Friday, January 31, 2014

SAR #14031

An explanation need not be accurate, only understandable and comforting. 
Money For Nothing: Stop me if you've heard this one. Obama proposes that employees have $5 or $10 a week taken out of their paychecks and invested in US Treasury bonds. And he wants to let the worker take the account with them when they change jobs. And have it set up so there are very low fees to maintain the account. Sound familiar? Can you say Social Security? But the new and improved part is that once the account gets to $15,000 you have to turn it over to Wall Street so they can enjoy charging the hapless saver fees that will eat up the retirement funds, while finally killing company-sponsored pensions. Win-win?

Economics Lesson: In Salt Lake City, Utah, 40 children were given a lesson in individual responsibility when the school nutritionist took their lunch away from them and threw them in the garbage because their parents hadn't paid for the food. If you can't pay the band, you don't get to dance, it's the American way.

Summertime: Last week 348,000 people filed for unemployment, the highest number since last summer. 
Drip, Drip, Drip: The main reason the US was able to emasculate international efforts to do something about global warming at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009 was that the NSA was eavesdropping on the other delegations and passing the info to the US negotiators. Makes y'proud to be an American.

Reality Check: After adjusting for inflation, most Americans' wages have not increased during their entire working lives.

You've Been Googled: Next time you plan a protest march, tell your followers to leave their cell phones at home. Not only can the cops track you via the GPS data, but if they start uploading videos of the cops being cops, Google will infer “that an event of interest has occurred” and will rat you out to the authorities.

Gross, Really Gross: According to the gummint, the nation's GDP grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in the fourth quarter (over the third), and at an annual rate of only 1.9% for the entire year. Let's hear it for the recovery!

Priorities: Illustrating the national preference for greed and gambling over knowledge, the conservatives are once more praising the bankers and financial types and blaming our growing inequality on those overpaid government employees, who are mostly teachers. But the average high school teacher makes only $55,050 a year while the top 40 hedge fund guys and their traders made 300,000 times that – $16.7 trillion. Don't let your children grow up to be teachers.

A Bridge Too Far: Pennsylvania has decided to privatize their bridges. Well, they call it a public-private partnership but what it means is tolls on bridges that were built with taxpayer money. Did anybody check with people who park their cars in Chicago on how this is likely to turn out?

Monster Cookies: Do not, under any circumstances, buy cookies from those cute little girls – it leads them down the road to feminism, independence and – inevitably – ACLU membership and abortions. So say a bunch of right wing kooks. I say they're fattening and I'm only going to buy six boxes this year.

The Parting Shot:
 Balloonfish, Diodon holocanthus.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

SAR #14030

In American it is no longer a question of how hard you work that counts, but how cheaply. Hugh.

Mission Accomplished: Afghanistan has been throughout the American occupation the largest producer of opium and heroin in the world, and its production continues to increase. The Taliban, you may remember, had nearly eradicated poppy growing as morally unacceptable. Times change.

A Dollar Here, A Dollar There: Apple is sitting on $158.8 billion in cash, apparently hoping that it will magically hatch into something; more money, one supposes. Obviously they cannot find anything useful to do with it, so the pile keeps growing – by $12 billion in the last quarter. They say they are doing buybacks, but the current rate the pot will keep increasing. And they claim they're spending on R&D, but $1.3 billion a year could come out of their stamp fund. But they seem sure something will come along. Meanwhile Apple stock has fallen below $500 a share, down 13% from last month.

Countdown: Louisiana has enacted 'emergency' regulations requiring women to wait 30 days for an abortion after they formally request one. They also have to pick out a name for the

With A Little Love In Your Hearts: “All you need for a financial crisis... are excess optimism and Citibank.” Citi is the poster child for the problems with megabanks, and there is scant evidence to suggest that the too big to comprehend banks are run any better today than before they tipped over the apple cart the last time.

