Saturday, February 28, 2009

SAR #9059/Weekender

If you are not getting yours, you are paying for theirs.

In the Mood: Moody's sees a global 15% default rate on all but the most highly rated bonds, rising to 19% in European bonds.

Home Grown: Every time you eat a tomato - especially that decorative bit of red on your hamburger - you have helped continue the virtual enslavement of the person who picked it. As usual, 'cheap and plentiful' - sneakers, dolls, clothing, tomatoes - has an unseen human cost.

Won't-drawal: In the next 19 months, American troops are withdrawing from Iraq. Except for the 50,000 that aren't. I've used the same approach to quitting smoking for the last 14 years.

OUCH! The US now acknowledges that 4Q08 GDP fell at an annual 6.2% rate, 60% worse than the initial guess of only 3.8%.

Sanity Patrol: The Administration intends to repeal the viciously silly Bush era rule that said the pharmacy clerk got to decide whether you could buy birth control pills or a condom.

Missing: Used house prices and sales are both falling, yet the inventory of existing houses on the market has also fallen. Part of this missing inventory may be REO houses banks are holding to auction off. The larger bunch must be folks who want to sell, but are holding on in hopes of higher prices. Wish 'em luck.

Contrarian: The economic slowdown is not reducing CO2 emissions. Even if the entire world's GDP fell by 7%, CO2 emissions would only decline about 0.24 ppm from the current nearly 3.0 ppm rate.

Circles: When (or more accurately, if) the global economy recovers, the demand for oil will increase and the oil supply will lag demand. This will cause the price of oil to rise sharply, which will increase the cost of goods and services, killing the revival. Repeat until exhausted.

Solidarity: The crowd chanted: "Government policy ... only burdens workers, the unemployed and the poor." This happened in: (a) Ireland, (b) Greece, (c) Latvia, (d) Detroit, or (e) all of the above.

Simple Subtraction: $162,000 - $125,000 = ?

No Better Time: It is always a good time to buy either real estate or equities, if you ask those in the business. Research analysts think S&P earnings growth will be over 20% in 2009. In that they also expect non-financials to tank 14% all the eggs seem to be in the basket labeled BofA, C, JPM & the like.

In Summation: From a Jimmy Rogers interview: ..We're going to have social unrest in much of the world. America won't be immune. the past, when people have printed huge amounts of money or spent money they didn't have, it has led to higher inflation... that's certainly going to happen again this time.

Parking Problems: Toyota's distribution center for the Nordic countries is full, with 12,500 cars on hand. They've leased a ship and are parking 2,500 more on it, in hopes the Easter Bunny will buy them come spring.

Just In Time: A Shell oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico that was damaged by Hurricane Ike last year will resume operations in April, just in time for the 2009 hurricane season.

Porn O'Graph: What's happening in the margins?

Friday, February 27, 2009

SAR #9058

'Food fight' will soon have a more serious meaning.

Bamboozled: Citigroup has a $12 billion capitalization. It is going to let Uncle Sam buy 40% of that for $25 billion. You do the math.

Infaltion? What Inflation? Obama's 2009 FY budget is planned to be $1.75 trillion - over 12% of GDP, assuming GDP doesn't crash as expected. But fear not, fiscal discipline is just around the corner, where it has been hiding for 25 years.

Succinct Answer: Is this the bottom?

That Time of the Month: The Census Bureau reports that January's new house sales fell 48% YoY and have now fallen 78% from the peak. The price of a new house fell 13% from January 2008, and the inventory increased to a 13.3 month supply.

Bridal Shower: I wish we could meet to discuss this, / and perhaps you would help me / murder this woman on her cell phone.

Here's the Plan: The administration intends to give unlimited amounts of taxpayer dollars to the 19 largest banks. Treasury folks will go door to door asking the banks how much stress they feel, the banks will lie, and then the Feds will back up the truck and shovel dollars into the banks until they feel better. Or something like that.

Quoted: "Given the incompetence in Washington and on Wall Street, our best hope is that the rest of the world is even less competent and even in deeper trouble."

Crass Warfare: The rich claim that Obama's plan to tax the top 2% of Americans - those making over $250,000 - is the beginning of class warfare. The other 98% of Americans certainly hope so. The GOP claims this will pit the have-nots against the haves, instead of their plans, which have always pitted the haves against the have-nots.

