Thursday, October 31, 2013

SAR #13304



Nothing in the real world suggests that unending economic growth is possible.

Barf Bag Please: NSA director General Alexander says that “NSA protects America's privacy and civil liberties,” and only listens 24/7 to our every whisper in order to keep foreign terrorists from diminishing those rights. In other words, NSA invades our privacy to make sure no one else does. 
 
Positively Negative: US consumer confidence fell sharply in October, we were less optimistic about the current situation, and are decidedly gloomier about the future. Yeah, recovery.

Unsinkable: One of Obamacare's greatest survival factors is that it will deliver a lot of profit to insurance companies and keep most American's health insurance costs to 8% or less of their income. Sure, both of these will drive up the deficit, but two out of three ain't bad. 
 
Fear And Loathing: American conservatives' dislike for poor people – witness their current drive to dismantle the food stamp program, the refusal of 26 Republican governors to accept the no-cost expansion of Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, and their unthinking rejection of Obamacare in total – is mainly based on fear. Some small part of their abhorrence of the poor may stem from sophomoric idealization of 'free markets' and the idea that those who fail to succeed must be defective, even more of it is the desire to elevate oneself over others, but a great deal of it is simple racism.

Push/Shove: No matter how much the Fed would like inflation to be higher, without putting money in the hands of consumers – a direct stimulus - it cannot succeed. Flooding the world with money does them little good if the money is not used (borrowed) by companies to expand their output, and a company does not make more widgets if it does not see customers for those widgets. As long as the customer doesn't have the money (or sufficient credit) to buy the widget, the cash just piles up in asset heaps, uselessly. 
 
Baby Steps: the cops now have GPS bullets that can be fired into a target – say a car – and let the cops tract the location of the target at their leisure. It may cut down on dangerous high-speed chases. It also may be the precursor of smaller versions with other uses.

Prior Restraint: Britain's press is going to court in a bid to stop the imposition of new rules developed after the country's phone hacking scandal. Essentially the establishment wants to impose gag orders on the press to prevent their ratting out their betters. Luckily we in the US still have the First Amendment. Still.

Caught In The Middle: Obamacare will not solve the most severe problem facing the use healthcare consumer – the fact that both the doctors and the insurance companies want to make a profit. This leads the doctor to over-prescribe and the insurance company to fight tooth and nail to keep the doctors from prescribing at all. Insurance companies demand massive amounts of paperwork out of rational fear of fraud – with drives up administrative costs. Doctors perform for-profit procedures that guarantee more explanatory paperwork. What is best for the patient is seldom the primary concern of any of the clerks involved in the ensuing paper wars.

He Said She Said: NSA documents show that NSA has tapped into communications links from Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. But NSA director General Alexander claims this is not true, that the NSA hasn't infiltrated their servers. “Infiltrate” would suggest it was done in secret. It wasn't. Previous reporting suggests that NSA paid them for the access.

Porn O'Graph: This time's different, f'sure.

The Parting Shot:
Trouble in paradise.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SAR #13303



Servitude wears disguises. 
 
Next Up: A US drone has killed two “suspected Al Shabaab militants” ( or a couple of guys in the wrong place at the wrong time ) in Somalia, as the empire attempts to get a war going there as a backup in case the need for random deaths in Pakistan and Yemen tapers off.

Sources & Methods: Self-confessed serial liars General Keith Alexander, director of NSA, and James Clapper, Jr., the director of national intelligence, today claimed that they had not collected tens of millions of phone calls by French and Spanish citizens. They then went into detail about how they happened to come by these phone calls - a gift from admirers, apparently - explaining that their critics didn't understand ... balderdash and bathwater. 
 
The Witch Is Dead: US wholesale prices dropped in September as food costs retreated, an indication inflation remains tame. Try as it will, the Fed seems incapable of pushing inflation up to its 2% target – much less cause the dreaded runaway inflation so beloved of the GOP.

Victory: The Congress has managed to cut nearly a million undeserving, slothful veterans from the food stamp rolls, effective Friday. That leaves about 46 million Americans on the dole, as the number receiving food stamps continues to increase, even as employment slowly recovers – another sign that millions of working Americans don't make enough to feed their families. 76% percent of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83 percent of all SNAP benefits. Kicking those veterans off will really save money.

Retailing Retail Sales: Retail sales, less cars and gasoline, climbed just 0.4% in September. Auto sales fell 5.1% m/m. Make up a story...

