Saturday, January 30, 2010

SAR #100130/Weekender

Faust would be quite at home.

Confusion:  US GDP grew at a 5.7% pace in Q4 – but 3.4% of that was in inventory growth.  The leading sectors of GDP, personal consumption and residential investment, both slowed in the quarter just ended. In that 2009's increase in wages and benefits, at 1.5%, was the weakest since records were available (1982), it's hard to get excited about any of these numbers.  Reinforcing the general grimness is this marvelously depressing chart that shows the economy is still 3.2% smaller than it was before the bottom fell out.

Fine Print:  It is an open secret that US Special Ops teams are deeply involved in 'secret' operations in Yemen, including attacks that have killed scores of people, including 6 al-Qaeda in Yemen franchise holders.  One of the targets is Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American citizen thought to be working with al-Qaeda, who has been put on a list of those the US would like to see killed.  Or captured.  Uncle Sam wants you, dead or alive and to hell with a trial.

No Problem:  To avoid slipping back into Great Recession, The Sequel, massive deficit spending must be continued so we can bubble up some jobs and such.  Do these deficits matter?  Certainly, and in the long run we must pay (some of) the money back.  The long run - when deficit reduction, increased taxes, smaller government and minimal social spending becomes necessary is defined as when somebody else is in office.

Have You Herd?  The recession has driven beef and dairy producers to reduce their herd sizes. But it's not quite that bad, because today's cattle are on steroids and weigh about twice what their ancestors did.

Definite Mystery:  Along with nuclear power, Obama is seeking expanded investment in 'clean energy' such as coal mining and oil drilling.  Maybe nuclear power qualifies, but to include fossil fuel burning under the heading of 'clean energy' requires the sort of redefinition of 'clean' that only Big Energy and politicians could love.

If/Then:  The bailout has only worsened the problems at the big banks, and if the too big to fail banks are not reined in, the economy as a whole is headed for serious trouble.  And we're not doing diddly about reining in the banks, so...

Whistling:  The International Energy Agency's Fatih Birol says that the demand for petroleum in the developed world has peaked and that the demand levels of 2006-2007 will not be seen again because of higher fuel efficiency and the use of alternatives.  So we can continue the high-consumption perpetual-growth energy party without as much energy?  Really?  What changes in the economy have you seen other than the recession that has significantly reduced energy demand  Isn't it nice that this peak in demand came along right when some were sure that supply had peaked?

And That's The Way It Is...  “America Is In Serious Trouble And Our Government Is Too Wimpy And Incompetent To Do Anything About It.”   Okay, that's the problem.  What's the solution?

Nose/Face:  In an act that demonstrates the futility of pretending that any effective action will be taken to reduce global climate change, Australia says it will not try to reduce its CO2 emissions by more than 5% by 2020 without guaranteed reductions by the US, China and India.

On the Other Hand:  Harvard economist Ken Rogoff says the world's economies will come crashing down if nations continue “gorging on debt”.  Just the opposite of what that fella from Princeton keeps saying.  Maybe they're both right about the crash & burn part and it does not matter how we get there.

Once Upon a Time:  It used to be that the US would hold an election and the people would, by majority vote, chose who was to run the country.  Now it takes only 41% of the vote to ruin the country.  It is time for the Senate to change its own rules – the Constitution says nothing about filibusters.  The need for super-majorities on every vote was invented recently, by the Republicans.  It's the losers' way of acting out and preventing the will of the majority from being done.

Porn O'Graph:  Climate Change graph works for foreclosures too.

Friday, January 29, 2010

SAR #10029

Will poverty reduce our energy use?

Faint Praise:   The best that can be said about the Obama administration is that they are not evil and they are not as dumb as they seem – or are they?   Obama certainly seems not to have heard the voters in Massachusetts when they said Centrism was dead.  And he continues to parrot the GOP line, right down to attacking his own policies.  Maybe instead of trying to be all things to the Republican Right, he should try being true to his campaign promises and his party's principles.  It worked for Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy – when Democrats were not the party of Wall Street – they were the party of the people.  Times change.

Teaching Point:  The 4 week moving average for initial unemployment claims increased about 10,000 to 456,250.  This, the third consecutive increase, suggest the downward trend has reversed.  The last time there was an uptick in average 4 week numbers was last February, just before the invisible recovery began.

"Eppur si muove": Syed Iqbal Hasnain, the Indian glaciologist who was misquoted in a 1999 interview reported in New Scientist and which misquote recently excited climate deniers worldwide, once more has tried to state his position clearly:  "It is a fact that global warming is happening.  If the Arctic Sea ice is melting, how can the Himalayan glaciers not be melting?"

Because I Said So:  Henry Paulson justifies the Wall Street bailouts by explaining that letting Goldman Sachs AIG fail would have caused “complete collapse of our financial system, and unemployment easily could have risen to the 25% level.” Instead of just 17.3% and rising.  His proof – he thought so.  He believed.  Has anybody ever challenged these hysterical fears, or do the peasantry just gather up $2,000 per family, send it to the Banksters and say thanks?

There's a lesson here somewhere... Studies show that Greece is bankrupt because no one there pays any taxes. See what happens when the Republican philosophy letting the rich and powerful not pay taxes gets put into practice?

Around the House:  Fannie Mae reports that the foreclosure rate continues to increase.  The backlog of unsold new houses increased some more, and the median time it takes builders to sell a completed is now 13.9 months: an all time record, 50% higher than a year ago.  Note that 28% of all housing units in Orlando are vacant, 12% of all houses in Las Vegas was in foreclosure last year, 10% of mortgages in CA and AZ defaulted.  Good thing the recession is over and housing has bottomed.

Ode to the Electric Car:  The US has about 250 million cars, which burn about 13 million barrels of gasoline a day.  Let's snap our fingers and convert them all to electric power and plug them in and charge them up.  Blackout? You bet.  The energy in 13 million barrels of petroleum would power 2 million US homes for a year.  Where's the electricity going to come from to repeatedly charge 250 million car-sized car batteries?

Talking Their Book:   Goldman Sachs says it has studied the matter thoroughly and concluded (without leaning too hard on the evidence) that recoveries from housing busts are always slow, but that stocks go up quickly and you'd better buy some from them now, before it's too late for them to book the profits before the market goes to hell.

Porn O'Graph:  When over there is over here and it's over over here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SAR #10028

The stock market has become a lagging indicator.

Onward: Obama must be doing something right, but what?  Wall Street has come to loathe him, the progressives have discovered he's not one of them. His continuing efforts towards bipartisanship - to the point of endorsing his opponents’ world-view - will buy him nothing.

