and because it is intended to concentrate minds in Spain, Portugal and so on, to elicit the required docility to the coming feudalism envisioned by the ECB, IMF and, most particularly, Germany.

C'est la vie: McCain excuses Romney's getting rich by firing employees and looting pension funds by explaining that “the free enterprise system can be cruel.”

The Women With The Dragon Tattoos: “It shows you are strong and tough… It’s a confidence thing, it shows you are not afraid of pain, and that you can make choices for life.” That's one possible explanation for the burgeoning popularity of “skin art” among American women. Today more women (23%) have tattoos than men (19%). Or it could be just another sign of the rate at which America is swirling down the drain...

Clarification: The Bank of England is certain that the uncertainty in the eurozone will continue for several more years. Ah, optimism.

Down Range: Outside Bagram Airfield is an unmarked firing range blanketed with unexploded US ordnance dropped by planes and helicopters or fired or thrown by soldiers. There are no fences, no barriers of any kind, not even signs in the local language to warn children of the danger. Children go into the area looking to scavenge enough scrap metal to buy an ice cream cone. Occasionally they get blown up. US officials are aware of this and have a legal office in the area that's open once a week to handle complaints. In eastern Afghanistan, far from any legal office, a NATO jet bombed a farmer's house, killing him, his wife and six children.

Unclear On The Concept: Lloyds former head of fraud and security has been charged with... fraud. As they put it, she claimed “payments totaling £2.46m to which she was not entitled.”

Going, Going... Global CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 gigatons (Gt) in 2011, This represents an increase of 3.2% from 2010. To have a 50/50 chance of holding eventual global warming to 2°C we can only have a total additional increase of 1 Gt over the next 6 years, followed by a substantial decrease in emissions every year thereafter. Realistically, we're sunk.

Point of Sale: A high school administration in NYC plans to hand out condoms to students as they leave their senior prom. The students may or may not have had sex ed, but the administration seems to have learned a thing or two.

Zero Tolerance: A judge in Houston has thrown an honor student in the clink for missing school. 17-year-old Diane Tran is taking (and getting honors in) advanced-placement and dual-credit courses while working two jobs to support herself and her brother who is a student at Texas A&M. Who needs fiction when we have Texas?

Porn O'Graph: Here's what 'recovery' looks like these days.

The Parting Shot:



Saturday, May 26, 2012

SAR #12146

We chose this path, it wasn't inevitable.

Don't Let The Door Hit You: Germany's Bundesbank told Greece that their departure from the eurozone would be inconvenient but "manageable" - for Germany, and that it would be foolish to extend additional funds. The subtext seems to be Berlin telling Athens it won't be blackmailed into throwing even more money down that particular hole.

Turnabout's Fair Play: Why is the headline “Stocks fall for no reason” acceptable for a down day, but you never see “Stocks wandered higher for no reason...” ?

Hanging Together/Alone: In an astounding act of stupidity, the world finished the latest round of international discussions on climate control without making any progress and - some claim – even undoing what little progress had been made a year ago. The meeting was held to draw up guidelines for a future meeting at which plans would be made to organize a gathering focused on planning to address urgent matters relating to global climate change, with hopes for an eventual treaty - before a 4ºC rise in global temperatures or a 6 foot rise in ocean levels, whichever comes first.

Creeping Keynesianism: Don't quote him, but Mitt knows that " if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5%." He went on to say that he would not do that because it would "throw the country into a recession or depression."

Shoe/Fits: According to the just released “Human Rights Record of the United States”, in 2010 between 2.3 and 3.5 million Americans did not have a place that they called home to sleep in at night. This, the report stressed, was a reflection of the US political system which ignores people's economic, social and cultural rights. The report was published by China's Information Office. Of course, we know this is not true.

Wine Whine: BofA advises that we are approaching Peak Wine.

Stormy Weather: On the heels of a failed EU summit (which is redundant), strains intensified as eurozone business confidence underwent the sharpest fall in nearly 3 years, while Germany's economic performance was the worst in 6 months and France's data was the poorest in over 3 years. In a marvelous understatement, the ECB's Mario Draghi said the EU was at “a crucial moment in its history” and that "a courageous jump in political imagination" was needed if the EU – and the eurozone - is to survive.

Go Long: Mitt Romney, who says he doesn't do well in competitive sports, but “can compete in politics” which is, he says, “a sport for old guys.”

Preventive Strike: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R, VA) says the republicans will push an extension of the Bush tax cuts through the House this summer, trying to show the Democrats as favoring “raising taxes” going into the election and – a long shot – preventing the automatic termination of the cuts come next January.

Porn O'Graph: How deep's the water at your house?

The Parting Shot:


Monarda fistulosa

Friday, May 25, 2012

SAR #12145

Perhaps this is the best of all possible worlds.

Again: Thursday the US Treasury borrowed $29 billion for 7 years at 1.125%, and could have sold three times that amount of bonds. US debt now stands at $15.75 trillion, and nobody but a bunch of Republicans seems to care.

Correction: The meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear complex released at least 2-1/2 times more radiation that the Japanese government had previously acknowledged. Hard to believe, huh?

Plan Ahead: Citigroup economist Michael Saunders is not certain, but he thinks that Greece will leave the euro on January 1, 2013. Maybe. The Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten claims that "The Greece-exit is a done deal...” because the EU has finally realized that the Greeks make promises with their fingers crossed.

