Thursday, December 31, 2009

SAR #9365

Recoveries aren't what they used to be.

Over/Under:   We will eventually learn that the US war in Yemen started some time ago. The US and Yemen are now looking for targets in Yemen for air/cruise missile strikes in retaliation for the botched attack on an airliner that al Qaeda in Yemen foolishly claims credit for. There are thought to be as many as 300 al-Qaeda fighters in the country. The morning line is $300 billion and 4 years. Place your bets.

Too Big To Flail:   The banking reform bill ensures that the next time around the Fed will hand out as much as $4 trillion to failed banks. That's twice what they got this time around, so you know they'll stop taking stupid risks...

If, Then:   Would you buy a GM car? A Pontiac? One that was no longer being produced? What about a Saturn? What if they knocked $7,000 off the price? This is part of their plan to make the cars they still produce profitable. So they say. They'll make it up on decreased volume, later on.

Haze:   Back on 9/11, didn't you wonder where the hell the SAC intercept fighters were – those that had stood ready to intercept and shoot down Badgers and Bears for all those years? Now do you wonder, just a bit, how once again our massive, costly, intrusive security apparatus fails to stop a known(?) terrorist from getting a visa and boarding an airplane headed into the US, don't you wonder just a bit if all this incompetence isn't pretty convenient for extending the security state even further into our lives? Fear, that's what they're feeding us. And for a reason.

Pithy, Pithy:   “To preserve the balance [with the US] we must develop offensive weapons systems, not missile defense systems as the United States is doing.” That's Putin, being his shy, inscrutable self.

Pulling the Sled:   Most of us are looking for a rescue, not a solution.

Tag, You're It:   For over 20 years NSA, the Feds, Local Police and Barney Fife have been able to listening on your secure mobile phone conversations. Now, the encryption algorithm used all those years – A5/1 – has been deciphered and published. Electronics experts say it will only be a matter of time, a short time, before the 14 year old kid on your block will be listening in. The phone companies say this is not true, that the breaking of the code is not a serious thing and that the person who did it should be sent to Guantanamo.

Bruce Williski:   Russian scientists are planning now to save the world from a catastrophic collision with a giant asteroid 26 years from now. Pixar will do the animations.

Shortfall:   In both FY2010 and FY2011 Social Security tax receipts will be below outlays, by about $10 billion each year. Means a few things: (1) Congress can no longer steal from the Social Security fund. (2) The Treasury will have to start paying back some of the money 'borrowed' from the fund in years gone by. (3) The Treasury is already broke. (4) Taxes will go up, probably by raising the amount of income taxed. (5) Soon, outlays will have to be controlled, probably though means-testing. Ha. And you thought passing a health care bill was difficult.

Plasticity:   Bank of America “gave a lot of cards out to our customers." And the customers used the cards. But they aren't paying them back very promptly, if at all, with a 13% default rate and $4.5 billion in losses for BofA's credit card division. Industry-wide, cardholders repay less than 17% of their outstanding principal each month.

Power-Down:  Setting an energy-saving example for the rest of the world to follow, Nepal has decreed 51 hours a week as “electricity free”, and next month may make it 12 hours a day, not necessarily consecutively. The blackouts are due to decreasing flow in the rivers used for generating power.

Cheers!   HSBC Group Chair Stephen Green sees people and governments are now paying the price for the damage the bankers have done, and will be paying off these mountains of debt for years to come. Unemployment will continue to rise in many countries. The new world order is underway, and it speaks Chinese.

Porn O'Graph:   Deficits don't matter, Ronnie told us so.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SAR #9364

How many trees can you burn and still have a forest?

See The Dog:   Of a variety of explanations for the Treasury's continued backstopping of Fannie and Freddie, the best is this: The government is scared silly that if it stopped propping up Fannie and Freddie the housing market and then the economy would collapse. Fear, in other words.

...Back at the Ranch:   A dufus lights a soggy firecracker and burns his private parts on a plane and the whole world is in a tizzy over terrorism striking in Detroit. (Rather an in-joke for those who've been to Detroit in the past few years.)  In a live fire exercise in the US target range known as Afghanistan, the US kills 10 civilians, 8 of them school children and the world doesn't give a damn.

Fill in the Blank:   “__________ shares soar, but for no good reason.”

The Mirror:   Despite the posturing of most of the mainstream media and politicians of all persuasions, the gravest threat we face does not come from Islamadummies burning their pants on planes, it is from the constant destruction of our civil liberties by a draconian government under the pretense of saving those same liberties. Tell those who wanted to destroy the US that they have succeeded in that we are happily finishing the job for them. Now take off your shoes and stand over there.

Priorities:   The US is spending more on war than the 50 state governments spend on the education, healthcare and welfare of their citizens.

Spoonful of Honey:   Because October's Case-Shiller house price index, which is off 29.5% from its peak, fell only 7.3% y/y, realtors are claiming victory because home prices rise for five straight months, as though having your $200,000 house only lose $15,000 of its value last year was really, really good!

A Pair and A Spare:   Lieberman thinks that the Iraq war has outlived its usefulness and the Afghan war has never been very interesting, so it is time to try again.  This time we should bomb Yemen for a while, just to see how it goes.

Loving It:   Brand loyalty does not stand up to dwindling resources.  The customer loves his money more than those expensive brand names – maybe they're tired of paying more just to enjoy the advertized logo.

Memories:   Africa's Lake Chad was once a big deal. Now it is but a tenth its former size, with about 20 years to go before it disappears. The tens of millions who depend(ed) on the lake for their water will dry up and go away, too.   Away where?

Essay Question:   Please explain, in 17 words, why when we catch an actual (?) terrorist he gets detained in a federal pen in Ohio, but the beaten and destroyed remains in Guantanamo are too dangerous to bring to US soil because...

Truth:   China is neither communist nor capitalist, it is determinedly nationalist – China first.  What the governing elite see as the long-term national interest comes first and only. Country before private greed, planning years ahead; how strange.

Porn O'Graph:   Psst.  Don't tell the women and children Kudlow and Limbaugh, but the economy grows more under the Democratic Party's “Tax and Spend” than the GOP's “Don't Tax and Spend.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SAR #9363

Patriotism and religion often mistake murder for heroism.

Kicking Over the Chair:   Housing's life support is ending: On December 31st the Treasury's purchase of GSE MBS, and various big bank “mortgage holidays” end. The trial mortgage modification program ends January 31st, without having had much success. The FHA will tighten lending standards by January 31st. The Fed will stop taking MBS off Freddie and Fannie's hands 's on March 31st. The Housing Tax Credit ends April 30th and Fannie & Freddie's Low-Cost Refinancing program ends June 10th. On the up-side, the Treasury will keep supporting Fannie & Freddie's deficit balance sheet.

Q & A:  Should we tax millionaires more than working folks? Yes, it's just like robbing banks – that's where the money is.

Dancing With Them That Brought You:   Now that holding hands in Copenhagen has failed to elicit any useful progress on slowing global climate change, are we doomed? Probably, but a few wistful souls think the US can magically make it profitable to use less energy, and then let capitalist greed save the day.