Asked & Answers: How Does the Global War on Terror Ever End? (a) It won't because it creates more of 'the enemy' every day. (b) It cannot, because terrorism is a process, not a person, place or thing. (c) It is not intended to end, we need something to focus our daily two minutes of hate on. 
 
Austerity: No matter how emotionally satisfying it might be, cutting government spending while the economy is floundering is the wrong thing to do. It's basic: while belt tightening during hard times is a Good Idea for individuals, it is a Terrible Idea for the economy. If everyone stops demanding, there will be no demand, thus no production. If, however, the government steps in and gives individuals some money to spend, presto, changeo: demand. Sure it may create a little inflation – so you get to pay back your house mortgage with cheaper dollars. Good for you, bad for Daddy Warbucks. Which explains why those guys keep pushing austerity, not stimulus.

Win Some, Lose Some: Measures to prevent and treat head trauma have cut the incidence of “brain death” by half in the last decade. Which is good. A side effect, however, is a matching loss of transplant organs.

The Parting Shot:
 Rush Hour.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SAR #13302



A number of American politicians believe Atlas Shrugged is real, and that they're John Galt.

First Things: General Keith Alexander, sworn to uphold the Constitution as a military officer and head of the National Security Agency which intercepts all of our electronic communications in order too protect and defend us and the Constitution, says that we must find a way to stop reporters from reporting leaks in the press. 
 
Slip Sliding: Pending home sales (i.e. contracts to buy an existing home) fell 5.6% in September, m/m, the first time in 29 months that pending sales haven't increased y/y and is the biggest drop in 40 months,

Side Note: The Fed's Flow of Funds report shows that over $1.3 trillion in mortgage debt has been vaporized, mostly through foreclosures and short sales, by the collapse of the housing bubble. That makes a fair hole in the economy.

Entrails: NYSE margin debt has reached record highs. Some see this as a bearish signal that unwarranted exuberance has set in, others see it as a bullis vote of confidence in future gains. You pays borrow your money and takes your choice.

Safety First: Since the slaughter of 20 children at Newton elementary, over 28,000 more Americans have died from guns – 90 a day. Proud, ain't we, of our freedoms?

Joke's On Us: The only way to “rein in” NSA's unconstitutional arrogance is to defund the Beast. Too bad that – like Hoover in the days of old – the NSA holds markers on most of those who theoretically supervise it. 
 
Strange Bedfellows: Israel and the Saudis have stumbled into an alliance opposing the current US-Iran rapprochement, sharing religious, political and economic animus; the enemy of my enemy...

Reminder: Nearly 45,000 Americans will die this year because they do not have health insurance and cannot afford medical care. The marketplace is not a solution for those who have no money to enter the market.

Running Totals: Since April, over 5,000 Iraqis have died in what is in essence a religious war between Sunni and Shia.

Paying The Price: In 2016 alone—the 24 states embracing Obamacare and expanding their Medicaid programs will receive $30.3 billion in additional federal dollars, while those not expanding will forego $35.0 billion they could have had to spend on their citizens.

Keeping Score: "The Republicans are winning, and have been for the past three years, if not the past thirty. They’re just too blinkered by fantasies of total victory to see it."

Sophomoric Enlightenment: In an article asking "Are Rising Energy Costs Responsible for Widespread Economic Recession?" the author breathlessly concludes it's "something no one would have thought of—high oil prices that take a slice out of the economy, without anything to show in return." Or 'the more it costs to get the oil, the less you make burning it.' Now that wasn't hard, was it?

If You Have To Ask: The WSJ wants to know "Whose side is your broker on?" Ask yourself this: what does your broker really do for a living, from whence does his income come? At the end of the day he takes money from you. How he maximizes that income is the real story.

The Parting Shot:
 One in every crowd.

Monday, October 28, 2013

SAR #13301


Snowden's crime was not exposing the spying, it was exposing the hypocrisy

Obamacare Basics: The Affordable Care Act is not about health care nor even about health insurance. That is part of the deception. The ACA was designed to prevent universal single-payer healthcare in the US, permanently. Secondarily it was intended – through the individual mandate – to increase insurance profits. And to assure the flow of those profits, it also acts as a direct transfer of tax revenues to insurance corporation investors thorough premium subsidies. This is the price we pay for insisting on keeping insurance companies in the mix, when they serve little useful purpose. And the Republicans are against this?

Austerity Now! The UK's economy grew by 0.8% in the latest quarter, the fastest it has grown in 3 years of grinding austerity. Ah, the smell of napalm in the morning.

