Saturday, December 31, 2011

SAR #11365

The words “in some circumstances” do not appear in the Constitution.

Demonstrations: Egypt's generals demonstrated their contempt for even the pretense of democracy and an open society by sending their security forces into 17 NGO offices, confiscating paperwork and computers and hauling off some of the workers – all in the name of stemming criticism of the corruption, abuse and torture routinely practiced by the military. The West has dutifully wrung its hands and said tsk, tsk.

Plain Plan: Let's all agree that the federal budget with deficits as far as the eye can see is unsustainable. Let's agree: Something Must Be Done. Start with 1) Temporarily – a couple of years - undertake massive deficit spending on infrastructure projects, putting America back to work. 2) Cut spending on the War Machine. 3) Terminate the Bush tax cuts and raise taxes on all income – including capital gains and interest and dividends. 4) Accept that for-profit medicine is non-affordable and act accordingly. And remember there is little or no correspondence between your household budget and those of the government unless you have a printing press in the basement...

Clarification: The IMF and EU say that Hungary's new banking law will compromise the central bank's independence from politics. Hungary says that's the whole point. S&P has downgraded Hungarian debt to junk levels. The government, too, has reached junk level.

If I Tell You, Then It's Not Secret: The administration continues to refuse to tell Congress about the clandestine undeclared wars it is carrying on with drones, nor the extent of the drone warfare being carried out in Pakistan and Yemen. It especially does not want to talk about using drones to assassinate Americans. Congress, after all, long since gave up its right to declare war and oversee the President's use of deadly force.

Camping In: About 40% of homeowners in serious default on their loans - that means not making their payments - have been living rent free for at least two years. Why more folks who are woefully underwater on their loans do not default-in-place is a mystery. Many feel their house is the exception, that it has held its price or will soon rebound. A very large percent think that not paying when you can afford to - even though it is throwing money away - is simply immoral. It is not. Just ask American Airlines – or the example set by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Yes, Mother... It's simple. You are not saving enough. You need to set aside 15% of your pay. That's the minimum. A house is a place to live, it is not an investment. We're running out of greater fools. Make saving a priority. Pay yourself first. If you want to “invest” do it out of what's left after savings, after living expenses, after everything else.

End Run: A federal appeals court has ruled that private parties can do things that the government is constitutionally prevented from doing, and that the private parties may do so at the request of the government without fear of retribution from those whose rights get trampled.

Porn O'Graph: Bushwhacked

Friday, December 30, 2011

SAR #11364

When the perceptive become suddenly obtuse, blame ideology.

"Unexpectedly": As in initial applications for unemployment unexpectedly jumped 17,000 from last weeks initially reported 364,000, which had, of course been revised upward by 2,000. Actual terminations (smoothed away by 'seasonal adjustments') jumped from 421,000 to 490,000. Unexpectedly.

The Horsemen: Rank the following possible disasters in their order of probability: Collapse of the Eurozone. Oil price spike/shortages due to geopolitical factors. Oil price spike/shortage due to geologic factors. Collapse of the Chinese housing bubble. Economic setbacks due to governmental austerity and budget cutting programs. Natural disasters of enormous scope and damage. Societal upheaval.

Can You Hear Me Now? Starting January 15th, Verizon plans to charge customers $2 to pay their bill via Verizon. Also via the Internet. I wonder how they feel about pennies piled on the floor of one of their stores?

Collateral, Damaged: Banks in the EU need to roll over about $800 billion a month in order to finance their outstanding loans - one of the dangers of borrowing short and lending long is when the shorts grab you by the shorts. This will not be a problem until, of course, a month comes along when they cannot raise $800 billion in new short term money.

"Unexpectedly II": November's pending sales of existing homes unexpectedly rose 7.3% m/m after an even more unexpected 10.4% increase in October. Doesn't anybody know how to play this game?

Contagioncy Plans: The UK is reported to be planning what steps it will take when the euro break-up begins. It will restrict the movement of money and people in and out of the country, and plans to help thousands of its citizens return from the continent, using the Ministry of Defence to organize and coordinate that effort. A major effort - and not just of the UK but of all governments - will be to obtain and husband the means to obtain basic necessities in a world where most food and energy is imported. And 'means' means dollars.

Playing the Odds: About 5% of the Chinese economy is exports. About 70% of it is construction. The Chinese real estate bubble seems to be collapsing. This will most probably bring on the same problems the US has faced for the past five years. Will the economic problems cause the current food and housing riots to spread, triggering anarchy on a regional or national basis? Stay tuned.