The Fine Print: Three years ago, House Republicans pushed a bill to permanently eliminate taxpayer funding for abortions except for cases of 'forcible, legitimate rape' - and even then the woman would have needed documentation to prove the crime to the IRS. This didn't work out too well for them. Now they are pushing nearly the same bill, but attempting to achieve an abortion-free American by limiting women's ability to buy health insurance to pay for the procedure by prohibiting policies sold through Obamacare to cover abortion under any circumstance. The measure has no chance of passing, but that's not the point. It is just the Republicans tossing raw meat to the far right. It also tells the rest of us what the GOP would do if it gained control of the Senate and the White House. 
Shut Up And Deal: Fox News' Martha MacCallum says that women do not need any special laws requiring equal pay for equal work because women are already paid “exactly what they’re worth.”

Chicken Or Egg? Stephen Kinzer,in the Guardian, asks if Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions have clouded her morals. What makes him think you can have both?

The Last Round-up: Scientists report that deforestation in Mexico (which destroyed their winter habitat) and Monsanto in the US (whose glyphosate herbicide has destroyed their food source) are threatening the Monarch butterfly with imminent extinction.

Up Is Down: Sen. Ted Cruz (Forgetful-TX) says he doesn't remember nearly single-handedly shutting down the government last October and wishes people would forget about it too. Or blame Harry Reid and President Obama, like he does.

Viewpoint: Former Ukrainian president Kravchuk fears the country is on the verge of a civil war, but it is not. A civil war is when two or more factions resort to violence to dominate the government. In Ukraine it is a simple matter of rebellion: the people vs. the government.

Yes Or No: If Justin Bieber was in the US on a student visa, how long ago would he have been deported?

Porn O'Graph: What goes around, goes around.

The Parting Shot:
 Caesar grunt juveniles, Haemulon carbonarium.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

SAR #14029

"The problem is not how high the temperature may go, but how fast it is changing." Cody Beck

Off Message: Ignored in the Republican rebuke to the President's speech was the curious fact that the economy successively been in better shape for each of Obama's five State of the Union Speeches – as the economy has slowly recovered from the mess the last guy left US in.

The Incredible Shrinking Government: The UK has not responded properly to previous suffering, so the government is going to impose another $40 billion in austerity cuts to social programs. The program will be called Thatcher Too.

Money, Money Everywhere: Caterpillar (with $10 billion) and Dupont (with $5 billion) are the latest large corporations who cannot find anything useful in the way of growing their businesses, so they are buying back their own stock. How much of its outstanding stock can a public company buy up and still be a public company?

A Boy Like That: These days Princes no longer go after Cinderellas, they engage in “positive assortative mating”. But that's not the whole story. Mostly we stick with our own kind
Dance To The Music: Ukraine's prime minister and his cabinet have resigned, having effectively lost control of the country to the public, which wants closer ties with the European Union. Putin is not amused and has quietly and indirectly threatened to “reconsider” a $15 billion bailout the country desperately needs if a Russian-friendly and compliant government is not empowered. This is not progress.

Wordplay: December's durable goods orders were not all that durable, total orders were down 4.3%

Hidden Gem: Here's a comprehensive guide on "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic". Good background for the deniers to (a) see what they're up against in the reality based world, and/or (b) find where they are on the ignorant-to-idiot scale. 
Diminishing Returns: The NSA, unable to identify non-existent terrorist threats through monitoring our emails and phones 24/7, is now monitoring our on-line game playing and the apps we use while waiting for supper. Is there a real intelligence agency out there somewhere that the NSA is drawing attention away from?

Majority Rules: The Federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has concluded that the NSA's monitoring program is not only illegal, it is ineffective. So, if a tree falls and no one wants to hear it, does it matter?

Progress: Does having one of the generals in Egypt's ruling junta run for president under a constitution dictated by the junta in elections supervised by the junta mean that dominatocracy rules?

Whether / Climate Change: “For those of you wondering what happened to your jet stream, folks in Nome, Alaska are enjoying a record high of forty-six degrees and looking at an overnight low around thirty-three. It is raining in Anchorage.”

Porn O'Graph: America’s industrial rebound is not a myth, it's a lie.

