Cautionary Notes: There has been a sudden outpouring of expertise proclaiming that the lifting of the Iranian sanctions will flood the world with petroleum. How much of a flood and when? After 6 months, perhaps as much as 800,000 barrels a day. Is that a flood? Much of Iran's oil was already reaching markets. Libya can't find its ass with both hands. Iraq is well into a religious war and North America's tight-oil boom is a flash in the pan chimera. Will prices plummet? Yes, briefly. But Middle East, home to Very Important Oilfields, is in the midst of a Sunni-Shia religious struggle comparable to the clash between Catholics and Protestants in early 17th Century Europe and there are a number of major producers - Saudi Arabia and Russia among them - who need $100 a barrel oil. And Israel will lead an effort to ensure that the agreement is stillborn.
What Went Around... In an echo of the Mubarak regime, the
The Rest Of The Story: The headline (on a Jenny Gold article on Ezra Klein's Wonkblog) reads "Here's How Obama Is Cutting Medicare" The story is about how accountable care organizations, a Medicare program created by the Affordable Care Act that economists say could be a pathway to health care's holy grail, better care at a lower cost.
Fairness Doctrine: A federal judge has ruled that the IRS rules that permit ministers, priests, rabbis and other clerics to receive housing tax free violates the First Amendment.
Mission Accomplished: As the Afghans wave goodbye to the US military after 12 years of war, their government again plans to reinstate elements of Sharia law, specifically the bit about publicly stoning (mainly female) adulterers to death.
Excuses, Excuses: In October, the number of contracts pending on existing houses fell by 0.6% m/m after a 4.6% drop in September, making five months in a row of falling sales. Realtors blamed higher mortgage rates, higher prices, and the phases of the moon. Unemployment, over-indebtedness, decades of wage stagnation and poverty were not considered significant factors by the Realtors Association.
Headliner: 'Hungry Americans Less Productive As Budget Cuts Deepen'. School lunches. Let them eat school lunches.
Echo, Do You Hear An Echo? Home renovation spending is up 16% y/y and will reach a 5 year high next year as banks increase lending on home equity lines of credit (HELOC) at a pace that approaches the excesses of the last housing bubble. The median price for an existing home supposedly will gain 11% this year. The money quote: “Money is so cheap today, people can splurge on $1,000 faucets.”
Vorwärts Marsch! Greece (not all by itself and certainly not voluntarily) plans another €5.6 billion in austerity measures for 2014. Taxes will be raised 5.5% and social spending cut 6% more, mostly from the health and social insurance budgets. It's a sure thing: "Greece will succeed in its commitments." says Frau Merkel
First Things First: Reports warn that the Central African Republic is "on the verge of genocide", while the UN claims that hunger in Africa can be eradicated by 2025.
Let's Pretend: A new myth is rising out of the swamp in Washington, one that suggests that the disastrous roll-out of the Affordable Care Act is intentional and was cleverly baked in to ensure that the public would demand a competent single-payer system. This may happen, but it most assuredly was not by design. Certainly the greatest advantage of a single-payer system — simplified paperwork leading to low administrative costs — looks good compared to the administrative nightmare of navigating the health exchanges. It would have been simpler to lower the eligibility age for Medicare and to raise the income eligibility for Medicaid in stages until everyone is covered.
It's Come To This: In Portugal, the police had to defend the state from the police. Following the EU/ECB austerity demands, the government proposed cutting police pensions. Hey, gang, somebody's got to keep the proletariat in their places – you need the cops.
The Volunteers: Drivers in Forth Worth on Friday encountered a police roadblock which shuttled them into a parking area where “government researchers” took samples of their breath, saliva and blood. It was later claimed that participation – under the watchful eye of armed police officers – was completely voluntary, which is completely ridiculous.
Porn O'Graph: What goes up...