Paper Chase: A predicted increase in foreclosures in 2011 – based on seriously delinquent and in process properties – didn't happen. In fact, foreclosures are down to their lowest level since 2007. Owner occupied properties, in particular, are not being foreclosed. Given the 2.2 million loans either seriously delinquent or “in process” in January, that only 815,000 foreclosures were completed should be seen as a sign of the difficulties mortgage servicers have had meeting the legal requirements to foreclose.

Well, Dry: Hungary held a bond auction and nobody came - all the bids received on its offering of 3-year notes were rejected. Its 10-year debt offering went with a 9.70% interest rate, up from last month's 8.78%.

Playing In Traffic: The DOT says that US drivers drove 2.3% less in October this year than last. This makes 47 consecutive months where miles-driven was less than the previous peak. Higher gas prices and lower employment rates both contributed to the decline.

Precis: “Europe's leaders have spent most of the euro crisis denying there's a euro crisis.” First it was a Greek problem. Then it was the PIGS problem. Then it was 'Club Med'. Italy was flavor of the week recently. But it is not, repeat after me, not a euro problem. Mostly because if the problem is the euro, and it is, there is no acceptable solution.

Limbo: Congress has failed to extend the subsidized conversion of food to fuel, bringing at least a temporary halt to the very bad idea of using fossil fuel energy to turn corn into fuel, a process that at very best was a break-even in terms of energy even while it lined the pockets of a lot of important political contributors. It is unclear if this is a temporary lapse or if the country is finally going to stop wasting $6 billion a year on this boondoggle.

Porn O'Graph: As long as you don't drive to the the grocery store, you're doing fine.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

SAR #11363

Who gets fleeced next?

Resolution: On behalf of climate scientists and the reporters that follow their work, be it resolved that the word "unexpected" will no longer be used to describe Mother Nature's tendency to do things her way. For example, "The glaciers in Peru's Cordillera Blanca mountains are unexpectedly melting faster than conservative IPCC models predict." will henceforth be reported for what they are - mounting indications that we are headed for an environmental disaster will within the lifetimes of at least half the people now alive. It ain't unexpected if respected scientists have been predicting it for decades.

True Faith: This happens to be about oil and gas, but it is the classic American solution to all of problems, big and small. “A lot of the technical problems that exist today will be solved in the not-too-distant future.” - per corporate evangelist Jim Letourneau. Just click your heels.

Penny For Your Thoughts: The euro dropped nearly $0.01 against the dollar in an hour of trading today - with no appreciable cause other than the revival of the very reasonable fear that the eurozone debt crisis is still with us. The euro also hit a 10-year low against the yen. Gold was down 2.25% on the day.

Shopping Tip: Electrical shortages in Uganda are seriously cutting the annual grasshopper harvest. Stock up now. Rare earths are going to be limited, too, as China cuts export quotas.

Word/Wise: DHS says it will (continue to?) monitor the public postings of Twitter and Facebook users, and it will create fictitious user accounts and scan posts of users for key terms in an effort to entrap gather data on users. Your file will be kept for five years and passed around to various government agencies.

Caution Steep Grade Ahead: If our various debt death-traps cannot be cured by issuing more debt, a "sharp and sustained drop" in market averages may well result in 50 - 60% declines by next Christmas. Use lower gears.

Laundry Cycle: Krugman sees "debt-eroding inflation as something helpful in dealing with debt overhang." Maybe so, but it is simply a slow and sneaky way for the government to renege on its debt. Why is impoverishing savers at the expense of spenders a Good Idea? Krugman also claims "we’re awash in savings with no place to go." It that's true, I'm willing to take in the wash.

Precautions: A six-year study showed that those who took multi-vitamins had nothing to show for it but less money.

Swan Song: It would be interesting to see the term "monetary easing" retired and good old fashioned "printing scads of money" resurrected for use in sentences such as " The only thing that will save the Shanghai Composite index from a precipitous fall (if down 30% in a year isn't precipitous) would be for the government to massively inflate the money supply. Like Bernanke does and the ECB is trying to do.

If, Then, Why: Petroleum - WTIC - is back at the $100/barrel mark, but I paid $2.96 at the pump for gasoline today. How's that possible? Petroleum has risen steadily of late, while gasoline prices keep falling. This is counterintuitive at best.

Simple Truths: The deficit is being rattled, like a chain in a dark cellar. Let's turn on some lights: If we digressively reduce the federal budget deficit we will drive up unemployment. The deficit was and is large because the economy collapsed, not because of 'out of control spending'. Social Security will not break the budget. Social Security is fully paid for through 2038, as is. Outrageous profits in the health system will break the budget. Let's shine a little light over in that corner for a while.

Porn O'Graph: Where the Wild Dark Things Hide.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SAR #11362

Pepper spray - don't leave home without it.

