Monday, May 31, 2010

SAR #10151

Fear sells.

We've only just begun:  However much oil is leaking into the Gulf – and it is clear that 5,000 bpd was always laughably low – it will probably keep on keeping on for another 75 days or so.  By then it will have reached Florida, the Keys, Palm Beach, reached far into the food chain and poisoned it for years.

Mission Creep:  The US has now spent over a trillion dollars on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is the longest war in our history, Iraq, second.  What have we gotten that was worth the money, worth the blood?

The Best Defense: Transocean says its liability in the Deepwater Horizon disaster should be limited to $26.7 million, because there is no evidence “of any contamination from the rig itself.”  And also because BP hasn't been paying the rent on the rig since it capsized and sank. Transocean didn't mention that the rig was over-insured and they made a couple of hundred million on the insurance settlement.

Another Country:  Marijuana workers in San Jose are unionizing. Oakland plans to tax the crop.

Censorship:  Media organizations claim they are encountering passive censorship as it becomes more and more difficult for reporters to investigate the oil spill “on the ground”.  We would tell you about it, but we're not allowed to.

One Big Happy:  Having learned that General McCrystal wants to fight the Taliban in Kandahar without fighting the Taliban in Kandahar, military planners are working on a unilateral strike against the people in Northwest Pakistan, near the Barg-e-Matal district of Nuristan, Afghanistan, where the Taliban have over-run the district and taken control.

Dateline:  Scientists in Mexico claim to have found the horniest dinosaur.

Canard:  Not only does money not buy happiness, it ruins the simple pleasures in life. Once basic needs are met, more money has little effect on the enjoyment of life. I keep telling my wife that, too.

Fault Line:  The root cause of the housing bubble is still firmly in place. Now it is Freddie and Fannie and the FHA that are enabling the banks to extend doomed loans to the unqualified.  Mortgage lenders are happy to collect their fees as the government underwrites and guarantees 99% of all US mortgages, while the Fed has sopped up $1.2 trillion in unsound MBS. The default rate on FHA guaranteed loans (which is most of 'em) is now 20%. The government is willing to write off (bill the taxpayer for) 1 out of every 5 mortgages – within a year of origination.  Gotta go now, don't want to be here when the wheels come off.

Opinion Poll:  Everybody but JPMorgan thinks the markets are going to crash.

Memorial Day:  As has been known but not commented on publicly for years, most of the prisoners at Guantanamo have been low-level fighters or simply hapless fellows that someone wanted gotten out of the way – or were 'named' just to get the reward.  The Guantanamo Review Task Force reports that only 10% of the Gitmo detainees were ever “leaders, operatives and facilitators involved in plots against the United States.”

Cup/Lip:  For years it was official US policy, encouraged by the seacoast states, to prohibit drilling along the continental shelf while encouraging (and subsidizing) deep offshore drilling.  Out of sight, out of mind.  How's that working out?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

SAR #10149/Weekender

Perceptions are everything.

Obesity:  The House voted to give the Pentagon an extra $60 billion and force it to buy F-35 plane engines that it neither needs nor wants.  The Senate, meanwhile, voted down $24 billion in health insurance subsidies for the unemployed, cut extended unemployment benefits, and dropped matching funds for state-run health programs.  GE has better lobbyists than the disenfranchised.

In Recovery:  Retail sales plunged to a 14-month low in the early part of this month, angering economists who had predicted sales would increase. Nearly half of retailers reported lower sales y/y. The recovery seems to need a twelve step program.

Another Day Older and...  Not to be confused with the original mufti-layered oil plume, nor the one found Thursday running for miles east of the leak site, yet another vast plume of oil has been discovered 75 miles northwest of the leak.  The new plume, in shallower water, covers the water column from the surface to the sea floor.  The extent was not known yet, for unmanned submarines have traveled miles from side to side without finding the edges of the pollution.

Definitions: Goldman Sachs admits it mislead investors over Greek sovereign debt, but claims this was simply a 'material omission', not fraud. At least they didn't 'misspeak'.

Self Evident:  Investigations suggest that three detainees who reportedly committed suicide at Guitmo in 2006 actually died while undergoing torture.  But isn't refusing to tell the dungeon masters what they want to hear always a form of suicide?

Mom Was Right:  If you don't brush twice a day, you'll be sorry.

Q&A:  Is Europe heading for a meltdown?  Perhaps.  This financial crisis is worse than the 2008 crash because then the banks had the government's big pockets to bail them out. W ho is going to bail out the governments? Warren Buffet?   There is no answer; there's no backstop.

Personality Defect:  Shoplifters are mostly unpleasant, disorganized males. Except for the young and the desperate.

Forecast:  NOAA says the next six months will bring 14 to 23 named storms, 8 to 14 of which will become hurricanes and 3 to 7 of them major hurricanes.  Odds are reasonably good that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in the US. No biggie – most of the coast will be so polluted that nobody will be there.

Under the Sun:  Everyone is aghast at the environmental destruction being done by BP's oil. Funny how the destruction of the wetlands went unnoticed, the low oxygen levels caused by the runoff from mid-western farms dumped into the Gulf via the Mississippi is routinely ignored, the damage done by over-fishing always came as a surprise, the dying coral mattered only in tourists areas.  These are all caused or exacerbated by humans, most of whom do not work for BP.

Brother Can You Spare a Billion?  New York State is a billion bucks short of the $3.8 billion it needs to pay out next week. Script, anyone? IOU's?

Needs a Tune-up:  House sales are dropping, house prices are dropping, the unsold inventory of houses is tremendous and it takes about 14 months to sell a new house, so Congress is considering extending cheap credit to house builders so they can build more houses.  The timing seems a little off.

Taxes, Taxes:  A group of 30 Italians from a small village pooled their money and bought a lottery ticket that paid them €33 million.  After they paid the local mafia it's cut for life insurance, they had a lot less to celebrate.

Friday, May 28, 2010

SAR #10148

This would be a good time to rediscover a sense of humor.

Mistakes Were Keep Being Made:  The BP official who reportedly overruled Transocean's employees on key safety procedures has lawyered up and declines to talk to investigators.  Another BP'er called in sick. Meanwhile BP claims 'top kill' was going as planed, but didn't explain why they lied about it misinformed the public about it for 18 hours

Weakly Employment Numbers:  New unemployment claims were down 14,000 last week, bringing the 4-week moving average to 456,500. Just over 4,650,000 of the unemployed received government support. Numbers for those who fell off the end of the 99 week gangplank will be reported later.

On Hold:   The administration has put Shell's permit to drill five exploratory wells in the waters off Alaska on 'temporary' hold until 2011, or at least until the public's interest is focused elsewhere.