He Says, He Says: The Democrats in the Senate want the reauthorizaton of the Violence Against Women Act to include protections for native Americans, gays, lesbians and transgendered people, and – to some degree – illegal immigrants. The Republican House would prefer to simply not reauthorize the Act.

Factoid: The Congressional Research Service reports that producing and using petroleum from Alberta's oil sands – from digging it up to burning it in your car - produces 14 to 20 percent more carbon emissions than other oil the US imports.

Paying The Band: In 2008 the Koch brothers – before corporate money could be legally hidden – spent over $54.5 million on anti-abortion ads and the front groups behind the Ground Zero Mosque ads. They also spent more – a lot more – electing the current Congress that was previously known. Thank the Roberts Court: One dollar, one vote.

Balancing Point: Faced with the choice of preserving Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed for the nearly 40 million sockeye salmon that spawn there each year or permitting the development of large-scale mining for gold and copper, which do you think is going to prevail? Hint: Salmon do not hire lobbyists.

Boomerang: Things are spiraling out of control in Montreal as Quebec's 'truncheon law' unifies the populace against the government. Following the lead of their US brothers, Canadian police have arrested 700 protesters, waded into the crowd with nightsticks and indiscriminate pepper spraying – including spraying tourists at an sidewalk cafe – and starring a female officer spraying peaceful young people not once, but twice. Bet things'll calm down now.

Practice Run: Two USA Today reporters filed a story on the “dubious, costly” propaganda efforts carried out by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. They singled out Leonie Industries, which was $4 million behind in its federal tax payments, for special attention. Leonie has repaid them by deploying their propaganda/psi-ops tricks against the reporters. Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts, fake blogs in their names, entries on message boards and a false Wikipedia entry were created, some suggesting the reporters were undercover Taliban agents. It is not clear if Leoni billed the Pentagon for this propaganda onslaught.

Mulligan: Climate scientists are asking for a do-over on their predictions for the global temperature rise by 2100. The IPCC had originally aimed for 2ºC, but they realized that no country was going to keep its pledge to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions (the US is supposed to cut emissions by 17% by 2020, ha). So the goal was raised to 3ºC about 6 months ago. Already it has become obvious that we have little inclination to cut our fossil fuel use enough to make that a possibility, so it's now a case of pick a number - but anything over 4ºC is pretty much the Fat Lady singing, and it is all happening faster than expected.

The Parting Shot:


Time, trees, sunlight and a trail...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

SAR #12144

Wars keep children out of school.

Vigilantes: I thought I'd beat Krugman and point out that Wednesday, Uncle was able to borrow $35 billion for five years for a record low yield of 0.748%. The market is really punishing the US for its debt. Not.

Reality Check: If you think the financial crisis in the Eurozone/Greece (&Spain &Italy &Ireland &Portugal) is going to be resolved with no significant losses, no political realignments and no impact on the US of A, raise you hand. Now look around, you with your hand up; don't you feel silly?

Draining The Swamp: In an effort to abolish street demonstrations, the governments of Quebec and Montreal have passed some draconian 'anti-protest' laws, which have resulted in emboldening the protesters, who are ignoring the law in their hundreds of thousands, and have rallied the residents to their side of the student protesters. At 8 pm every evening, whole neighborhoods turn out on the streets and on their balconies and defiantly bang pots and pans to emphasize their displeasure with the law. Oh, you saw it on the evening TV news? In the US?

Great Expectations: April new home sales, up 3.3%, beat expectations. The FHFA's Quarterly House Price Index showed the first y/y increase since 2007 and the largest m/m increase since 2006. Maybe, just maybe...

Revenge Of The Weeds: Worldwide, 23 species of weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate (Roundup), and at least 10 of these have also developed resistance to other herbicides. In Alabama, 61% of the soybean crop and 80% of the cotton crop are infested with these new and improved weeds. Darwin knew it would happen.

Print Screen: As part of what HP calls "a multi-year restructuring", but is really their first step in abandoning the PC, it has announced cutting 8% of its workforce - 28,000 people - in an attempt to save $3.5 billion a year. Trying to manage your way to a profit is often the first step in going out of business. HP says the cuts came as it lost business to "smartphones, iPads and othe mobile devices."

More Of The Same: The Senate Intelligence (sic) Committee has endorsed an extension of the government's authority to continue the warrantless wiretapping started under the Bush Administration.

Yes, But: The Green River Basin, which spans parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, is said to contain a trillion barrels of oil, locked up in oil shale formations. That's three times as much oil as Saudi Arabia pretends to have in reserve. Too bad we don't know how to mine it, and it'll really too bad – in terms of climate warming – if we figure out how.

Priorities: All most of us know about Yemen is that it's small, somewhere in the Middle East and doesn't have oil. It does have rebel al-Qaida elements that the US attacks regularly with drones. That the country is on the brink of a hunger crisis of catastrophic proportions, with 10 million - 44% of the population - lacking adequate nutrition. A quarter of the population has fallen into debt trying to feed their families. As soon as the US is done pacifying killing the extremists, it'll turn to feeding the survivors and then focus its attention to Somalia. Is there still a Peace Corps?

Getting Even: Some now suggest that the “Bridgeport terrorists” were singled out because they had released a video taken when CPD officers stopped them and searched their car as they entered Chicago.

The Parting Shot:


Breakfast of Champions.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SAR #12143

Representative government has some obvious drawbacks.

Facing Up To It: Facebook lost another 8.7% on Tuesday, closing at $31.12. If you bought at $38 you're down 18%. So far.