Bottoms:  The sale of new houses fell in December 7.6% m/m and 8.6% y/y. For the year, new house sales dropped 22.9% from 2008. Mortgage loan volume dropped by 11% last week and, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association,  “Although rates remain low, there appears to be a smaller pool of borrowers who are willing and able to refinance at today’s rates.”  Smart, too: Fannie Mae expects house prices to drop further, and other experts expect the housing market to take a decade or more for homeowners to regain equity in their homes and some regions will not see a recovery of equity “in their lifetimes”.

Steel Yourself:  The San Francisco Bay Bridge is being rebuilt using a series of 300 foot, 6900 ton steel sections made in China.  Hmm.

Nothing to Sneeze At:  Ukrainian Black Lung disease – a mutant version of the H1N1 virus – is spreading through Eastern Europe.  Over 1,000 Ukrainians have died and over 250,000 hospitalized.  No, you didn't hear about via the USA's mainstream media. W hy would you, bunch of foreigners dying in non-photogenic ways...

Assignment:  Warm up the coffee, shut the office door, sacrifice 8 straight minutes and listen to Elizabeth Warren explain the future of the middle class . Just do it.  We'll be here when you get back.

Connections:  Cars, solar panels, wind turbines, high-efficiency lights, automobiles, car batteries together use tens of thousands of tons of rare earths every year.  As we transition to 'greener' technologies, even more will be needed.  Today China is the primary source (97%) for the rare earths.  China says it will stop exporting the ores in 2012.  Sure there are deposits elsewhere – but it will take until 2020 to bring these new mines into production.  Yet another reason to delay abandoning fossil fuels, another reason to let old-energy corporations profit while blocking development of alternative energy, which – thanks to the recent Supreme Corp ruling – they will easily be able to do.

Something Else:  China is gobbling up all the oil.  Chinese real estate is a huge bubble.  And now, the Chinese middle class has discovered credit cards!  And why not?  Credit cards offer a quick shortcut to a better standard of living. Shhh. They don't know about fees, penalties and how soon their banks will trap them in capitalistic debt slavery.

Kiss and Tell:  A new book redundantly claims that John Edwards “has no soul”, “is a politician” and “is disgusting”.

Tea Leaves:  Having squeezed all the hokum possible out of Brown's elevation to the second coming, let's now turn to Oregon where voters chose to raise taxes on corporations and the rich rather than gut public schools and kick the needy into the healthcare gutter.  Should this be read as a national repudiation of everything the GOP stands for?  Should the elephant interpret this as a clear signal about the economic policies Americans favor?  Nope, for it is obvious that while the eastern liberals who voted Republican have seen the light, the western conservatives who voted against the Republican's wishes to abolish taxes, public services and pretty much the government, were committing suicide.

Rumsfeld Redux?  The Defense Science Board has recommended that the Defense Department create an “Office of Strategic Deception” designed to deceive US adversaries.  Of course in the world of Twitter and Facebook and cellphones, they would have to deceive the American public, too, but that would be unavoidable collateral damage.

Porn O'Graph:  What's Good For GM The Pentagon...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SAR #10027

When they talk about other people's money, we're the 'other people'.

Rhetoric:  As you were warned yesterday, the verbal dogs of war were loosed on Obama's suggestion to freeze some miniscule amount of federal spending.  All sides were heard from: too big, too little, god save the pork, appalling, wrong time, etc. Let's wait and see – and relax:  Don't you know a trial balloon when a little kid floats by in one?

New Math:  In Illinois, half means 55% at first, 45% later on – at least when it comes to paying property taxes.  Just a way to get their hands on the money a little earlier.

Saved At Last:  After a $700 billion stimulus bill and $730 billion in TARP/TRASH bailouts and a couple of trillion in guarantees have failed to get the economy moving, the Senate is now going to resort to throwing money at the problem.  Specifically, an $80 billion jobs bill is proposed just as the CBO forecasts a $1.35 trillion federal budget deficit.  Obviously we cannot afford the $80 billion – it'd eat into Goldman's bonus pool.

Stopped Clock:  Professor Krugman observes, correctly, that politics gets in the way but won't go away.

Hurdles:  After modest gains in the 1990's, family incomes have been falling for the last decade (and wages have stagnated at 1970's levels), while housing jumped 56%, tuition is up 60%, and healthcare profits up 155% since 1990.

Après moi, le déluge:  Policing, generally regarded as one of the essential functions of government, is being curtailed in communities allover the country as tax revenues plummet.  In NY, much of Gov Paterson's $7.4 billion in cuts will fall to NYC, resulting in closing 20 schools, terminating 8,500 teachers, 3,150 cops, and 1,050 firefighters.  Garbage pickups would be slashed, 500 soup kitchens and 15 senior citizens centers closed.  Is this a local-level preview of Obama's deficit reduction/freeze?

Things That Cannot Continue, Won't:  Perpetual growth in the closed system cannot go on forever.  The Earth is a closed system.  Even if we avoid catastrophic climate change, economic growth must soon come to a rather sudden stop.  None of the existing economic models (nor political systems) can withstand that sort of stress, so an orderly transition seems most unlikely.  That leaves some other sort of event.

Celebration:  The latest Case Shiller Index shows a month/month increase in house prices of 0.2%.   Let's celebrate.   It also shows a year/year price decrease of 5.4%.  Put a cork in it.

New Traditions:  Ford is adding 1,200 employees – and at $14 an hour, half what current employees make.  In 1914 the average Ford worker could buy a Model T for 4 months' wages.  What are the new employees going to get for $7,000?  hen are American businesses going to realize that workers are consumers when they get home?

Beans, Spilled: The National Retail Federation does not expect a V-shaped recovery in the economy nor in consumer spending.  Didn't they get the memo?

Size Matters:  Despite the impression in the denialist press, most glaciers around the world continue to melt at historically high rates.  The speed of the melt depends on the size of the glacier and its altitude.  Smaller and lower will be gone first – those in the Alps and Pyrenees, the Rockies and parts of the Andes – with 70% gone by mid-century or sooner.  Bigger and higher – think Himalayas and Alaska – will last for centuries, but not many of them.

Porn O'Graph:  Baby it's coal outside.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SAR #10026

Rhetoric. It's cheap, expect lots of it.

Tone Deaf:  Obama, to make up for pandering to Wall Street, reportedly will announce plans to pander to the middle class.  The trouble is, those of us who used to be in the middle class do not want to be pandered to, we'd like to get what was promised on the election trail.  Besides, over on the Hill, Harry Reid's fast becoming a deficit hawk and this stuff isn't going to get past the GOP's 41-59 Senate majority.  How's this fit with Obama's plans to announce a three year spending freeze as part of his budget/SOU outing on Wednesday.  The freeze will save nearly $25 billion a year on the $4 trillion budget – that a savings of 0.6%.   If Congress approves, which it wont, because the freeze only applies to that 17% of the budget that is 'discretionary' – for which you can read 'pork-barrel spending'.  The liberals won't like it, the conservatives won't like it, and the economists – those who remember 1937 – won't like it either.