The Parting Shot:
 Rainbow Parrotfish, Scarus guacamais.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SAR #14028

The most profitable thing that a financial company can do is to lend to a risky customer.Blissex

Goose/Gander: Republicans claim the President “risks antagonizing” them if he uses the power of the executive like Bush did. They say it would be wrong (some say 'unconstitutional, but they won't try the case anywhere but the press) to bypass an ineffective Congress to do what the public wants. It would destroy our democracy if the people actually got what they elected people to do, or at least the GOP version of democracy, where the minority rules.

Mirror Image: Foxconn, the Apple supplier best know for the suicides of their abused Chinese workforce, says it may build a factory in the US, if it can find a place that will let it ignore labor and workplace safety laws, pay minimum wage to workers trained at government expense and – this is the deal breaker – get several billion dollars in taxpayer money to pad their profits.

A Cold Winter: Americans of working age are now the majority in households receiving food stamps. When the program began, children and the elderly were the main beneficiaries of the program, but that was back before the banksters killed the economy and were rewarded with so much in bailouts and tax cuts that that we can no longer afford actual jobs that pay a living wage.

Tough Love: Republicans insist that they will not shut down the government again over the debt ceiling, as long as the President makes sufficient concessions to them. If the White House doesn't cave to their demands, then of course they will have no moral choice but to destroy the nation in order to save it. 
Applause, Applause: After much celebration and recognition as a prime example of the renaissance of American manufacturing, the multi-billion dollar Intel chip factory that was to employ thousands in Arizona will be mothballed before it is ever opened - much like the empty, never opened $1.2 billion Hemlock polysilicon factory in Tennessee. As Obama said, this is “ an example of an America that's within our reach.” Or just out it, as the case may be.

Inequality: The world's gullible put $4 billion on Starbucks gift cards last year.

Don't Say A Word: Retail closings and downsizings have been announced by Sears, JCPenny, Macy's, Target, American Eagle, and Aéropostale. even Wal-Mart. There is also a shift underway from large mall stores to smaller outlets that take less inventory and fewer staff to operate. Retail analysts expect retail square footage to contract by 30 to 50% in the next few years, with an ongoing decline in both sales and employment. Not a single new indoor mall has been built since 2006. That's a clue. The word is deflation.

The Italian Job: Economists expect that the EU ended 2013 with unemployment at an all-time high of 12.1% - about 19 million officially jobless, but Bloomberg estimates that figure to be over 31 million. In Italy, the EU's third largest economy, the actual rate is 24% which is twice that of Spain (the EU's fourth largest economy) and five times higher the official rate in Greece. Among those with jobs, 12% do not earn enough to live on. Of those who lose their jobs, only 15% get a new job within a year. 
Women & Children First: Germany's Bundesbank,echoing the IMF, says that before EMU member nations come begging for money it is their “national responsibility” to confiscate as much of their citizens' savings as they can get their hands on. Except in Germany, of course, where a wealth tax would harm growth.

Observed: The US lost 6 million jobs between 2000 and 2009 and has... drumroll... gotten less than 600,000 of them back since the recession ended. Celebrate modestly. 
Question: In how many wars is the US using drones? Trick question, the US is not "at war" with any country, just with the general idea of terrorism, which is not a place or a thing but an act. So, in how many undeclared wars do we use drones to attack and kill wedding parties? All of them, but the CIA is afraid it won't be able to keep killing Pakistanis if Karzai throws the US out of Afghanistan. 
Due Process: The US military in Afghanistan says that the government's decision to end indefinite detention at the notorious Bagram Prison (Guantanamo East) and to release 37 prisoners for whom there is "no incriminating evidence" as a "major step backward in... the rule of law." Because indefinite detention of the innocent is an essential element of modern democracy.

The Parting Shot:
 Queen Angelfish, Holacanthus ciliaris.

Monday, January 27, 2014

SAR #14027

We prefer simple narratives.

Bedfellows: The Republican National Committee has passed a resolution condemning the NSA and its programs.

