Thursday, September 30, 2010

SAR #10273

Still wondering why the tea parties are so popular?

Gag me:  “Over the course of the past two years, a lot of tomatoes have been thrown in the direction of Wall Street. Some of it was deserved. Much of it wasn't.  It was uninformed populist anger.  It's really easy to blame a bunch of egotistical rich guys in Brioni suits for problems that were caused elsewhere.”   If we don't apologize immediately they threaten to take their toys and town houses and decamp for greener fields.  How much profit they'll be able to eek out in Nigeria and the Ivory Coast was not immediately clear.

Mid-Term Exam:  Demonstrating a fine grasp of economics, foreign policy and historic forces, the House voted overwhelmingly to bit the hand that – while it may not feed us – supplies WalMart with most of the cheap products that serve as bread and circuses in the declining American Empire.  The future depends on China – the future of energy, the future of great-power politics.  They are the same thing.  China is likely to become the dominant shaper of our global future.

Uppity Servants:  Meg Whitman, GOP candidate for governor of California, admits that she inadvertently employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper from 2000 to 2009, but maintains she did not know of her employee’s status even though the Social Security administration had warned her in2003 concerning the maid's account number miss-match.

Misdirection and Mendacity:  As long as 'fixing' Social Security is Republican code-talk for doing away with the program, the 'debate' will remain nonsensical.  They focus on our fear of big numbers and our misunderstanding of the entire funding process. Simply ask yourself who benefits if we go along with them and cut off our own heads so the rich can feast on our corpses?  Social Security can pay for itself with very modest tax rate increases.  There is no funding problem.

Go Team! I favor the NASCAR jacket approach for politicians: They should  have to wear logos on their suit coats identifying their largest ‘sponsors’.   The bigger the bribes, the bigger the logo.

Mission Creeps:  First it was an occasional, isolated drone attack on “suspected terrorists” at weddings in remote areas of Pakistan. Now they are daily events.  US Special Forces and CIA mercenary assassination teams are thought to operate  throughout the country.  Now NATO has sent two gunship helicopters into Pakistan and killed 30 “suspected militants”. And we’re the good guys?

Cashing Out:   As Germany makes it's last reparation payment from World War One, it seems a good time to ask how long and how much the US should be required to pay for the destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, soon Iran.

Porn O'Graph:  The madness of crowds. Going with the flow.

A word of apology: Pain meds and the medical establishment run-around have dimmed my usual selection and sarcasm. I fear the same will be true tomorrow. ‘Outpatient’ is true, for I am out of patience with the whole thing. Blame is all mine, as I didn't get this together in time to inflict it on First Reader.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SAR 10272

Voters aren’t always blind or stupid, it's just their default mode.

Who, What, Where & When: 1) Some terrorists, 2) Coordinated series of commando-style attacks, 3) In parts of Europe and maybe the US.  4) ”The plan was in the advanced but not imminent stage.”  Brought to you thanks to interrogators at the super-duper torture chamber prison at Bagram, Afghanistan practicing enhanced interrogation techniques on a German citizen kidnapped in Germany and whisked off to the Gulag last summer. Thank goodness he finally told them what they wanted to hear.  So be afraid, be afraid.

Pudding's Proof:   A firm hired by most of the big Wall Street banks back at the height of the feeding frenzy told the banks that about 28% of the mortgages they were bundling into MBS and selling to the suckers failed to meet basic underwriting standards.  The banks made sure that the investors didn't learn this.  Yes, it's fraud – but they are still too big to fail jail .

Suspense Builds:  Corporations want the Supreme Court to rule that they have the same claim to personal privacy exceptions as any other person in the US.  T hey'll get it, too, from Roberts, Inc.

They're Back:   The Republicans in the Senate have killed another bill that would favor US workers over corporate profits.  This one would have taxed US corporations that send jobs out of the country . The Republicans claimed this would (all together now) harm corporate profits.

Consequences:  If  it gets to market, they used to claim, it gets there by truck.  Conversely, when nothing's going to market, the trucks do run quite so much.  Truck tonnage fell nearly 3% from July to August, biggest m/m fall since March 2009. Caution, steep hill ahead.

Realty Check:   Even with an immense number of houses on the market, about one third of Americans cannot get mortgages.  Some see this as a problem . Others suspect that at least one third of Americans should not try to become homeowners – even if both still have their jobs at the local Grab and Run.

Because: Goldman Sachs says that US unemployment will remain “sky high” for “a very long time” because of the oversupply of houses. Don't you love those technical terms?

At the Bar:   JPL scientists’ suit against NASA for invasion of privacy will be heard by the Supreme Court next month.  The question is whether the federal government has a right to investigate the personal lives of employees who have access to federal facilities, even if they never go near sensitive or classified material citizens for no particular reason.

Flip a Coin:  A study shows that Viagra is useless in half of all cases.  You feeling lucky?

Quietly: The government took over three of the largest wholesale credit unions and has “an unusual plan” to manage $50 billion of their troubled assets – by issuing government guaranteed bonds backed by the same shaky mortgage-related assets that caused the credit unions to fail.  "Officials said the plan won't cost taxpayers any money." (Applause, Applause)

Echo, Echo, Echo:  The Bank of England is urging Brits to get out there and shop, shop, shop, spend, spend, spend.  George W. gets a royalty each time his speeches are re-used.

Porn O'Graph:  Where the boys are – George, Abe, Andy and the rest.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SAR #10271

The government's numbers are accurate, reality needs adjusting.

Clip & Save:   One bunch is claiming the Dow will climb above 38,000 in an eight year 'super boom' beginning in 2017.  But Robert Prechter, president of Elliott Wave International, predicts that the Dow will fall below 1000 by 2016.

Media Slant:   The polls showed that 4 out of 5 Americans did not oppose health care reform, but the headline read “1 in 5 oppose health care reform.”

Goose/Gander: Iranian forces crossed into neighboring Iraq and killed 30 fighters from a group it says was involved in last week’s bombing of a military parade.  The US was outraged. Meanwhile, Pakistan was similaely outraged that NATO troops have engaged in cross-border raids into their territory.

Now What?  Ann Coulter claims that marriage is not a civil right.  So, what is it, a religious obligation?

The Beatings Will Continue:  The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – a billion dollar program that has been one of the more effective jobs programs is running out of money. and the tens of thousands on that program will soon lose their jobs.  The trouble with temporary jobs and temporary funding is that they are temporary, not actual fixes.

Q&A: Is There Hope for the Rule of Law in America?  Don't know, never really been tried.

The Quote:  “It’s become patently obvious to anybody with half a brain and a pulse that President Obama’s “progressivism” has more in common with Mussolini’s corporatism than anything remotely connected to a genuinely progressive agenda.”

Confidence, Game:  The latest insider selling/buying ratio was 1,411 to 1. Inspiring.