Point of View:  Walmart announced it was firing 11,200 employees – 10% of its staff. Its stock shot up, of course.

Status Report:  Our democracy is broken and the situation will quickly spiral out of control as what little leverage the people had dissolves into jingles and advertising.  Is it fixable?  Probably not, for few remember what it was supposed to look like.

Bipartisanship:  House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), seconded by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, "made it clear that the only starting point for bipartisan compromise would be for Dems to drop their health care plan and embrace the GOP one."

Footnoted: Apple reported improved sales and profits.  It was unclear if profits and sales had actually improved, but Apple adopted new accounting procedures which lead to the ability to report improved sales and profits.

Buy the Numbers:  Even with the extension of the 8% tax bribe to new buyers, existing house sales fell nearly 17% m/m in December. This is the largest m/m decrease in 40 years.  Existing houses are 90% of the housing market.  Real estate professionals, not believing their lying eyes, still believe the worst is over.

The 'In' Thing:  Poverty is the latest fad to sweep the country, with 30% of Americans taking it up as a lifestyle.  Over 90 million Americans have taken up the challenge and are living on $10,800 a year (single) or $14,500 (single mom and one child).

Fighting Words:  Experts claim there will soon be another al-Qaeda attack because of the words used in a tape purportedly from O.B. Laden match his style. Or maybe it's the grammar.  Even worse, two men (out of tens or hundreds of thousands on the list) on the “no-fly” list were stopped from boarding a US-bound plane at Heathrow.  But then, my mother-in-law's on the no-fly the list and her grammar is impeccable.

Quote, Quoted:  In explaining how dangerous the financial sector has become, Jesse uses this clarifying observation:  “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing a people to slavery." Thomas Jefferson

Porn O'Graph:   Borrowing trouble.

Monday, January 25, 2010

SAR #10025

In chess it's called the end game.

Group Discount:   A US District Court has ruled that NSA's illegal mass surveillance of Americans cannot be challenged in court because everyone was illegally spied on, so no single person or group has the right to feel their rights were unfairly abridged.  Makes no sense, but judges were once lawyers.

Opportunity:  The UN in Haiti reports human trafficking gangs taking advantage of the confusion and chaos to kidnap children with the intent of selling them into slavery.

The Whole Package: One way to reduce both government deficits and the population is to vote Republican.  If we got the government out of health care and housing and left both to for-profit corporations this would generate more taxes while reducing life expectancy.  This, combined with putting an end to food stamps, the WIC program and early childhood clinics, along with encouraging smoking, alcohol consumption, and the spewing of CO2 should go a long way towards lowering the population.   After all, people who get government help are no better than “stray animals” who “ will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.  And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior.  They don’t know any better.”  So says SC Lt.Gov. Bauer, likely GOP candidate for governor.  The South shall rise again.

Hide the Evidence:  The British government has sealed weapons inspector David Kelly's autopsy for the next 70 years.  If he did kill himself, why hide the evidence? If he didn't,  why not get Scotland Yard on the case?

Good Questions:  If there's no such thing as 'clean coal', how can there be a group called “American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity”?   And in that global climate change is, well... global, how come nearly all climate deniers are Republicans from Oklahoma from the US?

Tale of Two Charts:  Look first at this chart of the S&P and worry, then at this of the Dow and ponder on perspectives.

Then and Now:  The Bush administration's Justice Department said it was alright to hold people indefinitely, without charges, trials or access to lawyers.  The Obama Justice Department agrees.

Inflation 101:  The short course:  No jobs, no wage pressure.  No income, no demand pressure.  No loans, no money creation.  None of these, no inflation.  Once we learn from deflation, we will fear that more.

Inequality:  Not all ice is created equal.  The ice on the Beaufort Sea in the summer of 2009 seemed from satellites to be thick, multi-year ice.  But on closer look, much of it turned out to be “rotten” ice - thin, decayed, structurally weak.  Thus the apparent increase in summer minimum ice for the last 2 years turns out to be deceptive, and multi-year ice is still declining.

Them That Has, Gets:  The British, who have more CCTVs watching them than any other population, will be getting unmanned drones hovering overhead to “monitor” whatever those at the controls wish to monitor.

Porn O'Graph:  Seek and ye shall stand in line.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

SAR #10023/Weekender

It used to be called fascism.

Solyent Green:   The Bush court has spoken.   Corporations are people and money is free speech, a goal corporations have sought since 1886.  They have achieved everything but the right to vote, but they do not need to vote if they get to choose who wins.  Many are claiming the dawn of a new America, where offices will be owned by corporations and filled by whomever they hire.  But if there is to be no distinction between natural and corporate persons, do criminal statues now apply to corporations?  It would seem so.  We must find appropriate punishments.

But corporate law imposes no citizenship, or even residence requirement on stockholders or company officers.  So what is to prevent a country– say China – from buying controlling interest in a company and using its free-speech millions to elect the senators from 10 or 12 small states, who would then control what laws were passed by the US Congress.  The strict constructionists have constructed a disaster.

One More Time:  With over 10 million unemployed and M3 plunging, there seems no wage/price spiral to spur inflation, nor excess money chasing goods to fuel inflation.

Off the High Board: In Japan, retail sales fell for the 13th consecutive year, reaching a 24-year low.  Department store sales fell 10% y/y, -  even supermarket sales fell 5% as the Japanese consumer cut back even more.   In Europe, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain, and the UK are about to plunge into sovereign default.  In case you hadn't noticed, the recession isn't quite over, but Citi is sure profit margins won't decline, even in the face of collapsing consumer demand, sovereign defaults, and an onrushing bear market.   Splash.   Or splat?

Renumeration:  While the US is ostensibly trying to protect the Afghans from the Taliban, surveys show the general public would far more appreciate being protected from the bribes required to do business with the American-installed government.

Baked In:  The administration has no plans to reduce mortgage loan balances in order to prevent foreclosures,  but it wants to “keep troubled borrowers in their homes”.   Kind of hard to see how these two are going to get along.   Housing starts are down again 6.9% m/m.  The FHA tightened up some odds and ends but will still allow down-payments of as little as 3.5 percent, because the political cost in votes is seen as higher than the dollar cost to taxpayers.  Failure?  It's in there!

Without Comment: Last year, 25% of US grain crops went into gas tanks.

Reminder:  The US has yet to rebuild and recover from Katrina.  Do not expect Haiti to be a 60-day wonder.  Haiti has no functioning government, no working legal system, and very little remaining infrastructure.  Easily a million people are sleeping in tents without access to water, food, sanitation.  $10 may make you feel good, but it won't go very far.  The US offer of $100 million won't last a week.  The effort in Haiti will take billions and years.  Rather like another war, but far more worthwhile.