Mission Creep: NSA justifies its spying on everyone, everywhere, all the time as necessary to defend the US from terrorist attacks. So, is Angeleka Merkel a terrorist? Or the entire administrative structure of the EU? Or Brazil's Petrobas? Have terrorists infiltrated international trade conferences? For years the NSA has swept up billions of phone calls, emails and private conversations of the leaders of our political allies and the corporate officers of our leading competitors – all in the name of 9/11 and Apple Pie. And business interests.

Neverland: In one of the more asinine 'thought' pieces on oil production and pricing, we are urged to ponder what will happen if oil falls to $70. Right. If the economy tanks to the point oil that goes to those levels we'll have a lot more to worry about than the price of oil.

Tree, Poison Fruit Of? The Feds are now admitting they are using information taken from warrantless wiretaps to develop criminal prosecutions. Neat, use “national security” to troll the airwaves for evidence that they could not get a valid warrant for and about which they would have no idea except for the warrantless 'security' snooping.
Wish Listed: Most Americans who contribute to 401(k)s are running up debts faster than piling up retirement funds - increasing their mortgages, credit card balances and installment loans far more than they are able to put away for their retirement. But the fig-leaf of their 401(k)s makes them feel good, so let them be. They'll suffer soon enough. 
 
Quiz: In which European country were there more bikes sold last year than new cars? All of them except Belgium and Luxembourg. 
 
Fool's Errand: Raising the eligibility age for Medicare will at best not save any money and is most likely to cost the government money. The 65-year old 'youngsters' are far cheaper to care for than older recipients. And most 65-year olds will qualify for Medicaid if denied Medicare. And given Obamacare, the government would undoubtedly be out more money subsidizing private health insurance than putting the same folks on Medicare – which is a remarkably cost-efficient program. The CBO estimates the budget savings from raising the Medicare age to 67 is $2 billion a year – far less than can be made by fining JPMorgan for its transgressions. The usual suspects will keep pushing for the same thing, dismiss the evidence and keep marching to Ayn Rand's drum.

The Definition of 'Is': The US is defending its prerogative of murdering anyone, anywhere, at any time via drone strike as being “necessary and just'. Which would certainly depend on the definitions of those words.

Something Is Very Wrong: “The US economy has left large swaths of people behind. History shows that such periods are ripe for demagogues, and here again, deep pockets buy not only the policy set that protects them, but the “think tanks,” research results, and media presence that foments the polarization that insulates them further.”

Point Of Order: The US deficit is not “spiraling out of control”. If anything, the deficit level is being reduced too quickly and this is slowing our recovery. The deficit has declined steadily since 2009. So we are entering another season of straw men and specious scare tactics as the 1% and their minions sally forth once again to gut Social Security. In the upcoming budget talks, failure is an option; the best one.

Asked & Answered: “Can Republicans Investigate Obamacare Without Making Fools of Themselves?” What would make Obamacare different?

The Parting Shot:
Bridges over untroubled water.



Saturday, October 26, 2013

SAR #13299



"The age of bullshit investments is back." Kevin Roose.

The Daisy Test: NSA now explains its scooping up every electronic bit about each of us as the only way it can figure out if we've been good or bad. They look at everything (and they mean everything) and decide if overall you belong in the 'patriot' or 'terrorist' pile. Essentially, we're all guilty until they think maybe we're not. He loves the country, he loves it not...

Trees: Four months after protesters in Istanbul demonstrated against the conservative religious government under the pretext of saving the trees in a large park and were rewarded with riot police with water cannon and plastic bullets, protesters in Ankara are demonstrating to protect some 3,000 trees from government destruction and will in turn be met with water cannon and plastic bullets. It's not really about the trees.

Rhetorical Flourishes: According to Paul Ryan the GOP will use the upcoming budget discussions as an opportunity to make “common-sense structural long-term reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code”. Translation: In return for agreeing to abandon the mindless across-the-board budget cuts of the sequestration, Ryan & Co will insist on cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and some farm programs while cutting taxes an equal amount. Because (cue boogeymen) the debt, the debt, the debt...

Tale Of Two Projects: The F-35 fighter jet (which the military does not want) is seven years late and $233 billion over budget. The Republicans love it. The interface to the ACA is going to be about two months late and about $300 million over budget. The Republicans are outraged. The main difference is that the F-35 project leads to all sorts of profits for those who contribute to politicians, while the ACA will benefit the poor.

Geography Test: Thirteen of the seventeen states where a majority of public school students are poor (ie over half qualify for free or reduced school meals) are (a) in the South, (b) Republican controlled. The correct answer is, of course, yes. 
 
