Friday, February 28, 2014

SAR #14059

Most of humanity is stuck with little to do other than complain or revolt. Demetrius.

Big Brother Is Watching, Too: NSA documents show that Great Britian's GCHQ – probably with NSA assistance – tapped into the webcam chats of millions of users. Do not be overly shocked when we learn that they have been remotely turning on your computer's camera whenever they like. Your cell phone has a camera, too.

Show & Tell: According to Bill O'Reilly, a woman can't become the leader of the free world because of a “gender deficiency.” 1) You gotta see the accompanying hand gesture, and 2) Don't tell Christine Lagarde.

Cheap, Very Cheap: Restaurants in Florida have begun adding a charge to diners' bills to cover the cost of their employees health insurance. Which tells you how little they pay the help and how little they think of you. Leave tips in cash.

Reminder: “Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By day the Ostia road was crowded with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia Minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt; and the carts brought out nothing but loads of dung.”  The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade.

Big Game: Maine Republican state representative Lawrence Lockman 'regrets saying' that as long as abortion is legal, it's open season for rape. 
Reality Check: Despite Republican s' belief, “Cutting state taxes to attract entrepreneurs is likely futile at best and self-defeating at worst.” Companies want to make money, not dodge taxes. In the last two years, the governors of KA, NC, & OH led their states to dramatically reduce income taxes in order to attract new firms. Too bad it didn't happen.

Naturally: The food industry is upset that new rules would require that 'serving size' actually be the size of a serving. They also are reluctant to tell you how much extra sugar they put in your food.

Protecting and Serving: In Midland, Texas the cops had a contest to see who could steal the most signs from the homeless. In South Carolina, a 70 year old man was shot to death for having a cane. Police in Houston,kicked a veteran with 23 years service out of a restuant because he had a service dog and wasn't blind, just incapacitated by PTSD. In King City, CA cops were impounding Latinos' cars and selling them to other cops. In Austin, TX a black man was arrested for being drunk even though his blood alcohol was 0.00. In San Francisco cops have been dealing drugs, stealing stuff and illegally searching hotel rooms. In Baltimore a man was arrested for filming a police arrest process. In New Jersey, just shut up and take the police abuse, or face charges from the DA for "filing a false complaint". 
Short Form: The IMF has suddenly decided that taxing the rich is a good idea.

Business As Usual: The Royal Bank of Scotland, over 80% government owned, lost £8.24bn last year and is paying out £588m in bonuses.

Lonely Hearts: NASA has identified 715 new planets orbiting 305 stars in our neighborhood. Four of these new planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit in their sun’s habitable zone, defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for life-giving liquid water. If we ever get out of adolescence, maybe they'll contact us. 
The Parting Shot:
 Coney (Bicolor Phase). Cephalopholis fulvius.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

SAR #14058

An empire of the magnitude of the United States does not exist without a secret police.” Aaron Leonard

Just So Story: “If you want a society in which everyone has a decent life, you need to construct a society in which everyone has a decent life — not a society in which everyone has a small but equal chance of living the lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

Vaporized: The Financial Times website posted a well-researched and documented article detailing how gold prices had been rigged at least 50% of the time during the last three years. I thought I'd tell you, because the FT website no longer carries the article.

The Road: According to the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the air in the city is so polluted that the city is “uninhabitable". Elsewhere in China conditions resembling 'nuclear winter' prevail, raising fears that crops will fail due to the overwhelming air pollution. The price of progress.

Elephant In The Room: A long article on the death of unions in the United States manages to completely ignore the vast legions of surplus labor in China and India and the rest of the world. No union can protect US workers from the economic damage this oversupply has and will continue impose.

Point Taken: "If past is prologue, we should be very worried about China now." 
The Big, But Muddy, Picture: The expected 'significant pickup' in home sales has not happened. Mortgage applications fell 8.5% w/w, refinance applications were down 11% and refinance volume was down a crippling 58%. Toll Brothers (self-crowned 'leading builder of luxury homes') said new home orders were down 6% y/y even though other sources claimed new home sales unexpectedly surged 9.6% m/m.