Marketing 101:  The US Treasury skipped happily off to market with a basketful of Citi shares, only to find that the market for such was so thin they couldn't find buyers.  Rather than try to off-load them and drive the price down, the government will now dole them out piecemeal over a period of time and hope that nobody notices how thin the stock market really is.

Without Comment:  Saudi Arabian crude oil output fell 11.3% from 2008 to 2009, while their exports fell 14.4%.

Republican Evolutionary Economics: If they could, the Republicans would repeal not only Obama's health-care reform, but all of LBJ's and FDR's social programs too.  It isn't just that they hate government social safety nets, they hate the people who benefit from them.  It appears the GOP wants to force people to face the consequences of being born in the wrong place and the wrong time to the wrong parents.  Only the fittest should survive, they think. And they think they are the fittest. It's called Social Darwinism. It defies logic and, most importantly, it is cruel.

Truth or Dare:  Many banks are now trading at less than their book liquidation value – which suggests that no one much believes their books.

Just In Time:   Okay, we're saved.  We'll run out of fossil fuels before we completely kill the atmosphere.  But you're not going to like the cure if it takes the end of the industrial age to save us from disastrous climate change.

Damned Liberals: The Obama Administration – that famous bunch of bleeding heart liberals – wants all communications services ( Internet chat, emails, BlackBerry, Skype, Facebook and all the rest) to provide them with secret back doors into all communications just as the telephone companies famously did.   Good think we got rid of that fascistic totalitarian Bush administration. you make, any financial transaction you make, the Obama Administration thinks nine years after 9/11 is the time to demand such access

Dollars and Scents: The $36 billion 2-year Treasury bond auction came in at 0.441% to cover – a record low.  Someone's not afraid of rampant hyperinflation any time soon...

Monday, September 27, 2010

SAR #10270

Collapse is a common failing of civilizations.

Deja vu All Over Again:   The FBI is out raiding the homes of anti-war activists, serving search warrants in hopes of finding enough evidence to arrest them as terrorists and to let the public know that dissent has consequences.

Facts Not In Evidence:   It's beginning to look like the GOP may need to restate their disdain for health care reform;  only 20% oppose it and 2 out of 3 think it should have done more, to include some form of single payer/universal coverage. Oops.  This may be one reason why polls show the Democrats are not at all out of the race.

Snapshot:  Over 52% of all houses sold in August went for under $200,000, while new house prices fell to their lowest level in 7 years.

Let's Make a Deal:  Rumor has it that California has arrived at a budget deal with the following reductions in state spending:  Cut Medicaid by $1.6 billion.  End the Healthy Families ($600 mil) program,  End the Cal Works employment program for the poor (nearly $2 bil).  End in-home social health services for the elderly ($1.5 bil)  Cut state payroll by 10% by reducing staff and paying them less ($1 bil).  Cut school funding by a billion. California is the nation's trend setter.

Y'think?  Various pundits are worried that high grain prices will ruin importer-nations budgets.  Not to mention their citizens' diets.

Cost/Benefit:  The trouble with the magic new world of genetically based 'tailored' therapies is that by the time a drug is designed for what ails you – your specific cancer, say – you will not be able to afford it.  It is an extension of the 'orphan drug' paradox,  where Big Pharma doesn't develop and market treatments for a disease unless the market will repay them handsomely.  In the long run, you are a unique individual.  Too bad.

Anti-Terrorist Textbooks:  Texas, fresh from having saved the schools from socialism and godless Democrats, is now going to root out the "pro-Islam/anti-Christian" bias in textbooks.  Next time they want to secede, let 'em.

Either / Or:  Our debts got us here and is going to keep us here until those debts are discharged.  There are four possibilities: 1) the banks could call a 'jubilee' and forgive all those nasty debts.  2) We could nibble away at them for years and years of enforced penury, not buy anything new until the debts are paid and the fat cats fatter.  3) We can let the damned things default and be written off, one by one for years.  Or 4) The Fed could inflate our way out of it by making money worth less so we could pay back the fat cats with worthless money.  Pick one – the one that hurts the most people the least for the shortest period of time.  Good luck.

Logically Illogical:   Defending their desire to secretly kill American citizens in order to protect American citizens, the administration explained that their reasons were a secret and they couldn't defend it in court without being embarrassed violating national security.  If they did that, they'd have to kill themselves, too.

Out of Gas:  Last year the government gave the ethanol producers $4.7 billion and erected a high tariff on imported (and cheaper) ethanol – yet at least a dozen producers have ended up in bankruptcy.  Without extending the federal aid and renewing the tariff -both of which expire at the end of the year – and increasing the mandated ethanol content of gasoline from 10% to 15% (and thus increasing the cost of the federal aid by 50%)  the industry may fade away,  just as biodeisel did when government support was withdrawn.  Has the time come to call the game over?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

SAR #10268

None of the 9/11 attackers were from Afghanistan. Or Iraq.

Gutless Wonders:  The Democrats would be a great political power if they had any idea what to do with power when they have it.  It's the party of the insecure and tentative – or those just too polite to actually force their opponents to go on record as favoring the rich over the rest of us.

Summary:  Sales of new houses were essentially unchanged from July, making this the worst August on record.  The median home price ($204,700) is now at its lowest point since 2003.  House prices are expected to reach a new low by the end of the year.

Making A List:   You're getting socks and underwear for Christmas.  That's what Wal-Mart says and that's as close to Santa's workshop as you can get. Sweetie says it's okay to give socks and underwear, as long as they don't come from Wal-Mart.

One More Time:  Like a cat with nine lives, the idea of bribing folks to buy houses has resurfaced.  Fannie and Freddie are handing out cash to both new buyers and their real estate agents who buy a foreclosed Fannie/Freddie house.  The buyers get a 3.5% credit towards closing and agents get a $1,500 push on top of their regular commission.

Trick or Treat:  Time to be afraid of your neighbors – they are probably “willing to commit terrorist acts, disruptions and incidents.”  The big threat now is from Americans “who are able to remain undetected.”  So be vigilant.  Be suspicious.  Be afraid.  Tell the FBI on them.  Carry your cell phone so we can track you.

Welfaerie Queen: Queen Elizabeth II's application for an anti-poverty grant to help pay for heating her various castles has been turned down.  ACORN  suggested she re-apply and only list her primary palace on the form.

Get the Picture?  The GOPer's latest comic book full of photos of white folks, many waving flags or standing in front of flags – or even hiding behind flags.  No blacks.  No Asians.  No Mescans.  And sure as hell not a single Muslim.

Dim Bulbs:  Joe Barton, Michael Burgess and Marsh Blackburn want to stop those energy-efficient lightbulbs now, before they cut any farther into their contributors' profits.  They are, of course, Republicans and don't give a damn about global warming.