Absolutely Safe: Chesapeake Energy, still maintaining that fracking is 100% safe, is screening all private wells with a half-mile of its Morse drilling pad in Bradford County, Pennsylvania after state environmental scientists found methane in nearby private water wells.

Asked & Answered: Do market economies make us "Greedy, Selfish, and Amoral"? No, it's the other way around.

Promises, Promises: Take them at their word. The Boehner/McConnell led Republicans will use the next required increase in the federal government's borrowing limit as a lever to try to force changes they cannot achieve in regular legislation. They will link arms and chant “It's our way or no way!” over and over. It's called blackmail and it is irresponsible.

Big Man On Campus: China's sovereign wealth fund's Jin says the renminbi will become the world's reserve currency. Them's fighting words.

The In Crowd:  Morgan Stanley quietly cut their projections for Facebook's earnings before the IPO, and warned told the select among their clientele. It may have been legal; it does not seem moral. If you've lost money based on the public information they provided, call your congressman attorney.

Deja Vu: The KKK is inviting all white North Carolinians to a celebratory cross burning. Well, not if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered; then you should detained in special camps until you are dead.

Experts: The essential qualifications needed to be a success in high finance are (1) the ability to find fools to act as counterparties, (2) the ability to evade regulations, (3) the ability to disguise gambling as investing, and (4) an ingrained belief that you do these things better than anyone else ever has.

Sins of the Fathers: Romney is “greatly disturbed” that the US isn't denying Mariela Castro a visa to punish her father & uncle. Or is it because she's speaking out against homophobia?

Icebergs Ahead! The CBO says that together, the spending cuts scheduled for 2013 and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will cut 4% off 2013's GDP. Which would make GDP for the year quite negative, contradicting the Republican claim that reducing the federal budget deficit will spur economic growth.

The Parting Shot:


In wildness is the preservation of the world. Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SAR #12142

“There are many ways of being right.” Kurt Vonegut.

Reality Check: Now that Facebook's had a day to settle, how much did you loose? And how much more before it comes to rest?

Is There An Echo In Here? Why is the Chinese commodity bubble popping? Because everyone was convinced prices would only go up, and they pledged/accepted the underlying assets as collateral at close to 100% LTV and then reality came along. As a result, many are are defaulting on their commodity orders while the shipments – coal, iron ore, copper base metals - are en route. Things seem to be slowing in the Middle Kingdom – so much so that copper ore is being stored in car parks and iron ore in granaries.

Business Model: JP Morgan has a record $1.13 trillion in deposits, but has found a way to lend out only 64% of it. The rest it's been playing with; win some, lose some.

Bubble, Bubble, Toil And Trouble: Scientists have identified about 150,000 methane 'seeps' in Alaska and Greenland, some over a kilometer across, venting methane into the atmosphere. These huge fountains are different from and in addition to previously known methane seeps from permafrost and the seabed. The Arctic is earth's fastest warming region, and as the warming continues the methane releases will increase; the warming will feed on itself and have a huge – previously unidentified - impact on global warming. Atmospheric methane concentrations are already at their highest level in 400,000 years.

Clip and Save: Paul Krugman says a Eurozone breakup is no biggie for the US; only 2% of US GDP is tied to exports to Europe and the financial damage would be slight because Bernanke “can throw enough money at the banking system to keep this thing from being a financial meltdown.”

The Party's Winding Down: Three years ago, Term-Loan-Guarantee-Program (a fully FDIC-backed entity) was created to allow banks to get ultra-cheap funding. By the end of June about $60 billion of TLGP 0.3% debt is due and must be repaid (ha) or refinanced at a 3.5% - 4% cost.

Marginalia: Qatar is currently producing crude oil at full capacity and is sticking with its OPEC quota.

Just Say No: The US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of evidence-based medical experts, says that men should no longer take routine PSA blood tests because the screening results in the overdiagnosis of and unnecessary treatment for prostate cancer which can leave men impotent and incontinent. Urologists – for whom PSA testing is an easy and continuous income stream – were pissed upset.

Christmas Countdown:Defense industry stocks are holding up quite well, considering they face significant budgetary cuts come December 31st. Is this simple denial, or are investors betting on the Republicans riding to the rescue?

Graduation Exercised: Robert Reich is telling the Class of '12 a few verities. First, half of you are not going to find a job of any sort. If and when you get a job, it won't pay enough for you to pay back your student loans. And because you've been students and have never worked, you can't draw unemployment. Congratulations.

The Parting Shot:


In wildness is the preservation of the world. Henry David Thoreau

Monday, May 21, 2012

SAR #12141

Rights are nice, but someone has to pay the bills.

The Play's the Thing... In Chicago, a fourth man has been charged with planning to make Molotov cocktails , but – like so much else in this adventure – it is unclear if he was linked to the three remaining under arrest from an earlier police raid. Lawyers for the three say there was no criminal activity on the part of those arrested and suggested there may have been on the part of the police and their agents provocateur, and that the seized evidence was home-brewing equipment belonging to the tenant of the apartment where the CPD conducted a warrantless (and unwarranted?) raid. The cops claim the trio they planted evidence on were making or planning to make firebombs out of beer bottles with bananas bandanas as fuses. The Cook's County state's attorney claims that a mortar, knives and a hunting bow were also seized. The case, like so many others, also has a couple of helpful undercover policemen, who were egging their hapless targets along by promising them jellied gasoline. One of the 8 individuals arrested with the reported bomb-makers and later released said “The whole charge is transparently bogus and meant for the media to reduce turnout to the march on Sunday.” Entrapment? Political theater?