Cheers:   2010 will bring unemployment to another 60 million around the world and throw 200 million more into poverty. So says the Economist, which also suggests there is a 'high risk' of social upheaval in China, Mexico and Russia as their societies unravel along with their economies. Is this to be the end of Western Civilization?

Not Nearly Right:   Krugman suggests we call the decade just ending the Big Zero, for it was a decade in which nothing good happened. Not quite true. This blog, among others, was started, in response to all those non-good things that were happening.

Minor Key:   Prime Minister Putin has launched Russia's long awaited export route to ship petroleum to energy-hungry Asia. Russia is nearly tied with Saudi Arabia as a producer of petroleum, and obviously sees better markets in the growing East than in the declining West. Take notes, this'll be on the test.

Quoted:   “The issue is what we should do about extraordinarily expensive treatments, some of which do very little to improve how well or how long people live. There is no ethically defensible reason why some Americans have access to expensive cancer drugs and some do not.”

Doggie/Window:   How can there be a bubble in commodities when silver, coffee, sugar, cotton, and so forth are as much as 70% below their all-time highs in real dollars?

That's Why:   Sovereign debt is deflationary because the rising debt levels sops up ever greater portions of income. Less income available to the non-governmental sector eventually drives prices down – voila, deflation. Redeeming the deficit will be inflationary, but in order to get significant inflation the central bank has to monetize the debt relatively quickly, and at accelerating rates for a prolonged period of time.

Fake Science:   Now pet dogs join burping cows and my flatulent aunt as a prime cause of global warming. Phooey.

Go East, Young Man:  China's recession seems to have been a minor head cold, not the near-pneumonia suffered in the Us/Europe markets. Their stimulus money did not stop at the banks, but turned into credit for expansion. Still, the main engine for growth in China remains cheap labor and the absence of environmental controls.

Outcome Based Spending:   Each year Americans spend $7,290 per person on health care. What does all that money buy? A 78 year life-span. That'd be $568,620 in lifetime medical costs. In Spain they get to live 3.2 years longer for $351,7135 less. And in Portugal, where folks live to be 79 on average, they only spend $169,850 on healthcare. That's $2,150 per person per year. How is it they get to pay 70% less and live even longer? Ah, perhaps its their single-payer universal health care system. Shame on them.

Porn O'Graph:   Cheer up, things could be are worse than you thought.

Monday, December 28, 2009

SAR #9362

Keep walking, avoid eye contact.

Over-Reaction Are US:  For a business that once focused on customer comfort, the airlines & Hopeless Security keep finding ways to make air travel something to be avoided if at all possible.

Shade Tree Economics:  The US budget is so unbalanced that the eventual debasement of the dollar through inflation is inevitable. Only the timing remains uncertain. Probably after a bout of deflation.

Modesty:  Because Fannie and Freddie “provide vital liquidity” to the mortgage industry by purchasing mortgages from lenders and selling them to investors, loans no bank would rationally make are written knowing that F/F will buy them. Investors then buy the F/F MBS because F/F guarantee them. (And the Fed holds $1.1 trillion of them.) The US Treasury stands behind F/F, ready to rescue them, and thus behind their MBS. The banks don't hold on the mortgages long enough to lose any money. The investors can't lose any money because the US Treasury stands behind F/F's guaranteed MBS. The only one who can, and will, lose money is the US taxpayer. A couple of trillion, probably.

About Face:  The Pentagon, now that Bush/Cheney have gone away, admits that privatization was a really bad idea and that it can save $44,000 for each “contractor” replaced by a soldier or DoD civilian.

Obvious, Belabored:  National Security Adviser James Jones says there are at most 100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and fewer than 400 in Pakistan. Other estimates claim there are far fewer than that.

Secret Formula:  The reason we have foreclosure problems is that too many people paid too much for their houses. And if the old 28% DTI formula is valid – and it seems to be - we are but 60% of the way through the foreclosure parade, with about 15 million more to come.

Countdown:  Obama is reported to have told China that the US could not keep Israel on a leash forever and that one day soon Israel would attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Of course this report comes from Israel, which is not wholly unbiased on the subject.

Future, Tense:  If you were an oil production analyst for the Energy Information Agency and you got a new box of crayons for Christmas, they'd come with the usual instructions: Stay inside the lines.

The Roof:  Mortgage rates are headed up, to 6% or more by the end of 2010. Freddie Mac claims that this is because private buyers of MBS will demand higher returns than the Fed has settled for. Thus the Treasury will have to offer higher rates in order to compete for funds.

The Real Deal:  You may not think the threat is real, but the Pentagon is getting ready to fight the Climate Change wars,

The Trend:  From 1890 to 2004 housing prices rose 0.4% a year. Houses are not a good investment. Owning does not beat renting. You need a 10 to 20% increase in price just to break even. I know you don't believe me, neither does my wife.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

SAR #9361/Weekender

Nothing is free. You pay now or you pay later.

Sign In, Please:   According to data provided by the US Treasury, of the $1.8 trillion in debt the US floated this year, nearly 40% was bought by something called the 'Household Sector'. Who is this 'Household Sector'? That's what is left after you count the foreign governments and international buyers. After the Fed's purchases are counted. After Wall Street – the banks, hedge funds, money markets, corporations, pension funds, insurance companies and most of the piggy banks are counted. Who is left? No one.  Is it a paper entry to make the books balance?

The Fire This Time:   Yes, there is no question that global warming is happening, and will continue for quite some time in human terms - 1,000 years or so. But in the long run – say 5 or 10 thousand years - the ice ages will return.

Christmas Card:   Arnold's Christmas letter to Santa threatened to eliminate California's main welfare program if Uncle Sam didn't put an $8 billion bailout of the state's budget under the tree. If that doesn't do the trick he's going to hold his breath until he turns blue.

Travel Plan:   On Alaska's North Slope there's a new travel plan. You stay home and every year the ocean is 45 feet closer to you. 

Social Contract:   In most of the world the power elite remains in power by manipulating the law. Only when that fails do they resort to force to keep the myth alive. When the masses begin to doubt the lies, the ruling class will have a serious problem. Moody's thinks that "social and political cohesiveness is being tested.” Everything from central banking, to the war on terror, to peak oil and even the legitimacy of the democratic state is being questioned.

Chow Time:   The Fed stuffed its balance sheet with a trillion dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities. The dollars created to buy them kept the banks afloat. As the economy comes around, the Fed will have to sell the MBS to suck those dollars out of the market before they become inflationary. But the market will know the Fed must sell the MBS and most expect the market will extract a price for taking them off the Fed's hands. That price, that discount, represents the slice of the trillion dollar pie that will stay in the economy, inflating prices. Not yet. Not for a while. But eventually. Save room for desert.

Remotely Interesting:   The southern hemisphere's atmospheric methane has increased by 0.7% over the last two years and has now doubled the highest level found in the 800,000 years before 1700 and industrialization.  You should care, because the southern hemisphere is connected to the northern hemisphere, where your and your children probably live.