On Message:  The people elected the Democrats because they thought they had the better ideas.  But the Democrats are so insecure that they've internalized what the GOP bullies have been yelling at them for over a decade and now seem to believe that they actually have weaker ideas than the GOP minority.

Cease and Desist:  Senator Murkowski, (R-Alaska) wants Congress to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the environment.

Balanced, On Balance:  Suicide bombers are generally not crazy, poorly educated religious zealots seeking martyrdom and a glorious afterlife.  Most are relatively well educated, stable individuals who believe that their acts will bring great benefits to their community and draw the world's attention to inequalities and insults.  They've done a profit/loss analysis and concluded that the greater good is worth their sacrifice.  Silly altruists.

Friday, January 22, 2010

SAR #10022

Is despair the only reasonable response?

Proud Mary:  It's not rocket science. Corporations are citizens, citizens are permitted to buy politicians, thus corporations are permitted to buy as many as they can – and that's most of 'em.  The Supremes have spoken, the Constitution (in the redacted, secret portion) intended for corruption to be rampant, and so the money will keep on rolling in.

Prognosis:  The nation's largest health care insurer's profits were up 30% in 2009.  These folks are as tone deaf as Goldman Sachs.

Unemployment Weakly Claims:  Do not adjust your set, the BLS has done it for you:  Seasonally Adjusted (SA) initial claims, 482,000 up 36,000.  Non-SA 650,728.  Over 2 years unemployed:  SA 4.4 million, Non-SA 5.2 million.  The total acknowledged unemployed, NSA, 10,660,000.

Godot:  It was not a GOP victory but rather part of a wave of disgust at all politicians that is rolling over the country, aimed at anyone in power.  The public is mad as hell. It does not run on party lines, nor is it focused on health care, unemployment, or any other single issue the politicians keep avoiding.  It is dissatisfaction, the same dissatisfaction that brought Obama to power.  The people want action, not just words.  The country is desperately in need of leadership and all Obama has given them is a big smile as he dissolves like the Cheshire cat.  Why is it that Brown wins with 52% of the vote and the Democrats can't pass a bill in the Senate with 59% of the votes?  Bush was able to govern with a 51/49 majority – where's the beef?

Barbershop:  The take-away from this week's bank earnings reports is this: Consumer credit is shrinking by 5-7% a year. Just a little off the top.

Budgeting Rescue:  It must be comforting to our pilots and soldiers to know that if they are captured or kidnapped, one of eight highly trained, highly paid ex-Special Operations guys will come to their rescue. But be patient, for these guys are part-timers working for Blackbird Technologies, which will be paid $11.3 million a year for this service and for “non-attributable internet research.”

Multiple Choice:  Why is the Fed desperate to keep Maiden Lane III's details secret?  (a) They don't want the public to know how much the banks got away with.  (b) They don't want the public to know how much the Fed let the banks get away with.  (c) both a & b.

De Rerum Natura:  Things grow, die, decay and become food for the next generation.  That's nature.  Farming removes the things that grow from the land and replaces them with nutrients and fertilizers trucked in as the trucks haul away the land's productivity.  (And now they want to put the leftovers in our cars!)  This can go on just as long as the inputs – the fuel, the fertilizer, the nutrients – can be made or mined and hauled around the world and dumped on the land – and will not last long if essentials, like phosphorus, become scarce.  And we're running out of phosphorus.

Unexpected Turbulence:  In 2009, passenger revenue dropped 18% for the major US airlines – worst ever.  Underwear sniffing dogs had nothing to do with it.

Earplugs:  There's another 'independent commission” on its way to the microphones.  This one is on deficit reduction and is no more intended to do anything than the banking reform commission.  Expect a lot a blather about Social Security and entitlements and taxes and recipes for apple pie.  Yawn.

There's a Sign Up Ahead:  In the US, the Dems get the dubious privilege of increasing the debt limit another $1.9 trillion – gotta pay the bills even if the tax revenue isn't there.  The states are mostly forced to both raise taxes and cut services as tax revenue fall.  Ditto in most OECD countries.  No one wants to admit what most of us know:  The party is over.  Our high consumption, high energy way of life is headed into the Twilight Zone – so let's all look the other way and pretend.

Porn O'Graph: Reversion to the mean ($500 billion) , or meaner ($300 billion).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SAR #10021

Reality exists seriatim, one event at a time.

Lesson:  Would someone in the Democratic Party please figure out that the country wants leadership? It doesn't want a party of hacks who constantly kiss big money's ass, it actually wants the majority to rule.

Accidental Suicide? If a prisoner undergoing waterboarding drowns, is it suicide?  If three do, shortly after being dragged off to an unacknowledged 'black' site?  They'll do anything just to give torture a bad name.

Leadership: " China is so big, their domestic markets are so big, you cannot have bubbles there." P eter Levene, former Lord Mayor of London and distinguished chairman of Lloyds of London.  Meanwhile, China, not knowing this, is working to calm down their dangerous asset bubbles.

Bathtub:  In Michigan, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop wants teachers, professors and all state and local government workers to take a 5% pay cut and expect no raises in the next 3 years.  Sounds like a plan, a Republican plan.  And it is.  To get there he wants to suspend part of the state's constitution.  Sound familiar?  "We cannot afford the government …”  And that's just one. If enough states shrink, will the whole thing go down the drain?

A Quote:  "Civilization as we know it will come to an end sometime in this century unless we can find a way to live without fossil fuels."

Generics:  Explaining that the secret biblical reference on military rifle sights doesn't actually help the soldiers kill God's enemies, USAF Gen Redfield said it was no different than putting God on US currency.  Exactly.

Not Necessarily the News: The FBI made up fake terrorism emergencies in order to illegally collect more than 2,000 (!) telephone call records between 2002 and 2006. I'm shocked. Are you shocked? Good, it's unanimous, we're shocked . We're shocked because the number is in the gadzillons.

A Rose By Any Other Name:  Blackwater, which muddied the water so badly in Iraq that it had to run and hide and change its name, wants to increase the size of its private army in Afghanistan.  The $1 billion contract they now have just doesn't make them enough money.  Might as well, they can't hurt the US reputation much more than errant Predator attacks already have.

Pot/Kettle:  Paul Krugman wants to make chutzpah a crime.  Okay, but be careful what you wish for.

Continued RecessionThe current recession is very much energy-related (and was probably energy inspired) and will continue because the US cultural, social and economic systems were all developed with relatively cheap oil and are dependent on cheap oil to function.  As the price of petroleum climbs and the economy declines, tax revenues will fall, making investment in renewables and nuclear difficult if not impossible.  Money spent on petroleum cannot go to repaying debt or buying consumer toys.  If petroleum costs continue to rise, the past will remain the past and the future will be a chimera.

