Monday, December 29, 2008

SAR #8364

Suffering is neither preordained nor redemptive.

Keeping Track: What we all need for Christmas next year is an electric train set. From coast to coast and into the suburbs.

The Gas Tax : Congress wants the auto makers to produce highly fuel-efficient cars that will help deal with both the challenge of climate change and the certainty of dwindling gasoline supplies in the future. Problem is, the public thinks the future is next month, maybe the month after, and they want to drive there in a big SUV - after all, gasoline's cheap.

A Town in Oklahoma: How long will this turmoil last? How long before we get back to “normal?”

Low Rates! Yes, mortgage rates are marvelously low. Let's refinance! Except prices have fallen so far that most applications for a re-fi are turned down because 80% of the current assessed value won't pay off the old mortgage and the applicant hasn't the resources to pay off the old balance and put 20% down on the new loan.

Where's the Egress Express? The Taliban have now taken over a province astride the main highway to Kabul, just 30 miles from the capital. They administer the area, including providing a police and judicial system. Obviously the US and its allies are not winning this struggle and at best are slowly surrendering the countryside to the Taliban. Tell me again what the national interest is that keeps US troops there...

Ready, Steady: Falling oil prices have led to a falling ruble. To prevent this leading to a falling government, the Kremlin is prepared to put down "social demonstrations" should they occur. Their version of Northern Command, I suppose.

Get Your Bets Down: There is a 50/50 chance Russia will cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine on January 1st, for non-payment. Natural gas to Europe flows through the Ukraine. The last time Moscow cut deliveries to the Ukraine, Kiev simply siphoned from shipments earmarked for Europe. What are the odds it'll happen again?

Succinct: Headline "Consumer Spending Falls, as Unemployment Jumps." Also: Earth spins, sun rises.

Psst! Everybody wants to get through this bad patch in the economy - just survive, with some assets left. Yet none of the big boys are doing well, brokers are going broke. What to do? Who to believe? Sad truth - none of us has been here before and no one really knows what's going to happen next.

Roadsign: Geologists admit that oil's end is visible down the road a few decades. Maybe it is time to reconsider the wisdom of basing our economy on perpetual growth and our civilization on a finite resource.

Comfort, Sort of: The Fed has spent trillions bailing out the worst run companies in the country. Now Fed funds are paying less than 0.25% - essentially nothing. This suggests that there is no expectation of inflation, and no risk that the government won't be able to pay you back. Think that's so? Yes, the US does not have protesters in the street. Nor has the economy collapsed, yet.

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