Band Aids:  Sarah Palin is going after those dastardly Democrats who voted to make insurance companies live up to their contracts, stopped the insurers from refusing to insure your sick child, forced the health care folks to let your unemployed college graduate kid who can't find a job stay on your policy a bit longer, and insisted that you not be limited to $276.37 in lifetime benefits or be denied coverage because you forgot about that hangnail back in '02.  'Cause she knows you are happy with Medicare and don't want none of that socialism stuff.

Asked & Answered:  With the mining giants turning toward exploring and exploiting the resources on the ocean floor, some are asking if this deep-sea digging will turn out to be an underwater equivalent of mountain-top removal. Of course it will.

Right to Rent:   That's the name of the newest nostrum that is going to cure all our ills.  The idea is that homeowners entering the foreclosure process would be allowed to rent their former house at a fair market price (?) – for up to five years. It would give people a place to stay, keep the house off the overcrowded market, let the bank gain some (most) of the expected income, and keep the house from becoming 'distressed'.  Plus it would give the banks time to figure out how to stick someone with the debt – maybe even sell it back to its former owner.

Précis:  The GOP's Plague on America is a hollow, numerically challenged mish-mash of right wing anti-government slogans that is an insult to any thinking person.  It should do well with the electorate.

Friday, September 24, 2010

SAR #10267

There are not enough jobs for everyone, and there won't be.

A Big Secret:  The CIA has a big – 3,000 man - secret army running around Afghanistan (and into Pakistan) assassinating Taliban and Al-Qaida targets.  Sort of land-based drones and probably about as accurate.  Or not.

Reruns:  The GOP “Pledge to America” is an election season piece of propaganda that promises to return to the glorious days of yesteryear, when Bush cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes and invaded countries.  It would privatize Social Security, gut Medicare, kill all those parts of the health care reform bill that cut into the profits of insurance companies and add trillions and trillions more to the national debt.  It is the know-nothing platform of a group of dimwits, well designed to lure the unthinking and fearful.  Some said it is the GOP's 'Bad Idea', which isn't quite right: The GOP itself is a bad idea.

You're Not My Mother:  T-Mobil – admitting it reads all of  your texting - claims it has the right to censor text messages that are sent over its network.  Freedom of speech does not extend to text messages unless they are sent by large corporations in support of right wing political candidates.

Risky Business:  Insurance companies have stopped selling child-only insurance policies because they can no longer refuse to insure kids who might get sick.  That's why we should vote Republican and let the insurance companies go back to gouging people for profit – it makes for a healthy health insurance industry.

Summer Houses:  Existing house sales edged back over the 4 million mark in August after reaching a ten year low in July, while the backlog of unsold houses dropped to 11.6 months (which does not count a year or two's worth of shadow inventory).

Headliner:  “President tries to humanize healthcare...”    How dare he!  We want our inhuman healthcare system back.

And the Beat Goes On:  China has (or has not) banned the export of rare earth metals to Japan as part of the wrangle over the South China Sea. The metals are essential in the manufacture of high tech things like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles, and China controls 95% of the world's supply. Oh, they’ve kissed and made up

Totally Fracked:  An independent lab in Pennsylvania has found fracking chemicals in the well water of "almost everybody" living in one neighborhood in Pennsylvania where 'hydrofracking' has been done. Cabot, the guilty party, said they were not responsible.  The residents agreed that Cabot was irresponsible.

Pop Quiz:  Why are there no hyenas in Europe? Because they're all in DC.

All Along the Watchtower:   The Pentagon is moving 8,000 Marines and their dependents (plus civilian contractors etc) from Okinawa, where they are not wanted, to Guam, where they are not wanted either.  The move will increase Guam's population by 45% - by some 79,000 people.  Why not just bring them back to the US?   And it takes 70,000 people to deploy 8,000 Marines?

In Range:  Another week of initial unemployment claims and the four week moving average of those claims to hover in in 450,000 – 475,000 range, where it has been for about 10 months.

Porn O'Graph: 0.2% That's the latest spread, and the Dems are on top.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SAR #10266

American prosperity was based on constantly expanding debt.

Flood Stage:  Banks seized 95,364 properties last month, raising the on-hand inventory above the 12.5 month level for the first time in over a decade.  The FHFA's house price index fell 0.5% from June to July and 3.3% Y/Y, a result of the number of foreclosed properties flooding the market.

Profit Margins:  Nigeria could provide electricity for its 150 million citizens for less than 0.5% of its oil and gas revenues. But this would cut into the money traditionally diverted into politicians' pockets, so it has asked for international investors to buy up and privatize the national electric company.

Asked & Answered:  Can the US slip into deflation?  Yes.  Will it?  Ah, another question...

True Story:  The people have already decided on gays in the military – a wide majority, including President Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, want Don't Ask Don't Tell repealed.  Republican politicians don't agree.

Selfishness: In some cities in Brazil there are “People’s Restaurants” that daily serve 12,000 or more people every day – mostly with locally grown food - for about 50 cents a day.  This is what socialism looks like: bureaucratic drones distorting free markets to feed the hungry and the poor and saving dying babies.

Progress?  Today 77% of the US population lives paycheck to paycheck, nearly double the rate just 3 years ago.  And they don’t get bonus checks, either.

It's a Breeze: C hina has completed its first offshore wind farm.  Portugal gets 45% of its electricity from renewables.  America has not even begun construction of its first offshore wind farm, but the DOE just isssued a compendium discussing the pros and cons of plans that might be put in place by 2015.  Maybe.

The Other Don't Ask, Don't Tell:  Even in the face of glaring income inequality people consistently underestimate how large the gap between the rich and mere mortals really is.  And no matter which strata of society you ask, everyone thinks a more equitable distribution of wealth would “build a better America”.  Even most Republican rank and file.

Take Home Assignment:  Read “Systemic Risk Arising from a Financial System that Requires Growth in a World with Limited Oil Supply,” which examines what happens to an economic system dependent on continual growth in an environment that puts severe constraints on that growth. There will be a test.

The Angry Rich:  When people see their entitlements taken away, they become upset.  The rich are getting very upset.

Global Pincer Movement:  Russia's drought-damaged wheat crop has been joined by the loss of half its potato harvest.  Russia will have to turn to the world market as an importer, not the exporter of 25% of the world's wheat.  And China has become a net importer of corn for the first time in recent history, while global corn stocks are at a 37 year low.  Thank goodness the US is only going to turn 36% of its corn into ethanol.

Redefinition:  To the GOP, 'compromise' has come to mean  “Do it our way, or else.”

Midnight at the Oasis:  According to Wal-Mart CEO Bill Simon, at the end of month customers come in late at night, fill their carts with baby formula and diapers and wait until midnight to check out – after their government electronic benefit cards get activated.  “The only reason somebody gets out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it, and they’ve been waiting for it.”