The Nano:   Gambling on the stock exchange has become so automated and frenetic that in order to make things “fair” NASDAQ insists that every brokerage will have to use the same length network cable to connect to the exchange's servers. High frequency automated trading is fast and efficient. It is not investing.

Ante Up:   Ten-year T-bill rates are creeping up, which suggests that mortgage rates will rise during the coming year. Moody's estimate is 6% or so by the end of 2010. Not everyone agrees, because raising T-bill rates encourages banks to keep their cash (your TARP cash) in Treasuries rather than risk it on something as ephemeral as mortgage payments by an unemployed populace.

Make Work:   At least 25 states are out of money to fund unemployment checks and have, so far, borrowed $24 billion from Washington to close the gap. Another 15 will join them within a year or two as long term unemployment benefits get extended to cope with long term unemployment. And employment won’t be coming back any time soon because the source of recovery – small business expansion – simply isn't happening.

Friday, December 25, 2009

SAR #9360

“Beneath the angels' strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring...”


Enjoy the day with family, friends,

and for a brief while be filled with hope.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SAR #9359


Only the White House and Congress change hands, not the government.

Happy Anniversary:   I t was 30 years ago this week that the Soviet Union sent the Red Army into Afghanistan, an adventure that lasted ten years and undoubtedly hastened the end of both the Soviet empire and the Soviet Union. A silent moment of remembrance seems in order.

Christmas Cheer:   Things have dramatically improved, for now only 53% say the economy is in trouble, and only a minority (45%) expect things to get worse during 2010.

Bacon:   For some time Europe has been becoming crispy along the edges - Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, the Baltics and even Britain and Italy – but now France is heading for a credit rating downgrade too. Somebody needs to lower the flame.

Unmasked:   The health care lack of reform bill has shown Obama to be a deeply cynical politician who believes in nothing and will say anything in order to manipulate the public for the political goals of his contributors.

Mexican State:   Mexican Marines managed to kill drug kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva last week, in a long gun battle that ended up with one marine, Melquisedet Angulo, dead. The drug gang retaliated by killing Angulo's mother, aunt, and siblings. This is what a failed state looks like.

Sure Thing:   Pennsylvania is betting its budget on “table-gambling' and the employment revenue from casinos. The governor says that if the legislature does not pass the gambling bill, he will have to close the State Museum, shut various state parks and lay off 1,000 more government employees – sort of a scratch off. This, too, is what a failed state looks like.

War's Price:   The additional 30,000 troops (not to mention the extra 50,000 mercenaries) will add $30 billion to the Afghan war's annual toll. If they manage to kill or capture all of the estimated 100 al-Qaeda fighters in the country, it'll cost us only $300 million a head. And the rest of the billions and billions budgeted for the place can be spent in bribing the Taliban to behave long enough for us to call it victory and come home.

Revisionism:   November saw a 10.7% drop in new home sales – and that was after October's sales were adjusted downward 7%.

Sausage:   Climate change is not about science, its about politics. At least it was in Copenhagen, where the Chinese played spoiler of the common will for the common good as well or better than the GOP. [The last two paragraphs are key. Starting with China is “becoming an uncontested superpower...”]

Observed:   Ford has offered to pay all of its 41,000 hourly workers in the US to go away, either through a buyout or an early retirement.

Engulf, Devoured:   Citadel Broadcasting – number 3 with a bullet! - is choking to death on its 2.7 billion grab of ABC Radio from Disney in 2007. Now, with $2.4 billion in debts and only $1.4 in assets, they are going Chapter 11 and their stockholders are going to zero. They'll be right back, after this message...

Field of Dreams:   First they built a mall, and no one came. Then they made half of it into condos and town houses and still no one came. Now they've run out of lenders, and – like many commercial real estate ventures - are dying of too much hope.

The Worst of Times:   The decade now closing, the Bush era that started with the overthrow of the Constitution and ended having overturned human decency, was the decade of the American oligarchs. The US has always had robber barons, but now they have become the entrenched, controlling social class. The current impoverishment of the American public can be directly traced to their rapacious enrichment. It wasn't about “wealth creation”, it was a dramatic upward transfer of society's wealth from the many to the few. You were there, why don't you remember? Why aren't you angry?

Should You Feel Guilty About Walking Away?   No, if it is an economic decision, emotions like guilt should not figure into it. Unfortunately people are not rational about the house they live in, were they, McMansions never would have caught on, nor would paying more than about 25% of after tax income for shelter.

Porn O'Graph:   Them's fighting words...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SAR #9358

Real-world choices are always limited.

Housing Noise:   Sales of existing houses zoomed up by 7.4% in November, proving that the government can sell houses if it holds interest rates to record lows, passes out $8,000 a house, and looks the other way at income and down payment experience. There seems to be some difference in just how many houses are for sale. One source cites 3.52 million existing houses. Another says that with the shadow inventory there are 5.7 million units. Rising mortgage rates will hurt ongoing sales and house prices continue to fall.

Three Bears:   First it was too hot, at 3.5%. Then it was supposed to be just right at 2.8%. Now it turns out that 3Q09 GDP was too damned cold at 2.2%. The recession's end has receded.

Whisper Campaign:   China-watchers claim that social unrest is increasing in China. This sort of analysis is part of a long and respected tradition, much as Moscow watching was before the USSR surprised all the watchers by collapsing.

Word of Caution:   A medicine used to enhance MRI images appears to be less than salubrious to the health of kidney patients. You might want to read up on this, quietly.

Spectator Sport:   It's environmentalists and water-well owners verses hydraulic fracturing to free up natural gas from shale formations. Someday soon the courts will have to decide what's more important, drinking water or natural gas. My vote's on the money.

Misery's Got Company:   The IMF forecasts that gross government debt among advanced economies will continue to rise until 2014, reaching 114% of GDP, compared to just 35% for developing nations. We all have apparently chosen to die together in an orgy of debt.

Old Time Religion:   What a surprise, it's not what you know, but who you bribe donate to, especially if you wanted billions in free money from TARP.

On the Money:   In the last year, every class of mortgage (prime, Alt-A, sub-prime) has continued to increase in delinquency rate. Although it is politically incorrect to point it out, sub-prime is still... sub-prime.

Do Not Adjust Your Set:   US and Chinese scientists have released a new report indicating that prior estimates of global warming understated the potential rise by 30 to 50%. Prior estimates were based on relatively quick-reacting factors. When longer-term albedo effects such as vegetation changes as forest cover disappears and ice melt on open seas were included, the warming expected rose significantly.

Old Mother Hubbard:   The FDIC now guarantees about $6 trillion in deposits with no reserves with which to pay any losses. This could get interesting.

Reminder:   The US is not actually governed by the elected politicians. It takes a million or more to get into Congress. It takes tens of millions to be elected to the Senate, hundreds of millions to become president. Each of those millions belonged to someone who bought something with it. The system is not broken, it works exactly the way those who own it want it to work.

Present Christmas:   In Italy, if you are “tanned” or a “bingo-bongo” keep in mind that Real Italians are hoping for a “White Christmas. Keep your toothbrush packed and wait for the knock on the door.