Red Wagon: GM lost $9 billion in 4Q08, $31 billion for the whole year. They would have lost more, but sales were slow.

Congratulations: AIG, like Citi, BofA and the auto makers, is playing chicken with the public purse. They've figured out exactly how much is left in Fort Knox and they are going to ask for every penny of it, leaving the government insolvent. Which is what the neocons set out to accomplish. Game, set & match.

They Say, We Say: S&P Case-Shiller's National Home Price Index fell 18.2% in 4Q08. The Federal Housing Finance Agency said that prices fell only 8.2% in 4Q08. Buyers and sellers have their differences of opinion, too.

Getting High: There were 667,000 new unemployment claims last week, and 5.1 million workers are now on the continuing unemployment rolls - the highest number since 1982. Apologists point out that there are far more 2-worker families today than in 1982, suggesting that many of the unemployed are dilettants whose income is not needed by their families.

Double Entry: Energy Department auditors report that the department could not account for the quantities and locations of nuclear material at 37% of the facilities reviewed. Being accountants, they accounted for this material under the heading "unaccounted," which balanced the books nicely.

Misery: Kazakhstan is pulling out of the Central Asian power grid, claiming that Tajikistan was hogging power. The move caused blackouts and electricity rationing in Kyrgyzstan. Gazprom is promising to cut of gas supplies to Ukraine in early March if it doesn't come up with $400 million. Zambia has cut electricity to its copper mines by 15%. And in Pakistan, high oil prices are making the country's business uncompetitive in world markets and causing record inflation.

Silver Lining: The current 1900 mile long line for unemployment is a Good Thing, because the sooner people get through sponging off unemployment benefits, the sooner they'll accept whatever job they can find at whatever pittance they can get and the economy can recover. Gotta love those capitalists.

Porn O'Graph: Single Family Housing Ski Run.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

SAR #9057

The banks are dead. Our children are not. Save the children.


Silly Boy: As proof that Obama's stimulus plan will not work, Republican Govenor Bobby Jindal was doubtful, saying "Those of us who lived through the way the Republican Bush Administration failed the people before and after Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts."

Endangered Species: AIG needs another $60 billion this quarter and can't find anyone willing to buy its assets and it cannot repay any of the "loan" the government gave it earlier, so (a) the government will give it more money or (b) the government will give it more money.

Tense: Existing housing sales sucked, suck, and will suck. Carry on.

Great Expectations: According to the Corps of Engineers, over 100 levees in 16 states are so poorly maintained that it is "reasonable to expect" they will fail in the face of a major flood. Heck of a job.

Bigger Isn't Better: A massive 2 year study of both poles has revealed that the icecaps at both poles are melting faster than expected, and the Antarctic warming is "more widespread than was thought." Early indications of a change in ocean circulation were detected, which is expected to have " a dramatic impact on the global climate system." While Greenland's rate of ice loss is accelerating, large areas of permafrost are also melting and releasing larger quantities of carbon than anticipated.

Dead Heads: Poorly producing dairy cattle have always been culled and sent to the slaughter house. Milk prices have dropped so low that producing milk doesn't pay for the feed it takes to keep the cows, so they are being sent to the slaughter house in record numbers. Your next hamburger may be cheaper, but the milkshake will be getting pricier.

Proof: Having demonstrated conclusively that they cannot make the government work, Republicans have concluded that it cannot be done and refuse to consider any other explanation.

Eisenhowered: President Obama has put the Defense Department and the military-industrial complex on the defensive, breaking more than thirty years of silence to point out that billions, if not trillions of dollars have been wasted on good ole boy contracts for unneeded weaponry. And unneeded wars.

Dead Parrot: When sharks stop swimming, they drown. When banks stop lending, they stop earning money. But I repeat myself.

I'm With Him: Paul Krugman, who is no slouch at arcane economic stuff, admits he doesn't understand what Geithner's plans are for the banks, nor quite why any of them might work. He doesn't get it. I don't either, but I'm afraid we're all going to get it - in the pocketbook. Iceberg? What Iceberg?