Under the Counter:  In 2008, Johnson & Johnson learned of problems with Motrin, but rather than issue a recall they hired an outside firm to go around and buy up the tainted product.  Note that J&J was forced to recall more than 40 varieties of children's medicines after FDA inspectors found multiple violations at J&J plants.

Asked & Answered:  The question is “Are we merely slouching toward despotism, or have we arrived?” and it is very well answered by the Anecdotal Economist.  This week's magnum opus.

Grossly Distorted Poppycock:  First quarter GDP is said to be 3.2% (annualized). But that's after the stimulus program raised it by either 1.7% or 4.2% (?). And over 1.3% of the increase in GDP was reportedly due to inventory restocking.  If you subtract all this from that you end up with confusion, if not a negative GDP growth rate, which the government isn't about to own up to.  Maybe the GDI is a better measure – but it's pessimistic.

DoublethinkSecretary Clinton, in announcing an an escalation of belligerence and provocation by the US and South Korea will help "avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation in the region."

Slick:  Scientists have detected another massive oil plume beneath the Gulf of Mexico, 6 miles wide, stretching 22 miles from the leaking wellhead northeast toward Mobile Bay, at depths from just below the surface to over 3,000 feet down.  The oil concentrations increased with depth.  The first such plume detected stretched from the well southwest toward the open sea.  This one is headed towards the shoreline.

Vacation:  Now that you can't go to Mexico, Jamaica or Airzona for fear of violence, what's left, tours of riot torn cities in Spain, Italy, Greece, Thailand?

A Chill in the Air:  The Defense appropriations bill has had an amendment tacked on that would force the DOD to aggressively investigate disloyal attorneys who dare to represent Gitmo detainees, and to charge them with “interfering with the operations of the Department of Defense.” This is the work of Jeff Miller (R-FL) who was afraid that these lawyers “could compromise national security."

Public Privates:  Only 41.9% of those taking home wages get paid by the private sector – a record low.  Most of the nation's personal income comes from stuff like Social Security, unemployment, food stamps and such.  And that doesn't even begin to count those in gray areas like the auto industry and Wall Street that are putatively private but couldn't exist without government support.

Unintended Consequences:  Turns out that those cameras installed at intersections work; they do cut down on people running red lights. But the white-knuckeled fear of getting a ticket leads to abrupt stops and thus an increase in rear-end collisions at these no-safer but revenue producing intersections.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

SAR #10147

Facts are feeble weapons.

Patterns:  Only twice before have the stock markets zoomed parabolically to such heights in less than a year as it has this time (80% up from March 2009 to April 2010).  There was a 112% run-up in 1932 – which was followed by a 40% drop.  And in 1933 a 116% increase  was followed by a 34% drop.  If this pattern is followed the S&P could be in for a 20 to 30% drop.  Then again, crop circles are patterns, too.

To Catch A Thief:  Having learned nothing from the financial crisis, Washington still claims that those who caused the problem (BP in this case) are still the best ones to fix it.  Can't wait to see how this theory works when applied to homicides.  (I was going to say pedophilia, but the Catholics have been there, done that.)

Quoted:  “Of all the gaps between elite and mass opinion in America today, perhaps the greatest is this:  The elites don’t really believe we’re still in recession.  Or maybe, they just don’t care.”  Harold Meyerson.

Around the House:   The Census Department reports that new single family home sales jumped 14.8% in March and is up 47.8% y/y, while the median price for new homes fell to the lowest level since 2003.   Mortgage Purchase Applications are at a 13 year low while refinance Applications are increasing.   Which all seems to suggest that the US housing market makes little sense.

Priorities:  Congress is going to give the Pentagon an additional $32 billion to kill people in the hills of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The bill will pass with rare but overwhelming bipartisan support.  Meanwhile, on the home front, Kansas is going to follow Hawaii to a 4-day school week, Detroit is closing 40 schools, KC plans to close half its school buildings, other states are eliminating kindergarten, cutting summer school and increasing class sizes.  Wonder how many kids we could keep in school for the cost of razing one hut in Kandahar?

Free Fall: The fall in the US money supply (M3) is accelerating and now mirrors the declines seen from 1929 to 1933. European economists see this as an indicator of the direction of the US economy in the next 18 months.

Pandemic!  Wage cuts and increased retirement ages are sweeping Europe as countries scramble to shore up their finances. Italy is cutting €26billion from its budget, reducing health spending, increasing the retirement age, slowing road building and imposing a three year wage freeze on public employees.  France, where the 35 hour work week is under siege, plans to raise retirement age from 60 to 63.  Britain and Germany are also increasing their retirement ages, while Spain is cutting civil servants' salaries and freezing retirement pensions.  But making people work longer only works if there is work...

Going to Pot:  The effect of government regulation of business is being illustrated by northern California's marijuana industry.  State budget cuts have reduce drug enforcement efforts, resulting in bumper crops reaching the market, which in turn has driven prices down.  Just as the GOP predicts, cutting government regulation has increased production, narrowed profit margins, cut prices and benefited the consumer.

Ubiquity: In an attempt to divert attention from the spill in the Gulf, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, partly owned by BP, has spilled several thousands barrels of crude oil and caused the pipeline's production to be cut drastically.  But don't worry, they are “going to take as long as we need to make sure the site is safe before we start back up.”

More Is More:  General David “The Pacifier of Iraq” Petraeus has secretly ordered an escalation in US covert ops across the Middle East and throughout the Horn of Africa, involving expanded use of Special Forces, increasing drone surveillance and more missile- assisted assassinations. Achievements to date have gone unreported, much like the US victories in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Just sayin':  Here's where the 'recovery' now stands:  26 million Americans are unemployed.  40 million are on food stamps. One out of 10 banks is on the FDIC problem list.  Fannie & Freddie and the FHA make up 90% of the US housing market and will need tens of billions in additional bailouts.  10% of mortgage holders missed at least one payment in the first quarter.  Over 350,000 properties were foreclosed in March.

Sideshow: In Colorado, Tea Party activists are seeking to block the teaching of evolution, solar-centrism, gravity and global warming because it is contrary to their personal political views.

Porn O'Graph:  Nude descending a staircase.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SAR #10146

This is not a rehearsal.

Yo-Yo Mas!  The Dow slipped below 10,000 yesterday and stayed there until the home stretch, when TPTB came in and ran it up at the bell.  This happens so regularly it's expected.  The current 'excuse' is that Washington has decided that banks can keep mucking about with derivatives until the next crash.

Rooms to Let:  Defaults on apartment mortgages are leading the rest of the commercial real estate sector downward.  Now at 4.6%, they are twice what they were a year ago.  Commercial-mortgage defaults also rose in the first quarter for loans against office, retail, hotel and industrial properties. CRE seems to be a slow-motion wreck in progress.

Progress:  The US hasn't so much drawn down its troop presence in Iraq as shuttled them to Afghanistan.  Same troops, same futile mission.