In Act II, a dozen Chicago police cars rounded up 3 #Occupy live-streamers on their way home from a peaceful day on the barricades.

Left Hand/Right Hand: The RNC Chairman blames Obama for making a big deal out of the Rev. Wright attack ads that Karl Rove said was a “stupid” idea on the part of Republicans.

Program, Getchyer Program: The only unknown about Greece is the timing; when will it leave the euro? The unknowns are what Greece's departure and Spain's bank run say about the future of the eurozone. No, not Spain – Spain follows Greece and takes Portugal along. Ireland will be a slight side-show. And Italy is not of immediate concern because the contagion will never spread to Italy. The euro will be a (reconstructed) memory before that happens.

Contagion: “For the sake of democracy and citizenship,” the governments of Quebec and the City of Montreal are doing their best to quash protest and force student organizers to help them do it. Just like south of the border in, say, Chicago.

We Owe: In 1950 the world's fishermen hauled 19 million tons of fish from the oceans. By 2006 the take had increased to 87 million tons. In that time stocks of many large commercial species such as bluefin tuna and cod fish have collapsed by 90% or more. We’re essentially consuming the equivalent of one and a half Earths each year – and not just in fish. We borrow from the future, and one day the world’s fish population will collapse, but there’s plenty for us now . It's a Ponzi scheme, with our children as the fall guys.

Virgin Papers: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has ordered the State Board of Elections to issue 'every eligible voter' an internal passport a voter card. Nibble, nibble.

Leaderslip: Joe Pitts (R-PA) an alumnus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says that “it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Chairman Yasir Arafat to… restart a peace process that has collapsed." Much like Sharon, who's comatose, and Arafat, who died in 2004).

Reality Check: America want's peace, we say. We're benevolent spreaders of democracy, we say. We're also full of baloney. We are a warlike bunch. It's not just the two we're running now (or the other two we're running now but not acknowledging or the one we want to start with Iran) Go back a 100 years and count the wars - war has become a more or less permanent feature of the American experience.

Quoted: “Unless you run a financial institution whose business model is built on cheating consumers or making risky bets that could damage the whole economy, you have nothing to fear from Wall Street reform, Jamie.” President Barack Obama.

A Victory for All of Us: U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, blessed be her name, in overturning Section 1021 of the NDAA, has ruled that the government cannot indefinitely incarcerate citizens without due process. Maybe the ruling won’t last. Maybe it will be overturned. But Americans are freer today than they were a week ago.

Poor Babies: All those suburban California housewives who were going to get rich selling real estate back in 2005,6,7 have gotten the message – the number of licenses is off 29% from the peak.

Porn O'Graph: Up, up, and away...

In wildness is the preservation of the world. Henry David Thoreau

Tulip tree blossom.

Friday, May 18, 2012

SAR #12139

Ozymandias was not the last.

I'm spending the weekend listening to my granddaughters' jazz ensemble. It beats thinking about the collapse of the euro. Or peak oil. Or – most especially – the climate changed world they will inherit.


SAR  #12138

Most of our problems began as solutions.

Pride Goeth Before A Fall: Do you think JPMorgan's $2 billion $3 billion $5 billion in losses are an exception? Or the canary in the coal mine? Mitt says we should just get over it, “That's the way America works.”

Abandon All Hope... The best way to raise people from poverty is educating the women. The second best way is to reduce family size. Naturally the Republicans are against helping the poor, that's why they've dredged up the “global gag rulel” again, eliminating all funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). They don't understand that poor kids in the global slums are never, ever going to vote Republican.

Update: Canadian students are still turning out in the tens of thousands to protest the government's plans to shut down the schools to shut up their protests.

Co-Dependents Co-Existing: “When future historians write about the fall of the American Republic, they will of course lay primary blame on the extremists of the right, who set out deliberately to destroy it. But they will also lay heavy blame on all the “centrists” and Serious People who not only refused to admit what was happening, but ostracized and silenced anyone who tried to point it out.”

Other Foot: Secretary Clinton wants Myanmar to release its remaining political prisoners. I can remember an America that could have made this demand with a straight face.

Big Miss: The Philadelphia Fed's business activity index fell to -5.8 from a positive 8.5 a month earlier. New orders, prices received, and delivery time all fell into negative territory, while the employment data fell from 17.9 to a -1.3. The market didn't like it at all.

Tail, Dog: JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon has 'accepted' an 'invitation' from the Senate to testify before the Senate Banking Committee.

Man The Barriers: The US is putting a 31.22% duty on Chinese solar imports in an attempt to prop up the non-competitive US solar industry. Too bad we can't protect the working folks.

Points of View: The headlines said “Unchanged” - but this weeks report actually was a 3,000 increase in initial unemployment claims. So we're edging up again. No wonder it was downplayed.

Whether Forecast: If Greece asking for a do-over on its bailout is not acceptable, and Greece leaving the eurozone would cost a trillion euro or so and becomes contagious for Portugal and Spain (and that funny-shaped country we're not going to talk about), then what's a central banker to do? Well, getting ready seems like a possibility.

Spanish Banking Summary: Once they start, bank runs don't stop. With that in mind, the €1.3 billion Bankia customers have pulled out of the newly nationalized bank is just the beginning. The beginning of the end.