Finally: President Obama has a new stump speech in which he calls for Congress to come up with a program to put people back to work repairing and replacing the nation's crumbling infrastructure. There is, of course, no way the Republicans could support such a socialist idea.

Curb Your Excitement: California is going to be hit by two big storms this week, brining more rain than has fallen there in the last eight months. Good, but not nearly good enough to make a significant dent in the drought.

Pop quiz: Where do dictators, tyrants, drug lords and similar slime turn to when they have to hide their ill-gotten gains? a) Switzerland b) a Caribbean Island c) Hong Kong or d). none of the above. Right, d) the United States of America.
Bears In The Woods: The Interior Department is planning on raising the liability cap for offshore oil spills from $75 million to $134 million. “This adjustment helps to preserve the deterrent effect and the ‘polluter pays’ principle embodied in the law.” Note that the cap will be waived if gross negligence can be proven. As opposed to ordinary negligence.

Sources & Methods: For eight years before 9/11, the FBI had a mole inside al Qaeda who told them bin Laden planned to finance terror attacks against the US. The bureau did not tell anyone before or after 9/11, because... well, they're the Bureau.
Shoemaker's Children: In oil-rich Iraq, petrochemical companies are grinding to a halt due to a lack of... oil.

A New Record? Credit Suisse is accused of helping 22,000 American millionaires hide their money in offshore tax havens. Wait, America has 22,000 millionaires? Why?

Quoted: "This speaks to a very difficult problem that we face today: namely, that we lack a coherent narrative for economic policy... this has moved macroeconomic policy in the US away from anything resembling rational discussion and toward a discourse based wholly in morality."

Pinocchio: Russia says it will keep out of Ukrainian affairs. My wife says she's going to lose weight. Me, I'm laying off the scotch.

Deep In The Heart Of Texas! A federal judge has ruled that the Texas statue outlawing same-sex marriages is both 'demeaning' and unconstitutional, it that it amounts to “state imposed inequality”.

Porn O'Graph: Grocery prices?

The Parting Shot:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

SAR #14057

Bubbles are Ponzi schemes without a Ponzi schemer. Paul Krugman

Compulsion: Not knowing what's going on doesn't prevent Senator McCain from meeting with Ukrainian neo-Nazis. After all, doesn't the US have the right to tell everyone how to live? He ought to be meeting with the neo-nazis in Phoenix. Russia, meanwhile, called the protesters “terrorists” and denounced the involvement of the West. 
Servicing The Customers: Banks are fighting US efforts to monitor the fees they charge for overdrafts. Wonder why?

Obviously: The headline - 'Inequality is about capital vs. labor.' - at first seems an unnecessary restatement of the obvious, but it is not. While the common folk - labor - have known this all along, our betters, who own the MSM and the government and economists, have tried to bury this simple truth in talk of structural problems, educational lapses, technological progress, competition from Chinese peasants, interest rates, confidence fairies, baby boomers and divine intervention. No, the problem is greed. The problem is that the rich have all the money. The problem is that we the people have been duped into letting them free of the restraints we imposed following the Great Depression. The problem is, as it has always been, the myth that money is worth more than people. It is us against them and they are still winning.

Working Definition: The Supremes have accepted a case that will allow them to decide if the Environmental Protection Agency is actually supposed to protect the environment from things like greenhouse gases. 
Prickling Thumb: China is stepping up war games in the East China Sea in preparation for war. That's the word from the US Pacific Fleet. On the up side, the Navy expects it to be a “short, sharp war” with Japan. Trouble is, Japan is an ally of ours, and if you attack them, we're supposed to come to their rescue. Nothing good will come of this.