Smoke/Fire?   Following an expansion of US bases in Columbia, President Chávez now reports that unmanned surveillance drones – presumably US owned and operated – have been making illegal sorties into Venezuelan airspace. The US will claim it is simply drug surveillance, monitoring the spread of democracy.

Informed Participants:   A survey of CFOs suggests that “significant hiring” will not begin until “well into 2011”. A third expect their company's employment to reach pre-recession levels in 2012, and a third more honestly explain that they do not expect employment levels to ever return to previous levels.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SAR #9357

Don't count Palin out, water seeks its own level.

Pudding's Proof:   Sunday night the Senate's health care bill passed its initial hurdles.  Monday morning health care stocks took off nearly straight up, which tells the whole story about health care, reform, and the state of democracy in the U$A.

Gilbert & Sullivan:   Observers in Israel warn that Iran's Keystone Kops seizure of a lone, non-producing oil well in Iraq was not the farce many made it out to be. It may have been a carefully composed message to the US&Company that Iran does not have to sit around waiting for someone else to start the troubles. And no-one should be surprised when America's plans for Iran go awry, we've got tradition to uphold.

Somewhat Pregnant:  How can the Congress pass a bill requiring citizens to buy a product from private companies? Social Security and Medicare taxes they get away with because they are, well, taxes. But there is no national health insurance that these mandatory payments will purchase, so how is this remotely legal?

My Slice:  It would take 187 new nuclear plants to meet US CO2 emission goals, but the nuclear industry will settle for 25 or 30 – enough to keep their “share” of electricity market profits, but not enough to do any good for the environment.

All In Favor...  Simply put, the reason there are fewer and fewer jobs in the US is because international corporations and Wall Street and the big retailers and everyone who sits at those brainstorming sessions in Washington will make more profit from goods manufactured in China or Bangladesh. Profit from lower wages. Profit from lower taxes Profit from evading environmental controls.  Profit.

Dow(n) Theory:  Which is the better investment strategy, 'Buy and hope' or 'Buy and hold your breath'?   Are you going to bet on deflation or inflation or hyperinflation?

On ICE:  If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” James Pendergraph, then ICE executive director, Office of State and Local Coordination.

The Little Man Upon the Stair:   Scientists say they are 75% sure they have finally found evidence – 2 fleeting particle tracks deep in a iron ore mine a half mile underground – of the dark matter that makes up 90 to 99% of the universe. In that dark matter is thought to be the scaffolding on which the universe as we know it is suspended, this is good news.

Bringing in the Sheaves:   Israel has admitted “harvesting” organs from dead Palestinians and others, without the consent or knowledge of their families. It was okay, Israel claims, because it used only “found” cadavers and did not kill to order. Israel’s health ministry said all harvesting was now done with permission.

The Rub:   Last week's stock market moved a little here, a little there and mostly nowhere. These sideways sessions are... tiresome. Boring. Where's the adventure? The zing? But wait, the nation's economy, like an ocean liner, has immense inertia. There is very little, if anything, that can – given today's information technologies – make a company worth 10% more this week than it was last. Not in the real world. But in the fantasy world of the stock exchanges, companies' value not only can, but should, change that much, every day. Up, up, up! Nonsense.

Porn O'Graph:   Where the jobs aren't.

Monday, December 21, 2009

SAR #9356

Capitalism hasn't become meaner.

Reasons 1 thru 3:   US consumer debt is declining for the first time in 60 years, and the rate of decline is not yet slowing. Delinquencies in mortgage payments continue to creep up. Commercial loans continue to fail at ever increasing rates.

Seams, Bursting At:   Despite all the terrible fears expressed in Copenhagen last week, the really scary thing is this: Today 1 out of every 3 people in the world have no access to electricity and those 2 billion want what you have. By 2050 today's 6 billion will grow to 9 or 10 billion. And they will all want what you have. And they will not stand quietly in dark alleys and obediently starve to death in the cold. What fossil fuels we have will be burned, and then the cities. Global warming is not the largest danger.

Mission Unlikely:   Credit Swiss says that in order to stabilize the US housing market, 75% of the anticipated 4.3 million foreclosures expected in 2010 must be prevented. It was unclear exactly how that would come about.

Tripping Point: In February 2009 global oil demand dropped to 84mbd and the price dropped to $40 a barrel. Today demand is back to about 86 mbd and the price is around $75. A 2.4% increase in demand resulted in nearly a 90% increase in price. Of course the economic problems have nothing to do with the price and availability of oil. Never have...

Joke?   Senator McCain now claims that Obama is responsible for the partisan political climate, because he won't let the minority party have its way.

Crushed:   In Michigan more than 20 of the states 83 counties are grinding up paved roads and putting down gravel, at a 90% savings. Pennsylvania, Indiana and Vermont are also removing asphalt roads rather than repaving them. Planning ahead; it'll be easier on the horses' hooves.

Can Inflation Be Managed?   The Fed says not to worry, but when the bills come due – in about 3 years – expect the politicians to take the easiest way out – inflation. They've done it before and there is every reason to expect they will do it again. Higher taxes and less spending doesn't go well with an election year.

Greeceing the Skids:   Moody's has lowered its rating on Spanish mortgage and sovereign debt due to ballooning deficits. Don't worry, the losses will be “contained” to French and German banks.

Appalling:   Under the US Constitution no person can be held without due process nor be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Torture is explicitly and specificity illegal under US law – it is in fact a capital crime. But if the President – or anyone he designates - declares you to be “a suspected enemy combatant”, you cease to be “a person” and have no rights whatsoever. None. You can – and will be – tortured. That's what the Supremes said, after a lower court ruled that “torture is an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention.” The Bush Obama administration sought the rulings.

The Orphans:   Fannie, Freddie, Ginnie Mae and AIG, each have such flawed business models that they will remain wards of the state for as long as the rivers run...

Paradise Lost:   Before shedding too many tears over the failed Copenhagen agreement, pause to understand that the cuts on offer would have lead to a CO2 concentration above 550 ppm, which assures a global temperature rise of 4 to 6ºC. If that's the best we can hope for, there is no hope.

Aye, Here's the Problem:   Should banksters feel shame for the disaster they brought us? No, most say, for the banks owe a primary duty to shareholders. Back in the mist of time, before corporations captured the state, the state permitted incorporation only for limited periods of time and only for specified activities and only for the greater good of the people as a whole. Stockholders came second to the populace, and still should.

Porn O'Graph:   The trend is not your friend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

SAR 9354/Weekender

Overused phrase: “faster than previously thought.”

Rush to Inaction:  In Copenhagen the world's leaders all agreed that Rome was burning, but each wanted to be Nero. President Obama , as leader of the polluters, was the advance favorite to act "boldly and decisively", but historic levels of incompetence resulted in a year of planning that barely achieved a “meaningful and unprecedented first step”. It has taken two years of negotiations to agree to meet in November 2010 in Mexico Cit, where work on “one or more legal instruments” to fight global warming would be discussed.

Jocks:  Polls show that Tiger Woods' popularity among men has risen along with the body count. Among women, well... not so much.