Heads Will Roll: Tom Fitzpatrick, a Citibank technical analyst, says that the markets will continue to move lower, tumbling by as much as 28 %. It has something to do with heads and shoulders, knees and toes, and the VIX, and the phase of the moon and the height of the tides.  He also expects new highs in gold.

Can You Hear Me Now? It appears that DHS will black out portions of “private wireless networks” in Chicago during the NATO meetings – even though the government admits “there is no credible terrorist threat”. Do you get a rebate for the missed calls?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

SAR #12137

Energy is money.

Rights Of Passage. Talks between the US and Pakistan, after droning on for six months, have resulted in an agreement whereby for only a million dollars a day Pakistan will let their close friend and ally, the United States, ship food and gasoline to its combat troops in Afghanistan. That does not include bribes and 'shrinkage' en route.

And Your Point Would Be? Sen. Tom Harkin maintains that the filibuster rule is ‘inherently unconstitutional’.

Mighty, Fallen: North Dakota produced an average of 575,490 b/d in March, beating Alaska's 567,481 – but nowhere near the 2 million barrels a day Alaska pumped back in the 1970s.

Ever Vigilant: The Department of Homeland Security is leading the federal effort to prevent the people from peaceably assembling in Chicago during the NATO conference, along with the Secret Service and Federal Protective Service, supplementing the 12,500 member CPD.

Inside Joke: In order to keep global climate change from exceeding 2°C, scientists say we must cap our greenhouse gas emissions before 2020.

Here's Your Hat... Banks keep pushing courts to speed up the foreclosure process and then let the houses sit there, empty and unloved. Deteriorating. No Realtor sign. Little maintenance. There are tens of thousands of these one-time homes, vacant and abandoned, rotting away. This is what our country has become: We use taxpayer dollars to throw people into the streets so that the banks can collect federal dollars and pretend they are profitable. Then we throw the people off unemployment. And no one goes to jail. No one seems to care. And every single one of us has played a part.

Similarities: According to Pat Robertson, “The union of two men doesn’t bring forth anything except disease, apparently, and suffering. And the same thing of the union of two women.” Just like the union of a man and a woman. Ah, equality.

Score:The atmospheric CO2 reading at Mauna Loa on May 6th was 397 ppm. A year ago it was 393 ppm, and a decade before that it was 375 ppm. Before the industrial age began dumping CO2 into the atmosphere it stood at 280 ppm. At the current rate of increase (and we are doing absolutely nothing to slow that increase) we will reach 800 ppm by 2090. That will guarantee global warming to at least 5.5°C by 2100. That in turn means a rise of 13-18°F over most of US and a 27°F rise in Arctic temperature. It is unlikely than human civilization will survive the heat, drought and catastrophic storms that would follow such a rise. And according to NOAA, the worst impacts would be largely irreversible for 1000 years."

Inquiring Mind: Do we know enough to ensure safe drilling in the Arctic? No, why do you ask?

Today's Reading: Congress is more dysfunctional than it has been since the Civil War, mainly because "one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." Mann & Ornstein "It's Even Worse than It Looks".

Playbill: Ten years ago we had such a large a budget surplus that some worried we were paying off the national debt too fast. But by the last Bush budget year we had a $1.4 trillion deficit. What happened to the surpluses? Tax cuts for the rich and a doubling of military spending to fight two wars - two wars of aggression. The the economy collapsed because Washington abdicated its responsibility to supervise the thieves. That is why we have a deficit. Wouldn't it make sense to look at what caused the deficits and fix that?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SAR #12136

We are a people in need of moral giants but served, alas, by what we have deservedJesse

All Sizzle, No Steak? GM, one of the world's biggest advertisers, is pulling advertising from Facebook "because the ads don't work." This is not the first time that Facebook's advertising - the income that might justify the stock's price tag - has been questioned. GM's skepticism about Facebook is not due to a skepticism about digital advertising overall. GM spends about $300 million a year on digital brand advertising--just not on Facebook.

Run For The Border: Since the May 6 election, Greeks have pulled over €700 million from the nation's banks. Much more of this and the weakened Greek banking system will collapse, which in turn may be the beginning of the end of this melodrama.

Rhetorical Question: “Did the White House Direct the Police Crackdown on Occupy?” What part of Homeland Security are you unclear on?

They're Fracked: Natural gas prices are down over 60% in the last year, which has seriously eroded the book value of reserves - by half or more. And higher-priced contracts are expiring and being replaced with far less lucrative ones. So the industry's asset value, cash flow and profitability are plummeting. Easy come, easy go.

Whistling In The Wind: Senator Al Franken wants the DOJ to tell him - and us - how often it and it's state level counterparts gather data from wireless companies without bothering to get warrants. This being a senator thing is going to Al's head.

Home Grown Austerity: The US may not be running a budget surplus, but the deficit is getting smaller – that's less spending. And Federal, state and local governments have cut workers – that's less spending. Over 400,000 long-term unemployed persons have already lost their unemployment benefits, on the way to kicking everyone – millions – off long term benefits. And that's less spending. Adds up to austerity.

The Christian Thing To Do: Beaverton Grace Bible Church is suing a woman for $500,000 for giving the church a bad review on Google. The other cheek was busy.

Buckle Up: John Boehner promises he will use the upcoming debt limit increase legislation as a forum to blather on about budget cuts and government reforms (but not tax increases) as preconditions to any debt limit increase. He's looking forward to a series of stop-gap measures so he can draw out the process as long as possible. But that's all conditioned on Obama winning. If Romney wins, deficits will no longer matter.