Thirteen Years: When Obama called Karzai and told him he had to sign an agreement letting the US keep killing Afghans, Karzai said no. Obama then said that the US would pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, and Karzai said good. Over 2300 dead, over 18,000 wounded. tens of thousands of PTSD victims, broken marriages and children scarred for life. And that's just on the US side - its been much worse for the Afghans. Over $4 trillion down the drain. For what, George?

Aegean Stables: Countering climate change deniers like Senator Cruz (Dumbass, FL) is hopeless because they are committed to knowing as little as possible and pay no attention whatsoever to evidence. Ignorance might be bliss, but it’s nothing to aspire to.

There's US, And Then There's Them: We've all heard, over and over, that state employees' pensions are going to bankrupt the states, and how the workers will have to accept a lot lower standard of living because... well, they were overpaid drones all their lives anyway. What we don't hear is how much these problems were caused by politicians who deliberately underfunded the pension accounts. It's also instructive to note how much revenue the states are losing every year from the bribes paid corporations to come to their states. In the ten states with the most severe pension problems, the total annual cost of corporate subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes exceeds the total current annual pension costs for the main public pension plans administered by the states. 
Clause and Effect: JPMorgan, which has spent $30 billion since 2010 on legal fees, setlements and other costs related to its shady business practices, is laying off 17,000 from its mortgage banking operations because, y'know, the housing revival and all that. 
We're Here To Help: If you're one of those paranoid types who thinks government agents infiltrate websites to manipulate the public, ruin reputations, pervert democracy and promote faith healing, you're right. You're probably still paranoid, but in this case, you're right. Except about the faith healing. 
Porn O'Graph: Laissez les bons temps rouler.

The Parting Shot: 
 Blue Tang, Acanthurus coeruleus.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SAR #14056

The human race really is just one big unhappy family. Brad DeLong.

Multiple Choice: A 65-mile section of the Mississippi was closed because oil was spilled into the river from a) a pipeline, b) train wreck, c) barge. The water to towns along the river was declared to be a) safe. 
Bad & Worse: A rare polio-like illness has left about 25 California kids with paralyzed limbs and severe respiratory problems. Doctors are sure it is not polio, but are sure it is god-awful, with “the best-case scenario is complete loss of [the use of] one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well.” 
Hail Mary: DC lobbyist Jack Burkman is pushing legislation banning gays from playing in the NFL He says the law is necessary because “[i]f the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it.” Quite where Congress might find values or morals was not immediately clear.

Got Milk? In order to get the next 8.8 billion euros in bailout funds, the troika has told Greece it must extend the shelf life of milk and permit certain pharmaceuticals to be sold in supermarkets. My guess is the drugs are made by Bayer and the cows are owned by Deutschebank.

Self-Serving & Protecting: According to the Austin, Tx police chief, a female jogger in Austin arrested, handcuffed and thrown into a patrol car was lucky she wasn't raped like she would have been by cops in other cities.

Cost-Plus Neutrality: Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast for “preferential access” to the Comcast network. Which pretty much means no one can compete with Netflix unless they pay Comcast even more. Step one into the non-future of the level internet playing field.

Asked &Answered: Did political considerations affect the Fed's international bailouts? Yes, of course, what planet are you from?

One Damned Thing After Another: Sure, there's no water in California and our food bills will be going through the roof, but be thankful you don't live in Colorado, where wild hordes of tumbleweed are attacking farms and fences and highways and girl scouts selling cookies outside of pot stores.

New Beginnings? Ignoring US warnings not to get involved, a Russian landing ship with 200 troops aboard is on its way to the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, perhaps to enforce Russia's threatened boycott of foodstuffs from Ukraine or, more likely, to give Yanukovych safe passage out.

Harem Scarem: Just when Turkish PM Erdogan thought he had crushed the attempts to implicate him in the ongoing corruption scandal involving some of his closest aides, a recording has surfaced in which Erdogan discusses ways to hide at least $1 billion in cash from police working for the prosecutor's office.