The Easy Stuff: Natural gas jumped nearly 12% last week, closing at its highest rate since 2010. What happened to the “shale gas revolution”? It was mostly hype based on ignoring the financial and geologic truths about fracking: shale gas wells have sharp decline rates, and producers must drill new wells constantly. Not enough new wells are now being drilled to replace those that are rapidly depleting. The only shale gas area that is not in decline is the Marcellus. The revolution has been postponed.

Water Is Wet: Turns out the NSA is also engaged in "industrial espionage". Well, corporations are people too, right?

Asked & Answered: "Why are US corporate profits so high? Because wages are so low."

One And Out: Rand Paul says "...we have to say ‘enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount... we're not going to give her any more money.” Paul would have communities or families be responsible for preventing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies - just like my mom tried to do. Unsucessfully.

Straight Face Award: Is Austerity Working in Greece? And the answer is: Is austerity working anywhere?

One Way Street: HSBC converted many of its accounts to one-way vehicles, where you can put as much money in as often as you wish, but you can't get it out without their permission. While processing your request, HSBC will try to come up with enough cash to cover your withdrawal. They describe it as a feature, preventing you from doing something silly with your money. That Lloyds' ATMs stopped dispensing cash at the same time is merely coincidental. They say.

Pivot Point: A year ago, Blackrock's Larry Fink announced that risk in the investment markets “doesn't matter”. Today he says there is “ way too much optimism”. Change happens.

The Dalits: Bayer says that their new cancer drug, which is particularly effective on late-stage kidney and liver cancer “was not developed for Indians,” but “for western patients who can afford it.” The drug costs $90,000 a year in the US and $69,000 per year in India. Last March an Indian court granted a local company a license to produce the drug for just 3% of Bayer's price. Never fear, this is the sort of ruling that Bayer will be able to overturn under terms of the TPP, and get paid for lost profits, too.

Without Comment: The Arizona GOP has censured John McCain for his liberal record. 
Night Sweats: Venture capitalist Tom Perkins says that the top 1% are treated like “Jews in Nazi Germany”, and that he is more than a little afraid that the little people are going to rise up and force people like him into camps. He's always been an optimist. 
Crime Doesn't Pay? JPMorgan, which paid $20 billion in fines and reparations for fraud and "misrepresentations" last year, has given Jamie Dimon a 74% pay raise. 
The Parting Shot:
 Yellow Stingray,  Urolophus jamaicensis

Saturday, January 25, 2014

SAR #14025

Why is it always a surprise to learn that markets also go down?

Storytelling: So, is this “a correction” or the end of a bull market? It'll take several weeks to be sure and by then you'll have made the wrong decision several times. There are a plethora of explanations for the sudden shift from excited bullishness about double-digit gains to a haunting fear that the party might be over – just remember that these stories come from the same folks who were telling happy stories last week.

He's My Brother: Nearly half of New York City food pantries/soup kitchens report running out of supplies following the Republican dismemberment of the food stamp program. Even before the reduction in SNAP benefits, about 40% of NYC recipients used food pantries to supplement their food budgets. Now about 25% of pantries report having to turn people away. But on the positive side, just like cutting unemployment benefits will, at least in Republican minds, reduce unemployment, cutting food for the hunger will do away with hunger. What'll we do with the corpses?

What Could Go Wrong? When I was young and impressionable (I'm no longer young) I was taught to consider well-run companies when their stock PE dipped below 10 and to flee when their PE rose toward 20. Netflix, a recent darling of the punditry, is selling at about 300 times earnings yet has no free cash flow. Hmm.

Blame Where Blame Is Due: Technology is, to some degree, responsible for the cheapening of labor in the US and the evaporation of jobs, but it is only part of the story. The destruction of unions in the US and the export of jobs to the lowest bidders overseas play a far greater role. “The robots are coming” is an excuse, not an explanation. Technology may contribute to creating wider choices for consumers, but it does little to create consumers, i.e. people with jobs and incomes.

Notice: The lottery is over, you are not a winner. Next time chose richer parents.