Job Losses:  US companies plan to reduce their domestic workforces by 1.6% in 2010, while increasing the outsourcing of jobs. Two-thirds of companies do not expect their employment levels to revert to pre-recession levels until 2011 or later. Most expect to stop funding workers' health care costs.

Truth in Advertising Extortion:  Among the short sighted dysfunctional leaders gathered in Copenhagen, Saudi Arabia's oil minister stood out when he insisted that any resolution that would lower the consumption of petroleum must include payments to the oil producers to make up for their lost sales. If that doesn't explain why we are headed for a much warmer world, nothing will.

Dogs of War:  69% of the Department of Defense's workforce are not soldiers, but mercenaries and camp followers.

All Over But The Shouting:  Moody's suggests the housing market has bottomed out and the way forward is up, up up. Deutsche Bank disagrees and says it's down another 10% or so. Meanwhile those folks on the hill in the big houses are defaulting twice as fast as the commoners down in the McMansion lowlands. And 10% of homeowners would seriously consider walking away is they were underwater. Or when they become...

We The People... Weekend reading to help you complete the quotation. And a second piece, to suggest what you might do about it.

Starting Point: Container volume at US ports was essentially flat in 4Q09 compared to 4Q08. But despite the lovely and misleading uptick on the accompanying graph, what this means is that things are not any worse than last year, which was 10% down from '07. Not worse can, cleverly, be made to look as though it were “much better.”

Couch Potatoes:   Not only can insurgents, terrorists and Abdul Q. Public sit at home and watch video feeds from Predator drones, they can also watch surveillance videos from all sorts of US military aircraft. But don't worry, the Pentagon's known about this since 2004. They just haven't done anything about it.

Growth Industry:  The FDIC plans to hire at least 1,600 employees to help close even more banks in 2010.

Distraction:  There are lots of articles out there pretending to explain the health care farce in terms of death panels, public options, abortion, deficits, the Medicare buy-in or the doughnut hole and any number of other distractions. Don't be fooled, this is all about fear and greed. The politicians fear they'll lose big bucks and the insurance companies want to earn even bigger bucks. It has nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do with that single payer, the taxpayer. And those of you that are so happy with your company-selected health insurance should be aware that it is going to go away, and the new legislation will make you buy useless policies from the insurance giants or go to debtors' prison.

Porn O'Graph:   I owe, you owe, we owe, but not so much.

Friday, December 18, 2009

SAR #9353

Many Americans still believe the war on terror is real.

Minimum Wage:   At the last minute, in steps the US waving money around to buy a photo op for Obama in Copenhagen. For $100 billion a year, most of which they will be able to steal while pretending to improve their countries, the leaders of the poorer nations are to shut up and go along with the US plan to pretend to lower CO2 emissions.

Their Plan:   As Congress undertakes the necessary court-drama of approving an increase in the national debt limit, Wall Street has a new plan to get money from the taxpayers. Their man in the White House, suddenly discovering a deep concern for the mounting federal deficit, will establishing a committee to study ways of lowering the future deficits. The committee will recommend reducing Medicare and eviscerating Social Security in ways that will funnel money into Wall Street coffers. The recommendations will arrive in November 2010, after the elections, with action slated before year's end so as to let the gang that just lost their seats pass the legislation on their way out of Washington and into waiting consultancies.

Knew It All Along:  “The fundamental problem is clear: Too much wealth in the hands of the few.

Special Dividend:  Moody's warns that the increased taxes and drastic sending cuts necessary for countries to continue to transfer their citizens' wealth to the banks that finance their ever-growing debt may cause “social unrest” in “a leading economy”. Usual prize for identifying at least five “leading economies” with “social unrest and public tensions.” Hint: two of them may start with the letter U.

Another Bailout:  Scientists now predict that the formerly safe and comfortable 2C global temperature rise will eventually lead to a 20 – 30 foot rise in sea level, which would drown a third of Florida, much of Bangladesh, most of the Netherlands; and most southern Manhattan – except for Wall Street, which will continue to be bailed out.

Contest:   Usual prize to the reader who identifies the greatest number of differences between what Obama says and what he does.

Laid Off”:   What a marvelously innocent term for what is really meant – dropped in the trash. The good news is that only 480,000 were so disposed of last week, an increase of 7,000 on top of last week's 19,000 increase. So we're not getting worse faster, just at the same old rate. But most certainly we're not getting better. Those receiving 'regular' benefits number 5.19 million, those with the 'extra-long' benefits number 4.73 million and those who the Ministry of Truth Department of Labor doesn't count, don't count.

In Time for Christmas:   The US launched two Predator missile strikes in Canada yesterday. Oh, sorry. It was Pakistan, another country the US is not at war with, not Canada. One strike destroyed a car and its two passengers, who may or may not have been speeding. The second strike consisted of five drones launching a total of 10 missiles into a pair of housing compounds. The identity of the wedding parties massacred was not immediately known. US officials confirmed the attacks, saying some of the 40 such attacks this year have killed “top al-Qaida operatives” as well as a large number of women and children, as part of winning the hearts and minds of the peasantry.

Porn O'Graph:   If you added up all the flavors of the countable unemployed (and didn't include those who've used up all their benefits)....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

SAR #9352

Taxing the rich is never the answer, according to the rich.

Dear Santa GOP:    If I promise to vote against all the things I used to support, which will let you completely frustrate the will of the American people, will you bring me seniority in your caucus and a couple of nice committee assignments? Yours Faithfully (with my fingers crossed behind my back) Little Joey Lieberman.

Buy The Numbers:   The Congressional Research Service say each of Obama's 30,000 soldiers will take two mercenaries civilian contractors along with them to Afghanistan, brining the number of 'contractors' in Afghanistan to about 150,000. Contractors made up 69% of the Pentagon's personnel in Afghanistan.

Asked & Answered:     “Producer Prices Rise 1.8 Percent. Should the Fed be Worried About Inflation?” No, but the citizenry should.

Home For Christmas the New Year:   All over the globe this year, governments have been bad, spending lots more than they had. And investors, inexplicably, kept buying up their questionable debt. If banks repay their debt, it will have to be with freshly printed paper, for no economy is producing the kind of taxable income required. And then they'll have to pay more interest to re-float their loans. Which will make the debt that investors bulked up on this year worth much less....

Peter/Paul:   Citigroup is repaying the TARP funds, and in return the IRS is giving them $38 billion in tax breaks.

Timed Exercise:   A British newspaper has a list of 100 purported reasons why climate change is a natural event no one need be concerned about. In 10 minutes see how many of their silly statements you can debunk.

Shipping Out the White Collars:   Shell is shipping “hundreds” of Houston-based office jobs to India and the Philippines to reduce labor costs. Good news for shareholders, unless they used to work for Shell in Houston.

The Dark Side:   There may be enough natural gas in the shale deposits in the Northeast to make oil barons drool. There are certainly enough problems with the extraction techniques to make the local citizens sue.