Factors: Even though India has plentiful coal resources, many Indian power companies are investing in foreign coal assets in countries with conducive regulatory norms.  Don't you just love it when they talk dirty?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SAR #10265

Hypocrisy is a prerequisite for election to public office.  Most politicians are over-qualified.

The Paper Chase:  GMAC is turning out to be the poster child for the poor paperwork brigade. It has halted all of its evictions and foreclosures in 23 states because it cannot prove it hold the mortgages and has decided to stop making fraudulent affidavits claiming that it does. But remember, this is GMAC, not the Lone Ranger.

Coffee, Tea, or Fees:   Charging more while providing less service has led airline profits to their highest level since 2002.  Time to check under that goose again for more of those golden eggs.  Got change for the toilet?

Rating Those Savings:  It appears that all that belt tightening, saving and paying down mortgages and credit cards wasn't really happening.  The $610 in “deleveraging” turns out to be mostly - $588 billion of it – lenders charging off bad debts.

It's A Start:  The misleading headline reports that “Housing Starts Way Stronger than Expected.”  Not quite; apartment construction was up – 32% - but the core single-family home data was a lackluster 4.3% rebound from last months 6.7% decline, which isn't going to put a lot of people back to work.

Health Care, Reformed:  Beginning this week "insurers can no longer deny coverage for children under age 19 because of pre-existing conditions.  Checkups, immunizations and other basic preventive health care will become free for many people with health coverage.  If you get seriously sick, the insurance company can't cancel your coverage because you forgot to tell them about the hangnail removed five years ago.  Lifetime coverage limits disappear, and annual coverage limits start to fade away. There's a stronger appeals process for when insurance companies deny care."  When will this anti-capitalist, self-serving do-goodism end?  When we let the Republicans back in.

The Tide:  If you lose your job you are more likely to drop out of the labor market than to find another job.  Since January of 2009 more people have dropped out of the labor market than have gotten new jobs.  The great majority are, of course, still out there looking.  See the graph.

Confidence: Putin is confident that the gas pipeline linking Russia directly to Germany will go ahead despite Polish objections.  The Poles need Russian gas.

Yellow Fever:  China and Japan are becoming quite serious about their South China Sea dispute, and China made it very clear it wasn't something the US should meddle with.  China's concern is not limited to exploiting the natural gas resources beneath the sea, but is a power play against the US through its proxy, Japan.

Coincidences:   Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have agreed to build the long-delayed trans-regional gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.  You know, the one the invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with.  It will run through Kandahar province, where the US Army has just set up shop in force.

Porn O'Graph:  House about those exciting new houses?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SAR #10264

“The rich are different from you and me: they have more influence.”   Paul Krugman

Memo:  The recession is over.  It has been over for some time.  Over a year.  The National Bureau of Economic Research says that the recession started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.  This was put out in a memo because they couldn't say it with a straight face in front of 17.5 million unemployed Americans.

Pot/Kettle: Israel says Russia is acting irresponsibly in selling 72 cruise missiles to Syria.  Syria undoubtedly feels the same way when the US sells weapons to Israel.

Contingency Plans:  Obama has said that the US would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011, yet construction is just now starting on a $100 million extension to Shindand Air Base, another $100 million extension at Camp Dwyer, and a third $100 million extension at Mazar-e Sharif airbase.   None of these will be completed by the withdrawal date.

Impetuous:  Beginning November 1, you must ask permission from Homeland Security's TSA three days in advance or you won't be able to fly. Just another way to save you money.

House of Mirrors Saud:   Saudia Arabia now claims 1) it has oil reserves for more than 80 years of 8 mbd production. 2) it now has 260 billion barrels of reserves and 3) “is expecting to increase” that by another 100 billion barrels and then 4) will manage to recover 70% of the oil in its existing fields.   Not one of these claims is believable.

Infield Fly Rule:  Sales of junk bonds have passed $170 billion so far this year – already setting an annual record. Investors are chasing yield and ignoring risk with the same blind panache they did in 2007, just before...

Assigned Readings:  America is disintegrating, the America that once had a large middle class, the one with high paying jobs, the one where street were opportunity knocked and everything was possible. The recession may have ended, the damage lingers on.  Get used to lower standards.

Without Comment:  More than 600 items looted from the Iraqi National Museum during the Rumsfeld 'stuff happens' disarray have been returned to the Museum.  The cache was found in the Prime Minister's office, “along with some kitchen appliances.”

The Way Forward:  GOP leaders say they will use any control they may get in the Congress to repeal regulations that businesses do not like, reinstate massive tax cuts for the rich, cut spending on social programs, prevent any reduction in global warming and starve health care reform out of existence.  Once Republicans do all that, they'll find some way to blame it on the Democrats – or have to face voters without any fig leaves.

A Quote:  “Newt Gingrich himself is sufficient reason that no American patriot should ever vote Republican.” - Brad DeLong

Neverland:  Long story short, when Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh on Automatic Earth) is asked when things will get better, she explains that the collapse of the financial system, the developing depression and the ongoing depletion of fossil fuels present probably insurmountable barriers to a resumption of the growth economy within any practical time frame.  Actually, her answer is “Never.”

The Fine Print:  Poland will run short of natural gas supplies this autumn if it fails to sign a deal with Russia for increased deliveries.  It is the hand that heats the cradle, rather than the one that rocks it, that decides the future.

Slackers:  A million over 55 workers have been unemployed for six months or more.  Most will never work again above the level of “Thank you for shopping Walmart.”  Tell me again the part about raising the retirement age...

Translation:  According to the Justice Department, the FBI “gave inaccurate information” to Congress and the public when it claimed a possible terrorism link to justify surveilling an anti-war rally. When you do this it is called lying. When you do it to Congress, it is called perjury.

Monday, September 20, 2010

SAR #10263

Government has been reduced to a public relations exercise,  the Presidency to PR releases.

Sandlot Ball:   The bankers have a new razzle-dazzle play they want to try out on the suckers.  This time they're going to have the mortgage servicers send out invitations for the unwary to refinance their underwater homes at the new low, low, unbelievably low rate of 4.something %.  In return the homeowner will receive a small addition to the principal due – the bribe paid the servicers for this service – so that now they will be even more underwater.  But their payments will be lower.  And the loans would cease to be non-recourse, so the owner could not walk away no matter how much more the price fell.  Heck of a deal.

The Revised Edition:  Justice Scalia says it is a “total absurdity” to claim the 14th Amendment protects the rights of women and gays.  They, and the rest of us, have no constitutional right to privacy, he claims.  Scalia also claims that the Constitution's authors intended for religion to play a large role in US politics – history to the contrary.  He got the 'total absurdity' part right.

Quoted:   “I am not a Democrat, because I have no idea what their economic policies are; and I am not a Republican, because I know precisely what their economic policies are.”