Thumbscrew:  The FHA plans to require a higher premium for its insurance and limit the amount of “outside support” a mortgagee can receive and still qualify for FHA insurance.  These steps are necessary to start plugging the gaping holes in FHA finances, but they're not going to do housing any good.  But they let stand the ridiculously low 3.5% down-payment requirement.

Hmmmmm?  The National Climatic Data Center reported that the 2000-2009 decade was the warmest on record, easily surpassing the 1990s - the previous hottest decade.  The average global temperature was 0.96ºC above the long term average and further evidence that the planet is warming at a potentially disastrous rate.  2009 was 1.01ºC above average – the fifth warmest on record.

Porn O' Graph:  Coming 'round the mountain. Or down the other side?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SAR #10020

The problem is that the system worked.

Honesty:  This country's taxes are levied for every possible reason except the straight-forward one of raising money – to encourage, to nurture, to punish, to reward.  But the cost of taxes is always passed on, as it must be – it is a cost of doing business.  Taxes ultimately must come from income producing activity.  Why not simply tax only individual incomes (at any rate and way you wish), and quit using taxes as a hammer in the behavior modification lab?

Does this Dress Make Me Look Fat?  World leaders are again calling for each other to commit to clean energy and carbon dioxide emission reductions.  You first.

Fun With Numbers:  Citigroup lost $7.6 billion in 4Q09, but only $1.6 billion for the whole year.  They blamed most of the loss on paying back TARP, but losses came from their mortgage and credit units, a trend that is likely to continue.  Even though it dropped credit card customers (down 8%) and raised fees (up 20%) this did not entirely make up for the $10.7 billion in write-offs of card balances.  The Fed reports 2009 revolving consumer credit balances have plunged more than $100 billion through November.  These credit balances are headed down over the coming decade, dropping from $900 billion to $300 - $500 billion, as the consumer economy becomes less all-consuming.  More to come as “the bloodbath continues.

Without Comment:   “Australia would find it much easier to meet its climate change targets if it slashed the migrant intake.”

Be More Afraid!   Sources say Al-Qaeda “might be preparing a new attack on the United States”, and that the dangers posed by extremists linked to Yemen should be taken seriously.   An Al-Qaeda figure has even been reported to have “made ominous threats against the United States .”

Envy:   Illinois, tired of California getting all the attention, is “close to de facto bankruptcy.”   Or at least close to not paying its bills, with a $5.7 billion shortfall.  State officials would rather have the state sputter to a stop than to act responsibly to raise taxes and cut spending.  Similar budget gaps have opened in at least 31 states since FY 2010 began.  NY Gov. Paterson wants to cut aid to public schools and raise taxes by over $1 billion – even add fees to the state's program for autistic kids.  Can you say “one term”?

Colosseum:  The US media – the whole spectrum from NBC to FOX and CNN - is simply disappointed that the Haitians have not rioted on cue.  Just as with Katrina, a lot of “aid” effort seems to be packing assault rifles and shotguns.  And just like NOLA, Haiti is relatively well behaved and calm as responsible people try to survive.  The only known “looting” took place four or five days after civilization broke down and the hungry were driven to gather berries where they found them.  The media wants to lead with bloodshed and violence and death...  that's understood.  But why do we, the viewers, the proletariat, have this thirst to watch hapless people turn to feral animals?  Projection?

Quoted:  “At this point, there is no reason to take it on faith that cleverness in the financial industry is a net social good.”

Fill In The Blanks: _________ the leader of _______ , a poverty stricken country of no apparent value, realizes that the US has lots of money available to fight FLEAS, so he suddenly discovers that his country is over-run with FLEAS and pretends to combat them as best his little country can.  An individual (who is conning whom?) who passed through _______ is found with is underpants on fire. This is obviously (well, let's pretend) an act of the FLEAS local branch in _____. Suddenly ____ is the USA's best buddy and billions of dollars are rolling in. It will, of course, take 8 or 10 years to hunt down all the FLEAS in ______. The longer it takes to stamp out the FLEAS, the better the aid prospects for the country and the president, who gets to keep 10% of the funds.

Holes-In-Pockets:  It seems that $10 billion actually is only $5 billion, at least $5 billion of the Abu Dhabi bailout of Dubai wasn't actually part of the $10 billion bailout. Also, it seems that while Dubai only got half the rescue, its debts were twice as high - $170 billion, not just $80. We regret any inconvenience this duplicity may have caused...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SAR #10019

Act normal.

According To Plan: Taliban fighters have executed a well-planned attack in the heart of Kabul, setting off multiple explosions and engaging in a 5 hour fire-fight in the one piece of real estate in the country that was thought secure.  US pro-consul Richard Holbrooke claimed the attack showed that the Taliban “are desperate people, they are ruthless."

Nightmare:  The recurring dream that keeps Wall street awake is the fear that the public will stop believing they are morally obligated to struggle hopelessly to pay off a mortgage and discover that, at least to bankers, finance and morality are complete strangers.  Like the paradox of thrift (saving is good for the individual and bad for the economy) walking away makes sense until everybody does it.

Lost in Translation: Would someone please explain to the Chinese that the phrase is “Buy American” not “Buy America”.

More is Less: For the long term unemployed, the longer you are unemployed, the less likely it is you will ever be employed.  It is nearly certain you will never regain a position or pay as good as you had before you got lost in Wall Street's recovery.  Today, 40% of the unemployed still counted by the BLS have been unemployed for over two years.  And this is an understatement of the actual state of the American underclass.

Water is Wet:  “Notice that large increases in oil prices have frequently been followed by recessions.”

Stirred, Not Shaken:  The denial-sphere is all agog over a 'news' item headlined “World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown”, which pointed out that the IPCC's 2007 report was based on data no newer than 2005 and mistakenly said the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.  It also said that sea level rise would be less than 2 feet this century.  Both are incorrect, as were several other IPCC's statements – but 99+% of these errors downplayed the effects and speed of global climate change.  Denialists never mention these.  The concern isn't that the glaciers may be gone by 2035, but that if we do not stop and reverse our CO2 and black soot emissions now, by 2035 their disappearance will have become irreversible.

Screw, Turn Of: The US is bullying Pakistan to walk away from its agreement with Iran to buy 750 mcf of natural gas per day as part of a 25 year deal to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from Iran's South Pars field.  The US promises to find an equivalent amount of LNG for the energy starved Pakistanis.  And the check's in the mail.