Numbness: US houses have lost another $680 billion in value this year. That's 35% less than the $1.1 trillion they lost last year, according to Zilow. Ignore last year's Zilow report that claimed 2010's loss was $1.7 trillion. And back in 2008, houses lost 2.6 trillion or maybe $3.6 trillion – again according to various Zilow reports. It was all pretend money, it's gone, move along.

Priorities: Big Pharma spends twice as much on marketing as on research. But they maintain their high prices are needed to pay for their profits research.

Saying & Doing: Wannabe Rick Perry, who is still being paid as governor (and as a retired governor), while running around the country debating the other wannabes, has billed Texas taxpayers over $1.4 million for his travel costs. He maintains his travels “promote Texas”, especially when he's giving speeches about welfare cheats living off the taxpayers' money.

Coming Attractions: At least some of Russia's media are growing bolder, losing their fear of Putin's authoritarian reach. The latest blow finds Russian TV openly lampooning him. Russia has always mocked their dictators, but not openly. It is fear of the regime, not the regime’s actual ferocity, that keeps dictators in power. If his henchmen lose their fear, it'll be all over.

Borrowed: Here's a middle of the road set of predictions for 2012's economic, political and social adventures. Pessimism abounds. And that's among the optimists. I'd only add that things can appear deceptively close. Social upheaval may take some time. Wall Street bankers and their European cousins can kick the can a few more times before we all end up in the gutter. All the bad stuff will probably happen ,just not as quickly as some expect.

Railroaded: Capitalism at its best, isn't.

Monday, December 26, 2011

SAR #11360

Facebook is to friendship as television is to entertainment.

Adventures in Numbersland: There have been but two times in the last 75 years when two consecutive quarters of GDP growth of less than 2% did not occur in a recession. We have just finished the second of two such quarters.

Nest of VIPRs: TSA wants $25 billion to make its nearly invisible Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response surprise parties a lot more visible. Last year they only were able to hold 9,000 “non-airport unannounced checkpoints and other search operations” last year, in bus and train station, sporting events, a couple of high school proms and at random intervals on Tennessee highways. TSA does not pretend VIPR teams have done any good, but they'd like to be ready in case Americans begin escaping from “emergency detention camps” as the indefinite detention bill is implemented. Word for the day: “Disappeared.”

Ontology: Public debate in the US is no longer involves people holding different views of the world, it has become a clash between different worlds – one of which is imaginary, where facts do not matter.

E=MC2: In the real world of petroleum, even “one of the largest oil fields ever discovered in the North Sea” holds between 2 and 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil. It will not come on line until 2018 and will produce about half a million barrels a day for the next 15 years or so. By then the would will want about 100 million barrels a day. Salvation is relative.

The Cratchits: The government's austerity program is working, making life in Merrie Olde ever more austere. The typical family in the UK saw its income fall 8.4% this year, ending with an average weekly disposable income of £161 - $12,500 a year.

Peace On Earth: Syrian tanks fired into crowds of protesters, killing 20. Tens of thousands rallied in Moscow over Putin's blatant 20+ million vote fraud. The military vs civilians contest in Egypt continues.  Cops in Albany, NY got to try out their new pepper spray on peaceful #Occupiers. Iran is putting former president Rafsanjani's daughter on trial for talking out of school. And in Bahrain medics are being tortured for offering medical care to those beaten and shot by police for protesting torture by the government.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

SAR #11358

Eventually we must face the necessary consequences of our sins.

Object Lesson: Deal or no deal, for two months or a year, doesn't matter to some 32,000 long term unemployed workers in Michigan and Minnesota wno will lose their benefits because their state's 3-year “lookback” for qualification no longer qualifies for the 20 extra weeks of benefits. Switching all states to a 4-year lookback in order to keep most people eligible for extended benefits would add about 2% to the $44 billion cost of the program. That was rejected by the Republicans on the grounds that the unemployed were enjoying their time off too much.

The New Normal: 2011 has been the worst year for sales of new houses since 1963 - at 315,00, about half the number economists say would be normal. But people gotta live somewhere, so apartment construction is growing rapidly.

Chagrin: Of all the crystal-balling about what happens in 60 days when the extended unemployment benefit can comes up for kicking again, the most likely scenario is a round of “lets screw the workers and shut down the government” by the Tea Party Republicans who think their leadership gave away too much, too early this time around.

Point of View: "the only way the [American financial/banking] system could have been saved would be by letting it fail in 2008. Now, we are sorry to say, it is too late."

Christmas Preyers: That's it for now, I've gotta go to the mall and kill someone over a pair of sneakers.  Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

SAR #11357

America's economic problems are due to the cost of the war - the class war.

Leftovers: After six months of bitter fighting, Congress has agreed to put off addressing the question of what to do about jobs, taxes and unemployment for two months, which they will spend re-enacting the whole charade.