Game Plan: First, a global economic meltdown resulting in falling wages, growing unemployment, bankruptcies, anger. Then, increased ethnic tensions, demonstrations, civic strife and riots. Next, border clashes and struggles for resources. Endgame, war?

Replay: About 4,000 years ago our ancestors cut down the forests of the Fertile Crescent and turned the whole region into a desert. It worked so well that Indonesia is trying to repeat the feat with the world's third largest rain forest before the Brazilians can with the Amazon.

Sit! Stay! Roll Over! The Republican National Committee now require total obedience to the party line. One unauthorized vote by those silly enough think for themselves will result in the GOP finding and funding primary opponents to challenge them. Play Dead!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SAR #9056

The dancing stops but the music plays on...

Quote: "It is time to for a real change. It is time to stop allowing the country to be held hostage by a relatively small number of financiers who have gamed the system. "

UP! The Market's Up! The overlord class is understandably encouraged by the news that the government is going to keep giving their failed banks and businesses taxpayer money without troubling to ask what they do with it, much less interfering with their operations.

Two from Column B: "Bernanke fears recession could extend to 2010" or "Stocks jump after Bernanke says recession may end."

Human Interest Story: About 10 million children under age 5 die every year, nearly 5 million from malnutrition. Global population is predicted to increase by 50% in the next 40 years. Food supplies are expected to fall 20% from today's levels as drought and other climate changes progress. Let's turn on the TV and watch the lady who had 8 more babies.

Short Form: To summarize the Chairman's Little Red Book, Ben's plan is to prop up the banks to the benefit of existing shareholders at the expense of taxpayers. Any questions?

Headline Only: "Japan Exports Fall By 46% in January, Producing Record Trade Deficit"

This-interested: PIMCO's Bill Gross says that Roubini, Dodd and Greenspan haven’t thought carefully enough about nationalizing BofA and Citi. Specifically, he didn't menton how much damage could be done to PIMCO's portfolio if they were nationalized.

Half Full, Half Empty? Shiller says whichever it is, we're going to drink the other half because housing prices have only fallen halfway so far.

Yes, But... : We all know that China's economic growth is responsible for much of the global increase in CO2 emissions. We decline to admit that China is warming the planet on our behalf, so we don't have to have those smelly factories and power plants around here.

Done Deal: Glaciers in Spain's Pyrenees have lost 90% of their ice in the last 100 years. Continuing global warming insures that they will completely disappear in a few decades. Most of Europe's glaciers are shrinking and overall have lost a quarter of their mass in less than 10 years.

Happy Days: According to Harvard economist Niall Ferguson, the collapse is far from being nearly over; it has just begun. Those who predict a recovery in the near term are simply lying to boost public confidence. Or to prevent violent political upheaval, which seems inevitable. Nassim Taleb agrees that the crisis will be more difficult to end than was the Great Depression.

The Neighbors: Mexico is losing its struggle to prevent large sections of the country - especially areas along the US border - from falling completely into the hands of the drug lords. The unequal struggle is being lost, and the violence is seeping into the US.

Check's In The Mail: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says there is no plan to nationalize banks. There's no plan to rescue them, either.

Changing Time: We tend to bad mouth "the big banks," but the big banks are just a front for their majority shareholders and debt-holders who are pulling for a rescue, not a take-over. But there are also major players who have bet on the failure of AIG, BofA and Citi - and they have a lot to gain in the failure of the system. I suspect that if those who are betting on failure are going lose even if they win - for when it all falls down, it will all fall down.

Bargain Bin: Citi claims to have 1.2 trillion in assets but has a street value of 12 billion. Fools, you can buy a $100 in assets for a dollar - don't just stand there!

Porn O'Graph: The declining decline, Shiller-Case version.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SAR #9055

The difference between the US and a banana republic is the bananas.

Shovel Ready: The administration keeps repeating that it stands firmly behind the banking system.

Lies, Damned Lies and... "The U.S. government stands firmly behind the banking system..." even though it shouldn't. Yes, that much is obvious. "Currently, the major U.S. banking institutions have capital in excess of the amounts required to be considered well capitalized." But that part is more than a little disingenuous. It's from a joint statement by the Fed, FDIC, OCC, OTS, Treasury and three guys in the forestry service.