Party On: In Colorado, two parent chaperons at a high school prom called the teens "sluts and whores" and sprayed them with Lysol. Strange that they just happened to have Lysol with them.

Just Sayin': Harry Reed and the Dems are agonizing, again, over the pros and cons of reforming the filibuster rules. They are tired of the Republicans using the threat of a filibuster to get their way and to bloc legislation that the majority of Americans want. But they worry what will happen if they change the rule and the GOP takes over the Senate nest year. What will happen is obvious: The Republicans will have absolutely no qualms about abolishing filibusters, for they certainly don't want the Dems to do them what they've been doing to the Democrats in recent years.

Better Luck Next Time: Texas acknowledges that it executed the wrong man for a 1983 homicide. If they find the right man, they plan on executing him, too.

I'm With Chuck: Asked about the use of drones within the US, Charles Krauthammer, clutching his brand new ACLU membership card,  said "I’m going  ACLU. I don’t want regulations, I don’t want restrictions, I want a ban... Drones are instruments of war... the first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that’s been hovering over his house is going to be a folk hero in this country.”

Porn O'Graph: Up up and away!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SAR #12135

The meek may inherit the earth, after Goldman Sachs is done with it.

For The Good Of The Few: A Greek departure from the euro will cause €400bn in immediate losses, followed by the failure of €800bn in Italian and Spanish government bonds, €500bn of Italian and Spanish bank/corporate bonds and about €3 trillion in Italian and Spanish domestic bank deposits. This can't be allowed to happen, they say. It is, they say, in the interests of “long-term financial stability” that creditors who bought unrepayable debt are not forced to suffer for their stupidly. They also say that companies that make bad decisions should not be allowed to fail – they should receive taxpayer funds. Why do I suspect that 'they' have an inside track to the IMF and EU institutions? Not to mention Uncle Ben.

Cheerleader: Gary Shilling says that by previous standards, house prices still have another 20% to fall.

Resume: JPMorgan – yes, that JPMorgan – has hired Matt Zames to be its new Chief Investment Officer. Mr. Zames comes to them from a stint as Chairman of the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, and before that with Long-Term Capital Management when LTCM nearly brought down world finance in the 1990's. He is also rumored to have profited from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and JPMorgan's takeover of Bear Stearns.

Denial: Credit Suisse reckons that Europe will rebound this year, so we should buy Spanish and Italian bonds. Right. Beware of brokers bearing Greeks Spaniards.

Barbarous Relic: The IMF is planning to add $2.3 billion in bullion (about 40 tonnes) to its current stack of about 2,800 tonnes of gold. For an outfit that regularly badmouths gold, it sure has a bunch of it.

Six Of One: Moody's has downgraded 16 Italian banks because of “increasingly adverse operating conditions, with Italy's economy back in recession and government austerity reducing near-term economic demand.” Back in October, Moody's downgraded Italy because it had not adopted sufficiently austere measures...

Crime & Punishment: Best Buy's former CEO was fired because of a 'relationship' with a female employee. As part of his punishment he will be receiving $3 million in severance pay.

Blow Some My Way: Citibank says the world appears to be headed over a cliff, as the emerging economies are slowing, the Eurozone is likely to break apart, and the US is rushing into severe austerity at the end of the year. The only thing that will save us, Citibank says, is if the central banks turn to negative interest rates, adopt “more imaginative forms of quantitative easing" (ie give more money to Citibank), and then buy “high risk assets and securities” (ie, buy Citibank's crap at face value). No, none of this will help you, but that's not the point.

I Know One When I See It: The House passed an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that prohibits the National Science Foundation from funding research that Rep. Flake does not like. Stuff like climate change. Or why politicians ignore the voters' desires.

Behind Closed Doors: Climate scientists have long soft-pedaled their predictions of our inevitable future because they were afraid of scaring us into paralysis. They hoped they could nudge us into realizing we had to act, then, soon, now. In private they understood that business as usual would present a clear and present danger; they used words like 'calamity,' and 'catastrophe' and worried about the collapse of global civilization. They thought our leaders were not so blind and so greedy or so stupid as to blunder along, doing nothing. “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” Ultimately the danger will become obvious; by then it will be too late.

Porn O'Graph: Does this dress make me look fat?

Monday, May 14, 2012

SAR #12134

Many things work wonderfully until they don't.

Austerity, An Example: 230,000 long term unemployed lost their meager unemployment 'benefits' this weekend, because the United States Congress cannot get its act together long enough to address the problem of joblessness. The Democrats will wring their hands and the Republicans will count it a great victory. How tossing these folks under the bus is going to improve the economy was not immediately clear.

Pattern Crimes: Paul Krugman looking beyond a Greek departure from the euro - “very possibly next month” - expects the following consequences rather quickly thereafter: Huge runs on Spanish and Italian banks leading to currency controls and bans on cross-border transfers, as well as strict limits on cash withdrawals (this prediction is enough to start the run and withdrawals). The ECB will be forced to step in and prop up the banks. Then all eyes turn to Germany which must either underwrite Spain and accept higher inflation, or accept the end of the euro. “And we’re talking about months, not years...” He may be wrong, but I wouldn't step on his cape.

Big Bucks: Three non-Jamie Dimon "top executives" are expected to resign for their part - if any - in the $2 billion trading loss. Mr. Dimon will be sad to see them go. Jamie, himself, gets paid to take the credit, not the blame.