Not News: “Free trade pacts were always about weakening nation-states to promote rule by multinationals.”

Once More: Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits, but jobs and wages are not. Unless we figure out how to spread the gains more evenly the economy will not generate enough demand to sustain itself. At that point our society will not have enough cohesion to keep us together. 
The Long Arm Of The Law: Connecticut legislators are considering a bill that would make it a crime punishable by 2o years in prison for using a drone to kill wedding parties as a weapon in the commission of a crime. 
Musical Chairs: Egypt's military junta formally resigned from governing the country in order to let the junta's leader, Field Marshal Abdel-Fettah el-Sissi, currently the defense minister, assume legitimacy by running for the presidency. It's all about appearances.

The Parting Shot: 
 Jolthead Porgy, Calamus Bajonado.

Monday, February 24, 2014

SAR #14055

It might be worse. In fact, it will be. Demetrius
Understatement: Ukraine’s Acting President Turchynov - the former Prime Minister jailed by now-departed President Yanukovych, which tells you the state of democracy and legitimacy in Ukraine - says that“The situation in Ukraine is catastrophic. There are no funds in the state Treasury account.” The US says it is ready to help Ukraine return to the path of democracy, stability and growth - by which it means "if you spurn Russia". Which is not going to happen. Much of the eastern half the country is Russian-speaking, many of them ethnic Russians. Russia itself barely tolerates the idea that Ukraine is an independent country. Eventually, after the Ukraine collapses economically and drags the ruble even further down, Russia will resolve the question and the West will watch the bodies pile up and do nothing. 
Cue Leonard Cohen: On how many days during all of 2013 did JPMorgan lose money? Zero. None. Not one. Hum along
The Masters' Voice: The Royal Bank of Scotland, 81% owned by the British government, has been told to focus on retail and commercial banking and to forget about investment banking and its international operations. It will be cutting up to 30,000 jobs and goodness knows how much in the way of ill-gotten gains. 
Out To Lurch: Europe is one external shock away from a lurch into outright deflation. Europe, meet Ukriane. 
Self-Loathing In The South: Determined to remain a plantation society, South Carolina is glad to have nonunion jobs from BMW, Michelin and Boeing, but explicitly does not want any unionized plants - Chrysler, Ford, GM and other unionized companies are not welcome. According to the Governor, “It’s not something we want to see happen.” Which the SC Manufacturers Alliance seconds. “Organized labor has no place down here, we don’t need them." The South may rise again, but it's going to be a long, long time a'coming.

And Then The Economy Collapsed: Highlights from the FOMC transcripts from 2008.

Worst Aid: Obama & Friends intend to cut the money paid to insurance companies providing Medicare Advantage plans, beginning in 2015. The plans, which about 28% of Medicare beneficiaries use, are a gravy train for the insurers, but expect the plans to become stingier, with smaller provider networks and higher co-pays while the insurers maintain their profit margins. This will make the questionable value of many MA plans even more questionable, which may be the point.

Has QE Been Effective? Depends on how much money you had to start with.

Attack of the Buzzwords: The G20's finance ministers have arrived at "an unprecedented" agreement to disown austerity as an idea somebody else had and to "return to strong, sustainable and balanced growth in the global economy". This will be accomplished through "ambitious but realistic policies... to lift our collective GDP by more than 2%" leading to $2.0 trillion in additional growth and "significant additional jobs." They are also going to "enhance trade." Not a word of their announcement suggested a single concrete step any of them were going to take.

Have we been living in an age of austerity? Yes.

Dry Spell: The Feds have told California farmers that there will be no irrigation water available for California's Central Valley this year. This is the first time in the 54 year history of the State Water Project that there was no water to distribute. California grows used to grow roughly half of all U.S. fruits and vegetables, most of that in the Central Valley.

Retire Now: You still have time to do what you love, to discover the joy and freedom of working until you die. As Keynes noted, in the end you're dead.

Porn O'Graph: It's a gas!

