Saturday, March 2, 2013

SAR #13061

One size seldom fits all, it rarely fits even one.

Sequestration: Well, at least “economic uncertainty” has been resolved. We're doomed.

Return To Sender: The MSM says the Republicans and the Administration are talking past each other. Not true. They're not talking at all. Republicans just don't want to hand Obama anything the press will perceive as a victory. Anything 'bipartisan' would, they feel, be seen as surrender, so they will accept nothing short of the President's complete surrender to their demands – serious cuts to social spending, no new taxes, no loopholes closed. It is not a failure to communicate, it is a refusal to communicare.

Getting Personal: Personal income fell 3.6% in January - the most in 20 years, personal spending grew only 0.2% and disposable income dropped 4% - the largest drop in over 50 years. Construction spending fell 2.1% m/m – the biggest m/m drop in 19 months, while residential construction was flat. Lots of explanations, nothing to see here, effect of payroll taxes, etc.

And Now For Something Completely Self-Destructive: European leaders are “strongly considering” making depositors as well as investors in Cypriot banks take a serious hit as part of a bailout. Makes some sense, for Cyprus is a tax haven and most of the money on deposit is undoubtedly of questionable provenance, but if all deposits over 100,000 euros are confiscated – or very heavily taxed – then the same folks will take their “more than 100,000 euro” deposits out of lots of other eurozone banks. Ah, a continent-wide bank run!

What, Me Worry? Globally, people just don't give a damn about global warming, species loss or air pollution – public concern on environmental issues is at 20-year lows. Hard to worry about the bees and bears when you're trying to feed and clothe your family, and failing.

Degradation: Now the snake-oil salesman in the White House is calling chained-CPI “Superlative CPI”. Go look up 'superlative'. It doesn't mean “jiggling the numbers to make a cut in Social Security look like anything other than a cut in Social Security.” It seems, now, to mean lying with a straight face.

No Discernible Effect”:That's what the research says, minimum wage laws laws cause “little or no employment response”. In other words, raising the minimum wage modestly does not kill jobs nor drive business under. It just makes the Republicans mad to see the poor getting anything at all resembling a fair shake.

Running Out: Gee, whatever happened to peak oil? There's plenty of oil around... at about $100 a barrel.

The Score: In the austerity sweepstakes, the EU unemployment rate reached 11.9% (over 25% in Spain and Greece which have been benefiting from austerity the longest) and the bloc's GDP dropped 0.6%. European inflation is not meeting the EU target, and is falling. Britain is going down the tubes, too., while the US rushes willy-nilly into unthinking, unselective austerity.

Sun, Nothing New Under: Finance, which accounts for only about 8% of GDP, reaps about a 33% of all profits, up from about 10% in 1950. As Billy Joel asked, is that all you get for the money?

Ways & Means: Here's another one of those 'wine experts can't tell good wine from bad' stories. Look, wine is an alcohol delivery system. Only the first glass or two has to be palatable. All the wine snob stuff is a ritual, much like those at alcoholics anonymous.

Signpost: Saudi Arabia says it may lower its official selling prices in April for all crude grades for its Asian buyers in the face of economic weakness. Lower oil prices really are not a good thing.

Under the Big Top: There are half a million fewer federal, state and local government employees today than there were in 2007. Yes, things are spiraling out of control, but not the way Republicans would have you believe.

How Much Is Too Much: At what level of profit is buying a house and re-selling it “flipping” the house? At what level (and time-frame) of profit is buying a house, fixing it up and then selling it fraud? That's the question going around. But look, let's make it about something else, say bread and lettuce and cold cuts... Ah, as I thought. But exactly how does a house different from a sandwich?

Scoop: In order to keep cigars from being taxed like ordinary tobacco products, Congress granted cigar companies an exception that has allowed a dozen tobacco companies to evade as much as $1.1 billion in US taxes by making their products heavier – by adding kitty litter. Not post-consumer kitty litter, but the same clay used in kitty litter. No wonder those things taste like... kitty litter.

The Parting Shot:



mistah charley, ph.d. said...

This is one of the first places I come for news and comment each morning. Thank you, CK, for all you do. In the past few months, I have also been reading Charlie Pierce's politics blog at Esquire - he was very good on the election, and his coverage of the tragicomedies of the sequestration and the papal succession seems excellent to me. And now for a tangential historical footnote.

Danny Kaye's Clandestine 'Kaplan' Character

"Kaye had one character he never shared with the public; Kaplan, the owner of an Akron, Ohio rubber company, came to life only for family and friends. His wife Sylvia described the Kaplan character:

He doesn't have any first name. Even his wife calls him just Kaplan. He's an illiterate pompous character who advertises his philanthropies. Jack Benny or Dore Schary might say, 'Kaplan, why do you hate unions so?' If Danny feels like doing Kaplan that night, he might be off on Kaplan for two hours."

[from the Wikipedia bio of Danny Kaye - not only a charming man, but a mensch, to the best of my knowledge.]

meta-footnote: I got to Danny Kaye by a process of association from the Russian Jew who plays a pivotal role in Gurdjieff's story in Meetings with Remarkable Men of the resale of the barrels of herring - which the I was reminded of by the "house flipping" item. Briefly: if such large and quick profits are possible, the first price may have been too low. Gurdjieff's story can be seen at

Anonymous said...

Ways and Means Item:

"This column argues that alleged experts repeatedly cannot tell a superstar wine from a cheaper bottle. Like many cultural commodities, it seems that the quality of wine is not an objective trait. Rather, these commodities become whatever we want them to become."

That sounds alarmingly like the Ratings of Financial Products. "Thees Mortgage has an exotic fragrance of Santa Barbara."


"Look, wine is an alcohol delivery system." And so is beer and hard stuff. In the case of beer generally, it is a poor delivery system of the drug, alcohol, requiring many trips to the toilet to excrete the delivery vehicle, water. Wine is a bit better with hard stuff being an even better delivery system.

The Best Alcohol Delivery System is one used by an alcoholic chemist who used pure ethanlo and an intravenous drip as the delivery vehicle. This chemist had ethanol available through his employment. Of course, one must be concerned about measuring the rate of drip properly. As the buzz comes on.................