Saturday, January 31, 2015

SAR #15031

Qualifying Qualification: Obama's choice for attorney general to replace Eric Holder claims that alcohol is safer than marijuana, which proves her credentials as both a lawyer and a political hack – being able to lie convincingly in the face of evidence to the contrary and to tell an audience what it wants to hear. Never mind it isn't true, this is Washington. 
Best Headline: “NFL officials will hold Brady's balls before Super Bowl”.

Dry Wholes: In the last 5 years investors have put $1.4 trillion into bets on the US oil and gas industry, chasing the riches promised by $100 a barrel oil. Now investment funds, retirement accounts and bank balance sheets are beginning to show the dents that $45 oil has made in these bets – about $440 billion so far. Some bonds are now trading at 50 cents on the dollar and some stocks have lost nearly 90% from their highs. But this shouldn't bother you unless you own a bank or were planning on retiring one day. 
One Size Fits All: The NYPD is dedicating 350 cops to a new machine gun and riot gear equipped unit focused on 'containing terrorist attacks and protests.'
Data Dance: Canadian research suggests that Pfizer's quit-smoking drug Chantiax/Champix is implicated in the deaths of 44 patients, 30 by suicide, and is linked to more than 1,300 other suicide attempts, serious depression and anger/aggression. Pfizer says that no reliable scientific evidence proves the drug responsible for the deaths, which has a familiar ring to it.

The Doctor Won't See You Now: Doctors are beginning to tell patients with anti-vaccine beliefs that they should find a different health care provider. 
Negotiations; Patricia Todd, a gay Alabama lawmaker, is threatening to expose adulterous colleagues: "I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about 'family values' when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have."

Friday, January 30, 2015

SAR #15030

Misery Index: Obama wants Congress to forget all about that sequestration nonsense – at least as far as it applies to the Pentagon budget, which he wants to increase. You'd think that with all the practice we've built up in killing people and blowing things up we'd get more efficient at it
Read'n, Rite'n & Reload'n: A Texas Republican has filed the Texas Protection Act which would encourage teachers to gun down any of their students who might be thinking about being bad.

The First Cut Isn't Necessarily The Deepest: Shell has cut $15 billion from its exploration and development budget for the next three years and warns that further reductions are possible depending on how long it takes to drive the frackers out of business. Before you grab the Kleenex, note that their quarterly profit was $3.3 billion, up 10% from last year.

Asked & Answered: “Will the Obama administration finally bring the CIA’s torturers to justice?” No. And we're not even going to talk about the things the Pentagon has done.

Fair Warning: Okladummy James Inhofe, the new misleader of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, who believes in neither the environment or public works, says there is nothing for the Senate to do about climate change because “man cannot change the climate” only God can. And God isn't on the Committee. 
Pot/Kettle: Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have arrested Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, a Guantanamo graduate, for “anti-Islamic” activities.

Impractical Joke: The BLS reports that initial claims for unemployment fell 13.9% last week from the week before. I'm pretty sure it wasn't due to the BLS hiring mathematicians.

Two-Time Loser: Texas' Governor Goodhair & Glasses has again lost his bid to get the two felony charges against him - “abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official” - dismissed. 'Everybody else does it' is not an adequate defense, even in Texas.

The Whites of Their Eyes: The rebirth of the 3% down payment is being celebrated by the banksters, who have forgotten why they ever reverted to 20% down. Here's a hint: Housing Bubble Burst. 
Here's The Deal: In order to simply maintain current global oil production over the next decade, the oil industry must bring on line production equal to that of every currently producing oil well in the world. Enjoy $2 gasoline while you can.

Ben Franklin, 2.0: In Denmark, a dollar saved is now 99.5 cents.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

SAR #15029

Gambling At Rick's? Various videos have surfaced that show what appear to be US and British Special Forces mercenaries fighting along side Ukrainian neo-Nazi forces. Sources suggest that at least 500 Blackwater-type mercs are so employed.