"Things are Going to Happen":  Dr. Robert Hirsch, a man with excellent oil & energy credentials and author of a 2005 DOE report on peak oil, says there was “a conspiracy to keep it (peak oil) quiet” in Washington,  but that “if you’re a reasonably intelligent person, you see that catastrophic things are going to happen to the world.  We’re talking about major damage, major change in our civilization. Chaos, economic disaster, wars, all kinds of things that are, as I say, very complicated, non-linear. Really bad things.”  I can't wait until Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle, Sarah Palin, et al. are setting our energy, economic and foreign policies.

Send In The Clowns: Ireland is on the verge of asking the IMF or the EU for 'help'.  The Irish have already suffered one round of belt-tightening austerity insults to the common man and there is some question as to their tolerance for more.

The Dove:  The Defense Department has asked Boeing to develop a surveillance and communications drone aircraft that can remain aloft for five years. It will be controlled from an underground bunker to be called Noah's Ark.

Sound and Fury:  In a fine show of pandering platitudes, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has said that the nation's largest banks should pay some significant part of bailing out Fannie and Freddie because they sold them the bad mortgages.  As though the buyer didn't know there was a pig in that sack all along.

Quoted:   “If taxing the wealthy less were the secret to economic growth, why would we tax them at all?”

Battered Wife Syndrome:    Those who did the most to bring us to this particular barn dance now say that the only way to avoid the dance and more like it is to go home with them.  The tax policies that we've had for the last decade have worked so well the GOP thinks we need more of them.  Odds are we'll keep taking the abuse.

Trade Secrets:  Not only will those purveying frankenfoods not have to tell the unsuspecting experimental subjects that their food has been tinkered with, but also those who don't use GM foods will be barred from telling the customers that their products are not so contaminated.

The Problem:  Too many babies - that's the base cause of our problems. There is no point to recycling, or curly light bulbs, building electric cars and windmills or any of the rest of that as long as the population is going to increase by 50% at any time, much less the next 40 years.

Assigned Reading:  In 1961 "The Image," Boorstin famously predicted that real news and serious discourse would eventually be replaced by a "new kind of synthetic novelty" called "pseudo-events".  He was wrong. It's called Fox News.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SAR #10261

Capitalism desperately needs another FDR.

Vox Populi:  According to a recent poll, the vast majority of Americans opposes an attack on Iran – just as opposed Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq. Plus two-thirds want the US to be neutral in Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  So much for democracy in the warrior empire.

Don't Know/Won't Hurt: First off, about 2 out of 3 Americans still think buying a house is an investment, a safe investment. Scary . About a quarter of all homeowners never, ever check to see what their home is worth. Another quarter only do so “every few years.”  That explains why so few folks are walking away from their underwater houses – they don't know they're sinking.

Don't Bother:  Turns out that government workers are – once age and education are taken into consideration – underpaid, on average.  Won't matter, facts never solve anything.

Another inconvenient truth:  Everyone – the IEA, OPEC, EIA, Daniel Yergin and nearly everyone in Houston -  believes that when the non-OPEC oil supplies run out, OPEC will pick up the slack – because they believe the fanciful reserve numbers that OPEC producers made up back in the 1980s. Go back and correct the bragging, add in their admitted 3% and higher depletion rates and you'll conclude that OPEC will not be able to save us.

Not Not Guilty: The case against Shell for having others kill Nigerian civilians in its behalf has been dismissed because the court said it had no jurisdiction over violations of human rights that occurred outside the US. Not that Shell didn't do it, just that they're going to get away with it.

Across The River...  If Little Miss Muffet's friend had been a C. darwini it would have shown up from across the river on its 25 meter, stronger than kevlar, super spider web.

Miss Manners:  Politics in the United States used to be the art of compromise.  No longer, not since the Republican Party transformed itself into a group of extortionists willing to put the economy and the nation at risk of deep recession or worse to gain some perceived partisan victory.  If we don't let the rich get richer, they intend to make sure the rest of us suffer serious economic harm.  It's not even about winning – it's just so they can preen.

Enemy of My Enemy:  The Pentagon is going to funnel US arms (and ever more US money) to Yemen to help them fight off al-Qaeda.   It worked so well in Afghanistan.

Backgrounder:   Running around Scotland trying to be relevant, Pope Benedict XVI (and former Hitler Youth) praised the British for having stood against "Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society.”  Actually it was the Jews Hitler wished to eradicate with the cooperation of the pope’s predecessors Pius XI and Pius XII.  The Pope's attack on human rights as “arbitrary freedoms” and “the atheist extremism of the 20th Century” echoes nicely with the Catholic extremism of the last 20 centuries..

Two Things:   Police in Chicago are planning a “massive protest” against manpower shortages resulting from the city's tight budget.  How dare they? &  It's about time people started pushing back.

Impossible Dream?  Everyone assumes the question is “How do we resume economic growth?”  The question that needs answering, and soon, is “Can the economy grow while oil consumption decreases?”

Porn O'Graph: And then there were none...

Friday, September 17, 2010

SAR #10260

People  without jobs cannot buy houses, or much else.

It's Just Business:  FedEx missed its predicted earnings by 1 cent. The market sold the shares lower. To make up for this terrible result the company is going to close 100 facilities and lay off 1,700 employees.

Shorty:  September's Philly Fed Index 'suggests' economic growth has stalled.  New orders fell, as did shipments.  The average work week was shorter, while unemployment claims stuck at 450,000, but the 4 week average was a snappy 465,000.  About that job creation thingy the Republicans are against...

Flash Bang:  So far this month US drones have killed more than 60 people in 13 missile strikes in Pakistan.  That's a new 'record level' of drone attacks. Does that mean we're winning?

Dealing:  Forest Pharmaceuticals has agreed to plead guilty to 1) selling an unapproved thyroid medication, 2) promoting an adult antidepressant for use on children (the side effect was suicide) and 3) obstructing federal agents. Ordered to cease and desist, the company increased production.

Sound Off:  As you walk down the street, count the people you see by sevens:  One, two, three, four, five, six, poor.  And repeat.

Name That Loon:  Masturbation is a replacement for marital sex.  School prayer and  Bible studies would prevent mass shootings.  Those with AIDS are not victims  (leaving you to figure out the unspoken alternative…)  And most importantly, “if we as a nation tolerate sin, generations to come will reap the effects.”  If she’d been taught the Bible in school she would have said 'whirlwind’.

Countdown:  Every time a county commission cuts back on a public service, every time a school board cuts another 5%, every time a governor puts more first responders on furlough, we take another step back.  Then we applaud the frugality and no new taxes...

Pen Pals:  If you write to a political prisoner in this country, the odds are pretty good that a copy of your letter will be sent to the FBI office nearest your home identifying you as a probable activist, extremist or anarchist. Wear a beard and false nose while writing those letters.