Down to Cases:  The Case-Shiller house price report was another downer, with another quarter of declines. T heir index is now at its lowest level since Q4, 2002.   The rebound turned out to be a dribble.  Even huge tax credits and historically low mortgage rates have failed to lift home prices.

Best Defense:  Obama is dispatching 1,200 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border in order to repel attacks by the GOP.  He's also asking for $500 million to be spread around to various law enforcement agencies to give the impression of doing something.

Dueling   Headlines:  Exhibit One: “Anyone Who Is Still Bullish On Housing Clearly Isn't Paying Attention To The Real Numbers.”   Exhibit Two: “Realtors Say The Housing Fall Is Over”

$104,350.  That's each US household's share of the economic loss brought to us by Wall Street's unregulated greed.  $7.4 trillion in lost stock wealth, $3.4 trillion in evaporated real estate wealth.  At least 5.5 million extra lost jobs & lost incomes.

Revival Revised: If housing is recovering, why is the government still propping up the market? FHA loans exceed even Fannie and Freddie in encouraging a new bubble supporting the housing market.  Non-government backed or insured mortgages are essentially non-existent – but if business is so good, why aren't the banks and Wall Street out there scooping up the profits?  “This is a market purely on life support, sustained by the federal government. Having FHA do this much volume is a sign of a very sick system.” Federal Housing Commissioner David Stevens.

Drug Paraphernalia:  Washington State drug police have seized a large stash of petitions urging the legalization of marijuana.  Describing the petitions as a dangerous first step in the downward spiral leading to an addiction to democracy, the police said that the constitutional right to assemble and petition the government was being misused by the pot-heads.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SAR #10145

The silence is deafening.

Forecast:   Take a raincoat, wear galoshes and carry a big stick.

Home Stretch:  Sales of existing houses increased 7% in April (m/m) as realtors rushed hapless buyers into houses as the deadline neared for the 8% tax credit.  The inventory of unsold houses increased by 2.7% y/y – the first such increase in two years.  So while sales were up, supply was up even more.  The percentage of mortgage delinquencies declined, possibly suggesting that the supply of folks in over their heads is dwindling.  Gotta be a bottom to the barrel somewhere.

Quoted:  Yes, Big Oil owns the US government, but why are all the other governments in the world simply standing by while a private corporation destroys a major ecosystem in the name of free market capitalism?

Fat of the Land:  It's not only access to healthy foods that is an important factor in obesity, it's the cost.  Research shows that the determining factor is not proximity, but cost, with 6 out of 7 shopping for food outside their immediate neighborhood and driving three times as far to save money on groceries.  Thus it is the groceries chosen (and their cost) and not just the proximity, as had been previously believed.

Headline Only:  “Arizona Cracking Down on Teachers with Heavy Accents.”   They are especially wary of Sveedisch und Jerhmin.  Meanwhile, The governor used a frog puppet to explain the immigration laws. The frog did not have an accent.

Pick-up Line:  Topi antelopes will lie to females in heat, claiming there are predators in the area in order to keep the ladies around long enough for a roll in the hay.  Not all the liars work on Wall Street.

Crime Pays:  For the non-violent misdemeanor crimes of trespass, obstructing an officer, conspiracy to trespass, and littering, two environmental activists who were arrested while protesting mountain-top removal coal mining have been ordered to pay $100,000 each. It was the littering that was the last straw.

Spukhafte Fernwirkung:  Even though “spooky action at a distance" bothered Einstein, quantum entanglement is here to stay.  Chinese researchers have demonstrated 'teleporting' information between two photons some 16 km distant – with no apparent mediator for the interaction.

Photo Finished:  Police in Maryland are arresting folks who videotape them making arrests and beating suspects and such.  It is illegal, in Maryland, to record private conversations without consent of both parties involved.  The MD AG says that means you can't film the cops, even though they can film you.

Bedtime Story: About 13,000 years ago, our ancestors populated the New World and helped depopulate it of mammoths and other megafauna. The atmosphere noticed the absence of the methane the herbivores spewed from both ends – and that absence probably helped bring on the prolonged freeze known as the Younger Dryas.

Monday, May 24, 2010

SAR #10144

Act Two is trickier.

Because It's Secret:  BP refuses to obey an EPA order to stop using Corexit 9500 and switch to less-toxic dispersants because... well, they can't say why, because it's a proprietary business secret.

Accidents Happen:  At a Congressional hearing into the deaths of 29 miners at its Upper Big Branch mine, Massey Energy's CEO said the deaths were caused by interference from federal regulators.  He did not address any of the 515 safety violations the mine had been tagged with by these regulators in the previous year.

Inertia: The upper layer of the world's ocean has been steadily warming since the early 1990's.  The ocean warms very slowly and because of its size stores an immense amount of heat.  Once warm it will act as a giant reservoir and radiator of heat.  The denial crowd will have trouble explaining this one away.

Canned Canard: It used to be thought that there was no such thing as bad publicity...  Then along came Rand Paul.

Where's Waldo? A Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in DC has ruled that habeas corpus does not extend to those at Bagram prison in Afghanistan, even if they were scooped up off the street in London or Rome or New York and rendered there illegally.  Once in a combat zone the ordinary rules do not apply – no matter how the prisoner ends up there.

Walking the Walk: Much to the dismay of Wall Street, 40% of mortgage holders say they would seriously consider walking away from an underwater mortgage.  Pack a bag.

Clip & Save: Out of the goodness of their hearts and a firm grasp on the profit motive, Saudi Arabia and its friends plan to invest large amounts of money in expanding their production capacity in order to “support market stability.”  Don't blame them if the price goes up, they're doing the best they can.

Inquiring Minds:  What do we do after we stop pretending that our way of living can be made “sustainable”?

Cold Day in Hell:  The commentariat are busy wondering if the newly passed financial rules will prevent the next crisis.  No.  The bill is full of loopholes and gaps that the banksters inserted just so they can get around whatever regulations come along.  Why should they let Washington spoil their party now?

On The Dole:  More than 30 states have exhausted their own funds and have turned to the federal government for funding unemployment benefits – some $38 billion in 'borrowing' so far.  More, lots more, to come. And payback, as they say, will be a bitch.

Ain't Gonna Study Poor No More:  Rep. Alan Grayson has introduced a bill designed to emphasize the obscene amounts of taxpayer money being wasted by the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He's willing to let the boys play with the $549 billion already budgeted for the ongoing carnage, but wants to prevent them from getting another $159 billion.  He calls it the "War Is Making You Poor Act".

The Ten Percenters:  One out of ten US banks is on the FDIC's list of “problem banks.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

SAR #10142/weekender

Intolerance, ignorance, bigotry; American values.

Hmmm:  The stock market staged another one of its late Friday recoveries.  If I weren't so credulous I'd wonder if the Plunge Protection Team was back at it.

