Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SAR #10363

At least we are becoming a Banana Republic in a dignified manner.

Gossip:  Christmas retail sales increased the most in 5 years. So they say. Let's wait for the final report card – profits - before we break out the bubbly.

Perspective:  Prices for copper, cotton, wheat, corn... and oil are all up at the commodity exchanges and soon will be in the stores.  Many in the US are already on the “speculators are driving up the prices” bandwagon, especially about oil.   Nasty inflation due to Bernanke's QE2 is also suspected.  What the blinkered US commentariat does not see is that parts of the rest of the world are actually growing and expanding their consumption.  It may well be just supply and demand, it's just not us doing the demanding.

Predictions:  I just can't help myself. I know that most predictions are about as reliable as New Year's resolutions but I keep reading them.  Zero Hedge's listing came as close to my views as I've seen.

Untouched by Human Hands: Dow Jones' Lexicon service sends real-time financial news, in digital form, to... the financial computers which make 70% of the trades on Wall Street.  They trade on such a massive scale that a couple of pennies on a trade can make or lose fortunes.  As HAL said, “I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance...”

Reforming Reform:  The incoming Republicans in the House intend to castrate the Dodd-Frank financial reform law by strangling the SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission via skimpy budgets, and by dragging their senior people in front of continuous GOP run hearings to harangue and belittle them.  Representing the American public their masters' voice once again.

The Good News Isn't Very Good:  There seems to be a slight increase in employment, but it is wholly low skill low pay temporary jobs at one end and highly technical highly paid at the other and nothing for the middle class.  Yet companies are sitting on large piles of cash – because they can't figure out anything worthwhile to do with the money.

It's Only Make Believe:  Homeland Secretary Napolitano says it is immaterial that the TSA's x-ray scanners don't detect bombs and that the TSA's screeners fail to spot guns and other weapons 70% of the time,  because even if they don't work they make us feel safe and may scare the bad guys away.

Hints: House prices continue to decline according to the S&P/Case-Shiller indices, falling 1.3% m/m in October. Single-family houses fell at twice the expected rate.  The double dip in home prices is now in its fifth month.

Strange Bedfellows:  The right, which usually sees the government as the villain, now wants states to have the right to declare bankruptcy and default on their payments to bondholders.  Of course their goal is not the losses to the bondholdrs (who will turn out to mostly be pension funds – the middle class), but to enable “restructuring contracts” and thus force government workers, police, firemen, etc. to accept vastly lower wages and benefits.  But the big prize is letting/forcing states to privatize everything.  Roads, water systems, parks...  Look at it this way, if Grover Norquist is for it, it cannot be good for the great majority of us.

Porn O'Graph:  Housing Hump.


mistah charley, ph.d. said...

Eisenhower's Farewell Address - 50th Anniversary Celebration - FREE FOOD

You're invited.


50th anniversary commemoration of Dwight Eisenhower's Farewell Address



6:30 P.M.

7:30 P.M.
Screening of original farewell Address

Panel Discussion with:
James Fallows, Dana Priest, and Evan Thomas

Moderated by:

David Gergen, Senior Political Analyst for CNN with introductory remarks by
Susan Eisenhower, Chairman of Leadership and Public Policy Programs & Chair Emeritus for The Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College.

Post-dessert reception


I intend to attend, under my real name. If any other readers of Some Assembly Required would like to meet at the reception, please say so. I don't know if questions will be allowed from the audience, or if so, whether I will have a chance to pose one.

One reason I'm going (and I live in the DC area, so it's a local event for me) is to see if anyone will say out loud that Ike's nightmare has come to pass, and instead of the MIC (aka MICFiC) serving the nation-state serving the people, it has become the other way round. If so, will there be any suggestions that something should be done about it? If so, what? If not now, when?

The other reason I want to go is, of course, free food. Even dessert.

Anonymous said...

RE: Perspective

It is because the Fed is devaluing the dollar. Commodity prices are are more or less the same but since they are normally traded in dollars it looks like they are rising because it takes more worthless dollars to buy them. It's your dollar that is worth less along with your house and labor and anything else paid for in dollars. Hence why Russia and China want to trade in their own currencies. They aren't running the printing presses at full speed three shifts a day.


OkieLawyer said...

Re: The Good News Isn't Very Good

Yet companies are sitting on large piles of cash – because they can't figure out anything worthwhile to do with the money.

That is because the most worthwhile projects are not ones that will bring a return in three months. Changing the energy paradigm (multiple forms of alternative energy development), infrastructure repair and upgrades (electrified high-speed rail lines, dams, bridges and intra-city transportation systems to name but a few) and environmental cleanup are not profitable enterprises. They cost enormous amounts of capital that only a government can provide. And the only place to get the money is from the wealthy. Poor people don't have any money. But that is not what the new elected Congress wants to hear; so it will not get done.

OkieLawyer said...

I just saw this salient article:

Wage Theft Rampant in America

Charles Kingsley Michaelson, III said...

On wage theft: There is nothing new here. From my own experience in Regional, divisional and national retail management positions with a variety of retailers, I can assure you this theft has been ongoing since the 1970's and probably long before. And the employees generally know and nearly uniformly know better than speak up.


OkieLawyer said...


Then someone else should speak up for them.