The Parting Shot:
 Channel Clinging Crab, Mithrax spinosissimus.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

SAR #14053

Not everyone is naturally good, which explains government.

Play Acting: The President and the Democrats want to raise the minimum wage. John Boehner and the Republicans are not about to let it happen. The Democrats know this, but are playing to their base. So, too, the Republicans.

Verbiage: Sales of existing houses plunged/fell/ tumbled/dipped – depending on the reporter's outlook - 5.1% m/m in January, reaching the lowest level in 18 months. Weather, interest rates, groundhogs etc. were all used to explain away the disappointing news. 
Big Brother: The FCC wants to put government agents in newsrooms to observe how the news is collected and supervise follow the editorial story selection process. That's it. No punch line. Some things simply are not funny. 
The Farce That Launched A Thousand Slips: Remember a few months ago when Blackstone gave you a chance to buy some Rental Backed Securities? A sure thing, because people gotta pay the rent, right. Well, the rental income backing these securities declined by 7.6% in the last 4 months, as tenants fell behind on the rent or decamped leaving units vacant. Blackstone thought their units would only be vacant one week a year. Guess they hadn't been landlords before. Now they're going to cut rents to attract tenants. Poorer tenants. What could go wrong? 
Opinions Vary: NOAA says the globe has just experienced the fourth warmest January on record. Folks in Atlanta were not consulted.

Giving At The Office: The City of Detroit is reassuring its retirees in both the General Retirement System and the Police & Fire Retirement system that they will continue to get their pensions. The former will be 34% less than is due them and the cops will get 90% of what they were promised, but hey, it's not the city's fault you greedy people forced the city to be so generous in word and parsimonious in deed.

Laugh Test: The USPS is planning on issuing a 'Steve Jobs' iStamp.

On The Other Hand: Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who is on record complaining that "regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness", has signed a petition to prevent would-be fracking operators from using water sources near his home in fracking operations. It would be an eyesore and lower his property values.
In The Beginning: Tom DeLay, former exterminator, convicted money launderer and one-time congressman, says the country went astray because "we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution.” Because the Bible, at least his version, tells us so.

Porn O'Graph: Cornucopia.

The Parting Shot:
 Whitespotted Filefish, Orange Phase.

Friday, February 21, 2014

SAR #14052

Politics, religion and matrimony each value perception over reality.

Reflections: Remember when Obama said he wasn't going to kill civilians any more? Especially civilians gathered to celebrate a wedding? Yeah, me too. Too bad he doesn't.

Groundhog Day: The Labor Department said that unemployment claims fell a smidgen to 336,000 this weak week, and that the booming recovery had created a miserly 113,000 jobs in January which was better than December's 75,000, both of which are far below the 180,000 or so needed to simply break even. Unremarkably, retail sales declined in January by the most since June 2012, falling 0.4% after a 0.1% in December.

Briefly: "The proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable is misguided, monopolistic and bad for the U.S. economy." But free markets...

Hit & Run: While Obama contemplates an increased role for the US in Syria, Caracas burns as the rich try to wrest the country from the poor, police kill protesters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while China, Russia, the US and France jostle to get involved. Elsewhere, China's manufacturing index hits a seven-month low, Japan's trade deficit hits new highs, the Russian ruble hits new lows, Facebook spends $19 billion for a single app and – of course - stocks on the NYSE rise.

Best 2 Out Of 5: In Alabama, a bill allowing teachers to lead students in prayer was approved in committee by a vote of 2 'Yea' to 3 'Nay'. It's Alabama, go figure. 
Sleight Of Hand: The Overlords at Homeland Security say they will not collect and store information on license plates as long as civilian companies do. After all, the government can tap into the records whenever they want - just like the NSA with Google and ATT, they can get the information from the folks who do collect it. But technically, it's not the government tracking you. What, warrants? They don't need warrants, just a purchase order.