It's Official: Nouriel Rubini has confirmed that laissez-faire capitalism has failed.

Clean-up In Aisle 7: Asked to provide the addresses of its offices to the state of Utah, Premier Election Solutions - the Diebold subsidiary marketing electronic "election systems" - provided a list of 18 locations, 16 of which turned out to be Walmarts. Same in New York, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and New Hampshire.

Collapse, Explained: In 2007 it cost $1,400 to ship a container from China to Europe. Today you can do it for just the cost of the fuel.

Fear Itself: The"public fear of nationalization" is just something cooked up by (a) Bank of America's PR people, (b) Citi's PR flacks, or (c) a right-wing think tank. The reality is that the FDIC has been nationalizing, cleaning up and re-privatizing banks for decades - remember the S&L crisis? Relax, it'll be done in a way that makes the taxpayer take the losses and returns the profits to the oligarchs, like always.

Tea Leaves: A survey of 47 professional forecasters, none of whom predicted the housing bubble or the credit crash, has decided - by majority vote - that the economy will turn up this fall and return to health in 2010. Democracy in action.

The Difference Between Cars and Cash: AIG, which has already made more than $150 billion in taxpayer dollars disappear, will report a quarterly losses of $60 billion and tell Uncle to send the truck over. Why didn't the car companies give as much money to the politicians as Wall Street did? Then they could send over an SUV, too.

Travel Pay: AmEx will pay you $300 if you pay off your account and go away.

War in the Afternoon: Pakistan's army has ceased operations against Taliban militants in the northwestern regions, where earlier the government gave up and ceded governance to the Taliban and the Qran.

Steep Grade Ahead: Based on real estate transactions through the middle of December, it is expected that price declines for houses, condos and multi-family houses will continue in every market in the country.

Microsoft Recall Notice: "An inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft. We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you." They sent out 1,400 copies of the recall letter; response has been underwhelming.

Strategic Planning: Five months ago Congress directed the Pentagon to pay a $500-a-month bonus to soldiers forced to stay beyond the end of their enlistments. The military has not done so yet but reports they are working on a plan to accomplish this soon, right after they get through with the post-invasion plan for Iraq.

Lovin' It: An on-duty employee shot while assisting a customer being assaulted in one of its stores has been denied workers' compensation by McDonald's because his "injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

Stressed Test: A disaffected insider explains stress-testing the banks: “The whole intent of this process is to show that the banks have enough capital for even worse outcomes than we currently envision and to show there’s a program in place to give banks access to that capital if they need it.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

SAR #9054

This was not unexpected.

Brier Patch: The more the White House 'leaks' its support for the private ownership of 'the banks,' the surer I am that nationalization is inevitable. We're just giving the larger shareholders time to get out before wiping out the rest. Over the weekend Citibank staged a massive propaganda effort to convince Wall Street, if not the taxpayers, that the US would exchange its $45 billion in preferred to about $4 billion in Citi's common. The $40 billion write-off would exceed all the funds loaned (not given) to the auto industry.

Can You Hear Me Now?: 92% of Americans are either paying their mortgage or don't have one. We didn't use our homes as ATM machines. We didn't lie about our incomes.

Pregnancy: Obama seems to be trying to be just a little bit pregnant in Afghanistan and (shh) Pakistan and the war on terror in general. Send in a few troops, lob in a few cruise missiles and hope something happens. The missile strikes are back to killing 10 civilians for every 1 or 2 Taliban. This is not progress.

Cliff Diving: Pemex reports a 9.2% YoY overall decline in crude production, and a 38% drop in output from Cantarell, the world's third-largest oilfield. Last one out, put out the lights.

Civil, Right: Secretary Clinton is wandering around China, ignoring civil rights and urging the Chinese to keep buying US debt. China buys US debt with the profits from selling salad spinners to the US. No sales, no surplus to buy the T-bills that keep the US afloat. This is just vendor financing - which worked so well for GMAC.

Confessional: Tom Ridge, the first US Secretary of Homeland Security, now says that the US was wrong to have instituted indefinite detention and to have tortured prisoners. He's now a fan of "due process' especially for himself and his co-defendants.

Attention to Retention: In today's declining employment environment, Morgan Stanley is going to pay out $3 billion (in taxpayer dollars) in order to get their employees to stay on. Are there lots of jobs for stockbrokers out there?

