Saturday, April 26, 2008

SAR # 8117

It's not about greed any more. It's about survival.
- Joe Lauria

Fair Housing: Countrywide's thief in chief was paid $132,000,000.00 last year, while the company lost billions and was taken over by Bank of America for a pittance. With that money Countrywide could have made the mortgage payment for over 15,000 of it's clients for the whole year. Might have stayed in business, too.

Myth and Mythless: The crew at FOX news, George The Decider, and other respected climate deniers say that global warming is a hoax, that mankind has lived through cycles of warming and cooling before. Scientists, however, say the North Pole could well be ice-free this summer. Who you going to believe, Exxon or those nerds with the thermometers?

Ill Wind, Blowing Good: World prices for grains are luring some Afgan poppy farmers to switch to legal crops because there is now more money in wheat than opium.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?: Ambac, the bond insurer, has lost $4 billion in the last year and had a return on equity of -77%. Its business has fallen 87% and it stock is down 97%. S&P rates this a AAA company. What rating should we give S&P?

T-Square: Did you know someone traces architects billings? It is one way to gage how much new commercial design and building is on the way. Apparently not much, for the ABI has fallen to its lowest level ever.

Legal ≠ Moral: The CIA continues to send hapless folks to dictatorships where more egregious torture than slow and repeated drowning can be applied to innocent Canadians. Because, the Agency explains, technically the other country is doing the torture, not the CIA and not on US soil. I've never cheated on my wife when we're in the same city, either.

Sticky Rice: Canada does not grow rice, it imports rice from Thailand, has for many years. Yesterday Thai shipments stopped. The US grows a lot of rice, exports half of it. Even so, panic is starting to creep in: Sam's Club is "restricting" sales to 4 bags per visit, and went on to reassure customers that "at this time, we are not restricting flour and oil..." Restricting is called rationing when the government does it, and what do they mean"not at this time"?

Double or Nothing: The vast majority of people "losing their homes" are not innocents taken advantage of by "predatory lenders". Go out to the mall, or Wal Mart and watch them getting out of their big SUVs and new pickups, chain smoking, cell phone pressed into their skulls, excitedly talking about how they almost won the lotto. They are thoughtless gamblers who thought theirs was a free lunch.

Not Solitary: The US comprises about 5% of the world's population yet holds 25% of the worlds prisoners, most of whom are locked up for things that do not draw jail time in other countries.
Christmas: The Fed's various bailouts - called facilities or windows- let banks, brokers, and Tom's friend Dick park their toxic credit derivatives (dismissively called 'bus tickets' by insiders) with the Fed and get low interest rate loans in return. They then lend the money back to Uncle Sam at high rates of interest. Pretty good deal. Let me have $100 and I'll pay you $1 and lend my $100 back to you for $3.

Nostalgia: March new home sales fell 36.6% from last year, to an annual rate of 526,000 units, the lowest level since 1991. Median price fell 13.3%, the largest amount year to year since 1970. There is an 11 month inventory of new homes on hand - the most since 1980.

Finger in the Wind: Starbucks reports a drop in sales, attributes it to "the sharp weakness in the U.S. consumer environment". After all, gasoline costs almost as much as a grande latte.

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