People/Property: We the People, through our EPA, have finally overcome GOP/corporate objections and imposed strong limits on the emission of mercury and other toxic compounds from coal- and oil-fired power plants. We have known for decades that mercury spewn into the environment causes birth defects, learning disabilities, respiratory diseases and death. The regulations will save far more American lives than all the money spent on Homeland Security, TSA and the war on terror. On the other hand, it may cost some Republican donors a few bucks.

High Noon: In the showdown between the Texas drought and Texas' trees, some 100 million to 500 million trees perished. Hard to tell when weather shades into climate.

The Good & The Ugly: Initial claims for unemployment fell again this week. Only 4,000 fewer, but this makes three weeks in a row. Maybe there's a tad of hope that the godawful labor market may be leveling out. Now that companies have stopped firing quite so many people, a few jobs would be nice. Elsewhere, the 3Q GDP has been revised downward - again - this time to 1.8% annualized, mostly due to consumer spending (PCE) being cut from 2.4% to 1.7%.

Kick Me! Greece's creditors are balking at IMF pressure to accept a 65% loss in the net present value of their (nominal) €260 billion in Greek bonds, feeling the 50% loss they were earlier forced to 'voluntarily' accept was bad enough. Ah, suffering in a good cause.

Free Press? How many reporters must be arrested while covering #Occupy events before a pattern is evident? a) 4, b) 14, c) 36, d) they are helping the terrorists.

Well, Duh: The IMF suddenly realizes that aggressive austerity measures such as those now being applied in Europe (and very much like those it insisted on throughout the third world for thirty years) exacerbate the problems and that slow and steady fiscal consolidation and subsequent lowering of debt levels is a far better approach. They didn't get the memo.

Sow/Reap: Now that we've provided every cop shop in the nation with bullet-proof vests, tear-gas grenades, automatic weapons, riot shields and lots of plastic handcuffs, let's see what happens.

Priorities: Governor Rick Perry wants to conserve Texas' $5 billion rainy day fund in case there's an economic downturn in the state. That's why he won't let the legislature touch it to help with the $4 billion cut in education funding made this year or the even larger cuts scheduled for next year. Instead, more than 12,000 teachers and support staff have been laid off in the state.

Numbers Gaming: The NAR has acknowledged that it overstated exisiting house sales in the 2007-2010 period by 3 million houses. If houses were (and are) selling slower than reported, it suggests a healthy housing market is a long ways off. Existing house prices are down 3.5% m/m, at $161,000, which means a lot of sellers would have to bring a check to closing, so they are not eager to sell. Right now 30-year mortgages are at 3.91%. No banker wants to commit funds at that level for that long, which means the government – through Fannie and Freddie and so on – will have to be the mortgage holder of last resort for as far into the future as you can see from here.

Long/Short: It is claimed that Mitt Romney will say anything to be president. True, but so will any of the rest of them.

#Occupy Congress: While the commoners wander around occupying parks and streets, corporations have #occupied Congress, lock, stock and anti-labor laws, crying poverty and hardship. But in the 2008-9-10 tax years, 30 big-name corporations paid a negative 6.7% on $160 billion in profits, while laying off 93,000 workers, depressing wages, and dropping health insurance coverage. But they managed to spend half a billion lobbying for favors.

Old Time Religion: Eliot Spitzer has a stirring call to action, urging small stockholders to revolt against corporate management and force reforms on Wall Street. Quaint, his belief that management cares in the least what shareholders want.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

SAR #11354

Is it better to be prematurely right, or wrong and dead?

The Half-Trillion Euro Question: Will the 523 banks that quickly swapped their questionable assets for the ECB's low-interest three year loans (half of it being repackaging of old laundry) actually use the money to buy up over-valued sovereign bonds as the ECB hopes? Pretty much, no. But mistletoe doesn't actually work, either.

Silly Question: “Can the U.S. Government close social media accounts?” Yes, the US Government long since gave up any pretense of upholding the Constitution or of being “ the people, for the people.”

See-Saw: The NAR claims sales of existing houses rose 4% m/m and 12% y/y. It also says a burst of enthusiasm resulted in sales from 2007 thru 2010 being overstated by 14.3%. But what's 2.9 million houses among friends? The NAR also says there are only 2.58 million houses for sale, but CoreLogic says there are another 1.6 million in the "shadow inventory".

Rounders: Now Monsanto's RoundUp is accused of being responsible for a brand new micro-fungal-type organism that has been linked to “Sudden Death Syndrome” which causes infected animals to have spontaneous abortions. Animals like cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry. The researchers also note that there has been an increase in miscarriage and infertility in human populations in the last decade.