Agreed: Paul Volcker: A "Little Inflation" Is A Terrible Idea

Water is Life: The US Bureau of Reclamation has announced they will completely stop water deliveries to California's Central Valley for at least two weeks beginning March 1st. By mid-March a decision will be made on future water deliveries, if any, to the farms in the valley. The damage is estimated to be 40,000 jobs and $1.15 billion in the San Joaquin Valley alone, where most of the nation's produce and nuts are grown.

Resolutions: Obama plans to slash the deficit in half. I plan on losing 20 pounds.

Never Fear, Engineers Are Here: The UK's mechanical engineers say that global climate change is inevitable and the only thing to do is give them huge amounts of money to finance large civil engineering projects that will keep them employed help prepare the needed infrastructure changes.

Here's A TIP: Economists are urging the Fed to deliberately debase the dollar to the tune of 6% a year as a way of sweeping the massive debts under the rug. That'll help with mortgage rates.

Incompetence Malfeasance: Willfully misreading the stimulus legislation, Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is rejecting $100 million in federal assistance because he claims, falsely, that it would require permanent changes in Louisiana law. It would require changes, but the changes could have sunset provisions - you know, like the GOP used when they claimed Bush's tax cuts weren't tax cuts.

Dry, Part 47: In Argentina the worst drought in 50 years is leaving cows dying by the thousands in the dry fields and seeds dormant in the dry soil.

Bigger Brother: Republican politicians are demanding that all internet providers (including you folks with home wi-fi networks, as well as hotels and coffee shops) obtain valid identification from all users and to keep a record of such for at least two years to aid in police investigations. I'm sure there is a funny line that goes here, but I just can't think of it.

Behind Our Backs: Economists call citizens who do not spend their lives spending "dead weight". Nice to know.

Porn O'Graph: House that again?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

SAR #9052/Weekender

Once lipstick and lying no longer work, maybe they'll try truth.

Cart Before Horse? Some claim Geithner will have the details of the bank bailout ready next week, while others think the Fed will order in pizzas this weekend as they prepare emergency measures to take the big banks over come Monday.

Penny Saved: JC Penney's 4Q08 profit fell 51% from the prior year.

Looks Like Rain: The Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook Index plunged to -41.3 in February from -24.3 in January as manufacturing continued to deteriorate and employment losses grew. More bailouts? More nationalizations? A new Five Year Plan?

The Gilded Age: The Good Old Days weren't, no matter what conservatives tell you.

Yes, But: According to Obama, "The plan ... focuses on rescuing families that played by the rules and acted responsibly…” They may have "played by the rules", but the rules at that time were not encouraging anyone to act responsibly. Most didn't.

Tree Huggers: Peasants in the tropics who chop down forests to grow crops to make biofuels will do far more damage to the ecosystem than the marginal good done by using the biofuel.
Oil Wars: Oil is the sine qua non of industrial civilization. Without oil there is no transport, no mechanized agriculture, no mechanized war. China is investing now in long term contracts for oil and other commodities. The US is investing in Citibank.

Morning Line: Jared Diamond, describing himself as "cautiously optimistic", says western civilization has a 51:49 chance of surviving.

Wired, or Not: As we get ready to cover the Southwest with hundreds if not thousands of acres of solar panels and stick windmill farms all over the place, someone noticed that it will require an awful lot of new transmission lines to make this useful.

Time Ravel: In 2005 the IEA predicted oil production would reach 130 mbd. Now it's saying 100 mbd by 2030. Total's CEO says that the world will never produce more than 89 mbd.

Turnover: With the loss of $8 trillion in house values, $10 trillion more from the market losses, and the impact of consumer debts and increasing unemployment, consumerism will be replaced by a generation of 'getting by.'

Dry: Texas is in the midst of the worst drought in a century. The soil is too dry for seeds to sprout, and many are thinking about not planting this spring. The USGS says the entire southwest will enter a "permanent state of drought" in twenty years or so.

Quoted: "There's not much room for common sense and logical thinking in the world of economics."

Suckers Wanted: How long will it take for the young folks of today, those in their 20's and 30's, who have seen their parents' retirement funds confiscated by Wall Street, to put their own money into stocks? Or houses?