Half A Loaf: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, having lost control of cities across the western part of the country and faced with an ongoing occupation in the center of Kiev has offered to make a deal with the pro-European Union democracy movement; he would continue to do exactly what they don't want if they would only give up and go home. With an unerringly tin ear, the US has chosen the side of an authoritarian regiem over democracy once again.

Progress: Over 10,000 Ohio food stamp recipients lost that benefit this month because they did not spend at least 20 hours a week working, going to school, attending job training, or volunteering. Ohio Republicans hope to kick another 140,000 adult recipients who don't have dependent children off food stamps for the same reason over the coming months. new work requirements because apparently that makes sense in some other world.

First Count of the Indictment: The Trans-Pacific Plundering agreement will establish a regulatory framework that meets the demands US pharmaceutical and digital technology behemoths, permitting them to 'evergreen' drug patents indefinitely. The US is also demanding a clause which could give major corporations the authority to to overturn laws made by governments in their national interests if such laws interfere with profits. The US trade rep insists that the TPP “is going to be completed..: The 'or else' was implied. The US insists that the TPP be approved before the text of the agreement is made public.

Leadership: John Boehner now admits that he “led” the Republican efforts to shut down the government last fall not because he thought it was a good idea or that it would succeed, but because “a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk.” 
The Parting Shot:

Honeycomb Cowfish, Lactophrys polygonia.

Friday, January 24, 2014

SAR #14024

It is hard to be bullish on the future.

I'm Lovin' It: Even though McDonald's 4Q sales were weak, the company's earnings came in a penny more than anticipated. Globally, comparative store sales fell 0.1% while in the US they were a -1.4% and in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Africa grouping comp sales were of -2.4%. If Macky D is a bellwether for the global economy, we just got our bell rung.

Slip Sliding Away: Existing home sales fell at a 27.9% annualized rate in 4Q2013. A separate report noted that the 30 -34 year old cohort has the lowest rate of homeownership on record for that group, a full 6.5 percentage points lower than those five years older had achieved at the same age. Realtors claim this is good, because it means “pent up demand” is growing in pentedliness. 
Wrong In So Many Ways: That Warren Buffett has a billion dollars to wager on college basketball is dubfoundlingly sad when there are millions of hungry and homeless children in this country. It's not Warren, it's the system.

Asked & Answered: Why are wage so low today? Because you do not belong to a union. It's that simple. The anti-labor movement’s greatest victory has been in convincing a huge sector of the population that they don't need unions. If you don't own the business, you are a worker with essentially no power. You need to join a union. 
Flippantly: All-cash purchases accounted for 42.1 percent of all U.S. residential sales in December, up from 18.0 percent in December 2012." In Florida 63% of house purchases were for cash. The rich and cash heavy institutions that are buying these houses don't need mortgages – although it would add leverage to their profits when they flip these places off onto the unwary.

Data Point: Adverse reactions to prescribed medications are the fourth leading killer in America, right behind doctors.

The High Paid Spread: Not only do the richest 85 individuals own more of the world's wealth than the poorest 3,500,000,000, the richest 1% own 46% of all the wealth, and the top 10% control 86% of all the riches. The 4 billion in the bottom half get to share just 1% of the world's accumulated wealth. If you've got $4,000, you are in the top half of the pile. It only takes $75,000 to be one of the globe's top 10%. Despite American's self-proclaimed superiority in all things, most of us are worth less than most Italians (and we're in 27th place in that category).

Too Much Of A Bad Thing: It's time to fight over the debt ceiling again. The Treasury Secretary has warned Congress that the Federal govenment would reach its borrowing limit by Early March. The country should be warned that the Republicans are coming, again.

Porn O'Graph: Think of it as a sandpile, where one more grain might start an avalanche.

The Parting Shot:

Baby It's Cold Outside.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

SAR #14023

"The system is ungovernable... It has already largely imploded.” William K. Black

Gauntlet: The White House says that no American should wait over 30 minutes to vote – even minorities - and made a number of suggestions how this could be achieved.

