Ignorance, the all-purpose American excuse.
Identity Crisis: If the recession is over, why extend and expand the buy-a-house-bribery, promise to keep interest rates close to zero for a couple of more years, give big business billions in tax breaks (5 year loss carry-backs) and socialize nearly 80% of the housing market through Freddie, Fannie, FHA and such? If the economy is a confidence game, how come the consumer has no confidence? Or is the market simply on a sugar high from the dollar carry-trade?
Revisionism: Republican National committee quickly dropped previously covered elective abortions from their health insurance – once the public found our. But do not despair, the rich can afford their own abortions.
On Deck: Production at Mexico's Cantarell oilfield has fallen 25% since 2004, and the country's days as an oil exporter will end within 2 years. It's days as a country are not expected to last much beyond that, for 40% of the government's income comes from petroleum and the drug lords do not seem anxious to share their income with the government.
Harvest: The largest problems with bringing the alleged September 11 conspirators to trial in NYC are (1) the prosecution cannot use information obtained by torture and (2) a lynch mob may storm the court and kill the accused before the government can.
Spoiling the Spoils: US and British petroleum giants are gaining access to Iraq's oil, even as Total's CEO says Iraq's plan for production reaching 12 mbd “is crazy,” and 7 mbd is quite optimistic. Who says invading Iraq wasn't worth it?
Harvest II: There have been remarkable increases in birth defects reported from Fallujah, Basra and Najaf, cities where combat was intense and prolonged. Unmentioned, so far, has been the US use of depleted uranium munitions.
Trumped: Can the Legislature grant the Executive the power to preempt the Judiciary? Apparently, for Secretary of Defense Gates, using 'new powers delegated by Congress', has forbidden the publication of photographs of tortured US detainees, “making it unnecessary” for the Supreme Court to rule on the issue. Can the Supreme Court rule on the constitutionality of this process? Will anybody listen?
Growth Spurt: A desire for the comforts of modern civilization will keep the demand for petroleum growing in the world's emerging economies, guaranteeing that demand will continue to rise beyond supply, no matter what the price. In the non-OECD countries, despite the world-wide recession, there has been no slowdown in the increasing consumption of petroleum.
Doubling Up: S&P downgraded 26,000 mortgage-backed securities in 3Q, more than double the previous record in 4Q08. They said this “continued to reflect our view of the weakening credit quality of the underlying collateral.” S&P has now downgraded 71% of all MBS originally rated AAA when issued in 2005,6 and 7. If their original AAA ratings were that inaccurate, why should we believe them now?
Penultimate Word: Soothsayers are reading the entrails of thousands of turkeys, trying to forecast seasonal retail sales. Common agreement says more than 2005 but less than 2006 and 2007. But in 2005 ten percent of the nation was not unemployed and few of our neighbors had lost their homes to the banks and we all felt rich because our houses were worth more than ever. Color me doubtful. And that's the last entry here on retail sales until the frenzy is over.
Discovery: The headline read “NASA finds buckets of water on the moon.” The water didn't surprise me too much, but the buckets sure did.
Between the Lines: Neither conventional fossil fuels or alternative energy sources can be counted on to provide the amount and quality of energy needed to sustain current levels of economic activity beyond the next few decades. The commonly held assumption that alternative energy sources are capable and available is wrong, for energy systems must yield more energy than it takes to build and operate them. For a calm and reasoned discussion of the basics and implications of the “net energy” equation, both this summary and its full (pdf) report is strongly endorsed. Class dismissed.