Decoder Ring: Why does Sarah Palin keep saying all those silly things? Because she is an entertainer, not a politician, and her audience loves her version of slapstick. Go ahead, make fun of her – she's laughing all the way to the bank. As long as she kicks some of her take to the GOP, they're quite happy to play along. It is far from clear that Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are nearly as aware of their function as Sarah is. 
Consider This: Verizon is considering allowing its subscribers to opt out of being tagged with its undeletable customer codes that facilitate illegal corporate and NSA snooping. Considering.

Problem Solved: Twenty percent – 16 million – American children now rely on food stamps. The Republicans intend to address these horrendous numbers by cutting $40 billion from the program's budget. Loaves and fishes, maybe.

Snark On/ Israel is demanding that the UN “uphold its commitment to stop war crimes.” /Snark Off

Free Rides: FXCM, the foreign exchange outfit that facilitated immense losses for its customers in the Swiss Franc revaluation and was itself at death's door, has received a last-minute lots-of-strings attached bailout and has told its big-money clients that their losses and debts have been forgiven and forgotten. 
Magic Act: Greece's new prime minister announced that privatization would be halted and that the country would not default on its agreements. Note that privatization is part of the bailout agreements and Greece has little if any ability left to pay back the 'loans'. Others suggest that there is a 70% probability that Greece will default on its debts. 
Quoted: "Creditors have a moral responsibility to lend wisely. If they fail to do due diligence on their borrowers, they deserve what is going to happen. In the case of Greece, the scale of the external deficits, in particular, were obvious. So, too, was the way the Greek state was run..." Martin Wolf. 
Two Thumbs Way Up: Michelle Obama declined to drape a headscarf over her head while her husband was sucking up to the new Saudi king. Good for her.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

SAR #15028

Too Much Of A Bad Thing: The amusingly named US Justice Department, starting with its Inquisitors in the DEA, have been using traffic cameras, supplemented by their own systems, to record and store hundreds of millions of records of car licenses – tracking where you have been (and when) – without benefit of warrants or judicial oversight. The original aim of the program was to help the DEA seize automobiles, money and other assets but has since been expanded to help local police 'investigate crimes' or at least to track their spouses to see what they're up to. And there is an even larger license database run by private companies that will sell a record of your movements to anyone who can come up with a couple of bucks. 
Good News Is Bad: The US budget deficit shrank last year and will shrink even more this year, If you think this is good news you don't understand how much deficit spending drives our economy.

Smoke/Fire: Syrian President al-Assad says that Turkish President Erdogan is “personally responsible” for the ongoing war(s) in Syria. Certainly Erdogan's affection for ISIS (and al-Qaeda) is not in question, but Assad should shoulder a goodly amount of the credit for the years of rebellion in his country. 
Preview: A hospital in Kiel, Germany is in the midst of a serious outbreak of multiresistant bacterial infections. So far of the 27 patients known to be infected, 11 have died. No, not Ebola – worse perhaps.

Say / Do: Central banks around the world have been adding to their gold reserves while assuring the public that it is not money, just a metal. The Netherlands just added to its gold reserves for the first time since 1998, while supposedly cash-strapped Russia bought gold for the ninth successive month.

Are You Feeling Lucky? When 2,000 people who have more than a 10 percent chance of a 'first' heart attack in the next ten years take a baby asprin once a day for two years, one heart attack will be prevented. It's called the therapeutic Number Needed to Treat (NNT) and pretty much your doctor and his pharmaceutical reps don't want you to know anything about it.

Standoff: The Responsible Bankers in Northern Europe have told the upstarts in Greece that there will be no defaulting on international debts permitted and there will be no 'haircuts' given, either. Not because the Greek turnip has any more blood to be squeezed out of it, but because the Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italians do. The Greeks do not seem to share this view.