Experience Factor: Saudi Arabia, which claims to be able to produce 12 mbd any time it wants plans on running at least 130 drilling rigs in 2012. Just to keep their hand in.

Cracks: The conservative Republican Party has been slowly coming apart for several decades, and the cracks are getting hard to ignore. The Eisenhower era GOP is now the Centrist Democrats and what once was the right wing of the GOP, when they're not behaving badly on the Hill, is slugging it out with the wingnuts of the Tea Party – the mostly white, mostly rural, mostly Southern, spiritual refugees of the Confederacy who don't want to govern as much as just lash out. Brinkmanship has replaced compromise, obstruction has replaced negotiation, threats and tantrums have replaced normal political maneuvering. Newt is just a symptom.

Secrets: The National Labor Relations Board wants companies to put up posters informing workers that they have the right to form or join a union and the right to have that union bargain collectively for them. The Republicans think that it is not the government's place to tell people what rights they have, only to take them away. That's why the GOP is "investigating" the NLRB for enforcing the law, and promises to do all it can to prevent the NLRB from getting involved in labor relations.

Choices: Medicare costs 1.7% of US GDP and will cost 3.0% of GDP in 2040. The question “Can we afford Medicare?” presumes there is some other option. The Defense Department costs 4.7% of GDP. We can afford to keep 'em safe, we just can't keep 'em healthy, is that it?

Word Game: Define 'significant' and 'could be' as in: Ohio “could once again be a significant source of domestic [petroleum] supply... Ohio could be producing 200,000 barrels of crude a day by 2020.” In 2010, Ohio pumped 13,108 bpd and in July of 2011 it zoomed to 15,500 bpd.

Vive la différence: The main difference between your debts and the government's debts is this: You have to pay your debts. Governments – those with their own sovereign currency – do not. They have to pay the interest when due, but they seldom pay off the debt. They pay it down a bit now and then, but if the government were to pay off the debt, the main engine of money creation would vanish and with it most of the vitality of the economy. We have not paid off the debt we incurred for WWII. “We are not paying off the debt left by our parents and grandparents, and our children and grandchildren will not pay off ours.” To pretend that deficits matter is disingenuous at best. Don't worry about your grandchildren having to live in poverty to pay off the debt, they won't have to pay off the debt. Nor will their grandchildren.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

SAR #11353

Everyone’s basic needs should take precedence over anyone’s greed. Jodi Dean

The Plan, Version 5.63: Remember when Ben gave the banks free money in exchange for iffy assets in the hope that they would then lend it out and create some jobs? And how they took the money and lent it back to the US Treasury? The ECB is going to try the same trick, in hopes that the banks will invest (?) in Italian and Spanish etc. covering bonds. Even though the banks say they won't. Nothing in this process actually improves the likelihood that Spain or Italy, etc. will ever be able to repay their debts. And the ECB can't lend out more than 25% of the €2 trillion it would take. But if some banks can make a nice profit from it, I'm sure it will be called a success.

See/Do: Secretary Clinton is upset that Egyptian security forces are acting like their counterparts in Bahrain, Oakland, Saudi Arabia, Syria and UC Davis.

Asked & Answered:Why are Republicans against the payroll tax cut? First, what part of 'payroll' don't you understand? Then there's the chance that it might make the economy better and they certainly don't want that - not until Obama is a memory. And dropping GDP an additional 1.7% in 2012 will be okay, as long as they can extort a bunch of stuff for their donors out of the negotiations.

Pattern Learning: The Bush/Cheney/Gingrich folks are sick with envy that Hungary's leaders are getting call constitutional reform.

Driving Around: The markets soared today, supposedly on the good housing news which was that housing starts were up 9.3% m/m, building permits (up 5.1% m/m), and completions (up 5.6%) . But to the census bureau a 'house' includes a multifamily rental property... an apartment. A 25% jump in multifamily construction accounted for almost all of the gain.

Looking Before Leaping: Yes, fracking and shale gas are going to make folks rich, but mostly just the one selling the stock. Natural gas at $3.10/mmBTU isn't going to do anything much, certainly not create a million jobs.

Once Upon A TimeIn America: The 1% see the 99% as impedimentia, to be avoided when possible and ignored when unavoidable. Home Depot's Bernard Marcus asks, "Who gives a crap about some imbeciles? Are you kidding me?” And the always beloved Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan - who made $23 million in 2010, is willing to admit, "“Sometimes there’s a bad apple," but complains that all the rich bankers get tarred with the same brush. We've always had the rich, but once upon a time they had manners and some sense of shame.

Progress: Wasn't it better in the old days, when you had to actually stuff the ballot boxes? All electronic voting has done is make it harder to spot, harder to prove and easier to get away with. Which explains why the politicians are in favor or it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SAR #11352

When will peak oil denial peak?