Yes, But, You See, Assume...  Here's the only really solid data about the quantity of oil surging into the ocean: BP lied.  Or 'misspoke' or relied on a 'technical myth'.  But they say they'll stop lying issue a revised estimate sometime on Saturday.  Whatever amount it is, the vast majority of it is lurking below the surface and will be with us for years.

Motivation:  The USAF plans to upgrade Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan to handle more commando helicopters and drone aircraft.  Okay, but does the fact that Shindand is only 20 miles from the Iranian border have anything to do with it?

Silver Bullet?  What does it take to kill the whole 'free-market', black/white, Friedmanite beggar-thy-neighbor Chicago School of economics?  A stake through the heart?

Busted:  Nevada's April unemployment stood at 13.7%, in Las Vegas it was 14.2%.  No, it wasn't a lack of gamblers – it was austerity, government austerity, as in letting 5,500 civil servants go last month.

Rebound:  Greenland's ice is melting so quickly that the island is rising “noticeably” - as much as an inch a year.

Papers, Please:  Julian Assange, the founder and head troublemaker at WikiLeaks, had his passport confiscated by the police in Melbourne  “because it was looking worn.”  He received a letter from the Australian Communication Ministry telling him he may get it back once the government completes an investigation into various leaks posted to WikiLeaks.

Ruse Rules of the Game:  The whole point of corruption is not only to gain an advantage, but to secure protection from retribution by making your activities legal if you can and by co-opting those in power so they won't dare come after you for fear of destroying themselves.  Sound familiar?

Again:  Here's Rand Paul – the GOP's new poster boy for Civil Wrongs - on the BP oil spill:  "I think it's part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen."

Another One:  Rand Paul, to distract attention from his antediluvian stance on civil rights, attacked President Obama as un-American and anti-business for "his boot heel on the throat of BP."

The Plot Thus Far:  “The Greatest Generation” suffered through and survived the Great Depression and World War II then quietly lay the groundwork for a world of abundance.  The next bunch, The Locusts, have gone through that abundance and pretty much devoured the seed corn, too.  Now we're in the wind-down of the Ponzi Generation as it transforms into the Tooth Fairy Generation which believes, still & despite all the evidence, in a magic would where taxes can be cut without cutting services and entitlements.  Somewhere, just over the horizon, is the Root Canal Cohort which will pay in pain and suffering for the previous delusions.

Porn O'Graph:  The problem with the problem banks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

SAR #10141

The plot hath many changes; every day speaks a new scene.

Finem Respice, Francis Quarles 1592-1644

Oil Spill Math:  After raising its original estimate of 1,000 barrels a day for the leak, to 2,000, BP now says it is sucking 5,0000 bpd.  But just three days ago they said the straw was only getting 20% of the oil.  Does that mean its been spewing 25,000 barrels a day for a month?  Or is it 95,000?

Unemployment:  Initial claims are up 25,000 this week, to 471,000. Total unemployment is said to be 4,625,000 after they got through not counting lots of folks who've become invisible to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Public Privates:  Kentucky's Senate wannabe Rand Paul says he can’t support the 1964 Civil Rights Act or any other non-discrimination legislation because it is the government intruding on private business.  An owner – even if he is open to the public – can decide who to serve, who to have as customers.  And he doesn't see what the fuss is all about, blaming the media attention of “the loony left”.  You know, all those blacks and gays and women.  Americans.

Good Question:  Why is BP still in charge in the cleanup?  (Hint: It's the same reason Wall Street got to tell the government how to rescue the banks.)

More Good Questions:  Why is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill an information dead zone?  Another one:  Why will we let BP deduct the cost of cleaning up the mess from its taxes  (which it doesn't pay anyway)?

Profits and Paybacks:  Remember all the cheering about car-companies paying back the government?  Well, not quite.  They've paid back certain bits, but taxpayer losses on GM and Chrysler combined will be about $34 billion.

Fortified:  Turns out some of those food supplements that were supposed to promote health were actually promoting obesity.  Researchers found a close correlation between niacin consumption and obesity. Increased childhood obesity in the US in the past three decades may have been exacerbated by niacin fortification.

Summertime:  Housing's shadow inventory – houses 90+ days delinquent or already in the foreclosure process, but not counting those who would sell if they could or are underwater and likely to walk away – will peak this summer, throwing a long shadow over the housing market for at least two more years.

Usual Exceptions: After a 60-day trek to the North Pole, British researchers report encountering ice sheets drifting faster than usual, an earlier than usual start to the annual melt, and a rapid decline in sea-ice extent that approaches that of 2007 which set the record for the greatest retreat of Arctic sea ice.

Explanation/Excuse: Wal-Mart explained its dismal quarterly sales results by noting that customers cannot afford the gas to get to the store and if they get there they use food stamps.

Great While It Lasts: Over 90% of the world’s energy comes from non-renewable fossil fuel sources – and their decline can be projected on a Hubbert bell curve. Eventually there will be no more to be had.  This is the last century in which civilization will be powered by fossil fuels.  What, if anything, comes next?

Doomsterisms:  The index of US leading indicators leads downward. Some see increasing similarities between the Great Depression and today. Dr. Doom (Roubini) anticipates a 20% decline in US stocks and calls for governments to cut spending and raise taxes – but doesn't think any country has the political will or ability to do so.  Richard Russell, of Dow Theory Letters fame, says that by the end of this year the country will be  ‘unrecognizable’.   Pimco's El-Erain says  “This is not a typical retracement, we're in uncharted waters.”  Perhaps there is a perfect storm approaching and there is nothing we can do about it. but break out the tinfoil hats.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

SAR #10140

BP has given new meaning to “going the extra mile”.

Small Fish: For insight into the degree of fraud in the financial system, follow the bouncing ball from CDR Financial to Financial Security Assurance Holdings, West Virginia water and sewer projects, Arizona's Governor Richardson, BofA, JPMorgan, Citi and others, the $2.8 trillion municipal bond market and the loss of tens of billions of taxpayer money. This is just round one.

Re-Tale: Wal-Mart's US sales fell 1.1% as customer traffic fell.  But penny pinching at home and increased sales in Brazil, China, Canada and Mexico gave them a 10% profit increase.

Need To Know:  Lots of mortgage and housing numbers are being tossed around this week.  Here are the keepers:  Thirty four states have total delinquency rates over 10%.  A record 14.69% of all mortgages are delinquent or in foreclosure.  Over 9.5% are either 90 or more days delinquent or in foreclosure.  Nationally the average house price fell 0.3% m/m.

Using Usury:  Throughout history, usurers have exploited the poor – as they do today.  The US used to keep a lid on it, but in 1978 the Supreme Court said it was okay for big banks (and their credit card companies) to hide in South Dakota and ambush the poor.  And the middle class.