Quoted: “The Federal government and its various agencies have set aside the Bill of Rights as a dead letter, substituted for them a bizarre set of interpretations of law, and either avoid having the courts adjudicate their fascist fantasies or managed to have appointed to the bench unethical or authoritarian judges that will uphold virtually anything they do.”

The End Of Times: For over three years, serious-looking men in expensive suits in Washington have repeatedly warned that a terrible debt crisis was underway and would crush the economy while driving inflation through the roof. And repeatedly this has not happened. They have been wrong every time. And they are wrong this time, too.

No Longer A Threat: For several years medical researchers have been warning that our antibiotic weaponry was becoming compromised and that we were in danger of losing our fight with various infections. So relax. We are no longer facing that danger. The microbes have won and we have reached "the end of antibiotics, period."

Porn O'Graph: Banksters, Inc. 
 
The Parting Shot:
 Homes on the range...

Friday, October 25, 2013

SAR #13298



Investment bankers and politicians share certain traits with serial killers.

Things That Go Bump: Some would have you see the world through oil-smeared lenses, claiming that China's oil imports edging a tad higher than US imports was why Saudi Arabia is spurning the US. Except US imports come from neither the Saudis nor the Middle East. And while Chinese imports will poach oil from the market, it is not a diplomatic crisis. Nice story, just not true. 
 
The Headline: “Real Economic Growth Killer? Government Spending Cuts...”

About Desperation: The Mediterranean has become “an open cemetery for migrants” trying to reach European shores, but the flow of political and economic refugees from Africa - and the drowning - will only increase as global warming worsens. 
 
Progress: Since 1996, the number of US families living in deep poverty has gone up 130%.

To What End? The National Security Agency recorded information about more than 124 billion phone calls during a 30-day period earlier this year, including around 3 billion calls from U.S. Another 97 billion bits of information were pulled by the NSA from global computer networks.

Cautionary Tale: “Exactly the same bozos who missed the last bubble deny there is one now." Societe Generale's Albert Edwards.

Rose Is Rose: The final term papers based on the long-running EU social experiment with austerity are coming in and unanimously agree that the contractionary policy pursued by the EU/ECB/IMF were in fact contractionary. Cuts in government spending, it turns out, are treated by the economy as spending cuts. Golly gee. A-plus all around. 
 
Slip Sliding Away: The Sultan Of Brunei has imposed Sharia law in Brunei, but only on Muslims. Okay, they asked for it I guess. 
 
Excess! Crude oil – under the banner of WTI – has “undergone a substantial correction” in the last few days. That is, the price dropped. It's not a “correction” when the price goes up. But why? Well, Iran seems to be getting ready to enter the market as it 'friends' the US. Yesterday's employment report points to weak economic growth, and less growth equals less need to pollute the atmosphere. And the weekly US supply report showed crude supplies up by 5.2 million barrels. Take your pick. 
 
American Dream: In September, nationwide, all-cash purchases made up 49% of all residential sales. These purchases by “institutional investors” are now at all time highs, with all-cash accounting for half of all transactions. Your piggy bank that full?

Essay Prompt: Today's text: “The religious are more likely to lie for financial gain.” Usual Prizes.

Scratch & Sniff: There are areas in the United States where life expectancy has fallen to levels found in undeveloped countries. People in much of Europe (80+) outlive Americans (76 years) and have for years, but now places like Guatemala come out ahead of areas in West Virginia (63.9 for males) and Tunica County, Mississippi (66.7 for males), where folks die 18 years before the richer, better educated people in Fairfax County, VA. Money counts.

Lovin' It” McDonald's HR office – McResource, of course – has an employee helpline that tells the workers how to apply for food stamps. And points out that they can use them at McDonalds. More than half of fast food workers have to rely on public assistance programs since their wages aren't enough to support them. 
 
Bigger Fools Wanted: Blackstone is going to sell bonds backed by the income from lease payments on rental houses. You know, the rent paid by people who couldn't keep up with their mortgage payments. 
 
More Recovery: In October US manufacturing output fell to levels last seen in 2009 – when The RecoveryTM was getting stated. 
 
The Parting Shot: 
 Sunday morning, Amsterdam. 

 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SAR #13927





Because We Can: Germany wants an "immediate and comprehensive explanation’ of US spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. As an East German, she understands that point of view.

Recovery 4.07: The dollar is at two-year lows against the euro after weak US jobs data reinforced expectations the Fed will keep its easy-money policy intact well into 2014. The FHFA's August house price index rose only 0.3% m/m, way below expectations. Caterpillar's 3Q results sucked, with earnings missing projections by 13%, a 17% decline y/y, with 75% of the drop coming from the manufacture of mining and extraction equipment. They now expect to miss their full year profit target by at least 15%.