Bill of Particulars: The average American has been designated a potential enemy of the state, America itself has become the battlefield, and the Constitution must be destroyed in order to save it. Interesting times.

Self-Help: Italy is going to give the IMF €23.5 for the IMF to give to Italy to help lower its debt burden... or something like that.

Quod Erat Demonstratum: Judge Louis D. Brandeis observed “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” He was right, as Washington and Wall Street continue to prove. As we go about trying to even the playing field, we should keep in mind that it is the after-tax fairness of the economy that is the arbiter, not various tax rates. The rich do not overly trouble me, hungry children sleeping in broken-down cars do. We can have the one without the other.

Usual Suspects: By age 23 at least 1 out of 3 young Americans will have been arrested, up from 1 out of 5 forty years ago. "There's more arresting going on now," was the explanation.

Dogs/Fleas: Hanging out with your BFFs on Facebook could hurt your credit score and drive up the interest rates you have to pay if they are a bunch of deadbeats. NSA isn't the only outfit mining your Facebook trail, financial institutions are using the crumbs you strew about using Facebook, Twitter, the Internet and cell phones. And they can gather info they cannot legally ask you for. One micro-lender even requires access to your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Yahoo, and Windows Live logons as part of the loan application, and they will tell your friends you are a deadbeat if you start missing payments. Do you have to give them access to your social accounts? No, but they don't have to give you access to their money, either.

First Shoe: Prices for new houses in Beijing fell 35% in November from October. Pop went the weasel?

Rock/Hard Place: Banks (and mutual funds and hedge funds and so on) are shedding assets, not because they want to, but rather because they have to. But when a bank has to have a fire sale, no one wants to buy the shoddy goods that prompted the crisis and no one wants to pay full price for the good stuff, knowing the bank has to sell at nearly any price.

The American Way: DHS has determined that paying with cash is suspicious. “If a person insists on paying for cash and refuses to show a credit card, that's suspicious behavior.”

I Know What You Did: Without reciting the long list of electronic data collected on you every day, just remember, it is never erased. Never, even when they tell you it was. The government can not only track you in real time, it can walk the cat back and track you retroactively. This isn't news, but maybe you hadn't thought about it because you haven't done anything wrong. But any day now Congress may start passing retroactive bills...

For Example: If the assets of an average bank in the US were to decline just 8%, all of that bank's capital would be wiped out. But for the total US household debt – now equal to one year's total GDP – to return to historic levels, over $4 trillion would have to be written off, which would doom the banks.

Draining the Swamp: Make a list of the problems facing the world – population, global warming, the slow and steady decline in petroleum, debt/deflation, and the global economic slowdown. Which one is most important? Which one must we solve first? No one cares to address the population question and all the rest require large investments that will not be available until the economy picks up and the economy can't pick up until.... Round and round...

Idle Hands: UK Prime Minister David Cameron, having time on his hands now that he is no longer advising Sarkozy on financial matters, says that Great Britain should stand up for its Christian values to help counter the general “moral collapse”. Might as well, doesn't stand for much else these days.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SAR #11351

Repeat After Me: Pence, Marks, Francs, Drachma, Lira, Peseta...

Look Out Below: The seasonally adjusted all-items CPI fell in November at an annualized 0.23% rate. This is the second consecutive month of negative CPI “growth” - better known as deflation. Draw your own conclusions (hint, hyperinflation it's not).

Interesting Math: There are 17 signatories to the Euro treaty - but a proposed “amendment” says that if the amendment is passed by 9 of the 17, then the amendment will have amended the treaty and will not require approval by all the signatories. It's harder to pass something in the US Senate.

Closeout: The War on Iraq is over. What did we gain?

Seems Like Old Times (One): Now that the US has declared victory and fled departed, Iraq's al-Maliki is solidifying his position as leader of the emerging democracy. His first step has been to confine his Sunni rival, VP al-Hashimi in his quarters, surrounded by tanks and APCs. For his safety, of course. Who said building a democracy was easy? Who said the US was building a democracy?

Quoted: “Christmas Day, originally a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ...” USA Today.

Old Times (Two): Egypt's military dictatorship has lost its patience with the protesters who thought they had achieved some measure of political freedom and sent its troops into Tahrir square where they killed at least 9 and wounded over 300. They were particularly vicious towards women who they beat with pipes and clubs in front of TV cameras, as an object lesson to those who thought anything but the name on the door had changed. Much like in the US.

Shocker! The White House has accused the GOP of playing politics with the payroll tax cut.

Unclear on the Concept: GOP wannabe Newt Gingrich says that if he were President he would ignore Supreme Court rulings he didn't agree with. Just like Bush/Cheney. And, he claims, if he becomes President at least 9 million people would leave the country, many of them undocumented immigrants.