Customers Serviced:  If you were still wondering how Goldman Sachs was able to make a profit for itself on every business day in the first quarter, there's this:  Seven of their nine “Top Trade” ideas for their customers lost money while they made money betting against them.

Credit Crunch:  The uncertainty and fear in Europe is pushing up short-term interest rates, making it harder for business to get loans.  That slows growth and increases the likelihood of default, which is what the uncertainty and fear are all about.  Think of it as just like in the US, immediately before Lehman.

Language:  Scientists from MIT and Cornell have reviewed the “Star Wars” test data and concluded that the system worked as designed in only 1 or possibly 2 of the 10 tests the military termed successful.  Being polite, they  said the missile defense system was based on "technical myths". ' Technical myth' has the same meaning as the word 'misspoke' as used by Blumenthal in describing his nonexistent tour of duty in Vietnam.

The Italian Job:  The Bank of Italy has suspended mark-to-market  “temporarily” to neutralize” the effect of capital losses from the declining value of European government bonds – after all, they will never default.  Right?

Too Much Too Much:  Much of the doom and gloom in the world is traceable to global overcapacity to produce and a under-capacity to consume.  As we've pointed out before, production doesn't matter much if the employees can't buy the products.

The Pain in Spain:  Spain's latest auction of short term bonds failed to garner sufficient bids to raise the targeted amount.  The interest rates required to peddle what paper they could were higher than the April numbers as investors become increasingly doubtful of getting their money back.  Wonder where Spain's going to get its share of the Greek bailout money?

Promises, Promises:  The Fed says it will not flood the market with crappy MBS until after the economic recovery is well established and the Fed has raised interest rates.  The Fed has purchased $1.25 trillion in Fannie/Freddie MBS – wonder what they're worth now?.

Scheduling Conflict:  Maybe 'we ain't gonna study war no more', but USMC Gen. Cartwright, Joint Chiefs vice-chair, is pretty sure we ain't gonna study it no less.  "There is nothing out there that tells us we won't be wrapped up in these conflicts for as far as the eye can see."

Previews:  Europe's problems stem from budget deficits caused by over-generous government handouts.  It is an object lesson the US should take to heart.  So says Paul Volker, while ">Professor Roubini says the US crash was step one and the eurozone's current disarray is but step two and it's not over yet;  Greece was just “the tip of the iceberg.”

Rinse and Repeat:  “Global oil production has been up against a ceiling for 6 years now.  And the resulting price advance in oil was clearly a key component to the global recession.  I see no reason why this can’t be repeated on a serial basis for years.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SAR #10139

When the going gets tough, the tough eat the weak.

New Clothes:  Frau Merkel has banned wandering around her house naked.  Most naked short sales have been banned in Germany.  Not a big deal – until you realize that many CDS are naked short sales.  The big banks and hedgies aren't Emperors everywhere.

Says Who?  The IMF wants Greek private sector wages to be cut 20% to 30%, “so that the country can get more competitive.”  No one will be the first to volunteer and it's hard to imagine successful enforcement of such a government decree.  Look at Latvia, where draconian austerity cuts have increased unemployment from 6% to 22% while labor costs only fell 5.4%. The IMF claims these countries need “more flexible labor markets.” Define 'flexible.'

How far we've come: Did you notice that reports of GOP Rep. Mark Souder's affair with a staffer are careful to insert 'female' into the report? Just clarifying.

Progress:  BP reports it is siphoning up to 1000 barrels of oil a day... er... 20% no,  40% of the oil leaking from Moby Derrick.  Anyway, it's just temporary, as they get ready to stuff the hole with old tires and other scrap crap.  Which is a temporary fix to a partial temporary fix of a failed attempt to fix what should never have happened in the first place.

Clip 'n Save:  BP chief says the leaking oil will have a 'very modest' impact on the environment.

The Man Who Came To Dinner:  After more than 30 years in the US Senate and even having run for president, Orin Hatch says he has never been part of  Washington and that he never thought that being a Senator was a job.  He's just been wandering around for 30 years, looking for the exit.

An Apple A Day: A ctually that's not true.  You can only buy two iPods and only with a credit card.  No cash.  Why?  Because Steve Jobs has never thought free markets were a good idea.  Are they tracking buyers? Certainly.  Are they implying you cant sell your iPod?  Most assuredly. Quite how the rationing or the rejection of the US dollar is legal is a good question.  But Appelites don't question Galt.

Self-Hoisting Petard: “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” said Democrat Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General for Connecticut .  Mr. Lumenthal is was a US Senate wannabe who hadn't learned about fact checkers.

Experimental Economics: Theory says that as oil gets more expensive, less petroleum will be used, which in turn will lead to a slowing of the economy – for modern economies are dependent on cheap oil.  Europe, with the fall of the euro relative to the dollar, is going to be paying a lot more for petroleum.  Let's watch and see what happens!

Upscale:  What little bounce there's been in retail sales is simply the rich buying luxury items and deadbeat homeowners spending the money they didn't pay towards their mortgage.  Neither seems a solid base for a recovery.

The Three R's: The Texas Bored with Education continues to lead Texas children back to the Middle Ages.  Now it wants high schoolers to "discuss alternatives regarding long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare...” and to "evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U. S. sovereignty."  They also will learn of the "significant contributions" of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war.

Veiled References:  If you sell your opinion, it ain't free speech.  Those who buy ratings from S&P and Moody's &tc. can testify to that.  Publicly rating the raters might help.

Probabilities:  It has been obvious for a decade or more that the ever increasing incidences of ADHD and autism are self-inflicted and that some crap we've dumped into the environment is probably responsible.  A new report implicates trace amounts of a pesticide used on commercially grown fruits and vegetables as a likely contributor to the ADHD epidemic,  while vinyl floors appear complicit in autism's increase.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SAR #10138

Hell must be a very large place.

Progress:  According to our man with the Afghans,  “Nobody is winning.” Of course General McChrystal – who was supposed to be the man with the plan – says the problem is the fault of the corrupt Karzai regime we installed in Kabul.

Responsibility:  Five days after appearing before Congress and saying they were not responsible for the disaster, Transocean has meet their responsibilities to their stockholders by declaring over $1 billion in dividend payouts.  Next they divide the assets among the execs and declare bankruptcy.  Shazam.

Switch Hitters:  In April, 44% of the country wanted a Republican Congress while 41% favored the Dems.  Now 45% want the Dems and only 40% want the GOP.  But 66% want somebody new.  The more the certifiable crazies take over the GOP, the poorer they do at the polls.

Payback:  For BP, even success is a failure.  BP's Thunder Horse production platform cost $1 billion and was expected to produce 250,000 bpd.  The best it has achieved was 172,000 bpd in January 2009.  By December it was down to 61,000 bpd and falling by 3% a month even though new wells are being brought on line. At least 25 deepwater wells show similar rapid declines in productivity.

Darn:  Turns out those lazy, self-indulgent Greeks work more than the Germans do, and Greek households owe less than the Germans, too.

Gap is as Gap Does: The EIA's newly released Outlook 2010 is not comforting:  Hidden in 220 dense pages of charts and tables is this:  By 2015 the gap between production and demand will be abut 10 million barrels a day.  But don't worry, they say the gap will be filled by “Unidentified projects.”  Like Deepwater Horizon...

Educated Plan:  Instead of spending four years and $50,000 picking up a useless degree, a lot of  – perhaps most – students would be better off learning how to actually work, to communicate, how to behave in the workplace and then going out and doing.  Even at base wages they'd be better off than the unemployed/unemployable graduates who can't get a job and can't pay back their student loans with whatever pittance they do manage to earn.  Just another debt trap.

Record Records:  According to NASA-GISS's data, this was the hottest April, the hottest Jan – April and a new record high global 12-month temperature.  As of April, the atmospheric CO2 level is 392.39 ppm, up 2.93 ppm y/y.  Back in the 1950's the yearly increase was less than 1 ppm. And new research shows that increased CO2 levels are not good for plants and trees, either.

Discussion: The Headline read “Regulation: Is The U.S. Set To Damage The Only Industry Actually Making Money?”  In what fantasy land can the banksters be the only ones making money?

Gone Fishing:  According to the UN, fish will disappear from the oceans within the next 40 years.  Some blame will go to global warming, some to pollution, but most to simple greed – we are taking more fish than is sustainable.  Once they're gone, the billion humans that rely on fish for sustenance will be gone, too.

Chew Your Food:  The larger an animal is, the more time it spends eating. And if that's not sufficient, the animal stops chewing and resorts to gulping as much as possible as often as possible as fast as possible.  We're talking about those giant dinosaurs – who did you think we were talking about? You been hanging out at Wally World?

Monday, May 17, 2010

SAR #10137

There are only so many band-aids in the box.

Finally:  BP admits it sucks.  Third time's the charm.  Just how charming isn't known yet.

Hotel Europa: ECB president Trichet,  “If a country joins the euro area, it shares a common destiny with the other members.”  As for the debt problem,  “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave...” or words to that effect.

Group Think:  The Pentagon says that US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost too much and lasted too long, that large-scale counterinsurgency battles have high casualty rates for troops and civilians, eat up equipment and rarely end well.  Counterinsurgency "is a good way to get out of a situation gone bad," they say, “but it's not the best way to use combat forces... counterinsurgency is a losing proposition.”

Cheap? Are mortgage rates cheap? In nominal terms, at 4.93%, yes. In real terms? Not so much. And will the house appreciate? Eventually. Maybe. And will you still have a job? Ah.

The Graduates:  Tens of thousands will graduate this spring without a job in hand, nor any real prospect of getting one.  The economy doesn't need them, doesn't want them, hasn't got room for them.  Today 17% of the 20-24 year-olds are unemployed, including 2 million college grads.  A lucky few will win the crowded competition to become assistant baristas, waitresses, pizza delivery drivers, busboys and bouncers.  Many will be moving back in with mom and dad.  Mom and dad, if not the kid, are beginning to suspect the whole thing is a con, and has been for decades.

Inside Joke: If no solution is found to the nation's jobs deficit the growing budget deficit will be a minor problem.  But the only jobs the government can rapidly create are government jobs.  Funny, that.

Out of Slight:  Oceanographers have discovered that the oil slick on the Gulf of Mexico is just the appetizer.  The real spill is in as many as 5 layers spaced from the surface into the depths.  Some submerged slicks are as much as 10 miles by 3 miles by 300 feet thick.  The dispersants released underwater are getting much of the blame, but much of the separation is simply various components of the leaked petroleum seeking their natural buoyancy – asphalt and tars at the bottom and lighter layers going up.  Oil can deplete oxygen in the water, killing plankton and other tiny critters that serve as food for a wide variety of sea life.  Oxygen levels in some areas have dropped 30 percent, and will continue to drop.

Distinct Difference:  Should any government be permitted to assassinate one of its citizens, far from a combat zone, based on secret information, with no judicial process, even though they cannot intercept his telephone calls without a warrant?  Is it okay if they are called 'targeted killings' instead of 'assassinations'?

X-Men:  Researchers have found that the only element of 'attractiveness' that matters in human sexual selection is which male is physically the most dominant.  Winner takes all.  Or at least the one he wants.

House of Preyer:  The Louisiana House has voted to let people carry concealed weapons to church.  I agree with Rep Norton (D-Shreveport), “If you need to have a gun in church, you need to go to another church."  I understand folks taking their guns into Starbucks - after all, they've been robbed there before.  Well, on second thought, churches, too.

Ground Floor: There are about 15,000 empty houses littering Las Vegas – 9,000 or so never been lived in.  Prices there have dropped 60%. Yet there are 1,100 new houses under construction – buy a couple now, before the prices go up!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SAR #10135/Weekender

Of course there will be another crash, why do you ask?

Uncertainty:  The markets have figured out that there's a direct and inverse link between fiscal austerity and economic growth.  They've also figured out that in Europe fiscal austerity isn't going to be austere enough. The actual existence of the trillion-dollar bailout package is also doubtful, much less its adequacy.  This leads to uncertainty, which leads the market places you don't want it to go.

Bigger Brothers:  The EU proposes that the euro countries (or the EU commissioners) be allowed to have a veto over their neighbors budgets. Best two out of three?

Perfect Timing:  After a week of preemptive attacks on a possible IMF bailout of Greece, the Republicans have introduced bill to prevent US taxpayer dollars from going to a rescue plan.  That it might be in our best interest to keep the world from imploding never crossed their minds. Minds?

Quoted: “This is not free market capitalism's finest hour.”

Well Seasoned Numbers: The BLS regularly makes jobs appear out of thin air via its Birth/Death Model, but this time around they made the creation of 1,158,000 jobs show up as only a 290,000 job gain in the Employment Situation report.  Details, details.

The Dog Ate My Homework:  Transocean told Congress that the last seven hours of information from the Deepwater Horizon was missing and that all written logs were lost in the explosion.

Kicking the Tires:   US retail sales rose 0.4% in April, m/m.  Take building materials, autos and gasoline out of the data and sales are down 0.2%.

A Smaller World:   If the world's oil supply is no longer growing then there will have to be fewer cars driven a lot fewer miles somewhere so that there can be a whole lot more cars driven around somewhere else. Somewhere is the US of A. Somewhere else is China and India.  And that makes $100+ a barrel oil probable real soon, recession or not.

Triple Play:  From Global Warming to Peak Oil to Overpopulation - the evidence is overwhelming: we are “running Genesis backwards." We well may be among the things we are going to exterminate.

Just Asking:  Detroit is going to demolish 10,000 houses.  It's a start.

Carnivore's Dilemma:  If you can’t grow, you can’t pay back what you owe. If a government must reduce its borrowing, it reduces the potential for its economy.  To get their pound of flesh, the banks will crash the economy.  It is called deflation, it is not nice, and it is already happening in Spain and Portugal.  Deutsche Bank calls it a death spiral.

Contemporary Economics:  US manufacturing output rose 1% in April. Wages didn't.

Daily Petard:  “We made a few little mistakes early on,” says BP CEO Tony Hayward, before adding, “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean.  The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny “

Definitions: Officially, 16 year old Aussie Jessica Watson isn't the youngest woman to sail around the world,  not because she isn't the youngest woman to sail around the world, she is,  but because the world she sailed around apparently wasn't the official world.

Bait & Switch:  Received wisdom, received mostly from right-wingers, is that the US taxpayer is now paying to bail out Europeans.  Wrong.  We're simply indirectly bailing out our own big banks.

No Notes: Our intrepid Special Inspector General for TARP says he can't inspect the records of  where the billions went  because the Treasury didn't keep any.  They had to give the money away far too fast to keep track of who got what.

Non Sequitor:  The hedge fundsters say they should not be regulated because they are pure capitalists.   As if that were a good thing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

SAR #10134

What's gone up will go down.

You Ain't Herd Nothin' Yet:  Independent researchers have calculated that the leak shown in the BP video is ten times higher than BP claims – 50,000 barrels a day, and possibly 70,000.

Some Summons:  NY AG Andrew Cuomo is subpoenaing 8 TBTF banks over their incestuous relations with the rating agencies.  Paying for pay for play.

Toast:  Mervyn King says that the US faces the same problems that the other PIIGS do, and that kicking the can down the road – as Europe has done – is not the solution.  But what would the chief British banker know about debt and overspending?  Meanwhile,some EU policymakers are upset that former US Fed Chair Paul Volker has cast aspersions on their efforts to save the euro.

Law and Order: The blowout preventer that didn't prevent the blowout was out of batteries and hadn't been properly tested.  Ooops.  It seems likely heads will roll and prosecutors prosecute.  Criminal penalties could ignore the $75 million cap and impose a doubling of the true cost for environmental and economic damages.  Criminally negligent behavior is what they call it on TV.

Molehill:  The Labor Department reported that initial unemployment claims had dropped 4,000 last week.  They also said that the previous weeks numbers were revised up 4,000.  A confidence builder.

Fool's Gold: All the financial press hoopla about gold reaching new highs is... hoopla. Yes, in nominal terms $1245 and climbing is a record. But in real, inflation adjusted dollars, gold is still 47% below the record $2309 it hit 30 years ago.

A Dollar Here, A Dollar There: The Afghan war (including presumably its wholly owned subsidiary, the war in Pakistan) costs $6.7 billion a month. Killing Iraqis still costs $5.5 billion a month.

The Fine Print: The document that forms the basis for the coalition government in Great Britain includes this gem:  "This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour."   Used to be 51%.  The big deal?  The Tories have 47% of the votes.  That means they can survive any challenge by the other two parties.  Ah, the minority rules rule, just like the US Senate.

Three Wishes: The IMF wants Greek spending cut to the point that unemployment rises to 15% and stays there for five years, wages fall throughout the country, and thus overall growth “stunted”.  This is not going to happen.  If you don't get what you wish for, wish for something else.

Courtly Behavior: A federal judge has blocked New York's plan to reduce 100,000 state employees' work-week and pay 20%.  The judge said that this would cause irreparable harm to the employees.  He also said it seemed likely the unions would prevail in court.  Ah, contract law.

Home Fires:  Rumor claims that France and Germany agreed to give money to Greece only if Greece would give it right back in the form of arms purchases.  I thought only the US did that.

Left Behind:  The millions of long-term unemployed are doomed to be unemployed for very long times because the jobs they held are never coming back and the new skills in demand are evolving faster than these former workers can retrain.

Asked & Answered: Were the rating agencies duped rather than dumb? Both, why would the one preclude the other?  And what about 'duplicitous'?

Statecraft: Boeing and Exxon have told Washington that tighter sanctions against Iran are not needed and would cost the US $25 billion in exports and expose re-election PAC's to budgetary shortfalls.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

SAR #10133

Wall Street cares about Wall Street, not Greece.

Haul Of Famers:  BofA, Citi & JPMorgan join Goldman Sachs in going lossless on every business day for the entire first quarter.  Borrowing from Uncle at 0.25% and lending it back to Uncle at 2.5% or so, combined with betting against your clients and rigging the markets seems to be a workable business plan.

Katie Bar The Door:  According to the New York Fed's latest chart there's almost zero chance of a U.S. recession now.  This from the folks who missed the housing bubble and credit crash.

Fear Itself:  The whole point of constitutional history from the Magna Carta on has been to protect the citizenry from the capricious whims of the Sheriff of Nottingham.  That was the point of the Fifth Amendment, and that is the purpose of the Miranda decision – to keep the cops from beating confessions out of the accused.  Why are we having this discussion again?

Not a Glitch, A Feature:  The girl in the tight dress knows she's in a tight dress. She planned it that way.  Likewise Fannie and Freddie are not surprised at their ongoing losses, nor are their sponsors.  They are losing money because they are supposed to be losing money.  They are transferring losses directly from the investment banks to the taxpayer - $145 billion so far.  Think of it as the TARP bailout of the banks under another name.

First Clue?  The guys with offices on the Pentagon's E-Ring are beginning to have doubts about General McChrystal's plan for our Afghan Adventure. Beginning?

A race to the bottom...  Schwarzenegger is warning that if the Federal Government doesn't rush to the rescue, then by January he'll have to eliminate entire welfare programs, including the main one that provides cash and job assistance to families below the poverty line.  I suspect he was talking more to Washington than California.

Trees in a Far Off Forest:  The average sales price of commercial/ residential property in Beijing fell 9.6% last week (w/w) and is down 31% m/m.

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Scientist?  Over 250 members of the National Academy of Sciences – including 11 Nobelists – have pointed out that climate change denial is mainly an artifice promoted by special interests, and that no alternative theory credibly satisfies the evidence.  You haven't heard of their letter because the mainstream media declined to print it.  Ah, the profit motive.

Asked and Answered:  Are Democrats Plotting To Steal Your 401(K)? No.  They would like to protect you from the fast-talking guys on Wall Street .  Their solution – annuities all-around – isn't the best investment advice I've heard lately either.

Explication:  Rush Limbaugh attacked Elena Kagan because she “idolizes, Justice Marshall, who said the Constitution as originally drafted and conceived was 'defective'...”   But Justice Marshall went on to say it was defective because it permitted slavery and did not guarantee women's suffrage.  The whole quote, please.

Tax Burden:  Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency.   While spending is up, taxes have fallen to exceptionally low levels.  Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950.  This ignores Social Security and Medicare taxes. but is more or less true.  Makes complaining about high taxes kind of mendacious.

Happy Anniversary:  Glacier National Park turns 100 this year.  Visit soon, it probably won't make it to 110.

What Happened?  Faced with explaining The Big Dip, the best the masters of the universe could do was to say that someone had given the markets the finger.  The real reason the market crashed is simple:   for a panicked 15-20 minutes, people stopped buying stocks.  About time some sense crept in.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SAR #10132

“Judge not the play before the play is done”

Finem respice, Francis Quarles

Takes One to Know One:  JPMorgan is complaining that enough ruthless underwater borrowers are walking away to endanger future profits through their selfish anti-social acts.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho. It's Off To Reposses We Go:  In the first quarter of this year, Fannie, Freddie and the FHA ended up with 22% more foreclosed homes than they had in 4Q2009, and 59% more than 1Q2009.   Non-government investors, banks and thrifts hold an even larger number of REOs.

The Scene of the Crime:   According to BP, drilling the “relief” well runs the risk of another blowout, one that could release 240,000 barrels a day vs. the current 5,000.   Some cure.

As If:   Everybody who wants to suffer miserably for a few years, raise your hands.   And that's why the Euro Defence Fund is doomed.   You can put your hands down now.

It Can't Happen Here:   Chevron Canada has promised a bunch of Canadian politicians that drilling an exploratory well off Newfoundland in water even deeper than the Deepwater Horizon is perfectly safe, there being no beaches in the neighborhood.

Quantity vs Quality:  Upwards of 18 US missiles were sent into a “terrorist training camp” in Pakistan, killing 14 people who, being dead, were undoubtedly terrorists.   Note that the US war in Pakistan now targets 'areas', the effort to pick out particular individuals having long since failed.   Also note that there is a US war going on in Pakistan.   Write your congressman, he probably doesn't remember voting on it.

Some Rules:   Best out of ten: #4 – The Goldman Sachs Rule: Financial products (and financial advice) are designed to benefit the seller, not the buyer.   And #3 The Derivative Rule: If you can't explain how it works to your mother, don't invest in it.   And of course: Location, location, location.

Believe It or Don't:   BP could pay for the oil cleanup with just 4 days of its profits.   'Could' being the operative word.

About Face:  Faced with claims by inmates who survived and were inexplicably released, the US Air Force said it was pretty sure there is only one prison at the Bagram airbase and that all the torture was done there, but promised to check again and see if it missed one.

Fact Finding:  Thirty-two of the 40 Congressmen sitting in judgment of BP & Friends have received millions of dollars from BP and other oil and gas interests.  But don't worry, for the rules BP etc. may have violated were written by... BP & friends whose American Petroleum Institute wrote nearly 100 of the standards in the nation's offshore operating regulations.

Warming Trend:   2009 was the warmest year on record for the South Pole, but at -54.2ºF not a lot of ice melted.  Last year was the second warmest year on record for the entire planet.

Shadowlands:  Over 6,500 Chicago rental buildings, containing 21,000 apartments, were foreclosed last year.  The financial pages treats it as tangential issue to the collapse of the CMBS issues.  Tenants? Why should bankers and investors be concerned with tenants?

Diet Plan:  Ever notice that when someone's on a diet they tend to sneak snacks and end up gaining weight?  Same thing has happened to the national debt since the Republicans started “starving the beast” back in the 1980's. Thirty years of experience (during 20 of which the GOP was in charge) has given us not one iota of evidence that cutting taxes has any effect on the size of government or the ever raising deficit, except to increase it.  Even so, it is still a bedrock Republican dream.

Porn O'Graph:  Ever downward, in a small country blessed with oil.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SAR #10131

We've seen this movie before.

Peace In Our Time:  The US market is all excited, thinking the weekend's action was progress.  The plan calls for Greece (and Spain and Portugal) to cut costs and prices – but this means lower wages and lower employment and lower GDP and higher taxes.  All of which means deflation.  Does anybody believe the Greeks and their Iberian cousins are going to suffer years and years of grinding poverty just to keep German and French bankers happy?  But as long as someone kicked the can down the road a month or three, everything's great.  Can you say “downward spiral”?

Game, Set & Match:  Goldman Sachs made money on every single trading day of the first quarter And on 31 of the 63 days it made over $100 million. How'd you do?

Letter Home:  In its quarterly letter to the family, Fannie Mae admitted she lost $11.5 billion in the first quarter – which was better than the $15.2 billion frittered away in the last quarter of 2009.  Along the way Fannie picked up 61,929 more houses through foreclosure and sold off most of them at a loss.  While business is brisk, no profits are seen for the “indefinite future", so she'd like a $8.4 billion advance on her allowance, now,  before the bankruptcy sets in and the whole $7 trillion gets frittered away.

Keeping Score:  Food stamps are reaching only 40 million of the 60 million Americans eligible to receive them – 1 in 5.

Identity Crisis:  Wall Street used to pretend its raison d'être was to provide a place for business to raise capital for its undertakings.  But today less than 1% of trades return any money to the issuing company.  Once they've issued the shares, all of the stock trading has nothing at all to do with the company and everything to do with gambling.  And the game is rigged.

Resumé:  Used to be employees were rewarded for their loyalty and performance and productivity with things called raises and promotions. Today the reward, if there is any, is to let workers work harder and longer for less pay.  Having cut all of the jobs they could, companies are now generating profits by cutting the salaries of those who remain.  Or better yet, hiring back the fired at half pay with no benefits – now that's management!

Time Saver:   The headline read “Exchanges agree in principle to new rules.”  Knowing that the exchanges have no principles, I didn't read the article.

The Biggest Investment of Your Life:  More than 20% of US mortgage holders should walk away – their homes are worth less than they owe. 6.67% of mortgage holders are at least 2 months behind on their payments. Nationwide 1 out of every 1000 houses was repossessed in March, as house prices fell another 3.8% in the first quarter and one out of three houses sold for less than its owner had paid for it. Bank repossessions rose 35% from a year earlier.

Page 2:  While the traders and the markets are spilling stuff racing to get in on the new bullish trend, the OECD announced that its composite leading indicators “point to a slowdown in the pace of economic activity."   Party poopers.

Pacified: A series of attacks killed over 100 people across the Iraq so successfully pacified by General David “I'm-Not-Running-For-President” Petraus.  The government blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for violence in Baghdad, “despite security gains by Iraqi and U.S. forces over past years.”

Distance:  A US District Judge has ruled that being tortured doesn't mean that what's left of you cannot be tried.  Brings new force to habeas corpus .

Porn O'Graph:  Check's in the mail.