Friday, February 20, 2009

SAR #9051

In politics, now always trumps later.

Weakly Figures: The latest unemployment figures for initial claims was over 600,000 for the fourth week in a row. That's 2.5 million a month. But there's no way it could continue for months and months and months.... is there? My piece of the American dream is supposed to cost me no more than 30% of my income. So, what's three times nothing?

Out of Town Tryout: GM's Saab has filed for bankruptcy in Sweden.

Problem: Obama's plan makes the same assumption the quants did when they set up the Cuisinart: that house prices only go up. It was a bad assumption then and a worse one now.

Traffic Light: Chinook salmon returning to California rivers last year were at a record low. Tight restrictions on salmon fishing are expected again this year in hopes of re-establishing the breeding stock.

Down & Out: Tajikistan, caught in a massive energy shortfall, will now have the IMF's devastating help in 'restructuring' its economy. Tajikistan's parliament has given the US six months to leave its strategic airbase at Manas. Maybe they should just raise the rent, for the base is one of the main American supply routes into Afghanistan.

Question of the Day: Why is the government taking my money to preserve someone else’s property value? Why am I saving the banks shareholders?

A Number: CNN reports that wholesale inflation rose 0.8% last month - the biggest gain since last July - due to rising energy prices. BTW, 0.8% in one month is 9.6% annually.

Game, Set, Match: Whatever big slice of $1 trillion a year the Pentagon gets, it's wasted. The US commander in Afghanistan admits that the rag-tag Taliban pick-up squad has played the mighty imperial troopers to a stalemate and that another 17 thousand will make no difference.

No Snow Cones: The World Bank agrees with climate scientists that the Andean glaciers that are the main source of water for much of Peru will most likely melt away by 2030. This will seriously harm agriculture, energy (hydro) generation, and people. The report noted that the earth's surface temperatures will rise 2ºC by 2050 and most probably 4ºC by 2100. (Those are codewords for disaster.)

Needs Work: Lowe's 4Q09 profits dropped 60%, says it will "reduce expenses". Probably by investing in pink slips.

Strangers: Let's have some sympathy and a bailout for those of us that rent. Or that paid for our abodes. Or that are current on our payments because we didn't get greedy. Maybe renters should be taxed extra to help support stressed house buyers. Oh, right. They already are.

Pssst! Lost in the mortgage hullabaloo , Wednesday the Fed reported that US manufacturing output is falling at an annualized decline rate of 26%, with factory utilization at only 68%.

Very Reserved: Estimated coal reserves for the Gillette coalfield in Wyoming's Power River Basin have been lowered by 94%. It provides over 37% of the nation's coal and has a lifespan of only 20 more years. Appalachian coalfields are in decline and may last only another 15 years - they already have to blow away 20 tons of mountain to get one ton of coal. At this rate CO2 emissions may be a moot point.

Bernanke Day: After six more months of weakness the economy may have a period of anemic growth late in the year. Maybe Ben saw his shadow and the 0.4% rise in leading economic indicators for January portend spiring is on the way. In 2010.

Going Up: The flowering range of about 15% of plant species in Arizona's Santa Catalina Mountains has progressively moved higher up the mountains in the last 20 years as the global temperature rose.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

SAR #9050

And you just sit there?

Stand Up: The plan is to spend $275 billion to prevent 7 to 9 million foreclosures, at a cost of about $30,000 a house. "All of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis," Obama said. Apparently many of us are going to pay twice.

Nose, Face: Republican governors from Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are considering rejecting federal stimulus funds. Fine. Let them that don't want none have memories of not having had none. And let them explain it to their voters.

Housebroken: The Republicans in the California Senate deposed their leader for negotiating with GOP Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Democrats in an attempt to solve the budget crisis. The Republicans do not want it solved, somehow perceiving ruining the state as manly and morally correct. They are more afraid of talk radio than voters.

Future Farmers of America: Horse manure, not plastics, young man. That's the future for those who want to prosper survive the long slump headed our way as the self-imposed curses of peak oil and global warming arrive on the heels of the housing/credit exhaustion. Think small. Small farms.