Vocabulary Quiz: What word should be used to describe 100 tons of highly radioactive water escaping from a holding tank? In Fukushima, TEPCO calls it a 'leak'. The 'leak' stopped when workers closed the valves. Right, "after workers closed the valves." I think I see the problem. 
Foot-bone Connected To The... Wal-Mart, citing the decline in food stamp availability for its employees and customers, reported a 21% drop in 4th quarter profits. This is the fourth consecutive quarterly decline in same-store revenues. 
More Is Less: After the President told the NSA to end its program to collect data on Americans, government lawyers have told the agency to step up both collection and storage of the data. Why? Because it will be needed as evidence in lawsuits brought by Americans who object to the data being collected and stored. It's a lawyer thing. 
Prey Tell: For decades, Bob Jones University has told victims of rape they were liars and sinners and not to report sexual abuse because it would make the school look bad. 
What Big Teeth You Have, Grandma: Capital One, in a finely printed fine print notice to its cardholders, claims the right to drop by the house and chat with you about your late payments. Or to call you, pretending to be someone else, to get you to pay them. Better yet, they reserve the right to stop by your cubicle at work and put up banners reading 'deadbeat'. Or “in any manner we choose.” Maybe you should choose a different card.

Two'fer: Discovering the meaning of life does not automatically preclude achieving happiness. Could'a fooled me. 
Turgidson, Generally: Retired Lt. Gen Wm. Boykin wants you to know that Jesus is coming back and when he does he'll be carrying AR-15 in order to protect the Second Amendment. It's in the Bible, the general claims, where Jesus told the disciples “now, if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” What he really meant was go get an AR-15. 
Porn O'Graph: Another winner.

The Parting Shot:
 Squirrelfish, Holocentrus adscensionis.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

SAR #14051

Trying to explain to your mom what you’re doing is one way to see if your story passes the laugh test.

Snow Job: January's private housing starts were down 16% from December and 2% down y/y. Mortgage applications were down over 4% w/w. The decreases were blamed on the atrocious winter weather, which would make more sense if the Northeast hadn't seen starts surge by 62% while the West (California) fell – and it wasn't snowing in SoCal. Plus permits for new construction were down, and that's for houses that will be started in the spring.

Briar Patch: Despite Bob Corker's assurances that rejecting the UAW would be the only way to make sure VW built more plants in the south, Bernd Osterloh says that the rejection of the union will keep VW from building more plants in the south. Osterloh is on VW's board, Corker is not.

Reality Check: Actual measurement natural gas well sites and production facilities found 75% more methane leaking into the atmosphere than estimated by the EPA. The discrepancy may stem from the EPA relying on data submitted by the producers. There is so much methane leakage that switching from diesel to natural gas would actually increase global warming.

The Alfred E. Neuman Victory Lap: A court has ruled that heaping ridicule on the NSA and Homeland Security seems like a good idea. 
Vengeance: Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun, has been sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for embarrassing the management at the Oak Ridge Nuclear Bomb Factory. The sentence was severe because the judge was upset that the nun wasn't contrite for doing what she set out to do. Two or three Hail Mary's would have been appropriate.

The Parting Shot:
Porkfish, Anisotremus virginicus.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SAR #14050

Individuals are powerless, classes are not.

Points of View: The CBO published a report on the anticipated effects of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The R's stopped reading when they came to a passage they could claim said the increase would cost half a million jobs. Too bad they didn't read on to the part that said the increase would benefit 16.5 million people and raise nearly a million folks out of poverty and increase low-income workers' pay $31 billion. Oh, and the CBO said that 500,000 lost jobs was a guess and it might be as low as zero. 
Odds: Spanish unemployment, bad loans and suicides are at their all time highs, so naturally Spanish bonds are at record lows – just above the rate Uncle Sam has to pay. What could go wrong?