Democracy In Action: In Kiev it is hard to tell where the political discussion ends and the uprising begins. The populace seems determined to oppose the leaderships embrace of Putin and the leadership is intent on showing them who's in charge. So far only 2 are dead. The US, impartial on the side of the repressive leadership's embrace (as usual,) has revoked visas for Ukrainians supposedly linked to the protests. I'm not sure who is winning, but the protesters have given the government an ultimatum
Keep The Change: In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, by giving people homes. They figured out that the homeless costs the state about $16,700 a year in various services and that providing them housing and a social caseworker would cost about $5,500 less. Why didn't I think of that? What's next, jobs for the unemployed?

Logos: Glen Beck claims that scientists denying creationism are just the same as the Catholic hierarchy that denied Galileo's heliocentrism. 
First Things: Lawyers say that the DC Circuit court did us a favor by ruling that the FCC's open internet rules were illegal because now the FCC has to use a long, roundabout way under Section 706 to dismantle interference with net neutrality on a case by case basis, letting providers charge differing fees for as long as their lawyers can fight it out in court. The FCC’s open Internet rules quite sensibly prevented Internet access providers from engaging in blocking and other unreasonable discrimination. But a blanket rule would hurt lawyers' fees as the providers try to nibble away at net neutrality, and that - somehow - is supposed to be a good thing.

Protect & Service: Prosecutors have bought an Ohio State Patrol officer's explanation for how he ended up masturbating with a young boy. He was teaching him how to do it. Gave the kid two lessons. I thought it came naturally.

Opinions Vary: Most commentators say the Trans-Pacific Partnership will ruin the planet, nullify local government, create even more low-wage jobs and enrich the rich. Others think it's a bad idea.

In The Trenches: Rep Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) says all abortions should be outlawed because they rob “men of the privilege of fatherhood.” One of the Republicans wanting to become a Congresscritter from Illinois says that autism and dementia are God's punishment for our growing support for marriage equality. Tornadoes are the price of abortions. School violence is payback for stopping school prayer. Republicans are our punishment for having a democracy. 
One For Our Side: Research shows that "the elderly know more and use it better." Better make that "some of the elderly".

Porn O'Graph: Here there be dragons. 
The Parting Shot:

Scrawled Filefish, Aluterus scriptus.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SAR #14022

Governments invest in the past, pretending it to be the future. Demetrius.

Comming And Going: Goldman, having spent the last couple of years making money selling you as much stock as possible suddenly noticed that the S&P500 “ is now overvalued by almost any measure." Then they list ten measures from P/E ratio to operating EPS per share that suggest it is time to let Goldman make another set of fees selling those same stocks for you. 
Pencil It In: The IMF now says the global economy will grow by 3.7% in 2014, up from a 3.6% guesstimate in October. Never mind last year's (2.7%) global growth was just half of the IMF guesstimate. 
Half A Loaf, Or Less: The Chicago diocese has released information on about half of the pedophilic priests they've acknowledged, but the files released only dealt with pre-1996 abuse and only identified either suspended or defrocked clerics. None related to abuse by current clergy, giving the undoubtedly false impression that the abuse had stopped and the church was no longer hiding the criminals. 
Explained: Here's how and why a warmer world is likely to have intense snow storms.

Mirabile dictu! Louisiana courts have found that the funding of the state's voucher program with public school funds is unconstitutional. Courts also have found Gov. Jindal's war on public school teachers was unconstitutional. And the Fourth Circuit Court ruled that the 7,000 teachers fired amid the devastation of Huricane Katrina were wrongfully terminated and due back wages. 
Advice: Mother worries you won't marry a rich guy, economists worry that getting married won't make you rich. Love? What's love got to do with it?

Trendsetting: Last year was California's driest on record and this year conditions are worse. The Sierra Nevada snowpack - which turns into irrigation and drinking water in the summer- is now at about 10 to 30% of its normal depth. The rainy season is nearly over, what little there was of it, and NOAA experts agree more of the same is the most likely forecast.