Without Comment: Alan Greenspan (the man who couldn't see the housing bubble) says stocks are "relatively low" and heading upward. I certainly hope he goes all-in.

Another Point Of View: Reality in the Middle East in no way resembles the fairyland found in US MSM. The essential fight is between Shia and Sunni, and in real terms that means a struggle for dominance between Saudi Arabia on one side and Dubai and the UAE on the other. Saudi Arabia supports the Syrian rebels and is angry the US does not act more forcibly (and is fast approaching a serious diplomatic rift over this and the US softening towards Iran). Dubai is financing Assad in Syria along with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere while the Saudis much prefer the military dictatorship. And on it goes. The US sometimes thinks it is about oil, but it is not. It is about dreams of empire, and even the Turks are caught up in it.

On The Western Front: Following up on his earlier cautionary tales about the European banking system, ECB head Draghi says – in an attempt to keep a little credibility - "banks do need to fail". Either Spanish banks and Greek banks would serve as object lessons.

Deep In The Heart Of: Texas' new voter ID law could easily disenfranchise nearly half of the state's female voters, which is the Republican's intent in light of the Wendy revolution. 
 
But the Cupboard Was Dry... US Energy independence sounds good Too bad it's not going to happen. Here's a current factoid: The EIA reports that the latest 4-week average for US production of oil (crude + condensate; which is the definition of oil) was 7.6 million barrels a day, while refinery runs used 15.8 million barrels daily. The 8.2 million barrel a day difference is made up of imports. Shale oil is not the salvation: in order for shale to simply maintain the current level of crude oil production – half our needs – the country woud require the equivalent of 10 new Bakken plays over the next ten years. And there are not 10 more to be had. Data for natural gas is even weaker. Half-a-glass is only full in very dim light.

Sad But True: The Senate Intelligence Committee and a lead CIA lawyer have acknowledged that the torture undertaken by the Agency was unnecessary, but Bush and Cheney thought it was good fun.

Correction: About all those drones on the federal payroll, those bloodsuckers who keep the National Parks open and the CDC running... turns out that Federal employment is at a 47 year low. Don't tell Rand Paul, it'd ruin his day. On second thought, tell him.

Starting Over: A few hapless nations are debating whether to create two giant Antarctic ocean sanctuaries. Why don't we the people, through the UN, designate the whole world a sanctuary and then, item by item, depredation by depredation, issue permits specifying the amount of rape and despoilation permitted within tightly specified areas and with specifically described tools and processes before any exploitation of our children's children's inheritance is permitted ever again.

Porn O'Graph: The longer you don't have a job, the longer you don't have a job.

The Parting Shot:
 Big Brother is everywhere; in this case it's the Amsterdam Library.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SAR #13296



Let’s Get This Class War Started - Chris Hedges 
 
Fill in the Blank/Multiple Choice: “The White House conceded on Monday that revelations about how its intelligence agencies have intercepted enormous amounts of ______ phone and email traffic.” (French, Mexican...) Alternatively, how many nations are there?

Still: America’s Business is War.

Chain, Chain, Chain: Despite the debt/deficit drama in Washington, despite the weak to nonexistent recovery, despite another year of falling wages in real terms, we Americans are getting set to once more throw ourselves (and a great deal of our future) away on the annual holiday shopping orgies.

One Can Only Hope: Jamie Dimon is “damn proud” that JPMorgan is getting to keep years of crooked profits from manipulating financial markets by making a $13 billion deal with the government. It's called a “deal” because they got one. Now for the fall...

Prior Experience A Plus: Weak kneed liberals don't understand that Obama nominated Jeh C. Johnson to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security because he spent years justifying the excesses of the US war on humanity, not despite it. 
 
Better Believe It: Pope Francis has warned that there is little of Jesus in ideological religion, that it is faith and love and meekness and acceptance that echo Jesus.

Mousetraps: As part of the famed recoveryTM - now in its fourth year – cheerleaders at the Commerce Department announce that August construction spending was up 0.6% over July and 7.1% y/y. In smaller print they noted that private residential spending was 50% below the 2006 level. Some economist agree with Dean Baker that the housing bubble put an 8% hole in US GDP and so far nothing has been inflated enough to fill that hole; thus weak housing, weak jobs market, weak economy. Read the fine print.

All You Need Know: September payrolls increased only +148,000, and the unemployment rate plummeted 0.1% because even more workers left the labor pool. It's called a recovery.