Roosting:  FHA insurance allowed buyers to put down just 3.5% of the purchase price (and let the sellers give them that, if the government's $8,000 wasn't enough).  Lenders issued loans to buyers with poor credit and allowed sellers to help fund down payments in exchange for higher home prices, because the FHA was insuring the loans.  Now 1 out of every 6 of those borrowers is behind on their payments.  Guess who gets to make up their missed payments?

Blaming the Government:  The main problem with trying to blame the current recession/depression on the government is that it really wasn't their fault. Not entirely.  Not even mostly.  The government doesn't have that much power.  Human beings behaving like human beings – greedy and careless and either coldly indifferent or blissfully ignorant of the consequences of their actions – are the Usual Suspects.  Again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

SAR #10018

21st Century wars are so 20th Century.

Revenge of the...  Option-ARMs have a default rate second only to sub-prime mortgages.  Estimates are that while most of the sub-prime damage has been done, Many Option-ARM payments will at least double, leading to a repeat of the damage.

One, Two, Three:   Sooner or later someone is going to grab control of the internet, either corporations like ATT, or the FCC, or Homeland Security.

In the Public Interest:  The current overseers of AIG – a company 80% owned by the US taxpayer – are the  Chairman of the Board of the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, a former member of the board of the NY Fed, and a former senior executive at the NY Fed.  They were all selected by the NY Fed to protect the interest of the Fed and bankers taxpayers.  The Fed is a private corporation.

Wish I'd Said:  “Growth doesn’t pay for itself... Growth eventually undoes itself ”

Scary Words:  “China and India have only one option: growth... and this depends on fossil energy and depleting mineral and metal resources, and applies unremitting pressure on global natural systems and the environment.”

Churn Baby, Churn:  FHA is suspending its rule that prohibits it from insuring a mortgage on a home owned by the seller for less than 90 days.  Ah, the old flip-'em for the fast buck scam.

Pressing Matter:  Last year the Fed printed enough dollars to do away with that miserable little raise you got as inflation-adjusted wages fell 1.6 percent.  Consumer prices rose 2.7%, with the increase in gasoline offsetting a decline in food costs.  This is the worst gap between wages and inflation in 20 years.

Multiple Choice:  Why is Haiti so poor? a) The French b) Deforestation c) Population d) Thomas Jefferson e) Wall Street.   Answer:  More or less all of the above.

Get That Education:  One in 20 college graduates cannot find a job, which means that the cost pressure from the higher-educated workers is disappearing.  In that rising labor costs drive inflation, don't expect the Fed to push up rates any time soon.

Asked & Answered:  Will China squeeze the West on rare earth metals?  Yes.  Soon.

Ms. Hubbard:  Investor Jim Rogers says that the financial melt-down has prevented many farmers from borrowing money to buy fertilizer for their crops.  No fertilizer, no crops.  Someday soon there will be serious food shortages world-wide and prices will “go through the roof.”  So says Mr. Rogers.

Location, Location, Location:  Between 1890 and 1990 real home prices in the US did not increase.  So sayeth Mr. Shiller.

Stair Steps:  The Dow is 1,000 points – 8.5% - lower today than it was ten years ago, and this only after an astonishing bull run fed by free money.   Technical analysis suggests we are near a top and that the next collapse will lead to a multi-year decline, “possibly all the way to zero.”

Facts in a Certain Order:  The headline claimed ExxonMobil has used “new technologies” to extend the life of a mature East Texas oilfield and recover an additional 40 million barrels of oil.  Terrific, except : (a) They have been using this 'new' technology in this same field for about 10 years now.  (b) The US uses about 20 mbd, thus this expensive effort will keep us supplied for two days.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

SAR #10016/Weekender

There are no 'others', we are doing this to ourselves.

Just Sayin'   China's foreign exchange reserves increased 23.3% in 2009, to $2.4 trillion.   The S&P 500's market capitalization is $13.5 trillion. China could easily buy 20% of US Corporations outright, or controlling interest in half of them.  Then we wouldbe working for them directly, instead of through their Wal-Mart subsidiary.  Not quite slavery, not even feudalism, but worth thinking about between commercials.

Alfred E.   The economy still teeters on the brink of something worse that the great depression and the bailed-out banksters sit in front of Congress and say,  “What, me worry?”

Consumer Economy:  JP Morgan Chase reported deep losses on its prime mortgage and credit card businesses in 4Q09, pretty much stomping out the idea that the consumer was on the mend.  Total credit losses were up 72% y/y even though the number of cards outstanding and credit balances both declined by 14%. Even losses on rime mortgages tripled to $568 million. In the coming decade, revolving consumer credit balances are expected to trend down from the current $900 billion to at least $500 and perhaps $300 billion.  With consumption falling this much, companies will go out of business by the bucketfuls.  Governments, unable to pay their bills, will need to renege on contracts for employees and retirees, with consequences few can imagine.

Education:   The main underpinning to western civilization and the globalized economy is plentiful and cheap petroleum.  The question isn't “What comes next? “  The question is, “What comes after?”

Retired: The 20th Century fad known as retirement, which grew out of the surpluses achieved through the lavish application of fossil fuels to human endeavors, is in the process of dissolving before our eyes.  Note to the children:  Don't worry about Social Security supporting in your retirement; you will not retire.

Be Afraid: According to Fox News, the US has 'credible intelligence' that Al Qaeda-Yemen (a local franchise holder) is plotting another attack either in the US or against US interests abroad; date, time, target and type of attack TBA. This heavy breathing is all in support of taking away even more traditional US freedoms, but that's okay with most Americans.

Once Upon a Time: Joseph Stigliz wants to know why are we letting Wall Street off so easy.  I want to know what happened to the social contract we once shared.

IEA EIA OH!  Last fall the International Energy Agency suggested that non-OPEC oil production would peak in 2010.  Now the US Energy Information Agency appears to agree, saying that non-OPEC oil production in 2011 will return to the pre-2009 decline trend. The IEA does say that  demand for oil in th developing nations (including China) will grow by 3.7% this year.  Let’s see, more demand... less supply...

Stormy Weather:  Both Nouriel Roubini and the World Economic Forum see the danger of sovereign defaults in Dubai, Greece, Ukraine, the US and the UK. Most central banks will withdraw liquidity starting in 2010, but government financing needs will drive interest rates higher.  This will hurt economic growth and lower tax revenues and a downward spiral will lead to dangerous possibilities. Or probabilities.

Report Card:  Wall Street thinks we are stupid, jealous malcontents, envious of our betters and begrudging them their due reward for their brilliant and difficult endeavors.  Actually, we are not all that stupid.  Many of us can spell ‘sociopath’ and most of us know were to find a whole nest of 'em.

A Pricking of Thumb:  Deutsche Bank sees approaching disaster and even goes so far as to say "the health of the US commercial banking system will inevitably get worse before it gets better.” They blame it on Fed policy.