Peaceful Assembly: A few days ago Kazakhstan had to bring out the tanks to calm the people who were complaining about the government's devaluation of their currency. In Kiev the police are using armored personnel carriers to convince protesters to go home before Mr. Putin gets really upset. In Bangkok, the Thais are so upset with the government that they pulled more than $1 billion from the Government Savings Bank in a single day and still had time to engage the police and military in running battles. And in Venezuela right wing mobs have taken to the streets in opposition to the government. The US has been dodging questions about how much aid and direction is being provided to the rioters. Maybe it's something in the water. 
Baby Steps: In the last quarter, household debt increased 2.1%, to $11.52 trillion, the biggest increase in six years. Student loans now total $1.8 trillion and the delinquency rate is also at an all-time high. The Fed thinks this is all a good idea; they've been trying for the last several years to get people to spend more than they can afford. 
An Unrefreshing Pause: Coca-Cola reports their 4Q income was down 8.4% y/y as sales in both North America and in “emerging markets” shrank. The company plans to cut $1 billion in costs by 2016. No estimate was given as to how many thousands of jobs will be cut.

Napalm In The Morning: The rejection of the UAW by Volkswagen's Chattanooga workers is seen by non-combatants as a victory for those who would treat American workers like disposable tissues, as fearful Tennesseans declined to take part in deciding workplace management and safety issues. The primary factor in the 30-year stagnation of US wages and the increase in the idea of the disposable employee has been the death of the unions. Is this the end of the road for the worker in America?.

Say Amen: Kansas wants to let teachers beat students to and beyond the point of leaving bruises, while the Georgia legislature wants them to be able to pray while being beaten. 
Porn O'Graph: Why does this matter?

The Parting Shot:

Monday, February 17, 2014

SAR #14048

Ignorance is seldom a valid option.

Lies, Damned Lies and Tennessee Republicans: Governor Haslam, proud to preside over the state with the nation's fifth lowest median household income, said a 'yes' vote to let the UAW represent workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant would result in the company losing its tax incentives. This is not true. Senator Corker said that unionizing the plant would lead to Volkswagen moving new production to Mexico. This is not true. What is true is that Volkswagen very much wanted the UAW to organize its workers. Part of their corporate culture is to have worker panels in each plant helping improve the product. And nearly half of the parent company's board is made up of labor union members – who are likely to prefer putting pants where unionization is accepted. Not in Tennessee, where fear and stupidity rule.

Day Late, Dollar Short: The Guardian asks, "Will US civil liberties survive the Occupy trial?" No, and the Occupy trial won't resurrect them, either.

One And Done: Now that we've removed Saadam and established democracy and got the oil wells pumping again (well, one out of three ain't bad), declared victory and gone home (okay, except for secret operations and all that), the folks once known as al-Qaeda now control ever larger chunks of Iraq's Anwar province, still controlling Fulujah as well as stopping and 'taxing' Shiites while letting Sunnies have free passage on the highways to the Jordanian and Syrian borders as well as spreading their control into other adjoining provinces. 
Job Opening: The US Army is looking for young patriots to shift through Facebook and Twitter to "identify extremist influence" and identify potential terrorists for Special Operations Command. You, you and you, step forward and volunteer.

Money Makes The World Go Round: President Obama thinks that a billion bucks spent on “new technologies” will help communities prepare for climate change. Note that it is not to slow or reverse disastrous climate change, but simply to get used to it. In the same vein, he promises to give money to drought stricken farmers to help them with their economic losses. At least he doesn't pretend the federal government can make it rain. Doesn't matter, the GOP most assuredly will not let the increased spending become law, especially if Obama might get some credit for it. Think of it as a reign dance – I'm the boss and I've got to pretend to do something.

Tea Leaves: A National Science Foundation survey found that 1 out of 4 Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth, less than half knew that humans developed from earlier species of animals, and, in the 18 - 24 year old bracket, 66% believe that astrology is 'scientific'. Maybe they need something - if only the fourth star on the left - to explain the sorry state of their lives.