Recovery Rebound: The December Durable Goods data, instead of recovering from the drubbing it got in November, came in even worse, which may explain the Dow closing down about 1.65%. Then again it might be a snow job.

Red Rover, Red Rover: Despite official attempts to keep global warming out of the country, experts predict that Australia will see a temperature rise of more than 5°C (9°F) by the end of the century. Further bans on talking about it are expected.

Porn O'Graph: Spot the differences.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SAR #15027

How Soon Is Soon: OPEC Secretary El-Badri says that $50 oil will not last and that prices will reach $200 a barrel 'very soon' if investment in new production lags because of the current small (1.5 mbd) over-supply. Hedge funds do not agree and continue to sell oil short. 
The King Is Dead, Long Live The King: Newly crowned Saudi King Salman's reign was celebrated with a public decapitation. Public floggings will resume shortly.

Big Blues: IBM is reportedly undertaking a major reorganization that would cut about 25% of its worldwide work force – some 110,000 jobs. Go ahead, Think.

Drugs, Sex & Alcohol: The four Vanderbilt University football players whose own cellphone recordings will convict them of the sexual assault of a co-ed maintain that it was not rape but simply an extra-credit project.

The Message Is The Message: As his first official act, newly installed Greek Prime Minister Tsipras visited a memorial commemorating the execution of 200 Greeks by Nazis during WWII. 
A Grain Of Salt: New research suggests that the warnings about the connection between salt and heart disease are... a little exaggerated. “No significant difference” was found in outcomes between those using less than 1,500 milligrams a day and those consuming more than 2,300. 
Down Payment: To date George and Dick's Excellent Adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan has cost the US treasury $1.7 trillion, with much more to come.

Odds On: Only one in four Americans believe that God will determine the super Bowl Winner. The rest are pretty sure Bell 1 in 4 Americans believe God will determine who wins the Super Bowl. The Rest think Belichick will take care of things without bothering the Big Guy.

Porn O'Graph: What goes up, goes upper.

Monday, January 26, 2015

SAR #15026

"The enormous gap between what US leaders do in the world and what Americans think their leaders are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the dominant political mythology." Michael Parenti

Either / Or: The Eu (for which read Germany) insists that the Greeks must continue to suffer from pointless austerity or they will be made to suffer pointlessly. Don't they understand that the Greeks have said 'Enough'? Of course the vote just represents the people, not the oligarchs who continue to run the country. Stay tuned, the fat lady isn't even on stage yet.

Godfather: Obama has cut short his delicate diplomatic visit to India to go scurrying off to Riyadh to kiss the new king's ring and promise allegiance to the their oil. The Saudis expressed their disappointment that the President could not stay to watch a beheading or at least a flogging.

Apple In Your Eye: The ever-popular iPhone comes with a free set of secret software embedded that lets NSA remotely and secretly turn the phone on, activate the microphone and camera and see what you are up to. Literally see.

Redundancy and Infrastructure: More than 140 million people - up to 80% of the population - lost electricity after militants attacked two transmission towers and caused a massive power surge. In Pakistan. It would take more than knocking down a couple of power poles to shut down the US electric grid. But ten or twelve well chosen ones might be a different story.

Tabled: When the US delegates brought up the subject of human rights abuses, their Cuban counterparts were quick to agree that steps should be take over the abuses at Guantanamo, the epidemic of cop-on-black killings, racial profiling in New York and the rampant gender inequalities throughout US society. Talks have been temporarily adjourned. 
Nomenclature: The gyrations in the foreign exchange markets – politely being described as “the evolution of the monetary basis of world trade” - are what is more often referred to as currency wars as the US, the EU, Russia, China and Great Britain try to beggar each other to their own advantage. Capitalism at its pest. 
Punchline: As Obama just commented, “Large countries shouldn't bully smaller countries.” No, we shouldn't. But we do.