Tipping Points:  Antarctica's Pine Island glacier has been losing increasing amounts of ice for a couple of decades and is now poised to collapse.  It could, alone, raise the global sea levels by 24 centimeters.  Elsewhere, carbon dioxide measurements suggest large climate changes are likely to occur this century.  As the Arctic warms, invading trees will create a feedback loop, warming the region more as the dark vegetation absorbs more warmth than snowy tundra did.  Micronesia is suing in a Czech court to block construction of a coal plant there on the basis that its CO2 emissions are a threat to the continued existence of their islands.  Another report surfaced this week warning of increased methane escaping from Arctic permafrostHumanity is destroying the network of living things :   “The beasts dying  onetwothreefour like clay pigeons bursting at a skeet range...”

Porn O'Graph:  Eat your heart out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

SAR #10015

If you can't fail, there is no risk.

Smoke, Looking for a Fire:   Goldman Sachs sees inflation in China increasing rapidly.  Great Britain's GDP fell 4.8% last year, a bigger fall than in any year of the Great Depression and the biggest contraction for 88 years.  The German economy shrank in 2009 for the first time in six years.  The 5.0%  decline in the GDP was their largest since World War II.  Japan is probably facing hyperinflation.  And it looks like the Euro Union is about to break apart.

Sources:  The Mortgage Bankers Association says that mortgage originations will drop by 40% this year.  They should know.

Wink and Nudge:  In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, a State Department witness said the US was “pursuing intensive dialogue with the Chinese on the subject of energy security, in which we have raised our concerns about Chinese efforts to lock up oil reserves with long-term contracts."  Note that this concern was raised before the Armed Services Committee.

Taps:  T. Boone Pickens is backing out of the 667 machine wind farm in the Texas Panhandle.  If Boone can't make money with alternative energy, it is pretty much a dead issue.

Accounting for Receivables:  US consumers have found a way to handle their bills in these tough times – don't pay them.  In December one of every eight dollars owed on store-branded retail cards (12.56% of their accounts receivable) was written off as uncollectable.  No improvement is seen in the coming months as rising unemployment and continuing deleveraging by consumers continues.

Test Question:  What value will the world's ten largest banks have when the ten largest oil fields are gone?

Schizophrenia:  While the House/Senate conference committee whittles away at the heath care bill – apparently killing the public option and abandoning employer mandates – a CBS survey finds that a plurality of Americans think the bill does too little to regulate the insurers, too little to hold down costs, and does not extend coverage to enough people.  The study contradicts the view of the GOP and conservative Democrats that the bill forces too much change upon their corporate health care donors the American people.

On a Roll:  One in eight Americans – 38 million – received food stamps, up a million in the last month.  The average monthly benefit was $133.60 per person.

Piece Work:  About 440,000 Americans filed their initial claim for unemployment last week and 10.9 million received unemployment payments.  The CBO forecasts unemployment to remain above 8% until 2012 and will not return to 'normal' (5.5%) until 2014.  Until then, the CBO says,many workers would remain unemployed, and much capacity of equipment and buildings will be unused.

Mark-Down Bin:  2009 retail sales fell 6.2%, the biggest decline on record (back to 1992) and only the second time that annual sales have fallen y/y (they slipped 0.5% in 2008).

Plan Ahead:  Barclays says a depression may have been postponed, not avoided. They expect an even greater crisis in late 2010 as higher taxes, higher interest rates and lower government spending take effect. The problem is that politicians are trying to resurrect a financial system which has already failed.  The longer that effort continues the more likely another crash.  They give it a 40% chance of happening.

Scorecard:  There were 2.8 million foreclosures in 2009, a record of course, and a 21% increase over 2008 and  120%  over 2007.   Plus there should be a pickup in foreclosure activity in February when government support of the housing market begins to end.

Porn O'Graph:  It's your option...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

SAR #10014

Complexity assures instability.

What Goes Up, Goes Up:  How much is gasoline at the station nearest your house? Is it up from last month? Ah, thought so.   Demand is on its way up – Chinese imports alone rose by 4.7 mbd in December, which is a 5% increase in world demand caused by just one consumer.  There's only so much oil production to go around – more or less 86 mbd.  If you want to get gasoline from one of the last of those barrels, be prepared to bid for it.

Lifelines:  The Obama administration says that continuing to protect our access to petroleum will cost $741 billion next year – if we don't have to go slap Iran around.

Wait, Wait... The SEC is suing BofA for not disclosing that Merrill Lynch was losing $15.3 billion when it asked shareholders to approve the merger.  Anybody else think their defense will be that Timmy boy told them it was okay?

Just Sayin'...  China claims it has a say in the value of the dollar, and that the dollar has hit bottom. No wonder the Chinese are buying anything it can stockpile and that can't be devalued by Tim Geithner.  Last year, China imported 14% more oil and 41% more iron-ore than in 2008. Some recession they're having.

Pitchfork Prevention:  In an attempt to defuse the public's growing disgust and anger at Wall Street and Washington, Obama plans to levy fees on the 20 largest recipients of government largesse.  It is just a PR move, but the public will be quieted. For a while.

Needs Spinach:  Despite “strong” 3Q growth, Germany's 2009 output plunged 5%, which is hardly the sign of a strong recovery.

Report Card:  Monsanto's GMO crops are fine as long as you don't need your kidneys or liver, and don't mind a little 'hepatorenal toxicity.' (Hepatorenal syndrome is a life-threatening medical condition that consists of rapid deterioration in kidney function - Wikipedia).   Monsanto is currently seeking unemployed smoking/global warming deniers to assist in further research.

Now It Can Be Told:  In what will come as an immense shock to people who used to live outside Crawford, Texas, a Dutch study has found that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an illegal war of aggression which lacked legitimacy under international law.

Danger Zone:  There is a growing danger that the myth of equal opportunity, the myth of upward mobility, and the myth that wide screen TV with surround sound will bring happiness are all in danger of collapse.  People may even try to live a bit below their means and set some money aside for future wants, strange as such behavior may seem.  After 30 years of treading water, those now entering the workforce will make even less in real terms than their grandfathers did in 1972.  That's if they manage to get a job. And that job will pay 6% less for every percentage point the unemployment rate climbs.  Visit your Army recruiter today.

A Quote:  “I’ve always seen the war on terror as being in large part a war on liberals, a way to change the conversation away from things like competence in governing toward the undoubted conservative superiority at talking tough and striking heroic poses.”

The Talking Cure:  Obama has set loose his minions to mislead the public into thinking he actually is going to tax the Wall Street banks for their ill-gotten gains. Sounds good, but show me the money, show me the money!