It's Done With Mirrors: Alan Greenspan admits his surprise on discovering that an old treasure map he found in an adolescent's novel wasn't a useful guide to reality. He now seems to claim he's a hero for pretending to be one for so long.

This Way To The Egress: WaPo assures us that while we are on the road to hell – or at least a questionably survivable 8ºto 10º rise in global temperature – we'll make lots and lots of profit from burning up shale gas and poisoning the water supply.

Reassurance: No, Virgina, technology isn’t going to destroy the middle class - the 1% is doing that.

Asked and Answered: Why are housing inventories low? Why wouldn't they be? See any customers with new jobs or pay raises, ready to move up? See any customers who've been able to unload their old place for enough to make a down payment? See any customers who can afford to buy a house until the 12th of Never when the college loan is paid off? Jeesh.

Truth Or Consequences: While the US Senate is trying to hide a 6,000 page report on the ways the CIA went about its renditions and torture, Amnesty International has asked the US to explain why its continuing drone campaigns are not illegal and where its assumed right to kill anyone, anywhere, anytime originates in the rule of law. 
 
The Parting Shot:
This little piggie came home.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SAR #13291


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SAR is out of intensive care and in the recovery room. No, it wasn't the drama in Washington – although that's enough to cripple anyone – but some internal remodeling the doctors' insisted on. We'll be back in a few days.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

SAR #13290



In human affairs, right and wrong exist, and have consequences.

Not a Kumbaya Moment: The compromise (sic) is not the end of the drama. It's just the end of the second act. The Republican thugs get another bite of the apple come January, and this next time they'll reach even more boldly into the social safety net under the guise of “keeping the government open.” It is important to note that the prescribed budget talks are characterized as “fiscal reforms” by which is meant cutting everything that doesn't support war or Wall Street. So, call this one a draw and let's have a rematch early next year. Just like last year. What’s next? One-week continuing resolution? Hourly budget negotiations? 
 
Where's Waldo? Glenn Greenwald – Snowden's primary mouthpiece – has left the Guardian for a new media venture. In parting he said that “There are a lot more stories in the NSA archives, ” and that “the most shocking and significant stories are the ones we are still working on, and have yet to publish.”

Revised Script: Imagine that a handful of Democrats decided that something had to be done about the repeated slaughter of children by assault weapons and threatened to force the country into default unless a total ban on assault weapons was enacted. How would that play in Tea Party land?

Price Of Admission: Since the GOP takeover of the House in 2010, the cuts they have forced in government spending (in the name of promoting growth) have shaved nearly 3% off GDP. That missing 3% growth would have led to the unemployment rate falling below 6%. It's called leadership, because the rich are doing just fine.

Let's Do The Twist: The administration has told the Supreme Court that there are no constitutional issues involved in the NSAs eavesdropping 24/7 on every form of electronic communication. And even if there were, they say, it would not fall within the purview of the Supreme Court because the snooping is not a sufficiently “drastic and extraordinary” matter to rate such attention. And lastly, the administration claimed that the Supremes do not have any authority over secret intelligence affairs. 
 
Still Crazy After All These Years: Sarah Palin believes President Obama should be impeached if he raises the debt ceiling without the backing of Congress and should be impeached if he lets the nation default on its debts. Somebody should tell Sarah about the division of powers and who makes the laws. 
 
More Of The Same: The Supremes have taken a case that challenges the President's ability to make recess appointments. If the Court rules against the administration, this and future presidents facing a filibuster-vulnerable Senate will be unable to make appointments to agencies that the opposition does not like. This could effectively render things like the NLRB and SEC comatose. Just what the Roberts Court needed, another chance to stomp on democracy.

Hero In His Own Mind: Ted Cruz, one of the primary causes of the shutdown and debt limit crisis, having lost, now wants to be praised for not blocking a deal that is out of his reach to block. 
 
In Their Shoes: The tea party supporters (unlike the folks they elect) are many things, but insincere is not one of them. They grew up internalizing Ronnie's dictum that the government is too large, is the problem, that welfare cheats are sucking the life from the country, that taxes are too high and the debt crushing the life out of small businesses. None of these are true, of course, but that's the world the way they see it. And they are afraid and angry, and a lot of very cynical, self-serving politicians take advantage of them.

Qualifications: Trey Gowdy (Retard-SC) doesn't understand that the National Park Service closed down parks and memorials because he and his co-conspirators shut down the government. 
 
The Parting Shot:


Medical stuff has kept me from wandering my woods of late, so I'm using some shots from my recent vacation...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SAR #13289


If you can't get a good answer, maybe you are asking the wrong question. 
 