...Fear Itself: TSA is now conducting random handbag and briefcase checks on the Washington DC Metro and Bus lines.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Last September, North Dakota pumped 464,000 barrels of oil a day. In 5 years it may reach 700,000 bpd. Before you grab the party hat and kazoo, reflect on the fact that the US imports over 15 million barrels a day and the world's existing oilfields are declining and produce 4.5 mbd less this year than last. That's 'm' for million. Party on.

One Liner: "Our predicament parallels [the] Long Depression of 1870s"

Funny Girl: The IMF's Christine Lagard says there is an increasing risk of "retraction, rising protectionism, isolation", similar to “what happened in the 1930s, and what followed is not something we are looking forward to."

The Pacific: Secretary Clinton says the future of global politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action. She did not say who the US planned on invading first. Or where the US would get the money do so.

On The Up and Up: According to the US Census, nearly half of all Americans are either poor or just scraping by. This is up from “just” 30% 5 years ago. The middle class is shrinking, and not because the upper classes are expanding. Only food stamps, tax credits and extended unemployment benefits are keeping millions more from scraping bottom. The right wing, however, says that safety-net programs have gone too far because “too many poor people live in decent-sized homes and drive cars.”

Countercurrent: Hungary is making the banks - especially foreign banks - take the losses on the rotten foreign-denominated mortgages they created. An interesting idea that won't catch on here.

It Pays to Be Rich: Since 1970, in the US, the top 1% have doubled the share of national they capture,while the poorest 20% have seen their share fall by 30%. The top 1% now take home 20% of all income, own 50% of all stock and have 33% of all the wealth in the country. This is far more lopsided than Rome ever was.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

SAR #11349

He who sees, learns.

A Great Sadness: Things that were avoided, secret, or outsourced under Bill Clinton and then embraced by Bush/Cheney are now being codified as acknowledge policy and enshrined in federal statutes - Military arrest of citizens, indefinite detention without any legal process, the “extra-judicial” murder of citizens on the President's say-so, killing people at will in natons where no state of war exists. Pogo was prescient, as was Franklin.

ET Phone Home: Informed opinion is that Iran 'spoofed' the US super-duper drone by getting it to believe fake GPS signals were the real deal. They didn't so much shoot it down as simply stole it out of the sky.

Moral vs Legal: The ECB is forbidden to prop up invest in covering debts of EZ member states. They are not forbidden to loan money to private banks within the zone at near zero rates (in exchange for any and all assets, no matter how iffy) and encourage them to buy sovereign notes at inflated prices and then to use the very same notes as security for another round. If it sounds sly, it is. Too bad the banks don't want anything to do with it.

Destiny: It was always going to come to this: "Democracy itself has been suspended in favor of bank and sovereign survival".

Back of the Envelope: The GOP will go along with the Dems in extending the payroll tax cut for another year and the Treasury will continue to transfer general tax revenues to the Social Security fund to make up the difference. But isn't that undermining the "earned" nature of the fund and making just another tax-transfer welfare program? Exactly. And that will be their point later on when it's time to "raise taxes" - that any increase be devoted to individual retirement accounts that Wall Street can then steal.

Assholocracy: Spread the word.

Bigger Brother: Yes, they track us, all the time. Where we go, who we chat with, what we read on the Internet, what we buy and what we buy it with. Old news. Now they (Amazon in this particular instance) want to use the data they've got to predict. Where you will go, who you will chat with, what sites you will visit on the web, what you will buy and... And that's the part they want to know so the can 'guide you' to buy the right thing.

Long/Short: Fitch Ratings says that a comprehensive Eurozone deal is “beyond reach”. Nearly beyond imagining, actually.

Progress, Not: Ireland's economy shrank 1.9% in the latest quarter - the worst performance yet under the one-size-fits-all ECB/EU/IMF austerity program. This is the same program that is currently "saving" Greece and Portugal and Italy. There seems to be "a disconnect between legislation and implementation" ("disconnect" is IMF-speak for rioting in the streets). Bottom line: austerity will soon make the social cost of staying with the Euro prohibitive.

Another Step: The voices in the land are reasonably unanimous, the Stop Online Piracy Act is too broad, too vague, too unconstitutional, amounts to "prior restraint" and will lead to Internet censorship as practiced by China, Iran, Syria and other despotic governments. To which the sponsors of the bill smugly say, "Exactly."

Short End of the Stick: If you think a company has a good idea, a good product, a good future, then you should act on that belief and invest in the company. If you are really, really sure, you might even buy some stock on margin. Applause all around. But if you think the company has a poor product, poor prospects and a dismal future, and you decide to act on that belief and short-sell the company's stock, you are a villain. Why?