Operant Conditioning: To ride Chicago's Metra – any part of the system - during the NATO Summit you may only carry one briefcase; no luggage, packages, backpacks pocket knives, food or liquids, including coffee. Several stations will simply be closed. There will be bomb sniffing dogs, TSA clowns with wands and snipers in secret locations. Don't bother to try to drive, roads will be closed, no parking allowed, survivors will be relocated to detention camps. Passports will be optional, but some form of picture ID and the phone number of a good lawyer are recommended.

If We Told You, We'd Have To Kill You: If you find out that NSA has been gathering information on you via Google, you will become an enemy of the people for infringing on the nation's “information assurance mission.”

Suicide, It Seems, Is Not Painless: German' most populous state told Frau Merkel that austerity was not nearly as popular as she hoped - and dealt her designated heir a hearty blow, too. How long can the politicians and the media, and most of the economists, keep ignoring the obvious: One currency requires one country. And Herr Schäuble is undoubtedly correct, “We can only achieve a political union if we have a crisis.” Let's hope he has something a little less energetic than the Civil War. If the people of Europe want to keep the Euro, they'll have to become EUROpeans.

Teaching Point: The Koch brothers, through their Americans For Prosperity outlet, are stepping up their attack on Obama for his support of clean energy. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), (also funded by Koch money) has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy. To quote their spokesperson, "The American way is to use more and pay less. That's the American way,"

Debt by Degree: Why do they charge so much for something that is not worth the cost? Get that college education, they say. You need it to get a good job, they say. 94% of you will have to go into debt to get a degree that half of you will never use. The odds are your starting salary ($27,000 on average) won't let you repay the debt ($23,000 and growing) - and it's a con.

And Your Point Would Be? The American public overwhelmingly favors deep cuts in all phases of military spending - 20% or more of the current budget would be fine with the great majority. Congressmen, needing defense contractor money to get re-elected, are unlikely to heed the call.

Momentum Headlines said “Spain to force banks to set aside €30 billion.” A couple of things: Spanish banks don’t have €30 billion in assets worth setting aside, and if they did it would increase their coverage of probable losses from 53% to 56%. Let's not get too excited, housing losses will run to €650 billion - loans for which the Spanish banks have made….no provision.

Porn O'Graph: It's good to be rich richer.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

SAR #12133

Actions still seem to have consequences.

It's The Economy, Stupid: "It was a house of cards and it collapsed in the most destructive, worst crisis that we’ve seen since the Great Depression," "And sometimes people forget the magnitude of it. Sometimes I forget.” That's okay, Barak, Mitt's gonna remind you from time to time.

That Old Familiar Tune: French President-elect Francois Hollande is suggesting that Sarkozy's government underestimated the country's budget problems, that things are much worse than he suspected, but that this new data “does not necessarily mean” that he'll have to renege on his promises. Not necessarily.

About That Austerity: Greek unemployment increased by 42% in the last year. In a nation of 11 million, only 3.78 million have jobs and 1.1 million are unemployed – 21.7%.

Jim Hansen: “Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. If we were to burn the oil in Canada's vast tar sand reserves, and f continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies it will be game over for the climate... the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable.” Any questions?

How Much Is Too Much? If the natural-gas companies continue producing at the current rate, all the storage reservoirs in America will be full by autumn. With nowhere left to put the stuff, won't the marginal price be zero?

Smart Alec: Under ALEC's umbrella, legislators from 15 states will sit down with leaders of the nation's oil and gas industry to find out how they can help these struggling entrepreneurs evade onerous regulations and taxation. Specifically they will learn how to craft significant loopholes in any renewable energy legislation so as to benefit good old oil and gas. Actually it's not a matter of learning so much as it is simply taking home the printouts of the legislation ALEC has written for them. The five biggest oil companies reported $135 billion in profit last year.

The Night The Lights Went Out: Spain can no longer afford to light its streets and highways. This is what the beginning of the gradual descent into chaos would look like, if there were enough light to see it.

Individual Merit: In 2008 a nice young man decided to set up a private equity fund; his mom was one of the first investors. Some of his dad's friends chipped in. Even though he had no experience, within two years, in the depths of the recession, he had raised $244 million for his fledgling fund. Tagg Romney insists that the fact that his dad was running for President had nothing to do with his success.

Too Much Is Just Enough: The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis says that 8% is as low as unemployment can go without triggering inflation – that from now on, 8% unemployment is the new “full employment”. Is he a speaking for himself, or is this a trial balloon?

Where The Wild Plastics Are: Over the last 40 years plastic fragments floating in the north-east Pacific Ocean has increased a hundred fold. Not 100% more, a hundred times more. For plastics, there is no “away”. Fish, gobbling roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year, are part of an ongoing experiment that will probably not end well.

Barney, Frankly: “JPMorgan Chase, entirely without any help from the government has lost, in this one set of transactions, five times the amount they claim financial regulation is costing them.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

SAR #12132

People are corruptible, some more readily than others Jesse.

Fear Itself: The European Financial Stability Facility will give Greece enough euros to keep the country going for a few more weeks because they are afraid not to. Of course they're not really giving Greece the money, they are paying it to the ECB via Greece and charging it to Greece's account. The ECB is insisting on continued austerity: “Greece has to be aware that there is no alternative to the agreed consolidation program if it wants to remain a member of the euro zone.” Big if. Besides, Greece owes about 400 billion euros to private bondholders, public bodies such as the IMF and ECB. Just who is in the driver's seat is a good question.