Soapbox:   The question is 'should taxes be progressive'? Yes. All personal income no mater what the source – wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, inheritance, lottery winnings, everything – should be progressively taxed and at some level, say a million dollars a year, the taxes should be at least as large as they were back in the fifties. There should be no tax benefit of one form of income over another, and there should be no tax deductions which reward any form of debt, specifically no deduction for any form of interest paid on a debt and no writing off bad debts against income.

Political Operations:   The Democrats have been gelded and healthcare reform has been gutted. Merry Christmas, Insurance Companies.

Being Brief:   Growth in the US economy depends on growth in consumer spending, which depends on growth in consumer credit (because the American consumer doesn't have any discretionary cash on hand). Ditto for small businesses. No credit; no economy.

Wish I'd Said:   “We are well on our way to becoming a failed state.” Oh, right. I have.

Excuse Our Dust:   The CEO of the company that ships 12% of Canada's tar-sands oil to the US says that mining tar sands, ruining the environment, and adding greatly to the CO2 problem is necessary because “we can’t deny access to the rest of the world to that huge resource.”

Porn O'Graph:   Tinker to Evers to Chance – Don't look down.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SAR #9351

Panics start small and spread rapidly.

TRAP:   Now that even the deathly ill big banks are paying back the TARP funds it's time to ask what just happened. We gave the failing banks literally trillions of dollars both directly and in guarantees. In return they played charades for a few months, bought back their freedom to loot and now everything is back where we started. They are still too big to fail and still unregulated and unreformed. Anybody know what we got out of this? (Screwed is right, but I was looking for a more elegant explanation.)

The Silenced Majority:   In the US, where the majority has no political impact, 38% oppose and 55% of Americans would support a legally enforceable global treaty requiring the US to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These are the same folks who want universal single-payer healthcare, regulation of banks, and the lesser half of the country to learn to read and write.

Another Series:   Where does the US rank on a list of countries likely to default in 2010?

Panic Predicted:   The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform predicts that if the US does not get its ballooning debt under control there will be panic in the financial markets, driving down the dollar and forcing up interest rates. Guess we're in for higher interest rates.

More of a Bad Idea:   Various of our betters are trying to figure out how to 'save' Fannie and Freddie. They are on government-sponsored life support and need more of it, but the pundits say we must set them free. But only a little free for there must be “enough government involvement to ensure that 30-year fixed mortgages remain available to most Americans.” When is it going to sink in that “most Americans” shouldn't get 30-year mortgages until they get jobs, that not everyone should own a home, or that a house is a place to live, neither a castle nor an investment? But most of the discussion acknowledges that the American housing market cannot stand on its own without massive overt and covert government subsidies.

Another Paradox:   I'd just got the concept of the Paradox of Thrift down (individual saving is good, individuals saving is bad – never mind that saving is supposed to build capital....) when along comes the Paradox of Toil, where lowering taxes makes more people want to work and this increased competition lowers the wages and reduces the desire to work. Economists sit around and think these things up – when they have jobs. If they don't have jobs, they take the work and to hell with the taxes.

Happy Days:   We have replaced over-leveraged banks with over-leveraged governments. Everyone fears the collapse of Greece because its deficit is a whopping 10.9% of GDP. The US is looking at a deficit that will be 11.2% of GDP, making some of the graybeards worry about “catastrophic budget failure".

Civics Lesson:   In the US, corporations have pooled together to run two political parties. The Republican Party, which advocates turning our lives and fortunes directly over to Wall Street, and the Democrats, who advocate tuning our lives and fortunes over to them so they can turn them over to Wall Street.

Acid Indigestion:   The world's oceans are 36% more acidic today than at the beginning of the industrial revolution, and are becoming more acidic at a faster rate than at any time in the last 55 million years. This threatens a collapse of marine life and the food supplies drawn from the oceans. And it is happening because the oceans are absorbing part of the ever more abundant CO2 from the atmosphere.

Lisbon Rules:   Those few, those happy few who remember the Magna Carta have awoken to find that in the new Europe, the system is rules in favor of those who control the system, and whatever rights the citizen may have are on loan and not inherent to free men. Just like on this side of the Atlantic.

On a Dime: 1  2,800 years ago the northern hemisphere went from warm and sunny like today to an ice age – in six months. When climate scientists talk about 'tipping points', this is what they have in mind. It was caused by a sudden slowdown in the Gulf Stream. It is possible (just barely?) that the melting of the Greenland glaciers and Arctic Ice could do the same thing again. Be funny if global warming lead to global cooling.

Porn O'Graph:   The slip between cup and lip.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SAR #9350

Self-interest trumps the future. As always.

It's My Party...   If the Boss holds a party, only the underlings have to attend. Just ask Blankfein, Mack, and Parsons. And if Obama didn't cry, it's because he doesn't understand just who the boss really is. Ain't this a great country?

Copenhagen Collapse:   There is absolutely no way any industrialized nation will take any significant steps to decrease its use of fossil fuels, and no way its citizens would stand for the level of impoverishment that this would entail. Thus the essential hollowness of the Copenhagen meetings. Nothing will get done because nothing can be done.

Shape Shifter: The 'V' shaped recession belonged to W. The 'W' shaped one will belong to O.

Suspicion, Jealousy and Hate:   Senator Nelson (D-NE) has joined Smirking Joe Lieberman (Idiot- CT) in backing away from health care reform on the grounds that the current compromise might lead to what the majority of the country wants: universal single-payer health insurance. Such a challenge to the political fund-raising structure cannot be permitted to pass.

Seven Lean Years:    To get back to a 5% unemployment rate within 7 years, the US needs to add 300,000 new jobs a month for 84 consecutive months.

Asked and Answered:   The price of oil recently rose to $85 a barrel and has now fallen to $70. Is there a message here, one that predicts further slowing of the world's economies? Yes. Did the increase in the price of oil squash the nascent recovery? Possibly. Is there an economic glass ceiling for oil prices at about $85? Sure seems that way.

Call Him in the Morning:   Newt Gingrich promises that if America elects a Republican Congress they will repeal whatever progress gets made on the health care front.

Big Shock:   The drug trade – the illegal one – is a $350 billion dollar business. The money goes through the banks and may well have kept some afloat during the recent unpleasantness. Why it should come a shock to anyone that the banksters get their taste of that big wad of illicit cash is beyond me. It has been obvious for over 20 years that the proceeds of the illegal drug trade – and that of most other major criminal undertakings – flows through those Too Big Too Fail behemoths on Wall Street. That some banks may have turned to the drug barons for help during rough times is only reasonable.

Land Rush:   Every day, Louisiana is losing the equivalent of 30 football fields to rising sea water.

Silence Speaks:   Given a second chance to rule that torture violated an individual's fundamental rights, the Supreme Court again stood mute, mirroring the indifference of the American people to the crimes committed in their name.

Dog Bites Man:    John McCain has accused Senate Democrats of bowing to Big Pharma in banning the import/re-import of drugs.

Buying Indulgences:   The US has offered $85 million dollars over 5 years to spread renewable and non-polluting energy technologies in developing countries. This is conscience money, to permit the US to continue to spew CO2 at will. It comes to six cents per American, per year. Cheap at twice the price. There are individuals on Wall Street whose bonus this year will be more than that.