Barber Shop: The Plan requires that "lenders" bring the mortgage payments down to 38% of the borrowers' monthly gross income. This is going to be fun for all the 'stated income' folks and the newly unemployed. There are no "lenders"; there are those who bought up mortgages and bundled them into mortgage backed securities, and there are the holders of sliced and diced mortgage backed derivatives cut from those MBS. So does each one of those investors get to say yea or nay on each mortgage?

Resource Wars: I understand invading Iraq to get the oil, but do we actually want to corner the world market on heroin? Why else increase the Bush expeditionary force in Afghanistan? We could learn from the Brits and sell it to China...

Crashing In: CNBC's thought police didn't screen Howard Davidowitz closely enough and the Capitalism Now, Beloved Capitalism crew was treated to his views: The US will never recover from this downturn, living standards will not recover. The party is over. Nothing makes sense, especially the insane bailout programs. The deficit will run a trillion or more for a decade. There's a 50% chance of a depression... Sounded like they were interviewing me.

Peak Oil Did Not Go Away: With OPEC's cutbacks and the reduction in demand, Peak Oil has gone away, right? Nope. Every million barrels per day that is withheld from the market Peak oil puts off the eventual decline by about 3 weeks. If the decline in use is 4 mbd and goes on for 5 years, it might delay paying the Peak Oil piper by about 3 months.

Gamblers Anonymous: Why is the government is bailing speculators who bought homes they couldn't afford? Why am I being punished?

Fishing, Gone: Warming oceans are driving fishing stocks poleward and by 2050 US fleets will find few cod, herring and prawns. In general, northern fisheries will increase while those in the tropics will suffer major losses.

How Dry They Are: For the first time in 20 years the LA Water Department is imposing water rationing, reducing allotments and doubling prices for over-use. Shower together.

Growing & Not: The UN predicts the world's population will grow about 50% by 2050, while food production will fall about 25% from today. If we start tapering off now, by 2050 we'll all be used to getting by on 50% fewer calories.

Not All Bad: Fewer new homes and apartments were built last month - fewer than any time since records began in 1959. This is good news; there are too many new homes sitting around already - over a year's worth at the current snails sales pace.

Clean (Out Of) Coal: Turns out the 200 year supply of coal may be gone in 20 or 30 years. It may last longer simply because we've not enough rail capacity to use it up sooner. Then where will electricity come from?

Porn O'Graph: Building, or not, to an end.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SAR #9049

Why be nice to the banks? They've never been nice to us.

Taxing Matters: State sales tax receipts are down about 10% in January and are estimated to be down by 12% for 1Q09 from the prior year - more than twice the decline seen in any year since 1959. The American consumer isn't.

The Other Shoe: Before corporations undertake massive layoffs they consult "layoff lawyers." A survey of such consultants suggest that the US will lose about 3 million jobs in 1Q09.

We're All In Kansas, Toto: Budget shortfalls have forced Kansas to suspend tax refunds and to consider delaying paychecks to state workers. They could transfer some funds around, but Republicans refuse to go along, preferring to see the Democratic governor flounder.

A Few Words From His Sponsor: In a display of commander-in-chiefery, Obama is sending 17,000 soldiers to join our fool's mission in Afghanistan. I'd be more impressed if I had the faintest idea why.

Echo? Economists have discovered piles and piles of inventory sitting around, suggest that maybe banks are not lending because businesses are not borrowing. You read it here first, months ago. Don't tell Tim, he wants to make 'em lend.

Fries With That: Anticipated future losses at BofA, Citi, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley come to $525 billion, all of which will be paid by the US taxpayers, one way or another.

Mirror, What Mirror: The National Corn Growers Association, aka Ethanol Incorporated, says that the outrageous profits of greedy food companies have brought on the high cost of food while the distillers of ethanol are trying to save the US from the evil of imported oil.

Good Question: Does the United States make anything anymore? Actually, yes. Quite a lot, in fact.

Downcast Forecast: The CBO now estimates the 2009 budget deficit will reach $1,371 billion - 9.6% of GDP - and 2010 will be at least 1,100 billion. As usual, these figures do not include whatever it will cost to fund whatever wars we've got going at the time, nor the eventual $500 to $1,000 billion to bail out the banks.