Home Stretch: Before Boehner, who had called the bi-partisan Senate bill “a hand grenade” and his merry men even had a chance to explain themselves, the White House pre-empted them by calling it “a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans.” Which it was. At this point the choice for both sides is "unconditional surrender or default." Unconditional surrender is a non-starter, leaving...

Translation: Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta says that populism is a rising threat to Europe. 'Populism' here means 'fascism', as in Greece's Golden Dawn and the resurgent Front National in France. 
 
Cruz Control: Here’s a cheerful thought: Ted Cruz, who basically forced the shutdown and whose own private polls have convinced him that it has been a glorious success, could probably force a default and cause global economic calamity all by his lonesome. And well may.

Here Come da Judge: “EU finance ministers prepared Tuesday to take a key step towards a new bank regulatory framework with final clearance of a single supervisor regime for the eurozone.”

Goal Posts: For many Republican hard-liners, default is not a problem but rather the goal they've been working toward for several years. Some, not content with simple default, want to repudiate the debt. Their ultimate goal is a balanced budget enforced by a prohibition against borrowing, as though this were a good idea. The current Congress is one of the best possible arguments against democracy rooted in the people.

Swords Into Profits: The Obama administration is loosening the export controls on the Lords of War, increasing the flow of American arms and equipment to the world's conflicts while increasing the flow of dollars to the arms industry. The Commerce Department will insure that human rights are not trammeled in the process.

Bait & Switch: The Republicans have suddenly switched from claiming shutting down the government and running the default gauntlet was necessary because of the evils of Obamacare to now claiming it is all about spending, all about 'living within our means', all about curtailing entitlements (without actually saying the words “Social Security and Medicare”). In the next few days, every time you hear the impass attributed to 'spending', remind yourself that the speaker is parroting Republican talking points and not accurately reporting the news. 
 
Big Gulp: The Fort Meade raiders are swooping into your e-mail address book and your 'friends' lists at the rate of 250 million such lists a year. Those in a 'person of interest's' address book will henceforth be called 'co-conspirators'. The NSA defended its surveillance activities as legal and respectful of privacy rights.

It's Been Here All Along: Everyone's asking 'will the US default?' But it already has... If 'default' is defined as failing to live up to a promise to pay, then the sequester was a default and the furloughs of the government shutdown are a default. But obviously some promises are more important than others and the promise to help the poor feed their children or that government workers be able to buy groceries and gas up the car are certainly second to the obligation to pay interest to the bond-holding overlords of Wall Street. There will not be riots in the street come default day. But “the full faith and trust” of the United States will not be nearly so full nor so trusted for a long time thereafter, and we'll pay for that in higher interest rates on Treasury bills. The default has already started, and is already causing real harm. The only question is how much worse it’s going to get.

Asked & Answered: Do student evaluations measure teaching effectiveness? No.

Lying As An Art Form: Fox and its friends on the Republican Right now claim that Obama is responsible for the government shutdown and the debt limit crisis. This is a lie, but no member of MSM will dare call them on it. Which is where the problem really is – in the refusal of the media to point out that the Republicans and their mouthpiece platforms lie. All day, every day. “Conservatives stopped bothering to care if people believe their lies years ago. They know they’re lying. We know they’re lying. It stopped mattering some time ago.”

Smoke/Fire: China’s state press is calling for ‘Building a de-Americanized World’ while some European observers think that the dollar's supremacy is declining, and with it, American power.

The Blueprints: At this point there seems no way the legal logistics could be met to avoid the Treasury exhausting its borrowing authority come Thursday and running out of cash to pay the bills with a few days later and certainly before November 1st. Treasury rejects the idea of prioritizing payments, which would be selective default, but default none the less. Financial markets so far are whistling past the graveyard, pretending there is nothing, nothing, nothing wrong. Yet the impact will likely be seen first in the stock market. The full extent of the financial trauma will take time to materialize – hopefully longer than it will take the Congress to get a minyan.

The Parting Shot:
Provisions...
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SAR #13288



As long as it's the same pie, all we're fighting over are the crumbs.

Flim Flam Forever: The overnight talk is of a compromise that will put off doing anything about a budget until January (remember how well that worked out last January) and put off the debt ceiling Doomsday until mid-February. Then we can have this play again, where the Republicans hold a gun to the country's head and demand cuts in entitlements (they don't dare say Social Security and Medicare, but that's what they're after) and the Democrats buckle. Been there, done that. How about this: No deal unless the extortion ends permanently.