Reality Check: A new report describes the extremes expected in the climate in the US Midwest by 2100. Not only will the overall increase in temperatures put Iowa out of the corn business (it'll shift to near Hudson Bay, which has pretty thin soil), there will be more heat deaths, costlier electricity, and a decline in overall workforce productivity, as Missouri comes to resemble Arizona and Chicago being the new Dallas with as many as 115 days above 95 degrees per year. Even going outdoors for an hour or so on some days will be unsafe - “literally unbearable to humans.” And don't ask about the oceans; ocean temperatures are climbing so fast that the scientist have to keep adding tot he top of the scale.

Watch Your Posturing: Obama is going to make the Republicans go through the steps to invalidate his attemt to keep the oil and gas industry out of 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It's all theater.

Target: If the Supremes decide the Obamacare subsidy case the way the Republicans want, the majority of those who will lose their health insurance will be “white, Southern, employed and middle-aged.” IOW, a huge chunk of the Republican base.

Porn O'Graph: Corn, soybeans and wheat, oh my.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

SAR #15024

Voters are as ill-informed as their elected representatives
Exceptionalism: The US government has acknowledged that Australian David Hicks, who the CIA tortured for five years, turned out to be innocent. A letter of apology will not be forthcoming. 
This Will Go Over Well: The White House says that the President will not be meeting with Israeli President Netanyahu when he visits the House of Representatives to thank them for voting the way Israel's lobbyists pay them to. He'll also tell them – or at least Boehner and the Republicans – to stop Obama's negotiations with Iran.

Happy Birthday: On the 42nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, House Republicans pushed through another pointless bill tightening federal abortion restrictions. This was the annual ceremonial passing of a ban on using federal funds to pay for abortions, with the added foolishness of banning those who receive any federal support in paying for their insurance – which is the poor and near poor and mostly women – from using that insurance to cover an abortion, even if medically necessary. Way to go, guys. And it's just the guys – the lady Republicans feel they don't want to defend the old “legitimate rape” thingy again. None of this matters, it's just pandering to the conservative Christians who spend too much time trying to control women. Obama will veto the measure if it limps through the Senate.

Fried With That? McDonald's has reported a 7.3% fall in quarterly sales and an annual profit plunge of 15%. Because the recovery...

Repeat Business: Supreme Court appears ready to gut the fair housing act by requiring that plaintiffs prove intent on the part of bankers and realtors to discriminate in housing, rather than pointing to the actual effects of their discrimination. Basically the argument (which the Roberts court bought in the voting rights case) is that results don't matter, just intent – and intent has to be in the form of some evidence written down somewhere that the plaintiffs can access and produce in court
Scouting Report: Former Bundesbank president and current chair of UBS Axel Weber says that the ECB's attempt at QE is not sufficient either in scope or amount and that “changes to labor market rules and pension schemes” are also needed. Those 'changes' include the abolishing of labor laws and the looting of pensions.

Recovery 6.4: Sales of existing homes has fallen Y/Y for the first time in half a decade, mostly because the middle class isn't anymore.

Quoted: We think that the current trends in the oil market and the global economy are only pushing the world oil to lower levels. We think the crisis is only at its earliest stages and the demand situation in world market is not really conducive to oil prices going up,” Vagit Alekperov, CEO of Russian oil giant Lukoil, pointing to a possible $25/bbl environment for crude oil . Others suspect that if oil drops below $30 a barrel,a severe global recession “is inevitable.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

SAR #15023

Religion, like politics, is mostly myth information.

God Did It! Yes, by a vote of 99 to 1 the US Senate has declared that the climate is changing. But it is not due to burning fossil fuels, in fact it is not due to any human activity. As arch-denialist James Inhofe (Irresponsible-Okla.) says, there is "Biblical evidence" of climate change, but that humans were not responsible for it. It's just that God is upset with us.