Asked & Answered: What's the Best Way to Help the Poor? Jobs. What's the best way to create jobs? Build and repair our infrastructure through government spending. Won't that add to the deficit? Yes, and that may be a problem someday, but it'll subtract from the poverty today. "And an increase in the minimum wage is better than doing nothing at all.”

Clarifying the Obvious: “American capitalism as currently constituted is undermining the foundations of middle-class society.” Seems obvious. A class war is going on between the takers and the rest of us, the 99%. America’s affluent are affluent not because they made the right lifestyle choices. got good educations, and so on. They are affluent because we let them steal from the rest of us. End of story, move along.
Positively Negative: Nothing—no resource or combination of resources available to humanity today (or in the reasonably foreseeable future) can support industrial civilization once we finish using up the fossil fuels that made industrial civilization briefly possible. 
Just Say No: The Surgeon General says that stop-smoking products are about as useful as vitamin supplements and you'd do better getting off nicotine by going cold turkey.

Clueless: A Pennsylvania Republican honored MLK by proposing a bill that would legalize discrimination. A Michigan Republican wants to “herd all the Indians” into Detroit and fence them in. A Florida Republican says “It's time to arrest [Obama] and hang him high.” Kentucky Republicans want to redefine abortion as domestic violence And best of all Missouri Republicans have drafted a bill that would allow parents to pull their children from science classes that are teaching the theory of evolution. SC Republican state senator Lee Bright (irony, f'sure) is trying to gain Lindsey Graham's seat in order to prevent armed IRS-trained agents from using assault weapons to force you to use Obamacare. It's not so much these people say such things, it's that they believe them.

The Parting Shot:

Orange cup coral, Tubastaea coccinea

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

SAR #14021

Progress is not pre-ordained. 
Misremembered: We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr's birth to commemorate all he did for racial justice. What we forget is that only after he started advocating economic justice for the poor that he was gunned down.

Subscriptions: Remember last week when you opened up the 'invoice' from Better Barbecuing that reminded you to pay for a subscription that you didn't order and didn't want? Well go check the front porch and see if Amazon has delivered something it thinks you might want to order. Anticipatory forestallment. Based on the NSA-like quantity of data Amazon (and Google and on and on) have about you and your habits, Amazon says it can box and ship products to you so that they are on their way before you order them. Let's wait and see who has to pay for the returns. Or who is so spacey they think they must have ordered the stuff and so they pay for it. Oh, wait, it's already been charged against the credit card you have on file. Convenient. 
Ah, Progress: When a priest in Pennsylvania was arrested for grabbing a man's genitals, the Archdiocese was quick to point out that the “arrest did not involve a minor.” 
If You Give A Mouse A Basic Income: Research shows that if you give the poor enough money to live on, their lives are better, the lives of their children are better, crime goes down in their communities while educational achievement rises. Health improves and mental health improves tremendously. And it saves the government money in the long run by reducing the need for other social service spending. 
For the Love of Money: We don’t give deference to people who hoard Kleenex boxes or old newspapers. Why is money different? - Lambert Strether

A Sweet Deal: About 40% of US healthcare dollars go to treat conditions caused by too much sugar in the American diet. That's about a trillion dollars a year. Want to guess how many taxpayer dollars the US government spends on price supports and other programs to enrich the sugar industry? (Don't count whatever our isolation of Cuba costs.)

Innovation: Those clever folks in Silicon Valley are applying all their creatively to preventing the G20 from closing the international tax loopholes that allow them to make a farce of national tax laws. They claim that taxes would blunt t
Self-hoisting Petard: The NSA doesn't seem to like it when their view of the way the world should be – no secrets, everything and everybody monitored 24/7 – is applied to them. Just ask Edward Snowden.

The Wheels On The Bus: the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single London double-decker bus. The top 1% have $110 trillion in assets. That's 46% of all the wealth in the world. And that's not right. There is absolutely no way to morally justify such rapaciousness, not while a single child goes to bed hungry, anywhere in the world.

Overreach: The headlines proclaim that Deutsche Bank suffered a pre-tax loss of 1.15 billion euros in 4Q2013. What they don't mention is that despite all the fines and private settlements and litigation losses – amounting to 2.3 billion euros - the bank ended up with a 2.07 billion euro profit, up from less than a billion last year and about 300 million the year before. Poor babies.