The Easy Button: Instead of all this he-said she-said in the cable network squabble, why not simply turn cable into a public utility? Why not make universal broadband a basic right?

Buy Design: There's an apparently indestructible myth, at least among the rich, that the rich get the big buck because they deserve them, as rewards for their exceptional skill and hard work at screwing the rest of us. That's nice, but it doesn't explain the CEOs who make big bucks while running their companies into the ground, nor does it explain why European CEOs can do better jobs for about 10% of what overpaid US CEOs get. Is it because the rich rig the game? Yes. 
Assigned Reading: What health care should be like.

Democracy In Action: In Turkey, a legislator broke his finger breaking the nose of another representative as Prime Minister Erdogan won control of the judicial system, the better to quash investigation of the rampant corruption in his regime. Ah, democracy.

Out, Damned Spot: Missouri, once proud to be the 'show me' state, no longer wants children shown anything that smacks of evolution. Currently their Republicans are trying to pass a bill prohibiting schools from teaching a child about evolution unless the kid brings a permission slip from home. The bill would also let each parent decide if a particular textbook could be used to teach their little darlings. Next year the far right is going to try to eliminate multiplication and long division from math classes. 
Porn O'Graph: The Red Queen does North Dakota.
 Graysby, Cephalopholis cruentata.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

SAR #14046

Now can we talk about climate change?

Equal Time: The secret police at Homeland Security, tired of the NSA getting all the bad press for spying on Americans, are planning to track you visually by grabbing the data from all the traffic cameras in the nation and building a data base of where every car was every day, everywhere there is a camera. Why? Because they can. And you are a potential terrorist, didn't you know?

Shocker: Rich people lean to the political right, and it doesn't matter how they got rich - inheritance, actual hard work, or winning the lottery.

Because Equality: Billionaire Tom Perkins, previously known for his fear that the peasants were coming after the rich, now says that all our problems could be saved if America's voting laws were changed to award one vote for each dollar of taxes paid. We have met the enemy and one of them is named Tom Perkins.

Practice, Practice, Practice: Pope Francis says that living together is both an art and a fascinating journey. Like any other art, you have to practice it to get good at it. 
Back To Basics: Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana and renowned constitutional revisionist, says that contrary to the belief of many and 200 years of Suprem Court rulings, diversity of belief is not tolerated under our Constitution. And it should be so, because “America does not sustain and create faith. Faith created and sustains America.” He held up Hobby Lobby's hate-filed refusal to give its 13,000 employees, mostly women, health care as a model for his version of “exercising its religious freedom.”

Vocabulary Test: In the phrase “the dignity of work”, what does 'dignity' mean? 
Patching The Oil Patch: Remember all those peak-oil predictions of higher costs to find petroleum resulting in lower production at ever higher per-barrel costs? Don't look now, but big oil is cutting back on exploration because it costs too much. Expenses have grown but discoveries and production have not increased correspondingly. No, no, it's not peak oil. It's peak affordable oil, and always was. 
Volunteers: Tennessee's Republicans, trying to retain their position in the competition to be the dumbest in the South, now want to make it explicitly legal to discriminate against LGBT people in the course of ordinary business as an act of religious faith. Imagine the lunch counter sit-ins. Leaders of the Kansas GOP are tring to find enough votes to defeat a bill that passed the lower house which makes it legal (nearly mandatory) to discriminate against gays. It is limited to gays because everybody knows that lesbians are cure and bisexuals and the trans-gendered are mythical creatures, like unicorns and honest bankers. 
Cold Front: Foreclosure filings across the US last month jumped 8% m/m. In New Jersey foreclosure activity reached a 40-month high. In California foreclosure starts in January suddenly jumped 57%. Unexpectedly. Etc. Etc. Etc. Oh, and on another front, US factory production fell the most in four years. Maybe it's the whether.

Porn O'Graph: Walks like, talks like... 
The Parting Shot:
 Snaggletooth, the trumpetfish.