Omelet, Eggs: A pipeline leak has spilled nearly 3 million gallons of fracking fluids into a local creek. Just the price of admission to the cornucopia that is shale oil. 
Fairness Doctrine: The former CEO of Target/Canada, who lost Target about a billion dollars mismanaging the company, is getting about US$61million to go away. The 17,600 Canadians who will end up unemployed due to his incompetence will get about $3,000 each.

One And Done: Mike Huckabee has told his supporters (all three of them) that there's no need for them to raise money or to get out and campaign because God will make him president in order to stop the US slide into “an atheistic secular theocracy.” Well, if the Big Guy is going to vote for Mike, Jeb and Mitt and the rest can stay home. Works for me.

Advice: The State of California is telling people who don't vaccinate their kids to lock their whole family in the house and send out for pizza. Forever. Not really, but why not?

Another Brick In The Wall: Yemen's president and prime minister have run away from the rebels (al-Qadea, ISIS, other?) who have essentially taken over the country, much to the dismay of the US, which fears losing rights to the shooting gallery, and the Saudis, who say they will just build a big fence and forget their troublesome neighbors. 
Too Many Lawyers: The Seattle Seahawks are trying to trademark the word "boom", the number "12", and the sobriquet “worlds most annoying fans.”

Sins Of The Fathers: Angela Merkel says Greece must take responsibility for its debts, even if a new government is organized. Why? Why can't a country declare bankruptcy? Why this “rule” that no matter what someone like Saddam or the IMF has done, or how silly the banks have been, the debts stay with the country? What about 'due diligence' on the part of German bankers?

Time To Diet: If you are on a low-salmonella diet, you might want to throw away about 25% of the chicken breasts and thighs you buy. And half the ground chicken, but who buys ground chicken?

Practicing War: Zbigniew Brzezinsk, who long ago had his shot at ruling the world, claims the US should deploy troops to the the Baltics in order to get a leg up on the next war – with the Russians. Unless we get into combat with them in Ukraine next spring during joint US/Ukraine military 'exercises'. But the Ukrainans want another $50 billion to keep pretending they're in charge. Maybe we can recycle the same pallets we used to ship all that cash to Baghdad. 
Bad Day At The Office: A US Navy cargo ship is grounded off the Japanese coast near Okinawa. Officials said not to worry because “any water found in the ship is just from the normal tide going in and out.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SAR #15022

Experience is the term we use to describe our previous mistakes.

More Is More: Officials in the EU – along with Canada and the US – are using the attacks in Paris as an excuse to widen government surveillance even more and to intrude even further into the private lives of citizens – even though almost every significant terrorist event in the last 15 years has been carried out by persons already known to the intelligence and security services.

Again, Again: They're meeting in Davos, again. To figure out how to fix the world's economy, again. After 7 years... they are still getting richer, we are not; what's to fix?

Fishing Expedition: Richard Burr (Revisionist, NC), who has replaced Dianne Feinstein as Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants the administration to return all copies of the full 6,000 page Senate report on CIA torture so they can be destroyed and the record of years of government-sponsored torture be erased from history.

Fine Print: One of those ultra-safe pipelines shuttling oil around for the benefit of the rich has spilled 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. Animals residents have been told not to drink the water.

The Myth of Progress: 80 individuals have as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion of us. By next year, 1% of the world's population will control more wealth than the other 99% combined. 
The Killing Fields: There's a tight race going on in Kansas between the fundamentalist Christians who want to ruin public education with Bible stories, the fundamentalist capitalists who want to privatize it and steal all the money, and Governor Brownback who is trying to starve the entire state into submission through Koch brothers inspired tax cut experiments that have created enormous deficits and no economic benefit to the state. But there seem to be few sentient being left in the state, so the parade marches on. 
America The Beautiful: A Dutch court has blocked a US requested extradition because the court feared the individual would be tortured if delivered to US control.

Do You Think It's Going To Rain? A majority of Americans – regardless of their political affiliation – think that equal pay and affordable child care are important goals. A majority of American politicians do not give a damn what average Americans think.