Contrarian:  Alan 'Bubbles” Greenspan says it is time to raise taxes and to cut stimulus spending.  But he cautioned that “all bets were off” if house prices fall further due to high levels of unsold inventory.  No problem, Maestro, I'm pretty sure banks are going to raise the asking price on their backlog of foreclosed houses.

Flip a Coin:  "Population growth, uncontrolled urbanization, migration, and climate change will place greater demands on the planet's water resources...”   Today a billion people lack access to potable drinking water and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation. By 2025 those numbers will climb to 1 out of 2 – over 3.5 billion people lacking adequate water supplies. 

Time Marches On:  There were 325,000 foreclosure filings – default notices, auctions and bank repossessions – in July.  That makes 17 consecutive months with over 300,000 foreclosures and the eighth consecutive month of increases in the numbers foreclosed.

Precisely:  "Is the U.S. heading toward another recession?"   What do you mean “another”?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

SAR #10259

Business 101: Hiring people cuts into profits.

Privacy:  Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell claims to be able to live on $5,800 a year and is sure her supporters will understand that questions about her personal and public finances and defrauding the IRS are not relevant to her fitness to represent them.

Question of the Day Why Do We Keep Indulging the Fiction That Banks Are Private Enterprises?”  The financial industry has unlimited access to the public purse and is the most subsidised industry in the world – even more than big oil.  “Banks are now in the permanent role of looters.”  Etc.

A Step Back:  Newt promises the GOP will “shut the government down”.  It worked so well for them last time, right?  Just how could they do that? Achieving such a goal involves more than GOP hand-waving would suggest – even if paying soldiers and writing Social Security checks were excepted.

How Big was Too Big?  Lehman's was so big that two years and $2 billion in administrative fees have not been sufficient to wind down the failure that started all this.

Some Numbers:  August retail sales came in 0.1% higher than expected, with a 0.4% growth following a downwardly revised 0.3% growth in July. Sales excluding automobiles advanced 0.6%.  Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Port/Storm?   Maybe the message from Delaware has little to do with Ms. O'Donnell and much to do with the general public's disgust with all of the options offered by the traditional political parties. Too bad the Democrats don't have enough guts to run actual Democrats this fall;   a lot of progressives may stay away or vote for the Greens, ceding victory to the right.  Remember Florida?

Assigned Reading:  “The hypocrisy of most deficit discussions.”

Mr. Obvious:  Alan Greenspan says that gold is the canary in the coal mine and needs to be watched, as clearly investors are concerned about the value of paper currencies.   I say that Mr. Greenspan needs to be watched... closely.

Points of View:  Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez thinks $100 per barrel is a fair price for crude oil. Libya agrees, claiming that OPEC needs that much because the cost of food and other imports had risen. Meanwhile ElBadri, the OPEC Secretary General said that OPEC has enormous reserves that only need to be found.

Go Long!   10Year returns: Stocks (S&P500) -31%, Bonds +99%, Treasuries +124, Gold 343%. And what did your high priced Wall Street investment genius have you put your money in?

Repetition:  Last week Obama announced his plan to give tax breaks for businesses making investments in new plants and property.  It's not going to work.  The problem is a lack of demand and a brand new shinny Model 476/B that makes things there is no demand for is going to sit there idle.  Or not, because no businessman will buy a machine to make stuff he can't sell. And it won't get the Democrats that many votes, either.

Audience Survey:  Children do not seem to appreciate sarcasm until about age 10, but children as young as 4 can understand and use irony. And you thought the picture up above was a put-on.

Lowest Price Wins:  While waiting for permission to start selling standing-room-only tickets, airlines are considering a new 'saddle' seat that would reduce passenger space to 23” and require them to perch on a “saddle” about the size of a bicycle seat and rest most of their weight on their feet.  But only for three hour flights.  Women in heels and snug skirts will really like them. T hey really, really don't want us to fly.

Porn O'Graph: Rights, revised.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SAR #10258

Markets will do whatever it takes to screw the most people.

State Of Play:  On behalf of would-be shale oil drillers, the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security is tracking anti-gas drilling groups and their meetings, including citizens foolish enough to attend a public showing of a documentary about the environmental hazards of natural gas drilling.

His Master's Voice:  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has met more often with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein than with Congressional leaders.  Any questions?

Suspected US drones kill 13  Unless someone else has taken to sending drones to drop missiles in Pakistan, the US  killed 13 more “suspected terrorists”, after killing 5 on Sunday and a total of 29 last week.  Sudden death, without warning, out of the sky in a country not at war with the attackers... sounds vaguely familiar.

Facelift:  The folks getting rich making obesity ubiquitous want to re-brand HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) "Corn Sugar".  It'll still make you fat, but they'll feel better about it.

Supply/Demand:  One of the problems in applying standard economics to petroleum is that their school solution says that rising prices caused by demand outstripping supply will (a) decrease demand and (b) increase supply. Tell that to the guy who needs a tank of gas to get to work. Tell that to BP and friends, who have discovered only 10 billion barrels a year while we have been using 30 billion barrels. “This is crucial to understanding oil markets in the years to come,” according to the IEA.

Money Quote:  "We are managing to a view that home prices are more likely to be headed down rather than up." - Capital One CEO Richard Fairbank

What Goes Around:  The top 1% get 24% of all the income in the US. If the Republicans have their way, the richest 120,000 people in the country would receive an average tax break of $3 million each over the next decade.  What's wrong with a little class warfare?  What's wrong with a lot of class warfare?

One more time:   Scientific studies have repeatedly found no causative nor correlative link between autism and vaccinations.  Perhaps parents wanting someone to blame should look to the wider environment and the multitude of man-made chemicals we have spewn about.

Things in a Certain Order:  After being criticized for putting American citizens on CIA hit lists, the Obama administration is considering having a quick trial in absentia before letting the CIA kill citizens.  Or a quick trial after they're caught and before they're executed, depending.

War Profiteering:  Prudential Financial has been profiting from the deaths of American soldiers for at least 10 years – with the knowledge and consent of the VA.  Ain't capitalism greed great?

Money Talks:  The US Camber of Commerce, with a political war chest rivaling that of the Republican Party (as though there were a difference) is facing complaints that it laundered millions of dollars meant for charitable work into attempts to thwart Obama's policy proposals – which the Chamber views as a public service.

Sound Bites:  While you wait breathlessly to find out what the market did today, remember that “the market” is really just 112 stocks being traded back and forth between robots.

Tiny Tiny Print:  Real estate developers are now including a little item in the sales contract that says that for the next 99 years, every time the house you just bought is sold, they get 1% of the sales price. Royalties.

Behave!  Don't make me count to 3,285 or whatever number of days it is until banks have to comply with the Basel III regulations and show that at least 8.5% of their “capital” is actually capital.  What did you expect when a bunch of bankers make rules for a bunch of banks.

Porn O'Graph:  How to stop smoking...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

SAR #10257

“What goes up must come down” applies to civilizations.