Reality Bites: Republicans in the Congress can continue to posture and spout their hidebound philosophies, but GOP Governors have real responsibilities and hope that the Obama bailout is big enough, soon enough. And the populace agrees - bailout good, GOP bad in the latest popularity polls.

Quoted: "The aim (of the bailout) is to re-inflate property markets to enable owners to pay the banks, not to help the public sector."

Speaking Out: A series of presentations by climate scientists with emphasis on the Gulf Stream, ocean acidification, glacial melt, Arctic release of greenhouse gases, Asian rivers, permafrost melting and other feedback cycles the IPCC did not include in its latest report agree that the IPCC forecasts are woefully Pollyannish. Extreme weather has taken hold of the planet and things are going to get a lot worse if we don't stop burning carbon fuels. Even if the most stringent mitigation measures were put in place today, the impacts of climate change would still continue for centuries.

Birds of a Feather: The UN Drug and Crime chief reports that there are signs that profits from the illegal drug trade have been used to prop up banks. Banks, of course, are pushers of that addictive drug, credit.

Being Prepared: The US Army War College warns that the military must be ready to suppress widespread civil violence inside the US, provoked by economic collapse and/or domestic resistance and the loss of functioning political structures.

The Empire State's State: The NY Fed's Empire State Manufacturing Survey reflects a significant deterioration in manufacturing, general business, new orders, and prices received. Most of these indices are now at record lows. The report set a new record high for using the phrase "new record low".

Porn O'Graph: Petroleum, crudely put.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SAR #9048

Even prophets are occasionally right.

That? Oh, That: That hissing sound you hear off to the left, that's the Japanese sun setting in the far west. How far west? Down about 13% and falling. The stereo effect on the right is coming from Germany.

Takes One the Know One: Why did Wall Street executives who knew about Bernie Madoff's fraud keep quiet? Maybe because Bernie knew about theirs.

Preprivatization: The step formerly known as nationalization, phrased so Republicans can support it. This gilding of the lily is necessary because the 4 big banks (BofA, Citi, WF & JPMorgan) need about $450 billion and have a market capitalization of $200 billion. The US can either (a) give current shareholders a $250 billion gift, or (b) nationalize the banks. But it can't do (a) without a taxpayer revolt or (b) without a Wall Street/GOP revolt. What's behind door #3?

Headline: The war in Iraq isn't over. The main events may not even have happened yet.

Global Hamburger: Scientists report that growing and grinding and getting that hamburger to you causes as much global warming as driving your car for a couple of days. So walk to the burger joint, would ya? Else we're doomed.

Devil/Details: Deals on new cars are falling through because the value of used cars has plunged to where trade-in values are often much less than the remaining loan balances. Just like their houses.

Export/Import Fever: Net oil exports from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela (prime suppliers to the US), 5 mbd in 2004, have dropped to 3.9mbd in 2008. That is an ongoing annual decline of 6%, which is not good news for it means the US has about 10 years to find another supplier or do without.

The Day the Money Died: Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008, Bernanke and Paulson told the Congressional leadership that the US economy was in grave danger of a complete meltdown within a matter of days. We have been moving ever further into a command economy ever since.

Ponzis R US: The Fed's latest study of household weath says (a) there isn't any and (b) there hasn't been since 2000 and that all those notices we got from the Bush economy were about as valid as Bernie Madoff's, and that we cannot actually spend our way to riches. I hope a copy of this report gets to Congress soon.

In the Cards: Customers are using their credit cards less frequently and their average purchase amount has declined by 5.2% in the US. Payments on outstanding balances have also stalled.

Bigger than Madoff: The US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is investigating the role of 'senior military officers' in the misuse of $125 billion in Iraqi reconstruction funds. This may turn out to be the greatest monetary fraud in US history. The invasion itself was the biggest fraud in recent history.

Reminder: Jonh McCain, GOP Senator from Airizona, lost the presidential election to the other guy by very big margins. Some one should tell him.

Census Consensus: Why is the GOP making such a fuss over the next census? Because they are afraid an honest count will weaken them in that minority of districts where the ditto heads are now in the majority. They've always thought they were an oppressed minority, even when they were in the majority. Now their paranoia is at panic level, and they really don't want all those potential Democrats counted.

Porn O'Graph: Real retail sales declines.