Sad But True: There are no safe havens for investors, none.

Averages: About 2,500 people have been killed by the US drone campaign to generate more terrorists. Over half were civilians. The other half were al-Qaeda leaders. Really, read the reports.

Quoted: This fight is in danger of becoming a cliffhanger, yet it is also planned to set the stage for the big deficit-cutting deal which the Democrats and traditional Republicans intend to cut social safety nets, most importantly, Social Security and Medicare. ...trying to reduce government spending [now] is not a good idea (we aren’t even close to the conditions where it might be warranted), ...projected Medicare cost increases, which are the lynchpin for the debt scaremongering, are considerably overstated ...cutting deficits now will worsen, rather than improve, the government debt to GDP ratio." 
 
Parts Is Parts: Without being too picky, wouldn't you expect that when the auto shop bills you for a new alternator they actually put in a new alternator? Okay, but if you've asked Boeing to repair your helicopter, ask 'em for the old parts back. Seems they billed the Army for new parts but "primarily installed used parts." Gotta make a buck where you can, it's the American way. 
 
Plain Pain: Goldman Sachs says that the first two weeks of the government shutdown has cut 4Q GDP from 2.5% to 2.0%. They used the world "only". 
 
Briar Patch: While the people's elected representatives are struggling to bring debt under control, the people are piling up record amount of debt at home. Consumer credit is up 22% over the last three years (now at $3.04 trillion). Total household debt is $13 trillion, not that short of Uncle Sam's $16 trillion. 
 
Blackmailer Bragging: Paul Ryan (Serious PersonTM -WI) is bragging that House Republicans had demanded a one-year delay in the ACA individual mandate in exchange for putting off national default for six weeks. Then, for another six week delay, Social Security would have to be privatized. Then, just before Christmas, food stamps and WIC would be cut... And so on. 
 
Talking Point: About half of all recent college graduates are working jobs that do not require a college degree - and won't pay them enough money to pay back their student loans. Tell me about the housing recovery...

The Parting Shot:
 Calico Aster, Aster lateriflores.

Monday, October 14, 2013

SAR #13287



Which part of democracy do Republicans not understand? They lost. Obama won. They should stop pretending that the last five years never happened.

The Story So Far: No deal. No way to reach a deal. And there is no graceful way for the Republicans to back down, so they won't. That's why they've started the bullshit story that the debt ceiling is no biggie, that it is a “good thing” that will force us as a country to live within our income. Which just goes to show how little the Republican right understands of the government's role in the domestic economy and how deadly balancing the budget will be for the country. If the government cuts spending to match taxes, the economy will slow, and as the economy slows, tax income will slow so the government will have to cut spending more and taxes will fall more and so on. When do you figure the revolt will start? When food stamps are done away with, when Medicare and Medicaid no longer exist? Or when the Social Security checks stop coming?

Over, Over There: China's exports fell slightly in September while imports rose by 7.4%, as global demand tapers off. The US can tell them how this movie turns out.

Unclear on the Concept: Angered by the closure of national landmarks due to the government shutdown brought on by Republican hostage taking, a crowd of people who think they are conservatives rallied against President Barack Obama and Democrats and not their own dear leaders for the results of the blackmail tactics they so admire. Eventually their blather was reduced to calling Obama a Muslim and demanding he “put the Quran down”, fall to his knees and surrender to God-fearing Christians – namely themselves. Somehow – maybe it'd be the power of prayer – the government is supposed to continue to operate without funds.

If Only: “Will China’s gambit to undermine the TPP succeed?” Something needs to happen to kill this thing before Obama fast tracks it through Congress and we're stuck with corporations running even more of the world. 
 
Plans: What is it that US troops are going to do (aside from kidnapping, torture, the occasional murder, reckless deaths of civilians via drone and such) that will require that they be immune from Afghan law? And how much was Karzai promised just to get this mooted to the tribal leaders?

Victimology: American conservatives have a remarkable hostility to poor people. Forget trying to cut the SNAP food stamp program and slashing the WIC program, just look at the refusal of 26 Republican governors to expand Medicaid coverage in their states -- depriving millions of poor people of access to Medicaid health coverage at no or little cost to the states. Sixty-eight percent of uninsured single mothers live in the states that rejected the expansion, as do 60 percent of the nation’s uninsured working poor. Why do these successful white men so despise the poor that they have no compassion? What are they afraid of?

Pointedly: “There is a reason we are living under the all-pervading influence of John Maynard Keynes... Keynes won the argument”

The Parting Shot: