Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SAR #10181

Faith in a just world is just that.

Over Confidence:  The US Conference Board reports the US consumer has gotten over being confident and become more pessimistic about the economic outlook.  “It is unlikely that sentiment will improve to truly optimistic levels until robust job creation returns and home prices stabilize.”   Or Hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

Shadow Boxing:  Petraeus says the US should kill more civilians ease the rules of engagement in Afghanistan, as the US strives to win the hearts and minds of the survivors population.

Either/Or:  GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner says the country is ready to scale down health-care reform and raise the retirement age to 70 “in order to pay for the war.”   He didn't specify exactly which country he was talking about, but I suspect he had the US in mind.

Blame the Victims:  Florida State Rep. William Snyder (R) is crafting anti-illegal-immigrant legislation modeled after Arizona's law, giving police broad powers to demand that individuals produce “proof of legal residency.”   Snyder says “This is a human rights issue.” And claims the act will protect illegal immigrants from abusive employers by discouraging them from coming here to work.

Advice:   "Buy yourself a learning curve..."

Follow the Bouncing Ball:  Once the second largest producing oil field in the world, Mexico's Cantarell has fallen from 1,250,000 barrels a day in 2008 to below 500,000 barrels a day last month.  Wonder why Saudi oil fields don't decline?

Pantomime:  Don't be fooled – the BP leak is not the biggest disaster possible.  Those $700 trillion in derivatives are.  Sure, sure, that's just the 'notional' value. Well, what if just 1% of them get the notion to implode? That's $7 trillion and that's equal to half of a year's GDP for the US of A.   Five or six percent and the entire world goes away.

Sound Familiar?  Western economic theory is based on unending exponential growth fueled by the exponential consumption of fossil fuels. The assumptions at the bases of these economies are demonstrably false – and the demonstration of this falsity has already begun.

A Venue of Vultures:  ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are both considering bidding for all or parts of BP as its carcass becomes available. Or at least those parts that are beyond the reach of US courts.

Squaring the Circle:  In a break from their last few decisions the Supremes rejected a GOP challenge to the “soft money” contribution limits in the 2002 campaign finance overhaul. that banned corporations.  While money is still 'speech', apparently only some speech is free.

Death by Gadget:   So, how much violence against how many women and girls went into that iPad of yours?  Or your digital camera?   What's the human cost of the digital world?

Fold On Dotted Line:  Fannie Mae (speaking for your friends in the banking industry) want to shame you into continuing to pay on overpriced underwater mortgage.  They created this mess by being too smart for their own good.  Walk away and let them show us how clever, how profitable they are with an few million overpriced, unsaleable homes on their books.

Sour Note:  Amid all the blather about the necessity for belt tightening, for austerity measures, for dumping pensioners into the streets and the beneficial effect of mass suffering as countries bring their budgets under control and begin paying off their massive debts, there's this:  The USA, with a giganormous national debt and matching deficit is paying less than 3% interest on it's 10 year obligations,  Does that seem like the market is begging for massive reductions in US spending?

Swearing Off:  A new study shows that our current atmospheric CO2 current levels (390 ppm) are sufficient to cause “significant irreversible shifts” in the Arctic, including the loss of “permanent sea and glacial ice.” That's another way of saying Greenland's ice cap will go away.  And that's without any more fossil fuel use at all.  None.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SAR #10180

“Today I weep for my country.” Senator Robert Byrd.

Facts Not In Evidence:  The Roberts Court – ignoring established law and settled precedent, as is becoming common – has decided that we'll all be safer walking around with handguns tucked in our belts. Works pretty well in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, no?

On the Spot Quiz:  How many Americans are currently targeted for assassination by their own government? (a) Just one, Anwar al-Alwaki. (b) Three. (c) Dozens. (d) How many jelly beans are there in the jar?

More Chanting, More Ranting:  It's hard to tell which is more offensive: That Rick Santelli thinks that stopping government spending is the cure to anything, or that thousands of the unthinking instantly agree.

Privilege:  The most important lesson to be learned from the 9-0 Supreme Court decision in the Skilling/”honest services" case has nothing to do with the Court telling our corporate masters that boardroom theft and managerial looting of companies is acceptable, but rather that if you are among the privileged class in the US, there is no such thing as settled law. The law is malleable and can be changed to serve the rich and powerful.

Millstones:  June has become the deadliest month so far in the Great Afghan Adventure.  Had enough yet?

Third Time's A Charm:  First Quarter's GDP has been revised downward again, to 2.7% from 3.0% which was itself marked down from 3.2%. The quote:  “The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected decelerations in private inventory investment and in exports, a downturn in residential fixed investment, a deceleration in nonresidential fixed investment, and a larger decrease in state and local government spending.” Let's just admit it's a guess and move on.

Terminology: One no longer gets evicted, one “experiences a transition from homeownership.”

Nutshell:  American depressions mark the peaks in the extremes of inequality between the rich and the rest.  We are seeing the third such peak in our history and are likely to soon see its inevitable denouement, our third Great Depression.

Out of the Mouth of Economists: “Economics is hard!” It must be, 'cause they sure as hell can't do it very well.

Plus ça change... How putting Petraeus in charge in Afghanistan does not change the failing counterinsurgency strategy – after all, Petraeus takes credit for the current version of COIN. After nine years we haven't figured out a working strategy. But then, over the last few hundred years no one else has, either. We don't know how to “win” and we dare not lose, so staying and staying and more staying seems in order. Let me know how that works out.

Fine Print: The US economy's rise – and subsequent fall – was due to massive amounts of bad loans, bad investments, bad bets. Eventually some one must take a loss on these bad investments. The financial overlords are pretty sure they can inflict the damage on the working classes – and make more and more of them the unemployed, the unwashed, the unnecessary. If this begins to sound familiar, it should.

Monday, June 28, 2010

SAR #10179

The First Amendment used to guarantee free speech.

Ho-Hum:  Given the power to arrest anyone in the general area for no reason at all, Toronto police have beaten up reporters, clubbed and arrested peaceful protesters and in general have acted just as the activists  foresaw – putting the bankers and their money above the rights and interest of the people. So?

Typhoid Timmy:  The estimable Mr. Geithner is telling the rest of the G20 to stop being frugal and to spend, spend, spend.  They don't seem to be listening.

Mission Creeps:  We invaded Afghanistan in order to destroy al-Qaeda in response to the 9/11 bombing.  Nine years later there are, according to the CIA, only 50 al-Qaeda 'agents' remaining in Afghanistan, along with about 100,000 troops and another 100,000 or more mercenaries.  And we're told the war will last many more years.  Do the al-Qaeda guys have a retirement plan?

Quoted:  “We are well on our way towards Banana Republicville, led by a corrupt and incompetent government -- bought and paid for by the moneyed interests -- that is doing its best to erase any evidence that America was once the nation the rest of the world looked up to.”

Rumors of War:   Stratfor, a US based and strongly pro-Israel strategic intelligence company, is once again pointing out the there are at least two US carrier groups in waters adjacent to Iran and they have been joined by a dozen other warships in the last week.  Something, they suggest, is up.

The Gap:  In July, Spain must raise €21.7 billion from a bunch of banks and investors who want both arms and a leg to front the money. Best guess as to the shortfall wins the usual prize.  Extra points for guessing how Spain gets out of the mess.  Or rather, whether.

Feeling Safer Now? Homeland Security has put a 6 year old girl on the “no fly” list and refuses to take her off.  They also refuse to confirm the list exists. Secrets, you know, secrets make us secure.   "The watch lists are an important layer of security to prevent individuals with known or suspected ties to terrorism from flying."

Stop, Look, ListenUS corporate bond sales fell from $140 billion in March to $33 billion in May.  Some vote of confidence.

States of the Nation:  Forty-six states face budget shortfalls that add up to $112 billion for the fiscal year ending next June,  Think Uncle Sugar will bail them out, again?  If we can't find $32 billion to feed the families of the unemployed, how in hell is DC going to paper over these shortages?

Asked & I Take the Fifth:  Is the US a fascist police-state?

Coincidence:  On the same day that the head of the CIA said it “has no choice but to use Blackwater” the Justice Department announced that it will not bring criminal charges against Blackwater for illegal actions in Sudan. Not that they didn't commit offenses, but that they will not be prosecuted. Hmmm.

Loose Lips: Vice President Joe Biden says "there's no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession."  Damn, doesn’t he know politicians aren’t supposed to be that honest?

Social Studies:  Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and sometime GOP candidate for president, has discovered that “ if you want to end poverty it’s not education and race, it’s monogamous marriage,” and that the ickey homosexuals are part of the problem.

Going to the Well:  Belgian police raided a meeting of bishops and detained some of the senior clergy for questioning in an ongoing investigation of church-related pedophilia. In response to official protests from the Pope, the Belgian simply pointed out the suspects all fit the basic profile.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

SAR #10177/Weekender

It's not a lack of demand that's hurting the economy, it's a lack of a way to pay for that demand.

Fear and Loathing:  Ontario, wanting the world's overlords to feel secure and smug, secretly changed the law to permit (or encourage, reports vary) police to arrest people without cause, to search them and hold them for two months if they do not stay 15 feet away from any police line or fence while protesting.  Interesting how much fear our betters seem to have of the citizenry.

Run, Hide: The ECRI Leading Economic Index, now at an annualized -6.9%, is predicting the onset of another severe recession starting about Labor Day.

"The lady doth protest too much."  Fannie Mae is aghast at the number of mortgage holders who might do the rational thing and walk away from their ridiculously overpriced mortgages.  Never mind that it is the intelligent thing to do if you have a non-recourse loan that is underwater. Never mind that it is a business decision made daily by Wall Street.  The government – and don't kid yourself, Fannie and Freddie and FHA are the government – wants you to feel morally obligated to be docile and keep paying.  Why would anyone take investment advice from an outfit that loses a few billion dollars every month?  Shame, shame.  On them, not you.

Warm-Up:  Some think it is beginning to dawn on Bernanke that it might, in fact, be time to get the helicopters warmed up.  Either to drop more dollars on Wall Street or to whisk him away to some secret hideout to ride out the storm – opinions vary.

Skin Deep:  During the day, hordes of BP temps wander up and down the beach, plucking tarballs from the pretty white sand.  Once the tourists, cameras and temps quit for the day,  Mother Nature keeps right on dumping oil on the beach and covering it up.  BP has forbidden the crews to dig into the sand and pick up the oil there – only the cosmetics matter.  At some point a real cleanup will have to be undertaken, just don’t think BP’s doing it now.

Clip and Save:  Forbes claims that “regime change” in Iran will lead to a stable Middle East, cheaper oil, and “utterly transform the world.”  Right after the radiation levels drop a bit.

Away from the Center Ring:  While the paying customers are busy watching the BP circus act in the Gulf, Cairn Energy is getting ready to start drilling a deepwater exploratory well in 'Iceberg Alley' off Greenland.  What could possibly go wrong?

Cornucopia, Postponed:  Welcome to Lake Wobegon, one of the many cities in Wisconsin – and around the nation – that will be seriously in deficit in the next few years and be unable to provide things like sanitation, education, road maintenance and police... an Ayn Rand utopia.

Friday, June 25, 2010

SAR #10176

Democracy has all too often led to tyranny.

Unforgettable:   "It adds new taxes..."  said Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, explaining why the GOP just couldn't add $30 billion (0.2%) to the deficit just to let the unemployed eat, see a doctor, or keep their homes.  He did not explain how it differed from giving several trillion to Wall Street under the Bush administration.

Get Out Of Jail Free:   The Roberts Court, bowing to the wishes of Goldman Sachs and the rest of the banksters, again made it clear that corporate managerial theft is not illegal.   The Honest Services Statue, they ruled, only applies to crude bribery and simple kickbacks;  not to the sophisticated thefts committed on Wall Street.

Observed:  “The US Ranks Worst of Seven Countries on Health Care System.”

Morons, One and All:   Ever since proposition 13 became law in California, the conservative movement has been committed to "no new taxes", content to watch the erosion of state and local government services as the ability to pay for them disappeared.   And despite the evidence, they still pretend that low (or preferably no) taxation will cause a return to the expansive growth of yesteryear.   But the 150 years of economic growth was built on the expanding consumption of oil in the economy – taxes had little to do with it.   Without cheap and available oil, conservative economic theory is a fantasy and capitalism is unsustainable..  For without oil there will be no growth, no surplus from which to pay interest and repay debt.  'Sustainable capitalism' is an oxymoron.

Jobs! Bank of America has announced it will contribute to the economic upturn by hiring 2,000 new staffers to handle the rapid growth in its foreclosure department.

Nearsighted:   A  new poll shows that 48% of respondents were too stupid to understand that the only reason they have any rights at all is because the federal government says they do and provides the police and the courts to enforce them.

Complete the Series: It takes Water and Energy to grow Food. We are running out of Energy. We are running out of Water. Thus …

As Sexy As It Gets”:   An oil company - a repeat felon subject to record fines for its willful safety violations and whose initials are 'BP' - is getting around a ban on drilling in the sea off Alaska by building a small gravel mound and calling it an island, then drilling down two miles, turning left and going another 8 miles to hit an underwater petroleum reservoir.  This will be the longest “extended reach” ever attempted.   BP's engineers and lawyers are all delighted, saying “it doesn't get any better than this.”

Employment Stabilization:   Since last Christmas the weekly new unemployment claims figure has been stuck at 450,000.  Write when you get work.

The Essence: Between those on the market and houses in serious delinquency or some stage of foreclosure, there are 11.6 million houses in inventory.  Last month less than half a million sold. If not another house was built and not another house entered foreclosure, it would take two years to sell off the supply. Sing me that song about recovery, again.

Shadowy Government:  It's come to this:   The GOP says it will filibuster, then the Democrats say “okay, we give up,”  and the media reports nothing. For example, the GOP said it is tired of letting the long term unemployed eat, so the Democrats took the rest of the day off.  Thus 1.2 million of the 9.5 million unemployed will lose their benefits at month's end and soon thereafter lose their health coverage, eventually their cars and their homes.  We knew the Republicans simply do not like the unemployed, but where the hell did the Democrats go?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SAR #10175

Peak Oil is not a problem: problems have solutions.

Schizophrenia:  Federal bribery to entice people to buy houses ended on April 30th. So did buying houses.  Sales of new single-family houses in May were down 33% from April's foolishness – the largest monthly drop on record, to the lowest level since records started back in 1963.  The market shrugged, realizing the real economy has nothing to do with what happens on Wall Street.

Economic Stimulus:  "Much of the region's businesses-particularly the hotels-have been prospering because so many people have come here from BP and other oil emergency response teams."  Another smiley face from BP.

Culling:  Japan failed to convince those who did not want to kill the whales that killing the whales was the best way to save the whales.

No News is Not News: The Fed is going to leave the fed funds rate unchanged - not because it is working, it's not - but because they don't have a choice.  Lowering the rate would require paying banks to borrow from them (which they are already doing) and raising the rate would upset the banks and the markets, so the Fed continues to be as useful as mammary glands on a boar.

Kiss and Tell:  How many failed states can you name?  (No points for sarcasm.)

Common Sense:  The folks who've done so well at government without taxation are having another go at demonstrating why democracy by plebiscite is such a bad idea:  There's a California ballot initiative that would suspend the states cap-and-trade law, much to the delight of the sponsoring oil firms. Economics before environment, like in Alabama, Mississippi and so on...

Mein Kampf:  David “See My Medals” Petraeus will be replacing his insubordinate subordinate.  Is this part of the general's 2012 campaign, or Obama's?

Theories Change:  Pension funds in both the US and Great Britain are trying to sue BP over their investment losses, blaming the losses on BP managements' poor decisions.  I thought that's what shareholder meetings were for.

Financial Innovation: All of the new and exciting financial innovations are quite easy to understand – they are new and better ways to pick your pocket.

Either / Or:  Either (1) Social Security is not part of the federal budget and has been loaning money to the federal budget for the last 25 years and as long as they hold US bonds, the US is obligated to make good their checks. Or (2) Social Security is part of the federal budget just like defense and education and such and will be funded out of taxes – including but not limited to payroll taxes.  Either way, (3) the checks will keep going out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SAR #10174

There are no short-term solutions.  Nor any long-term ones, either.

Preview:  In the name of the banksters, Great Britain is increasing taxes on a million low paid workers, withdrawing child-related benefits from millions of middle-income families, lowering the wages of public sector workers, all under the rubric of protecting jobs by restraining pay.  Nothing was mentioned about capping bankers' bonuses.

Behind the Curtain:  Some say we are approaching 'peak oil' and that our petroleum-based economy is in danger of collapsing.  Nonsense.  We are far past peak oil and the petroleum-based economy is collapsing.  Why do you think BP was out in a mile a water drilling two miles into the seabed?

Wording:  US states are not permitted to run deficits, so the $200 billion the states don't have – 30% of all state budgets – is just a 'shortfall.'  As in, watch that first step, it's a doozey.

Cart / Horse:  The Roberts Supreme Court has ruled that Monsanto can continue to sell its genetically modified seeds while it conducts safety tests. If the GM products turn out to ruin agriculture around the world, cause birth defects and contaminate the bio-sphere, then further testing could be undertaken by the survivors.

As Ever:  Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly are in favor of a major overhaul of US energy policies and a switch to alternative energy to replace petroleum.  As long as it doesn't cost them anything.

Excuse Me? A federal judge (and investor in drilling companies) has ruled that the administration's moratorium on deep water drilling was “arbitrary” and that the government had not provided evidence that there was any danger from continued drilling.  He also cited the economic damage that not ruining the environment might bring.  If other drilling project start spewing oil, then they can be shut down, and not a penny sooner.

Me-Tooism:  Reports claim General Stanley 'Loose Lips' McChrystal will tender his resignation.  A lot of his soldiers would like to show their support of the general by getting out of Afghanistan, too.

Orienteering:  If ET had had an iPhone he could have asked Steve Jobs where he was – why are we afraid the government might be tracking us, when we know Apple is?

On the Home Front:  Prices for May's new house sales were down 10% to 15%, y/y. Sales of existing houses were down 2.2% m/m and missed expectations by nearly 10%.

Pre-ordained:  Massey Energy (of Upper Big Branch fame) claims that its constitutional rights were violated because it could not delay making Mine Safety and Health Administration mandated ventilation changes by taking MSHA to court for a a few years. The Roberts Court will uphold Massey's right to kill miners when it rules on this issue next year. Show me again that part in the Constitution where it says companies have Constitutional rights.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SAR #10173

It's a good plan, except for the specifics.

Yuan Fries With That?  China's messing with the yuan's value was met with an early wave of joy, followed by a reality check.  Dow was flat for the day, NASDAQ was down 1%.   Salvation turned out to be a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

Food For Thought:  “Drilling two more relief wells might only result in creating two more oil spills.”

Striking the Strikers:   British business leaders want the government to pass laws to prevent labor unions from effectively showing their displeasure at the massive cuts in wages and benefits business and government intend to impose under the pretense of strengthening the economy.

Apples, Oranges:  Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindall has gone to court to block the federal government from banning deep sea oil drilling, using as part of his argument the fact that airlines were only grounded a few days following 9/11.  Usual prize for anyone who can explain the logic of this.  Meanwhile, next door in Mississippi. Republican Gov. Barbour said that a moratorium on deepwater drilling was worse than BP's oil spill.

C'mon Down:  “It has been a great weekend to be here in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.  Our weather has been perfect and our oil impact has been less this weekend...  We still have that precautionary swim advisory.” Alabama tourism promotional ad.  And you can use the oil as a self-applying sunscreen.

Stunner!   Some clever folks have figured out that back in the Reagan administration the government integrated Social Security into the budget in order to make the deficit look smaller.  Then it raised Social Security taxes far more than needed so the politicians could spend the excess income.   Hard to believe those nice men were so devious.   Hard to believe you didn't already know this too.

Recycling George Carlin:   The story of a society is told in the stuff it discards.

Once More:  "As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again... I think the issue is bigger than unemployment benefits. It's all about priorities, what is the priority.”  Mr. Paul's priority is obviously not the unemployed worker.

Monday, June 21, 2010

SAR #10172

Facts are amazingly resistant to opinions.

Enjoy the weekend?  Five women and two children were among 10 civilians killed by a US airstrike in Afghanistan, where untold wealth awaits the conquerors.  Doesn't this bother you, just a little bit?

Scheduling:  Senator Kerry says this is not the “right time” to repeal the tax breaks for big oil companies that contribute to his campaign fund.  He did not say when, if ever, would be a good time.

From Point A to Point B:  As global climate change increases, cold and snowy winters will become the rule – just as will violent thunderstorms and massive downpours.  The warming atmosphere sucks up more water – then puts it down in the form of more rain, more snow.  "The changes are irreversible."

Quoting Rand Paul:  “Whoever owns the property can do with the property as they wish, and if the coal company buys it from a private property owner and they want to do it [mountain top removal], fine. … I think a lot of the land apparently is quite desirable once it’s been flattened out. “... you’ve got quite a few hills. I don’t think anybody’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there.”

Possibilities:  Ever wonder why manufactures put those little clocks on everything, their LEDs glowing in the dark?  Because they can.  Ditto with the Pentagon spying on civilians.

The Long Tail:  The largest, most expensive, and most interconnected infrastructure in the world is our energy system, most specifically the petroleum industry.  It is so large, so inertial and so indispensable that change will come only on a glacial scale.  That's why we will be a petroleum-based economy/society for decades and the happy talk about energy independence and converting to green, renewable energy is just that: Happy talk.

War Machine:  CIA Station Chief John Stockwell explained:  “Enemies are necessary for the wheels of the US military machine to turn.”  That's why the US goes around starting wars and supplying arms to both sides in regional conflicts.  It's not who wins that counts, just that the game goes on. War is a Racket.

Priorities:  Alaskan state officials say that the Federal government plan to set aside land for critical polar bear habitat will lead to huge, unnecessary costs for Alaska's oil industry, resulting in lower payments to the state coffers and thus less money for the politicians to play with.  The polar bears were not asked for their views.

Unhappy Truths:  The abundance we in the “developed world” take for granted is ours only because our economies, our nations, have burned through the Earth's store of fossil fuels without thought to what comes next. What comes next will be a giant tantrum by a generation of self-indulgent, spoiled children.

Elasticity:  While BP was telling the public that the leak was 5,000 barrels a day and Congress that it was perhaps 60,000 as a worst case, their internal documents were citing rates as high as 100,000 bpd.  Depends on how you define 'leak'.

Landlording It:  Fannie and Freddie (which is you and me, the taxpayers) – on their way to losing a trillion dollars – have become the largest landlords in the country.  Not only do we have to mow the lawns ($10 billion this summer), all of our tenants are behind in their rent and mostly not paying anything at all.  Over 160,000 and growing.  But don't worry, we're selling them off. At a loss.

Friends:  The US has suggested that Pakistan might want to consider the pluses and minuses of engaging in peaceful bilateral trade with Iran.  “Cautioned” was the word Ambassador Holbrooke used.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

SAR #10170/Weekender

Silence is often the greater sin.

Progress Report:  The Pentagon on Thursday said US-led forces are making headway against the Taliban, despite what it called an overly gloomy portrayal of the war shaped by media coverage, pointing out that after only 9 years of combat not only does the US control nearly 12% of the countryside, less than 78% of the Afghan populations wishes the US would quit an go home.

Authorized Vehicles Only:   Governor Jindal leased some barges to vacuum up the crude oil that the Coast Guard was letting slip into the wetlands.  But the Coast Guard made them stop, because they didn't have enough life vests.  Same goes for the pelicans.

Silver Lining:  By most reports, only a fraction of the mortgages originally thought eligible for modification actually qualified and were rescheduled.  Just as well, 70% of those rescheduled are re-defaulting.  Not a qualified success.

Papers, Please:  In the wilds of Colorado a town has passed an ordinance requiring renters get a license before renting an apartment.  Ain't this a great country?

Power is as Power Does: General David 'The Fainter' Petraeus ordered himself to secretly spread “clandestine military activity” throughout Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia – without seeking Congressional nor, apparently, Presidential authorization.  That's okay, he'll take care of that oversight when he's president.

Summary:  The ongoing public shouting match debate between those who are obsessed with the effect of future deficits on the banking industry and those who are concerned about the effect of poverty on the living can be summed up thusly:  Austerity is stupid, stimulus is dangerous – or heads you lose, tails I win.

Civics 101:  If you are born in the US, you are a US citizen, unless you are born in Arizona where the 14th Amendment will no longer apply.

Irony:  So many German Jews have joined to in a humanitarian effort to break Israel's blockade of Gaza that a second boat will be needed.  Maybe if they sew yellow stars on their clothing Israeli commandos won't kill them.

Empty Gesture:  Initial unemployment claims increased to 472,000 last week.   Why people are bothering to register for benefits the Republicans aren't going to let them get is a mystery.

Charity:  The American Red Cross has been fined $16 million for inadequate screening of donated blood and for “mismanaging blood products” - by which Federal regulators meant cutting corners to save money.  While theoretically a non-profit organization, the RC runs its blood operations as a profit center.

Supply vs Demand:  By actual count there are a humongous number of houses on the market.  By actual sales numbers, not many people are buying houses.  Apparently in this case A plus B is going to result in C. C being another 10% to 20% drop in house prices over the next three years.

Options:  Starting with Lehman Brothers and snowballing on through AIG and secretly handing billions to Goldman Sachs, the whole effort has been – we are told – to keep the financial system from collapsing.  I don't recall much discussion of the positives of letting it do just that – collapse.  Why not? That seems to be the ultimate destination anyway.

Half-Off:   The 90-day delinquency rate on home loans worth over a million dollars hit a high in February at 13.3 percent, much higher than the overall rate of 8.6 percent – itself a record high.  Cure rates after reaching 90-days delinquent are  approximately none.  One of eight borrowers in expensive homes is a foreclosure in process. Walk over to that snazzy development and count to eight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

SAR #10169

Anybody seen Plan B lately?

Failing Grade: The Senate – and by this I mean all of the Republicans and Joe Lieberman - failed the people again last night, by failing to pass an economic assistance bill. Why? Because deficit hawks lead by the likes of Ben Nelson said the $77 billion in deficit spending was unconscionable. Note that we gave AIG about twice that. Note, too, that Nelson – and the Republicans – voted for the $1.3 trillion in Bush tax cuts for the rich. By the end of this week over 900,000 of the long term unemployed will not get benefit checks. The rich will still be rich. The GOP has told unemployed Americans that tax breaks for the top 236 richest people in America is more important than they are. That's what's unconscionable.

Worst Case: Experts tell us that the worst-case scenario is if the BP well-bore leak is leaking from a broken casing far beneath the seabed. Tattle tales tell us that BP has been fighting cracked and leaking casings since February.

What If? In most of Europe, democracy is a some-time thing of recent invention. What if popular unrest at the bankers' austerity regime leads to uprisings and the imposition (or welcoming) of military takeovers? Wouldn't be the first time that economic unrest in Europe has resulted in military dictatorships. Or wars.

Sticky Situation: Fannie Mae has suspended some mortgage payments from the oil-soaked Gulf region, while Citi is suspending foreclosures in the area. Look, nobody is going to want to buy a home on the Gulf for a long, long time. No one wants even more unsalable houses on the beach their books. Just don’t burn the place down and the banks’ll let you stay.

Big Sigh: Rush Limbaugh says we worry too much about kids going hungry in the summer, when they don't get meals at school. After all, he says, “there's always the neighborhood dumpster.”

Numbers Game: France has raised the retirement age from 60 to 62. Sure, this will delay the retirement of older folks. It will also keep them in jobs that the younger folks need. So the older citizens get cheated out of a promised retirement, the younger citizens get cheated out of jobs, and the banksters are delighted.

Mission Creep: Obama's plan to get our troops out of Afghanistan by sending more troops to Afghanistan isn't working out quite as planned. Or maybe it is.

Fairness and Equality: The heirs of the tens of thousands killed by Union Carbide in the Bhopal disaster accuse the US of “double standards” because Obama forced BP to put up $20 billion, while the US has resolutely ignored the debt US firms owed following the Bhopal poisoning. And their point would be?

People Unclear on the Concept: Pensioners and their governments are complaining that making BP pay for the damage it has caused will deprive the pensioners of their dividends. Didn't they read the prospectus?

No Place To Hide: The big problem facing BP's PR team – other than Tony's mouth – is where to hide all the tons and tons of sludge being scraped up off the beaches and soaked up by the oil booms. Stuff's toxic, needs to be properly disposed of – not just taken out to sea at night and dumped like BP does with the dolphins and pelicans.

Natural Law: A bill pending in the US senate would give the President the power to seize control of and to shut down portions of the internet if a national emergency arose. Such as people badmouthing the government.

Foot in Mouth Disease: The GOP is berating Obama for making BP pay for its mess and claim it will become a political slush fund. The Republican Study Committee called it “Chicago-style shakedown politics”. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claims it is “a redistribution-of-wealth fund.” and encouraged BP to tell the administration " We're not going to be chumps, and we're not going to be fleeced." Joe Barton (R-TX) called it “a shakedown” and apologized to BP for the White House's behavior. And Haley Barbour, Republican Governor of Mississippi – who keeps telling folks to “come on down, the beaches are fine” - thinks escrowing the money will “make it less likely that they (BP) will pay for everything. They need their capital to drill wells. They need their capital to produce income.” So do your citizens, governor.

Think: Turns out that some of those internet sites that claim to allow you to send highly encrypted messages to prevent government snooping are run by the government, to make snooping easier.

Porn O'Graph: The pot of gold. Or Rainbow's end.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

SAR #10168

Managerial incentive bonuses lead to managerial fraud.

After the Fall:   The GOP, with the help of a few loopy Dems, has decided that saving the bankers is more important than feeding the families of the unemployed.  So screw 'em.  No more long term unemployment benefits. Besides, by election day most of them will be too busy standing in soup lines to bother to vote.

Sputtering:  May's housing starts were but 593,000, not the 659,000 expected.  That's down 10% from the already downwardly revised April numbers.  Hard to get excited about an economic recovery when the economy isn't recovering.

Fig Leaf:   Is it possible that BP's leak estimates - from 1,000 barrels a day to 5,000 bbl to 25,000 bbl to 60,000 bbl – have all been relatively accurate and that the increase in the leakage rate is real and caused by the oil, gas and trash rushing out of the hole, constantly eroding it and making it bigger?  Yeah, erosion is quite possible . So is BP lying.  The one doesn't preclude the other.

Logic Has Noting To Do With It:  The same folks who don't want the government to mess with social security or medicare insist that they want cleaner fuels and less global warming, as long as it won't raise the price of gasoline.

Rebuttal:  As expected, Obama called for federal programs that would encourage a transition from fossil fuel to cleaner energy.  Predictably, the GOP agreed we need to do these things, as long as it doesn't cost anyone a job or a penny a gallon at the pump, and does not harm industry profits.

Poor Performers:  “Despite the current economic rebound”, consumers are not consuming the way they should be at this point in the recovery. They must have missed the rehearsal.

Ignorance is Bliss:  Most Americans know little about what the US government does in its name, and what it thinks it knows it learned from the MSM's distortions and pandering.   And most Americans are clever enough to know they don't want to know.  All they want is to continue to live in the fantasy.

In Character:  The headline said  “Senator aims to force unemployed to take drug tests.”  Without reading any further, why do you suspect it was a Republican?  Usual prize if you can, without reading any further, name the Senator who hatched this scheme and feels that poverty is “a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society.”

Apples and Oranges:  US industrial production was up 1.2% in May – a third consecutive monthly gain.  Capacity utilization is a puny 73.7%. Nearly all of the increase was in “defense and space equipment”.   Industrial activity is booming, plowshares into swords.

Aw, Ain't It Cute?  A new Louisianan law mandates that a woman must have, and view, an ultrasound, before an abortion can be performed.  Man-date is a precisely accurate term.

Do the Math:  The UN is scaring the women and children and pointing out that food prices will rise by “up to 40% over the next decade!”  Scary, until you do the math and realize that that is 3.75% a year.

Simmons Says:  Matt Simmons, who for many years was one of the most respected commentators on the global oil industry and author of the much respected Twilight in the Desert,  has been a pariah of late. Because he sees BP going to $0 a share, says nukes are the only way to seal the leaking well, that there is a serious down-hole leak, from a well-bore rupture, that leaked oil covers 40% of the subsurface Gulf, and that BP has pretty much done everything wrong. I hope Matt's wrong, but wouldn't wager against him.

Moby Dick:  Japan is resorting to cash and call girls to break the 24-year moratorium on the slaughter of whales.  Well, Melville did write a couple of books on the attractions of South Seas ladies...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SAR #10167

Public Relations is but propaganda in a pretty dress.

Quoted:  “The National Rifle Association agreed on Tuesday to permit House passage of tougher disclosure requirements on campaign advertising and other political activity.”

Less is Less:  US household debt has fallen for 7 consecutive quarters. Some cheer, noting that it was a feeding-frenzy of debt-based consumption that got us into the current mess.  But Americans went so far into debt because (1) the banksters made it easy and (2) American (inflation adjusted) wages have been falling for 30 years so the only way to keep consuming at the rate necessary to keep the economy running was to go into debt and to borrow, borrow, borrow against the illusionary value of their homes.  Now Americans have no choice but to pare back their debts, and thus there is and will be scant revival of the consumer-based economy.

On BP and the Damages:  “Fish can’t sue. Only people can.”

Un-American:  A bunch of Israel's Democratic puppets are demanding that the State Department bar the peace activists who took part in the Gaza flotilla from entering the US. Bunch of terrorists.

Animal Farm, Revised:   Some Europeans are more equal than others, or so France and Germany suggest with their proposal that those countries which do not adhere to EU budgetary guidelines should lose their voting rights.  Okay, but taxation without representation's been tried before...

Words/Deeds:   BP, which says it has nothing to hide, has hired Talon Security (think mercenaries) to help hide stuff - like oil on beaches and dead birds and animals.

Words in a Certain Order:   “We in the democratic world tend to assume state capitalism can’t prosper forever.  Innovative companies can’t thrive unless there’s also a free exchange of ideas.  A high-tech economy requires more creative destruction than an authoritarian government can tolerate. Cronyism will inevitably undermine efficiency. ” Blather.  Improvable platitudes.   And who is this 'we' and where is there an actual 'democratic' world?

Efficiency:  BP is going to cut out the middleman and burn off the oil and gas as soon as it gets to the surface.  Saves on refining and distribution and gets the CO2 directly to its ultimate destination.

Another One Bites Himself:   Turns out Rand Paul is not a board-certified ophthalmologist, as he claims.   Well, he is, but only by the National Board of Ophthalmology,  an outfit would-be Senator Paul set up by himself and runs out of a PO box in Bowling Green.  Not to be confused with the American Board of Ophthalmology, which certifies real ophthalmologists.  His explanation, “what does that have to do with the election?”

Peeking at Saudi Oil:  Saudi Arabia's petroleum output fell by a million barrels per day in 2009, down 11% from the previous year.  Explanations vary.

Where's the Egress?  Israel has painted itself into yet another no-win corner.  Everyone - the UN, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and even Hillary Clinton – wants the blockade of Gaza to end.  But being Israel means never having to say you're sorry, so all Netanyahu can do is sputter and blame the victims.  Which has gone down well in Israel and in the US Congress for decades.

Stimulus Spending:  With a nod to how silly the concept of GDP is, JP Morgan observes that the massive BP oil leak will raise the US GDP.  Every dollar spent scooping up dead pelicans is a dollar of economic activity.  Plus it will employ at least 4,000 of the 100,000+ thrown out of work by the disaster.  Benefits all 'round.

Curb Your Enthusiasm:  There are a lot of rocks in Afghanistan.  Many of them have useful minerals in them.  Maybe worth $1 trillion over some long, long time span.  This is not news.  The US 'found' the buried treasure using Russian maps, who based theirs on some drawn up by Kipling and company.  Note that the commodity markets merely shrugged.  Take a calming breath, then tell me:   Where is the energy to mine this stuff going to come from?   Where's the infrastructure – the roads, workers, reliable and stable government?  How big will the bribes have to be?  How much unmet need is there for most of this stuff?  How many years of internal warfare will there be before a reliably corrupt government is stable enough to take the next step?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SAR #10166

War is a feature, not a flaw, in our economic system.

Mysterious East Central Asia:  In Kygyzstan, Kyrgyzies are slaughtering Uzbecks because they aren't Kygyzies.  I've sent away for a pamphlet that will explain the differences and why it matters.  It's a companion volume to the one explaining differences in the two types of Irish folk, various Semites and other vitally important trivia.

Without Comment:   The FAA is under pressure to open US skies to drones...

Forward into the Past:  It is widely acknowledged that FDR's error was caving in to the deficit hawks and reversing the recovery from the Great Depression, making it even worse.  They're back.  The lunatics are in charge and they want to cut, cut, cut – based on the medieval belief that bloodletting will make us better.  And if it doesn't, it will at least please the banks and bond markets.  The Germans are doing it.  The French, too.  The Greeks, the Spanish and the Portuguese believe they have no choice but to do it.  The UK, too.  Thus we lose another battle in the war between the bankers and the people.

Dateline: 13 June 2010.    Today BP started deploying undersea sensors to measure the amount of crude oil gushing from the seabed.  Only 55 days late.  This joins the long list of BP cost-cutting measures.

Monopoly:  US law enforcement authorities claim that the 1 million gang members in the US are responsible for 80% of all US crime.  Ought to be a law.

Encouragement:  With just a tad of encouragement from the White House, BP has come up with a new plan that will let it capture 50,000 barrels of oil a day from a leak they claim is only leaking 25,000 barrels a day, up from only 5,000 bpd a couple of PR announcements ago.

Send Money:  Fannie and Freddie need another trillion or so to keep the US housing market afloat. But hey, it's the American Dream – to have your neighbors buy you a house....

Re-appraisal: Looking back over the last two years, Nassim Taleb sees the economic situation today as drastically worse, with no recovery in sight. He sees more debt, more unemployment, a smaller tax base, larger risks, and the euro as “a doomed concept.”

Spot Quiz: Fill in the blank [ _ ] with a list of all the things BP has done right since April 20th.

No Problem:  In Australia there are fears the government may record internet user's browser history and details of their emails. We Americans can reassure them that it is painless – NSA's been doing this for a decade or more and only a few of us have disappeared.  So far.

Understatement:  “It will be some time before home values increase significantly.”

Clip & Save:  President Obama promised Monday that "things are going to return to normal" along the Gulf Coast and that the region's fouled waters will be in even better shape than before BP spilled a gazillion barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Cleanup Camps:  BP is hiring thousands of unemployed Gulf Coast fisherman, shrimpers, hotel maids and tour guides to clean up the oil spill. These folks have homes in the area – plus there are any number of empty motel rooms available.  So why is BP building a temporary camp to house 1,500 clean-up workers?  A camp with its own police and policies – like no alcohol, no reporters....  Do they plan on bringing in migrant workers who won't be so inclined to complain about not being provided safety gear and have a harder time getting compensation when they get sick from a lack of proper clothing and equipment?

Monday, June 14, 2010

SAR #10165

What's the lag time between economic disaster and social backlash?

Welfare States:  Washington, in spite of running a $1.6 trillion deficit this year, is concerned with “the devastating economic impact of budget cuts” by state and local governments that imperil the jobs of teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees who vote and is planning to spread $50 billion around to make everyone feel better.

Worser and Worser: The real doomsday scenario in the BP leak is that the sub-sea casing has been damaged and petroleum is leaking sideways out 1000 feet or more beneath the surface, for such a leak might make a relief well ineffective.  But BP'd tell us, wouldn't they?

Ennui:  Gallup reports that the entire up-tick in retail sales is due to the rich being bored silly – they've started shopping again to relieve “frugality fatigue.”

New (York) Math:  If I owe Vinnie $6 and don't have it and suggest he lend me another $6 bucks to pay him back the $6 bucks I owe him, do you think Vinnie's going to be real happy?  Only I'm the State of New York and Vinnie is the state's pension fund.  And it's not $6 bucks, it $6 billion.

Tautology:  General McCrystal has suddenly realized that the Afghans do not like being bombed and strafed, don't like to have soldiers breaking down doors at 3 AM, and in general haven't taken much of a liking to the invaders.  Or as he put it, "When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them."   Or?

Colder Water:  US Foreclosures rose 44% in May, y/y.

Paradigm Shift?   Will the BP Disaster change the way businesses, at least the extractive industries, do business?  The term being bandied about is “Full Externalities.”   The general idea is that companies should be responsible, fiscally and morally and legally and criminally, for their actions and for the effects of their actions on the environment, on others, and on the future.  In other words, “You break it, you bought it.”  Business, of course, says the idea of paying for the damage they do is “chilling”.

On the Never Never:  About 40% of  'Generation Y'  do not pay their bills on time.

The Future is Now: Henceforth and for as far as the eye can see, expect GDP, industrial output and unemployment to gyrate wildly, with an economic growth rate that is miniscule and unemployment rates that are high except for a small percentage at the top of the food chain.   And Mr. Bernanke says that's as good as it's going to get if things go well.   You don't want to know the downside.

Gift Horse/Mouth:   Container traffic at the Port of LA is up, up, up.   But they're full coming in and empty going out – so much for exporting our way out of this mess.

Money Talks:   Stating the obvious, that the rich are our natural betters and should be our political masters, the activist Roberts Supreme Court has overturned an Arizona law that tried to level the political playing field by removing absurd funding imbalances and making candidates compete for votes based on ideas, not sound bites.  Thankfully the right wing SC is going to protect the rights of corporations and the rich to use their money to buy public offices.

Turf War:  In Colorado you are not allowed to rescue a person from raging river water unless you are authorized to do so by the County Sheriff.  Not even if the person is a 13 year old girl who has been in the water for an hour.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

SAR #10163/Weekender

This is the real world, there is no plan.

Profit/Loss Report: The eventual cost of the BP disaster may well exceed $80 billion. Goldman Sachs figures it will cost $40,000 per barrel for clean-up, reparations, compensation for damages, civil and criminal fines and so on.  Already 2,000.000 barrels have gushed out and by August it'll be another 2 million barrels.  Think gasoline at $2.49 a gallon is going to cover that?

Didn't Inhale:  Google now admits it tapped intoWi-Fi networks when it was driving around invading everyone's privacy, but insists it never used the data.

Kidnappping?  The count of “unlawfully detained” prisoners ordered released from Guantanamo by federal judges has reached 36.  A young Yemeni's eight years of incarceration had  “done nothing to make the United States more secure."  Much like the 8 years of war in Afghanistan.

Election Year:  Several Senators have introduced a bill that would extend the home-buyers tax credit until the Senators are re-elected.

Test Results:  What have we, as a nation, as a body politic, learned from the BP disaster in the Gulf?  What have we learned about unfettered and unregulated greed?  Or about the role of government in regulating industries?  Nothing?  Right.  Absolutely nothing . But don't abandon hope; it's a learning experience and the experience is far from over.

Marshall Dillon!  Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) wants to force Amtrak to permit passengers to carry their weapons on the train.  In case the James gang attacks.

True Lies:  Things you know that aren't true:  1. The housing recession is over.  2. Prices will soon rebound.  3. The worst of the foreclosure mess is behind us . 4. The tax credits saved the housing market.  5. Housing is a good investment.

Teeter-Totter:  The real, industrial based economy is on the brink of another downturn.  The IMF says the global economy is at serious risk, and the central banks are all out of magic potions.  They could borrow some from the folks over at the born-again stock markets.

Hoo-ray!  Republicans in the Senate failed in their bid to keep the EPA from trying to slow global warming.   Why does the GOP view suicide as a good thing?

Nanny State:  Now the Feds are considering a ban on peanuts on the nation's airlines.  One more turn of the screw.  It would be more humane if they simply banned all flying, instead of the constant drip, drip drip of silly and inconvenient and costly safety and security regulations.

Facts Not in Evidence:   The article “Where Will the Good Jobs Come From?” assumes there are going to be “good jobs”.  It'll be like waiting for Godot.

This Just In:  Yesterday we told you BP was trying to hide the evidence of the oil leak's death and destruction.  Now it seems that BP is running roughshod over local authorities, using the FAA to keep reporters’ airplanes from overflying oil-blackened beaches and hiding evidence wherever possible.  Pretending the danger is minimal is also why BP prohibits  cleanup crews from wearing respirators.  What's a little benzene among friends?

Porn O'Graphic:  Welcome to Wal-Mart...

Friday, June 11, 2010

SAR #10162

We do not seem to understand we are annihilating ourselves.

Brother Can You Spare a Dime?   The government of the UK, which is imposing drastic budget cuts, freezing wages and reduce social spending, says it is ready to help BP cover the tab for the economic consequences of the Great Oil Spill.   Isn't BP's budget bigger than theirs?

Short People:  Deutsche Bank reports that it has shorted Spainish and Portuguese government bonds Frau Merkel doesn't allow no short people 'round Deutschland – banning all naked short sales, to include doing to Deutsche Bank what DB is doing to Iberia.

Tricks With Numbers:  BP's annual Statistical Review of World Energy is out.  It claims the world has sufficient reserves – now, today – to meet our needs at the 2009 level for another 45 years.  If we've got that much in reserves, why the rush to poke holes in the Gulf of Mexico?

Way-back Machine:   Applications for home loans have fallen to 1997 levels- having dropped 35% in the last month after the tax-break bribery ended.

On The List:  Citing national security concerns, Homeland Security is enforcing BP's ban of journalists anywhere south of a line from Baton Rouge to Montgomery.  If you are found taking pictures on public beaches, BP has authorized local sheriffs to arrest you.

Pollution is as Polluters Do: BP plans to burn 10,000 barrels of crude oil a day, just to keep it from polluting the Gulf.  Air?  What air?  We're way out to sea, so who cares as long as I've got mine?

Happy 'Froth' of June:  To commemorate his predecessor's gaffe about a bit of froth in the housing market, the Chairman announced that housing was “weighed down, in part, by a large inventory of distressed or vacant existing houses and by the difficulties of many builders in obtaining credit” to build even more houses.  Didn't someone explain the rules of the game to Ben?

Clueless:  In a statement released Thursday BP said it "is not aware of any reason" for its shares to lose half their value. True, true. Unaware is just the half of it.

Bailout 101:   The banks that we-the-people bailed out are going to make about $350 million selling off GM, which belongs to we-the-people, too.

Every Day, In Every Way...  The government's guess at the leak rate of BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster is now 40,000 barrels a day.  Do I hear 50?  100,000?

Size Matters:  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who heads the military of a nation of 300,000,000 and commands a budget of over $661 billion has expressed concern that China, with a billion or so people and a defense budget of about $100 billion is overspending on defense.  Wait till he finds out how much they're spending on oil resources.