How Much A Barrel?  The administration plans to sell $60 billion worth of advanced fighter jets, helicopters and other arms to Saudi Arabia in exchange for an undisclosed amount of oil. And for balance, does Israel get $61 billion?

Happier Days:  Before you get too excited about the “monster rally” in stocks, remember that the Dow is still down 25% from its highs and NASDAQ is still down 51%.  Party responsibly.

Shell Game:  If a company borrows money in order to buy back its own stock, is this a good deal for investors?  Wouldn't it be better if they could make money selling products at a profit?

Switcheroo:  John Boehner now says he will support a tax cut for the middle class if it is the only way Republicans can get elected, but is over-ruled by Mitch McConnell who says that if the richest 2% can’t add $700 billion to the deficit, those making under $50,000 don't get squat.

Proud to be an American:  The United States continues to get poorer, going ever more into debt rescuing banks and fighting wars for obscure reasons while its citizens descend into poverty (45 million people, 20% of all children live in poverty – the third highest poverty rate among developed nations).  Let's worry about Social Security shortfalls that will start in 2035 – to hell with the poor and the homeless, they don't contribute to re-election campaigns vote.

Toe The Line:  Almost everything you learn about Venezuela in the MSM is (a) wrong, (b) distorted, (c ) propaganda or (d) all of the above.

And the Goal Was?  The government's housing programs have been viewed as failures, but when you realize these programs were intended to safeguard the big banks and big lenders at homeowners’ expense, you can see how successful they have been.  If banks were forced to actually fairly value all the bad loans they are carrying at 100%, the whole thing would come tumbling down.

Religious Wars: I don't care whether or not a mosque is built here or there.  Catholic churches are a much larger threat to our children.

Talking His Book:  Warren Buffett – the stock investor – claims to see “a huge recovery across all of our businesses happening right now.”  So run out and buy some shares in what he owns so their price will go up.

A Must Read:  It is time to question the very basis of our economy, “the assumption that the lower classes need to take pay cuts and layoffs so global bondholders and Chase bankers can be paid in full,” the unexamined belief that “ lower class pay cuts are good for the economy while at the same time increased rent extraction by the financial class is good for the economy.”

Make A Wish:  Newt Gingrich has endorsed a GOP plan to slash Medicare and Social Security “in an ostensible effort to end the budget deficit once they gain control of the budget process, following Paul Ryan's “America's Roadmap”.   The Ryan plan to privatize Social Security will, Newt says, “triple the earnings” of Wall Street future retirees.  The plan would neither balance the budget nor seriously reduce the national debt.

Enough Said:  Under the Affordable Advantage program at least one family was able to buy a $115,000 house with only $0.67 of their own money.  The rest, dear reader, came from you.

Gimmie More!  Ever tell your doctor that you don't want that blood work done, that scan done, another test run, to see the specialist?  Nope.  One of the reasons US health care costs so much is because there's so damned much of it.  It's like collecting Webkins.

Tightly Wrapped:  “War is an aggressive socialist program that threatens private property and freedom of contract, menaces the currency, and destabilizes commerce. In all these ways, war is one of the greatest threats to the capitalist order.” And here I thought war was not healthy for children and other living things.

Porn O'Graph:  Coincidence or causation?

Monday, September 13, 2010

SAR #10256

Many thought there would be no consequences.

Anniversary:  Nine years after 9/11 everyone is asking “How safe is America?”  The real question should be  'How unsafe were we, actually?' and  'Who profited how much from needlessly scaring the shit out of us?'

Retaility Check:  US consumer spending increased 54% since 2000, while consumer income increased only 6%.  Payback time?

Bunch of Delinquents:  Despite banks making a record level of loan modifications, commercial real estate investments continue to fail.  20% of hotel loans are delinquent.  Loans for multifamily housing have reached a 14% delinquency rate, and overall CMBS have an 8.9% delinquency rate - which represents about $2 billion in potential losses.

Lost in Translation:  Gingrich says that President Obama's world outlook is “factually insane” and that he lives in “Kenyan, anti-colonial” fantasy land.  Don't ask me, I've not the faintest idea what that means.

Conclusion:  A ranking of national competitiveness has Switzerland in first place, Sweden, then Singapore, the USA, Germany, Japan, Finland, Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada. Low paid and poorly treated workers do not seem to be essential in order to compete.  Laws against child labor and indentured servitude are not a bar to success in the marketplace.

Cloudy, With Sarcasm:  James K. Galbraith's testimony to the Deficit Reduction Committee was delicious.  While it made no friends and will have no influence on the outcome, it is nice to see an economist who is willing to say what he thinks in plain language, starting with  “Your proceedings are clouded by illegitimacy...”

Back to the Future:  Fannie Mae has revived the “No Down” mortgage. Next month they are going to unveil a program where the government annually pays off that part of your mortgage that is underwater.

Yes/Maybe/No:  Wholesale inventories rose 1.3% while sales rose only half that.  Some see this as encouraging because it seems wholesalers are anticipating increased sales.  Others claim that wholesalers have over-stocked and inventories are now too high.

Three Monkeys:  Robert Fisk reports in The Independent that the reason Obama agreed with Bush's decision not to release the rest of the pictures from Abu Ghraib is that “Most of the women in the prison were raped — some of them left prison pregnant.”  The pictures we saw were bad enough. I hope this is not true, but fear the worst.

'Innocence' Explained: A federal appeals court has agreed with Chevron that it is not responsible for any wrongdoing in having Nigerians who got in the way of their profits killed.

Editorializing:  The headline reads: “Poverty Explodes To Record Highs Under Obama.” the story is about poverty levels in the US “jumping” from 13.2% to 15% and child poverty “jumping” from 19% to 20%.  “Jumping?” And the poverty experienced in 2009 was the result of the Bush administrations policies over the preceding 8 years and not attributable to Obama.  Viewpoints change, facts do not.

Suffer the Little Children:  Testimony from over 500 Belgian victims of child molestation by Catholic clergy – some as young as two years old, four and five years old – are being investigated by judicial authorities.  At what point did the Church become a pedophiles clubhouse, or has it always been one?

Slick:  “A substantial layer of oily sediment” has been found “stretching  on the seabed for dozens of miles in all directions” from the BP/Deepwater Horizon site. Not all the oil evaporated when BP's PR people said “Shazam.”

Pudding/Proof:  As jobs become ever more scarce, corporate profits rise because the workers hours and pay can be cut, cut, cut.  Which raises the question:  “How do you continue on in business after having impoverished, alienated, or driven away most of your clientele in the heat of a short term greed enabled by a corrupted political and regulatory system?”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

SAR #10254

Stock markets depend on the herd instinct.

