Friday, February 13, 2015

SAR #15044

The Big Reveal: US retail and food services sales fell 0.8% in January, as the expected bonanza from cheaper gasoline didn't get poured into the marketplace. Within a few days economists will have a ready explanation to explain what those rascally consumers are doing with all that money. The previous report, covering November and December also fell, 0.9%. This is the worst two-month decline in retail sales since October 2009, before the recovery recovered.
Pogo's People: Homegrown right-wing radicals and all-American jihadists have carried out a violent attack somewhere in the US once every 34 days for the last 5 years. All without getting strip searched in an airport. 
Comes The Dawn: While the US Congress blathers about sending a billion dollars worth of “lethal military aid” to Ukraine – by which they mean palming off a bunch of US military surplus so factories in their home districts can make more at taxpayer expense – Russia, which conveniently shares a border with the Ukrainian rebels, just has to drive the stuff down the street.

Best Friends Forever: President Obama's latest executive order, citing “cybersecurity threats”, will require corporations to share more data about computer system breaches with the federal government. “Share.” Or else.

Buy Bottled Water: A year after a toxic leak from a coal mining operation contaminated the drinking water of over 300,000 citizens in and around Charleston, West Virginia politicians are proposing legislation that would prevent such disasters in the future by weakening the safety standards that chemical tanks must meet and exempting the coal industry from water quality standards. 
Negativity : Economists are scrambling to explain the attraction of negative interest government bonds – at least nine European countries 2-year debt is now giving back less than is invested. It's easy: the people are afraid that savings in banks will be confiscated or lost by untrusted bankers, and the people fear that real goods will decrease in value faster than the bonds. Losing a little is better than losing more. Deflation.

Old News: Austerity, according to Brown University economics professor Mark Blyth, is “complete horseshit.” [That's not a translation from the Greek, but close.]

First Do No Harm: Little Brother Bush, wanting to show how tech-savy and open he is, has released over 250,000 emails without redacting the senders' names, email addresses, or other personal data like social security numbers and including the complete text of what were, until then, personal communications. That's in line with a new federal decision that lets the federal government read any and all emails that are more than six months old. No warrant required, because your right to privacy has an expiration date.

Clarification: The FCC's net neutrality proposal “expressly states that usage-based pricing, data allowances -- really any offers other than unlimited, all-you-can-eat data plan -- are now subject to regulation." Republicans were quick to complain about imposing regulation on the profitable scams that internet providers have been pulling on the citizenry. 
Off Label: Last September the government's Open Payments Database began offering the public a way to see how much money drug companies were paying doctors to push their drugs. Good idea, except it rests on self-reporting. Pharmaceutical companies quickly discovered that if they randomly misspelled the names of their drugs, the data wouldn't show up when the actual name was searched. Forest Labs, for example, misspelled the name of one of its drugs more than one-third of the time – making at least 953 bribes untraceable. And we're supposed to swallow this?

Porn O'Graph: The Pinocchio moment.

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