Freedom To / Freedom From: Some Arizona Republican legislators are pushing a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, unmarried women and non-Christians. The claim this “modest clarification” is needed to clarify the state’s religious-freedom law to make sure their version of morality is imposed on society at large
Perspective: It might help clarify things if you recall that the government that surveilled Martin Luther King, Jr in attempt to destroy his effectiveness is the same bunch that is telling us now that we should trust them. J. Edgar didn't die, he just moved to Fort Meade.

Porn O'Graph: I can get it for you retail...

The Parting Shot:
 Gray angelfish, Pomacanthus arcuatus.

Monday, January 20, 2014

SAR #14020

"Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Gift: There will be an orgy of delight on the right this week, reveling in the President's concession that smoking marijuana is “a bad habit and a vice...” which he does not think is any “more dangerous than alcohol.” Enough to make you wonder what Obama is trying to draw attention away from.

If... Then... A Port Authority official appointed by Gov. Christie says that – if he is given immunity from prosecution – he “has a story to tell” authorities. But it's quite possible his memory is fading fast and no offer of immunity has been made. Yet.

Demonstration Demonstration: Protesters protesting the Ukrainian President's new anti-protest legislation were met by police who explained the error of their ways to them.

Situational Ethics: The US is investigating photos published by that reportedly show Marines burning the bodies of Iraqi insurgents during the combat in Falluja back in 2004. Anybody remember the Highway of Death during the first Gulf War? Where “. No attempt was made by U.S. military command to distinguish between military personnel and civilians on the "highway of death" where upwards of 10,000 essentially defenseless Iraqis were killed during 120 hours of continuous US air strikes. A famous victory.

Odds on the Odds: Egypt's military junta claims their new constitution was approved by a 98% to 2% margin. The two percent will be hunted down and re-educated. The 62% who didn't vote are relatively safe. For now. 
Feel Safer Now? Last August Microsoft was able to reach out and remove a particularly nasty piece of malware from millions of computers during an 'update' of the operating system. During such updates Microsoft can, and does, peruse your computer. But only with your best interests at heart, it says here in the press release.

Happy Days: Turkish PM Erdogan has put down a “judicial coup” by firing top executives in the banking and telecommunications regulatory agencies because they were investigating and reporting on the corruption among Erdogan's inner circle. He had already fired thousands of police officers, and dozens of prosecutors. Erdogan, of course, is completely innocent; just ask him.

Why? Hackers have managed to turn your refrigerator into a weapon against you and others, by inserting malware into one of those new-fangled appliances that talk to the other appliances in the house. Why my refrigerator needs to talk to my stove and the toaster is a mystery to me.

Who's Who? How much less free would we be without Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Mark Klein (Room 641a), Dana Priest (CIA Blacksites), Mark Felt (Watergate Coverup), and Tamm, Risen & Lichtblau (Bush era NSA warrantless eavesdropping). And, yeah. Edward Snowden. Heroes all.

Bricks Without Straw: There's a meme getting started – thanks to BP – that claims we can have endless GDP growth with ever declining energy inputs. A neat trick, but it depends on mirrors. Specifically the claim is that we are producing the same or more value (GDP increase) with less energy inputs – more bank for the barrel. It assumes that we can eventually teach the mule to work without food and water. Ah, yeah, if you can eat bytes and bits and travel throught the internet this just might work. But if you insist on having real food and actual transportation, lots of luck.

Deep In The Heart Of: Public funds are being spent so that public-school students enrolled in Texas’ largest charter school program are learning that the fossil record does not support evolution, which is a 'dogma' and not factual. And the rest of the usual creationist, anti-science hoo-ha. And in History the kids learn that feminism has forced women to depend on the government for support like “a surrogate husband.” And the Fed started both world wars
Porn O'Graph: Investment opportunity.

The Parting Shot:
 Azure Vase Sponge, Callyspongia plicifera.