I'll Gladly Pay You Tuesday: The US trade deficit for April grew $6 billion to $51.8 billion as imports rose twice as much as exports.

Perspective: Obama doesn't get full credit, his waffle that same-sex marriage “should be a state issue” gets a big F. After all, before the Emancipation Act, slavery was a state issue. Before the Voting Rights Act, voting was a state level decision. Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was a state-by-state issue, too. Oh, remember the Civil Rights Act?

Drop” defined: The headlines yell that initial claims for unemployment dropped this week. Yep, dropped 0.27%. Do the math: 367,000 this week, 368,000 last week. Actually, last week was 365,000 before 'revision' which means by the initial data, claims dropped upward.

Counting The Ways: America is, once again, becoming a bedroom community – the Republicans just can't get their minds out of other people's bedrooms. Romney's against same-sex marriage. Republicans in Minnesota want to join North Carolina's ban, while the GOP in Maryland and Washington State are trying to overturn state approval of same-sex marriage. Around the country there are over 400 bills pending aimed at women's reproductive rights – contraception and abortion. Unemployment? Nah, that's not a priority.

Yes, But... The US House of Representatives (a wholly owned subsidiary of GOP, Inc. David & Chrles Koch, prop.) on Wednesday night approved an amendment to prevent Obama from taking executive action against the Defense of Marriage Act or state constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage.

Your Millage May Vary: Education pays! Just not as much as promised. Remember, the number of people holding advanced degrees who are on food stamps has tripled in the last 5 years.

Pig/Poke: The FDA, with a lot of help from the health insurance industry, wants to give you a lollipop, little girl make more currently prescriptive drugs available over-the-counter. Sounds like a good deal, right? No need pay for a doctor's visit just to renew the same-old same-old. But wait, if it is over-the-counter your health insurance is not going to pay for it, you are. That's a dog, not a pig, in that sack.

Twas Always So: The London Olympics look to be both a financial and organizational disaster. And by the way, we'd like to quarter some soldiers on your roof.

Selection Bias: Despite all the entrail reading going on, the elections in France and Germany won't change much other than the names in the headlines. After all, the voters were electing leaders – and after the financial markets replaced Berlesconi and Papandreou is there be anyone left who thinks voting matters? In Europe, or here.

The Last Word: What is “structural unemployment” and has it ever been sighted in the wild? Structural unemployment (SU) a polite term used by some economists (on the right) to say “technology and financial engineering has rendered most of the unemployed superfluous. We don't need them. The unemployed are not skilled enough to get a job and not smart enough to learn a new skill and thus the rich shouldn't have to pay taxes to support the lazy louts.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SAR #12131

The hardest part of the struggle between good and evil is figuring out which is which.

The Battle Is Joined: The day after North Carolina, "making hate while the sun shines", enshrined bigotry in its constitution, Obama said “I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally,” and affirmed his belief that “same sex couples should be able to get married.” Let the games begin.

Hunger Games: In order to spend more money on defense, House Republicans intend to slash food stamps, school lunches and other "lower-priority spending" that ends up coddling children, seniors and the working poor.

My Heroes:Twitter has moved to quash a court order requiring the company to hand over data on one of its users, maintaining that “the Stored Communications Act has been held to violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Precocious: About that goal of limiting global warming to 2°C by the end of the century – with our usual flair, we will easily meet that goal by 2050 or so. This is not good news. A new report sponsored by the Club of Rome – those prescient folks behind TheLimits to Growth – concludes that "humankind might not survive on the planet” if it continues on its path of over-consumption and short term business as usual indifference. The US has just experienced the warmest 12-month period since record keeping began in 1895.

Luck Of The Irish: Instead of following the Icelandic model, Spain has decided to put the losses of the private banks on the backs (the Irish model) of what few taxpayers it still has, with little reform forced on the bankers.

Froth: Greece seems to have gotten Europe's attention. What are the European Very Serious People – who want photo ops and sound bites and success – going to do now? Well, they're for growth. Always have been, it seems. So expect a raft of new initiatives aimed at quieting the vox populi while continuing to rake the euros into the coffers of the rich.

Knee Jerks: Watch the government use the new & improved underwear bomber to frighten the American public into acquiescing to even more government intrusion into what used to be our private lives – or the lives of our privates. Certainly we should extend the 24/7 warrantless intercept of all of our communications. [Can unconfined material can burn fast enough to generate an explosion?]

Salvation! Portugal has taken austerity measures to a new level with the decision to scrap four of its 14 public holidays. Working four more days a year will make all the difference.

Apocalypse Then:  Bernanke calls it the 'Fiscal Cliff' - the convergence on January 1st, 2013 of a series of budget-related events: Expiration of the Bush tax cuts, automatic spending cuts in domestic and military spending, termination of extended unemployment benefits, and another visit from the Debt Ceiling Goblin. It will be great political theater – drama, tragedy, suspense, and farce. Especially farce. And why are they all set for then, in the last days of a Lame Duck Congress? Because elections are more important than the economy.

Indian Givers: Yes, you earned your degree. There was the ceremony where your college 'conferred' it on you with all the rights and privileges thereunto pertaining. One of the privileges is that you get to pay your debts to them. If you don't, they won't send out copies of your transcripts. Or verify your degree.

Yes, But: Michele Bachmann, proud American and one-time presidential wannabe, has acquired dual Swiss-American citizenship. Of course it's the left's fault she is turning her back on her Norwegian roots.

Porn O'Graph: Where the wild things went.