Educational Change:  San Francisco is encouraging students to scoop up all the pennies, nickels and dimes they can find laying around the house, in their piggy banks or mom's purse, and bring the coins to school a part of a program to supplement the school budget.  Collection boxes in the shape of little red schoolhouses will also be placed near registers at Walgreens to encourage folks to toss in their coins as part of “The Coin Rush.”

Mostly Harmless:  A fundamental constant of the universe may be inconstant.  “The fine-structure constant which tells the strength of electromagnetism is not the same everywhere” throughout the universe.  If true, the basic tenet of physics – that physical laws are the same everywhere – would give way to a universe where the house rules varied from place to place, suggesting the some of the basic assumptions underlying our understanding of the universe are misunderstandings.

What's In There?  It has finally dawned on the EPA that it might be worthwhile to find out just what it is that natural gas drillers are putting in the water supply.  Seems premature to be concerned since nobody's actually died yet, have they?

Stamping Out Hunger:   The good news is that rate of increase in the number of Americans on food stamps is declining.  The sad news is that 41 million – 13% of the population – one out of every eight Americans – need help buying food. Ask John Boehner what the Republicans might do about this.  [Hint: In order to let the $26 billion aid-to-states bill pass, the GOP insisted that $12 billion be taken from future food stamp funding.  Can hardly wait to see what they do to Social Security in the name of austerity and deficit reduction.]

Just the Facts:  The CIA reports that income inequalities are greater in the US than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and approximates levels found in Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay.  While the spread between the rich and poor is declining in Latin America, in the US the rich continue to get richer and the poor, poorer.

Hazy, Lazy Days:  The man who fell off the Golden Gate was doing fine until he hit the water.  That's pretty much the way Lloyd’s of London and Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs describe the world's approach to the eventual disruption to be caused by the collapse of energy supplies.  Along with the OECD, they predict “catastrophic consequences", the worry warts.

Imagine:  Reports are pointing to certain GOP political ads on the new healthcare law, claiming the ads “distort the facts.”  As though exaggeration (lying) and omissions (lying by omission) were somehow new to the political scene.

The 10% Solution:  Crystal ballers see employment growth failing to keep pace with the increase in the labor pool, leading to 10% or higher unemployment in 2011.  Of course the increasing number of those who have abandoned all hope and gone and hid somewhere might lower the number of job seekers enough to lower the unemployment rate while increasing the social instability quotient.

Tea Leaves:  If we're dumb enough to give Republicans control in Congress don't expect any action on our economic troubles.  The failing economy will be their excuse to push through lower taxes, privatize Social Security, repeal health reform and open the Capital Mall to oil drilling.  Clip and save, you've been warned.

Huffing and Puffing:  California regulators, in the role of Big Bad Wolf, are threatening to fine health insurer PacifiCare “up to $9.9 billion” for about a million mismanaged medical claims, failures to pay doctors monies owed, and a general disdain for the regulators themselves.  History suggests the case will be settled for about $2.7 million and the promise not to be caught again.

Common Cold Cured!  The Fed, the TBTF banks, the media, mainstream economists, the OECD and Larry Kudlow are all claiming that further economic weakness is not possible, everything's coming up roses.  Tell you one thing, we've doubled up on dips.

Friday, September 10, 2010

SAR #10253

The problem is not production, it's distribution.

Parts is Parts:  The Army is investigating charges that a group of at least five US soldiers murdered Afghan civilians and took body parts as souvenirs.

Numbers Game:  The good news is that initial unemployment claims dropped 27,000 last week to only 451,000.  The bad news is that the data from nine states were estimates because Labor Day interfered with the labor statistics.  The actual number will revised, probably upward.

Partly Sunny:   July's balance of trade declined to $42.8 billion, down about $7 billion.  $21 billion of that deficit went to pay for petroleum imports.

Loopholes:  Remember the buy-a-home bribery that allowed home buyers to take a tax credit? It worked so well that about half the 2 million folks who claimed the credit were not eligible and will have to pay it back. Watch Congress grant them an amnesty.

If/Then:  A Federal Court has ruled that banning gays and lesbians from military service violates their First Amendment civil rights.  The government immediately claimed that in this instance Federal Courts do not have jurisdiction over the matter nor authority to issue a nationwide injunction – even though they have that authority and jurisdiction in other areas.  Had the ruling been in support of the Don't Tell rule the question of competent authority would not have come up.

Put Down the Pills and Back Away:  Having nothing better to do, North Carolina's sheriffs want to be able to rummage through lists identifying every person who has ever had a prescription for pain relief or other “controlled substances.”  The presumption is that if you have to take drugs, you are by definition a druggie, a danger to society and quite possibly a liberal.  Unless you have a note from Rush.

Going Down:  Economists now forecast 2010's real GDP to increase only 2.7%, marked down 0.2% from last month and 0.6% from June.  [That's a 20% drop, overall.]  In the last month, expected GDP growth for 2011 was cut 10% to 2.5% for the year.  Subject to revision, your results may vary, do not attempt this at home.

All Aboard:  Wanting to make the morning commute more interesting, Philadelphia has decided to start randomly searching randomly selected rail passengers.  Ttaking the train to work instead of driving your car is seen as un-American and warrants suspicion.

Retelling Retail:  Consumer credit grew from $1.5 trillion in 2000 to $2.4 trillion today.  On top of that increase, the home became an ATM. These allowed American consumers – who haven't had a real raise in 35 years – to spend far more more than they earned – estimates are about 60% more, each year.  That party is over.  What are the retailers going to do with all the stores they built during the mad years?  How are they going to survive as consumer spending retreats by $800 billion a year?

Fractured Fairy Tales:  Place a few fruit flies in a bottle with a layer of honey at the bottom.  They will quickly multiply to an enormous number, and then, just as quickly, die off, poisoned by their wastes.   Or, add a few yeast cells to some grape juice, seal the bottle.  The yeast will happily consume the sugar and excrete alcohol.  When the alcohol reaches 12.5%, the yeast cells will drown in their own refuse.  Suicide programmed by nature.   Human beings, we are told, are different.

Perspective:  The headlines proclaim that “Obama Added More to National Debt in First 19 Months Than All Presidents from Washington Through Reagan Combined.”  Well yes and no.  This is in nominal, not inflation adjusted numbers.  It ignores the fact that the first $1.3 trillion of “Obama's” debt was inherited from Bush's budget, and that Bush's wars and tax cuts and were what drove the so-called Obama deficit.  Reagan tripled the debt ($700 billion to $2.1 trillion), GW doubled the national debt by adding $4 trillion to it.  Often where there's smoke there's obfuscation.

The Game Is Over and You Are Not A Winner:  If you didn't lose all your money in a McMansion mortgage and stuck the money in CDs, you'll be proud to know that that $500,000 you stuck away will give you nearly $7,500 to blow this year.  Before taxes and inflation.  Oh, that's your retirement?  Sorry.

Porn O'Graph:  Everything you know you're told is wrong.