Oilfield Humor:   Iraq says it will have a 12 million barrel a day oil production capacity by 2015, a 10 million barrel a day increase. WMD: Words of Mass Delusion.

Bad Movie:   Just because a US default on its debt would trigger a world-wide economic Armageddon doesn't mean it won't happen or that contingency planning for such a distant but real threat is inappropriate.

Castor Oil:   A Fox news anchor claims that lowering the minimum wage would create more jobs for more people. After all, it worked in Bangladesh.

Rhetorical Question:   Someone – apparently with a straight face – asked if Americans are no longer Rugged Individualists, no longer fight to resist the whittling away of their freedoms, no longer fight their enslavement. Only on television, pal. Only on television. Where would they go to resist? A government approved, barbed-wire enclosed, free speech area? Could they get a Government grant to fund the protest?

Monday, December 14, 2009

SAR #9349

How many US unemployed have been replaced by child labor?

State Less:   New York's cupboard is so bare it is 'unilaterally withholding' $200 million in school and municipal aid funding due this week. Have you ever tried 'unilaterally withholding' money from the state?

Say It Ain't So, Joe:   Joe Lieberman, the 2004 Democratic VP candidate who wanted to be the 2008 GOP VP candidate, who was pandered to out of desperation by the Dems who needed his vote to cut off GOP filibusters has announced he's a Republican troglodyte after all and will vote with the GOP to kill health care reform if the bill actually contains any health care reform.

Bi-Polar:  Obama claims “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street." Well, why does he keep doing it?

No Room At The Inn:  You – many of you – are not needed. The world has become so efficient and so productive that there are not enough jobs to go around – even if you are willing to work for 33 cents an hour in an Asian sweatshop. There's a Nobel Peace Prize waiting for whoever stumbles over a solution to the social unrest this dilemma is going to cause that doesn't include reviving the servant class.

Dangerous Curves:   The gap between the yields on 2-year and 30-year Treasuries is as wide as it has been in 30 years. This is an indication that higher returns are anticipated – either through rapid economic growth, or higher inflation.

Fill in the Blank:   What is the next item in this series: Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, ______ .

Feeding the Habit:   Mexican drug cartels have stolen a billion dollars worth of oil and 'smuggled' it into the US, where addicts wait eagerly for their next fix.

The One That Counts:   Of all the crises facing us, the worst is our joint failure to take responsibility for causing all the others.

The Road Ahead:   In the next 40 years we will add another 3 billion people will need jobs, food, water, shelter, education, and health care. In the last three years petroleum output has been steady at 85 mbd despite wide swings in price and profit. Assuming production can last at this level, by 2050 there will be half again as many people wanting their share. Try running a major city - subways, water and sewer systems, heat, light, transportation - on solar and wind power. But there'll be slaves. There are now about 27 million humans in slavery, more than ever before. That's a source of alternative energy that'll be around in abundance.

Filler:   If a health care reform plan does not include lowering insurance company and medical industry profits, it's not a plan, it's just a lot of words.

The Winners:   Will those who will not alter their predatory behavior even when the lives of millions are at stake, those to whom added millions of dollars is of no significance, will these people send out cards and go to a Christmas Service?

Progress Report:   The CDC says that 50 million Americans have gotten the H1N1 flu and 10,000 have died from it.

The Good and The Bad:   Canada thinks that along with the oil, the US should take responsibility for the greenhouse gases and ecological devastation that mining tar sands produces. Just add it to our already enormous tab.

Water Is Wet:  Population, pollution, resource depletion and climate change are all facets of the same problem. No one wants to talk about population and talking about solving the others without talking about population is counting angels on pinheads. Population is the real inconvenient truth.

Enlightened Self Interest:   Realizing that the American Dream has turned out to be a money-devouring chimera, many are deciding to rent instead of owning, others are giving up and walking away from their mortgages, while some realize they can simply stop paying the mortgage and take up renting after the sheriff comes around. It all frees up cash for other uses, like buying food.

Porn O'Graph:   Getting there from here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SAR #9347/Weekender

It's time to change the rules.

Jolted:   The BLS JOLT report says there continue to be six unemployed workers for every job opening. This ratio has remained unchanged since last March, which suggests that the recovery is just a stock market phenomenon having nothing to do with actual jobs.

Monroe, Updated:   Hillary has reminded Latin America that they'd best be quiet and stay in line, or we won't buy their bananas.

Missing the Point:   A lot of attention is being drawn to the fact that Cap & Trade will end up causing higher energy bills, which would force Americans to cut back on their energy use. I thought that was the whole purpose. Senator Cantwell has a interesting proposal where the government sells industry progressively fewer “permits” to spew CO2 and returns the money to the citizenry. However, this would eliminate Wall Street's ability to get richer off CO2 control and thus doesn't stand a chance.

Suggestion:   Why don't we give simply give Afghanistan $100 billion and go home? Okay, so we don't get Condi's pipeline; we're not going to anyway.

Pandering:   According to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a fair trial is “a right reserved for American citizens” and terrorists have no a trial in court, giving them a trial in open court would “place our national security at risk.” Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Steve King (R-IA), and Sue Myrick (R-NC) say the American system of justice is too weak to try and convict terrorist and that a sketch artist might draw a picture of a suspect in a courtroom and use it for propaganda purposes.

Surfeit:   There are some dreadful provisions hidden in the Health Insurance Profitability Assurance Act, but I've given up caring.

VooDoo Science:   Pemex reports that it pumped 5.7% less oil in October than the previous year. It claims, however, that the six-year drop in output has reached a "floor" and production will gradually recover during the next three years. The science behind this amazing projection was not disclosed.

Merry Shopping Holiday:   Retailers can look forward to a sales boost from the 4.8 million US households that are three or more months behind in their mortgage payments, which is adding about $5 billion a month to discretionary cash flow.

Rosy Fingered Dawn:   Surprise, the House has passed a derivatives regulation act which was drawn up with the advice and consent of lobbyists for derivatives traders. It admonishes them strongly to “be careful.' Golly gee, just as health care charade will end up increasing health care insurance profits. I'd like to own the Trojan Horse concession on Capitol Hill.

Climate Change Humor:   Reports claim the nations gathered in Copenhagen will agree to reduce their CO2 emissions by 50% from 1990 levels in the next 40 years.

What's in a name?   The MSM is shocked to learn that Blackwater mercenaries took part in CIA-led secret raids. When are they going to recognize that Blackwater is, has been and probably always was an operational arm of the CIA?

Pure In Heart and Thought and Deed:   Google's CEO doesn't understand the uproar over the detailed monitoring his company routinely undertakes. “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Rounding Down:   The average – and I mean average in every way: mean, median and mode – US drone air stirke in Afghanistan kills 30 citizens fighting to evict an invader insurgents. Not 29, not 31.

Admiration:   Any rant against the duplicitous deficit hawks who voted for Bush's tax cuts and the GOP's dramatically unfunded prescription bill deserves reading. One that includes as its entire 8th point “Joe Lieberman.” has got to be admired.