The Long Way:  The UK government wants to tax the British ratepayers to bail out BP so that some of the British ratepayers can continue to receive dividends from BP. Why not cut out the middleman?

Secrets Is:  A Federal appeals court has ruled that the NYPD can keep secret some 1,800 pages documenting its secret (and illegal) surveillance of citizens exercising their right to protest, because... well, because we wouldn't want to identify the wrongdoers, now would we?

Look! Numbers! People will believe almost anything, as long as you write it down and it has a number in it.  For example, China's exports purportedly increased by 50% in the last year. Or this: US CEOs expect earnings to rise 12% in the coming year.  And their kids are all above average, too.

Again:  "I think the people responsible in the oil spill--BP and the federal government--should take full responsibility for what's happening there.” That's John Boehner, House Minority Leader.  And “the federal government” taking responsibility is you, the tax payer, paying.  The Florida AG thinks BP should pay and should start by putting $2.5 billion in cash in escrow dedicated to Florida's losses.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

SAR #10161

Political structures exist to transfer wealth to the leadership.

Changing of the Guard: The world's largest petroleum producer is now Russia, where production rose 1.5% last year to eclipse Saudi Arabia – which experienced a 10.6% decline in production.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Out of Sight...   BP has ordered its contractors (which is pretty much anyone working in the Gulf) not to let anyone take pictures of dead sea life, especially dolphins and pelicans.   BP quickly whisks off dead and injured wildlife to inaccessible buildings and offshore ships, knowing that the ocean will eventually carry most of the dead out to sea.  Louisiana residents have been required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Sneak Attack:  As if IEDs were not dangerous enough, it is now claimed that the Taliban are burying hypodermic needles around their bombs, hoping to infect the EOD personnel with HIV or hepatitis.  They were all out of smallpox-infected blankets.

More PR Stupidity: Seems that BP has had hi-def video of the oil leak for quite some time, while denying any such thing.   Now that they can see the leakage clearly (instead of the jerky, fogged up stuff BP palmed off on the public), scientists are confident that the leak is closer to 100,000 bpd than the ludicrous 1,000 bpd BP would like us to believe.

Holding Hands:  France has joined Germany in the fight against speculators.  The financial press reports this as though it were a bad thing.

Define “Legitimate”:   BP has said it will do everything it can “to make it right”, but the boast they would pay for all the damage is turning out to be... optimistic.  And “right” will be a lot less than the $40 billion now estimated as the all-inclusive cost.  Apparently BP's team of litigation experts trying to stop the money leak is larger than the bunch of engineers they've got trying to stop the oil leak.

For Sale:  Meg Whitman spent $71 million of her own money to ante into the California governor’s race, and plans to spend that much again in the election in an attempt to buy a used Governor’s mansion in the fall.  It's all about the honor of serving the public.

Medicine:  Economists advocate harsh cuts in social programs and government budgets in order to convince people that they are serious individuals in a solemn and scientific profession.  Poppycock.  They are playing up to the right wing, which is pretty sure there is someone, somewhere, drawing public funds and not suffering sufficiently – and want to find that person and inflict some well deserved pain on them.

Conspiracy, Conspiracy: There is speculation that it was an American mine, not a North Korean weapon, that sank the Cheonan.

Clip and Save:   "I can say right now -- and I'm really pleased about that -- it's good news in that we haven't found any large concentrations of oil below the surface."  BP COO Doug Suttles.

Clues:  What country 1) has a secret nuclear-weapons program, 2) is run by religious fundamentalists doing God's work, 3) uses its secret police to kill perceived enemies both at home and abroad, 4) is deaf to reason and indifferent to pressure from outside, and 5) isn't Iran.

Porn O'Graph:  Made in the USA, since 1950.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SAR #10160

The external costs of drilling in deep waters exceeds the net worth of the oil industry.

A Pogo Moment:  Before you get too wound up in demonizing BP, remember that they are doing the best they can to feed your habit.  If you were not an addict, they would not be out in the Gulf drilling holes in the seabed.

Dr's R Us:  The experiments with medically supervised and assisted waterboarding concluded that torture doesn't work except to extract false confessions, endanger the national security, and revolt the electorate. But it does work to squash dissent.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell:  BP is now capturing at least twice as much oil as is leaking from the well. So they say.  My simple minded question is this: If BP intended to produce 100,000 plus barrels of oil a day from this well using the reservoir’s natural pressure, why aren’t 100,000 bpd or more spewing out now?

No Evil:  Even before Helen Thomas was shuttled off to Buffalo we all knew  that no criticism of Israel would be permitted.    Remember, if it were not for Israel, where would the US learn all the self-defeating things we keep doing in the Middle East?

True Lies:  Don't bother with the umbrella, Barry Ritholz assures us there'll be no 'double dip' because (1) Economists as a group are generally wrong and the group is predicting one. (b) Double dip recessions are rather rare. (c) A recovery hasn't reversed itself this quickly before. So don't worry.  There are no Black Sawns; economist Ritholz said so.  But in 1930 no one knew what lay ahead, either.

Because...  US Banks have been swapping investments in each other and carrying these “investments” at 100% as part of their capital, even though they, you and I, and the regulators know that's an exaggeration.  The paper is mostly dreck, but the banks say if they can't keep playing 'pretend' they'll no longer be well capitalized.  Think on that one for a while and get back to me.

He Said, He Said:  Saudi Aramco has reasserted its claim that there are 260 billion barrels of oil reserves hidden under the desert sands.  Others, citing such things as the miraculous overnight jump in reserves and forty years of pumping that was matched with unreported replenishment, say that they've got less that 65 billion barrels remaining.

Go Yodel:  The Swiss Federation's Lower House declined to go along with the IRS's demand for an open books policy.  What they said was, “Go away, boy, y'bother me.” 

Ready or Not:  The G20 declared that “those countries with serious fiscal challenges need to accelerate the pace of consolidation, reduce their deficits in 2010 and strengthen their fiscal institutions.”   The ECB stressed the importance of feeding the fat cats shoring up investor confidence.  In plain terms, the banks want the peons to pass the cash, suffer in silence.

A Friend In Need:  It is official.  The rest of the world assumes the economy can pick up were we left off in 2006, with the US consumer taking up all the slack.  No one thought to check with the US consumer.

Spade is Spade:  Turns out that “Green Consumerism” is consumerism. The green part being mostly myth.  Oxymorons.

Mr. Grump: Roughly 1.1 million workers have given up hope of finding employment.  Gross domestic product is growing at only half of the 7% to 8% pace that typically has been seen after past deep recessions.  Companies hiring for entry-level or administrative spots with pay that would normally range from $40,000 to $50,000 have been offering workers $28,000. Over 3.5 million homes nationally will go into foreclosure this year.  Nine percent of CFOs said they anticipate staff reductions.  More than 40 million Americans are on food stamps.  And that was Michael's message for the day.

Porn O'Graph:  Is it global warming or just a long hot flash?