Rolling Along:   The worst drought in 50 years is shutting down Venezuela's biggest hydroelectric plant, as the rivers dry up.  Electricity will be cut for four hours on alternating days, in an attempt to keep the grid from collapsing.  For once, it does not seem to be Chavez's fault.

Porn O'Graph: Bench-warmers fall off bench, the unemployed become ghosts.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

SAR #10013

It is not the world that needs to change.

Masked Man:  Bernanke's Fed has instructed asked an appellate court to prohibit the American public from finding out who got taxpayer money - $2 trillion - to stay afloat, for fear they won't stay afloat. Sounds like money well spent.

Lost in the Shouting:  Please note that while everyone is pointing with alarm at December's 85,000 decline in jobs according to the Establishment Survey, The Household Survey reported a 589,000 decline in employment.  So, which was it – 85,000 or 589,000?  Traditionally “the Household Survey measure of employment growth tends to be a leading indicator.”

Explain, Please:  The State Dept. claims that allegations that the US might be behind the bombing of an Iranian nuclear physicist are 'absurd'.  Why?

I've They've Got A Secret:  Make that secrets, plural. Last May the SEC secretly promised AIG it could keep secret the most controversial details of the AIG bailout, including passing billions on to Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Société Générale and Deutschebank.  They could keep these details secret from the American public, which owns 80% of AIG, until 2018.  Presumably beyond the statue of imitations for embezzlement, fraud and whatever it is Tim Geithner is covering up.

Foreshadowing:  As of December 1st, 13% of US homeowners were either delinquent or in foreclosure.  Only 1.5% of mortgages “improved” toward a current status while 5% fell into more severe levels of delinquency.  Two months delinquent is nearly as good as a foreclosure in hand.

Faking Sincerity:  The judge in the trial of Scott Roeder, the confessed murderer of Dr. George Tiller, has ruled that instead of facing murder charges, Roeder can argue he is only guilty of voluntary manslaughter because the murder was justified by his sincere belief that killing the doctor would save the lives of the unborn. Some of us still are in Kansas, Toto.

Suck It Up:  In this sentence: “Everybody agrees the recession is over,” please define 'everybody'.

Who Knows?  The individual investor – who owns 80% of US company stocks – has pulled about $850 billion out of the the stock and money market funds and stuck it into bond funds, and is not rushing back into the market.  Wall Street may be hyping the economy to sell more stock, or perhaps the government is propping up the market directly.

Travel Light: In concert with Hopeless Security's harassment of travelers, Delta has raised its baggage fees in an attempt to get more people to consider not flying.  Making more and more of your customers hostile seems a strange way to increase profits.

Trailer For Sale or Rent...  If Arizona cannot sell its capital and other government buildings by the end of the month, the state will be unable to make the February school payroll.  The state treasurer wants to put 45 kids in each classroom and fire about half the teachers.  Maybe they could rent out schoolrooms to the homeless...

Dark Matter:  Just as physicists deduced the existence of otherwise undetectable dark matter from its effect on the visible universe, TrimTabs CEO Biderman claims he sees the effect of government manipulation of financial markets because private demand “just isn't there.”

Big Duh:  Another academic has conducted a survey to discover that Wal-Mart does not create jobs when it comes to town, it closes small businesses and hires only some of their employees.  The Waltons only talk about “jobs created” and don't count the cost of “jobs destroyed.”  They do better on the P&L ledger.

Porn O'Graph: It's in stock.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

SAR #10012

Never ask them the questions they prepared for.

Red Queen's Race:  In December, 1999, there were 130.5 million employed Americans. In December, 2009, there were 130.9 million employed Americans.  In between, the population grew by 30 million people.  Not all of them are minors.

Cloak and Stagger:  America pays $75 billion a year for “intelligence”.  How we doing?  General Flynn, US/NATO G-2 in Afghanistan says the intelligence people are generally “clueless, ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the power-brokers are and how they might be influenced... and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers...  Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy."

Things You Suspected #48:   There are now more people working for the government than in jobs actually producing things.

Give and Take:  The National Climatic Data Center reported that December was 3.2ºF cooler than the 1901 – 2000 average and was the 14th coldest in the last 115 years.  They also reported that for the entire year 2009 was slightly warmer than the long term average for the 13th year in a row and that 21 of the last 24 years have been unusually warm in the US.

China  (a) is the world's largest market for autos  (b) is the world's largest exporter of autos  (c) has the world's largest banks and/or (d) is too big for our own good.

Then and Now:  When the GOP passed the budget-busting Medicare Prescription giveaway, they told us deficits don't matter.  When the Dems pass a [reportedly] fully-funded, deficit-reducing health care reform , the GOP says we can't afford to save the money.  Or something like that.

Simon Fitch Says:  Delinquencies in commercial real estate have increased 500% to date, but will not peak until 2012, with 12% of outstanding commercial mortgages defaulting.

Salvation Needs Saving:  The nation's biodiesel boondoggle, having lost its $1 a gallon Federal subsidy, has come to a sudden stop.  Without the taxpayers' gift to prop up production, plants are idling, waiting for politicians to reinstate the subsidy and buy the farm vote.

Summary Judgment:  December was the worst month for unemployment in the US since the Great Depression.  The labor force contracted by 661,000 as Americans dropped out of the system.  The real unemployment rate rose to 17.3%. Wall Street rallied.

Keeping Score:  The U.S. has imprisoned 2,500 children since 9/11 as “enemy combatants”, some of whom were raped. Not surprising, in that Bush's AG Yoo argued that crushing a child's testicles was legal if the president wanted it to be. Some detainee's children were “tortured using insects,"  Their children, not the detainees.  At State , Col Wilkerson said that many of those tortured were innocent, but that the Bush administration did not really care whether they were innocent or not.  Bagram is far worse than Guantanamo ever was, and atrocities continue there. Change you can believe in.

Job Bank:  The Census Bureau will hire 1.2 million temporary employees to conduct the census.  Keep this in mind as the government employment figures inflate.

32,000 Leading Scientists...  Nearly all those 'scientists' who deny smoking is bad for you global climate change are (a) nonexistent, (b) not scientists, (c) bribed by big business, (d) crazier than bedbugs.  Take 10 minutes and learn how to lie, scientificly.

Nesting Behavior:  Girls who go through puberty before the age of 12 tend to be more aggressive, experience increased parental conflict, and have higher rates of delinquency.  It also may “lead to more substantial offending behavior” as they mature.

Identity:  Half the cost of growing wheat is energy, 40% of the cost of growing corn or sorghum is energy cost – it is hard to find any crop where a primary cost is not energy.  Modern agriculture is the process of making petroleum and natural gas edible. What do you think an increase in the price of petroleum will lead to at the grocery?  Ah.

Porn O'Graph:  Will the guilty please raise their hands?