Too Many Is Too Many: The Pentagon's Inspector General reports that the Air Force has far more drones than it needs and has wasted billions on the flashy toys – far more than are required to crash the occasional Muslim wedding party.

All's Well That Ends: Colorado police report that after a year of legalized marijuana, civilization has not collapsed, crime has not skyrocketed and in general “everything's fine,” although sales of munchies are reportedly on the rise.

Civics Lessons: Republicans in Illinois have given schools the power to demand students surrender their social media passwords so the schools can snoop at will. This is seen as an essential training experience to prepare the students docile adults in the surveillance society. So far the schools do not use the radar devices that can see through walls
Clip and Put In Your Wallet: A federal court has ruled that it is completely legal to give the cops the finger. Legal, not smart.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SAR #15021

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory.
Reader's Digest Version: In his SOTU address Obama said, more or less, that inequality is rising, but wages aren't, that American families are making less today than in 2000, that far too many have dropped out of the workforce, that an unacceptable number of our fellow citizens are live in poverty and that we could do something about all these problems, but the reality is that we're not going to do any of it. That's how the game works. Party on.

Two Things: 10-year Treasuries are at at 1.8% and the southbound lanes of I75 through Cincinnati will be shut down for several days after an overpass collapsed onto the roadway. Too bad we can't afford to fix 'em until after they collapse.

Putting Down a Bet: The IMF has, again, lowered its estimate of global GDP for 2015 to 3.5%, citing “persistent negative forces.”

The Emperor's Clothes: The Pakistani Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination claims that the Saudi Arabian government is responsible for destabilizing the Muslim world through its funding the spread of the draconian and medieval Wahhabi brand of Islam. This is true, but we're not supposed to let on that we know.

Pass The Barf Bag: A new effort seems to be underway to revise history and blame poor people for bursting the housing bubble by wanting to live in actual homes. 
Animal Farm: Pope Francis, while insisting that contraception is a sin, says that Catholics “don't have to breed like rabbits.” He also suggested that gays should shut up and stay in the closet so as not to upset African bishops.

Story Prompt: At a vegan strip club, two workers are...

Certainly Hope So: According to Snowden-leaked documents, the US managed to entice China into stealing the blueprints for the F-35, which will set their military back ten years and waste immense amounts of money.

Family Values: Mike Huckabee's PAC has paid members of his family $400,000 over the last six years. Who says his presidential aspirations were wasted?

Spoilsport: John Hofmeister, noted for predicting the rapid rise of gasoline prices back in 2012, now sees $5 a gallon gasoline and crude oil “pushing $100 a barrel” starting later this year.

Ontology Recapitulates... “[I]n a truly free market mercenary armies might be encouraged to seek profits by starting new wars.” Sort of suggests that we've had “a truly free market” for quite some time.

Phoning It In: NSA has permanently 'compromised' the servers that store all of the iPhone identity and synchronization data. These are probably the same servers that store the Apple biometric identification data. Sort of on stop shopping.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SAR #15020

Economics makes more sense once you substitute 'gambling' for the term 'investing'.
Fairy Godmother: European markets continue to rise on the belief that the ECB will come up with half a trillion or more in QE purchases that will transfer even more from the taxpayers to the financial markets, from the poor to the rich. Just like in the US.

Prognosis: Republicans will neither reform, repeal nor replace Obamacare, because they simply do not care enough about the uninsured to face the political and budgetary costs that would be involved. Sniping gets them the PR without any actual responsibility. 
Clip & Save: Iran's oil minister claims that while the country's budget “should be based on $72 a barrel oil, "even if the oil price goes down to $25 a barrel, the oil industry will not be threatened.” Maybe not, but the government of Iran might well be.

Cruise Controlled: Car companies are rushing to hook more and more of your car's functioning to computers, which will be just fine until some bored teenage hacker decides he wants to take it, and you, for a joy ride. Think about that when you're picking out options.