Say Goodnight, Gracie:   Taking no chances, specially trained British counter-terrorism police officers are monitoring 4 year old nursery school children for signs of brainwashing by Islamist extremists.

Porn O'Graph: No credit means no small businesses means no jobs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

SAR #9346

Is it morally wrong to mislead people with statistics?

Point to Ponder: Of the 7.2 million full-time jobs that have been destroyed during the current recession, over 2 million of them were in the auto and real-estate industries. Most of those are not coming back.

Taxing the Goose: Wall Street execs say levying high taxes on their obscene bonuses is likely to drive the best and the brightest out of finance. I doubt it, for there's little evidence that any of the best and the brightest are in finance.

Multiple Choices: The US will occupy 'South Asia' a) until June 2011. b) for a long time. c) forever. d) until the oil runs out. For extra credit, locate 'South Asia' on the map.

Perfection: Comparing computer models with reconstructions of what actually happened in the past has shown that current models underestimate the long term warming from atmospheric CO2 by 30 to 50%. The missing effects in the models are the long term feedbacks from land-ice and vegetation variations. In sum, those scare-mongering climate scientists have been understating the case and things are going to hell in a handbasket.

Be Prepared: Some are asking why the USAF is using a new stealth unmanned recon aircraft over Afghanistan. Since the Taliban have no radar equipment why be stealthy. Remember the Spanish Civil War? As a test ground?

One Per Customer: Going forward, giving birth and getting a hysterectomy should go hand in hand. Or do you really want to have 9, 10, or 12 billion neighbors?

Things vs. People: China, rather disingenuously, has put high protective tariffs on US and Russian steel, claiming “dumping.” This is in reaction to the US putting tariffs on Chinese steel last spring. Nothing like a trade war to pick up the spirits. Couldn't we put a tariff on all Chinese goods on the grounds that they're dumping labor on the US market?

Remedial Reading: Lost in the shuffle of upbeat employment data was this: 592,579 people rolled off the much extended continuing unemployment benefits table and dribbled, unnoticed, onto the floor.

Housing Sets Record: There will be 3.9 million foreclosure fillings in the US this year. That's 20% more than last year's 3.2 million. Foreclosures won't decline until after unemployment peaks and begins to recede. Don't hold your breath.

Decoder Ring: According to the Atlanta Fed, if small regional banks get crushed by the collapsing CRE market, they won't have any money to lend small business, and small businesses are what put people back to work.

Timed Exercise: List the ten most likely geopolitical disasters. Sarah Palin is not one of the answers, and Israel attacking Iran is a gimmie.

Throat Clearing: Brazil's November iron ore exports fell 15% below the average for the previous quarter, following a reduction in Chinese demand. Add that to the sudden slowdown in vessels hired to haul Australian coal to China, and you might think China is cutting way back in natural resource consumption. And you might think that would not be a good thing for commodity prices, either. Don't read too much into one month's data – it might be like the BLS data, just a blip.

Refining: “How can we sustain a modern industrial society on alternative energy?” is too long. “How can we sustain modern industrial civilization?” is still too long. “Can we sustain industrial civilization?” Ah, that's the question.

Depth and Taxes: The recovery is a bit hard to subscribe to when you learn that personal income tax withholding is down 8% y/y and corporate withholding taxes are down 64%.

The Old Order Passeth: Under the terms of the Brussels agreement, which will come into force in two months’ time, the CIA will have access to information on all EU bank accounts, in aid of its terrorist finance tracking program. What's that? Does the CIA do the same thing in the US? Silly question.

Porn O'Graph: The map to nowhere.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

SAR #9345

Life once had value, not just price.

Highest Bidder: In Afghanistan, as in the halls of Congress, loyalty goes to the highest bidder. And the highest bidder is the Taliban, which pays recruits about twice what the US has been paying for government troops. Their bribes are better than our bribes. And their money is a mix of development funds the US has sent and profits from the opium trade – which is also money the US has sent, indirectly.

Deficit Reduction: Deficit hawks in Congress are upset at the idea of spending $75 - $150 billion on a jobs program. It's simply not right to spend nearly as much on a jobs program as Wall Street will on Christmas bonuses.

Wages of Sin: Everyone's concerned about Greece – because they're afraid the fire may spread to their roof. They being the USA, UK, France, Germany, Austria... everybody but Switzerland. And nobody wants to be Spain or Ireland. US debt service will exceed 10% of GDP by 2013, maybe higher, as will the debt service of most of these countries as the 'weakness' continues. At what level do governments begin to have trouble getting funding? Well, yes, absent the printing press.

Pull Up a Chair: The Treasury has invited TARP to settle in and stay for a while – until October 2010 at least – because “it's important to hold onto money and have it available in case any new catastrophes slam our financial system.” Plus they're pretty sure they couldn't wrest another $700 billion out of Congress.

Treat: General McCrystal has decided that President Obama is a good boy and should not coal in is stocking after all. Maybe he'd like a toy Humvee or a med-evac helicopter.

Shoemaker's Kids: At least eight major gold mining firms, even with gold near $1,000 an ounce, have to borrow money so they can pay dividends to their shareholders. This is generally Not a Good Idea. What's the point of having a gold mine if it isn't... well, a gold mine?

Water Is Wet: Some banker has suddenly discovered that if we don't create 140,000 jobs a month unemployment will keep growing, and that 86,000 new jobs a month are required for unemployment to remain steady. They could have read it here first, repeatedly.

Terminology: When you see the new advertising and displays that give you a computer-augmented view of a real scene, one that is probably interactive and three dimensional, you are looking at an 'Augmented Reality System'. This is not necessarily good news for us older folks who have a hard time with old fashioned unimproved reality.

Over There: Corrections are routinely made to economic data that has been rushed into print. Sometimes they are significant revisions, such as the BLS revisions to unemployment data after 9 months. And sometimes it amounts to a do-over, such as announcing that a Japan's 4.8% GDP growth was actually only 1.3%. That's about 350% more than a correction.

Early Lessons: Research shows that the oldest sibling in a family is less trusting, less cooperative, and less reciprocating than younger siblings. In that the newcomers spoiled a perfectly fine arrangement, why shouldn't the older siblings be less trusting?

Not On My Block: How much of the consumer spending that makes up 70% of US GDP is discretionary? One way of looking at is to subtract out “housing, healthcare, energy, food eaten at home and other household staples.” and concludes that only 20% of the GDP can be affected by consumer sentiment. This overlooks the rise in homelessness, moving back in with mom and dad, keeping the old car, skipping dental care and doctor's visits, having the heat turned off, and turning to food stamps and community pantries for food assistance – all of which eat into the non-discretionary half of GDP.

My Question, Exactly: The Business Roundtable is out with its "Fourth Quarter 2009 ECO Economic Outlook. One of the items seemed especially incongruous to me: those polled expect sales to increase next year, but the don't expect to increase their employment levels. Without an overall increase in employment, where do they think the additional spending is going to come from?

Porn O'Graph: Who you calling a delinquent?