A Truism: Portugal is being urged to simply tell the Germans and the French that Portugal cannot and thus will not pay their debts. "Debt is our only weapon and we must use it to impose better conditions..." And at that point it becomes the banks' problem, not Portugal's.

An Extra Helping: GOP wannabe Rick Perry draws $150,000 a year from the State of Texas as its governor. He also draws A$92,376 a year from the State of Texas as the retired governor of Texas. He's been doing so for a year now and doesn't “find that to be out of the ordinary.”

Porn O'Graph: About all that oil in North Dakota...

Friday, December 16, 2011

SAR #11348

Is the solution in Europe a Franco/German Empire? Or a Fifth Reich?

Ozymandias: Bush's demonstration of power has failed, becoming the most expensive waste of money in US history – not counting America’s thousands of dead and tens of thousands of the crippled in body and spirit. Behind, in Iraq, we leave hundreds, perhaps a million, dead Iraqis, ruined cities and an ungovernable, divided country. Intended to impress the Chinese and Iran and to defend the Israelis and - yes - to secure the oil, it accomplished none of the goals.

Zebras? The IMF's new director, Christine Lagarde says that things are not going well in Europe and that help "from countries outside the EU" is needed. Bernanke says he can't help, and Cameron's UK is both broke and offended. Russia may pony up $20 billion, from the stash it's been building up by dumping its holdings of US bonds. The Chinese remain inscrutable are trimming their holdings, too. Fitch has downgraded Barclays, BNP, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale, UBS (plus BofA and MorganStanley). Regulators in Australia have told banks to been told to hunker down. And another big-deal asset manager has fled to cash.

Landscaping: During the current century, most of the Earth's land will see at least a 30% change in plant cover. And with the change in vegetation there will be comparable changes in animal populations, including humans. And that's if the globe only warms 3 or 4ºC.

Data Is Data: New claims for unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a 3½ year low of 366,000. The 4-week moving average is now at 387,750, also a 3-year low. A total of 7.45 million people were receiving unemployment benefits up 874,670 from the prior week. Industrial production in the US fell 0.2% in November, against expectations of a 0.2% rise. How business can be falling and employment rising is a mystery.

Talking Point: The GOP wants to prove that hungry, homeless people will work for whatever the employer wants to pay and is sure the Army can keep the peace.

Constitutional Conventions: Congress thinks it has the power to grant the President the power to use the military within the US to arrest American citizens and incarcerate them indefinitely, with no charges, no trail and no rights. This effectively abolishes the Posse Comitatus Act, portions of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) and abolishes eight or nine centuries of habeas corpus. And the executive is all in favor of continuing to wield these powers – which he already thinks he has. Eventually the Supreme Court may hear a case questioning the constitutionality of the law, but it seems unlikely. After all, if there is no trial, there is no judicial matter to appeal. The White House has cited the extra-judicial (that is, illegal) assassination of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki (a US citizen) as evidence that there should be no restraints on the form through which executive power is exercised. It is official, the transformation to a Military-Industrial dictatorship is complete.

Hills, Run For The: Richard Russell's latest newsletter gets right to the point, "Get out of stocks." He says the current market - "the greatest sucker's rally in history" - is coming to an abrupt and brutal end.

Porn O Graph: That's you, down there at the bottom; smile and wave!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SAR #11347

Food shortages are self-correcting.

The Plot Thus Far: Washington needs to pass & sign a $1 trillion funding bill to keep the government operating beyond this weekend. The GOP-majority House wants to pas the bill. The White House doesn't like their version. The Democrats are afraid that if they pass the bill, the GOP will go home for Christmas without doing anything about the expiring payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans and the expiring extended employment benefits for a few million unemployed Americans. To make the Democrats think twice about extending the tax cut and the unemployment benefits, the Republicans have larded that bill with a provision to shorten the “extended” extension of benefits, plus significant curbs on EPA authority, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, increases in how much loot Doctor-owned hospitals can steal from Medicare, an increase in Medicare premiums on the well-off, and permission for the states to require drug tests of all unemployment benefit applicants – most of which the Democrats will choke on. So, let's see who crumbles first.

Protesting Too Much? Bernanke is 'very concerned' about Europe, but seems to have gone out of his way to make it perfectly clear that the Fed cannot and will not provide bailout funds to European banks, claiming it has neither the money nor the authority to do so. It is also not going to sneak money to European banks under the table as it has before via the IMF. Which is just as well because the Republicans are going to try to geld the IMF.

Stand on a Chair: The latest ECB plan for putting off doing anything useful calls for all of the EU countries to export their way to prosperity. To whom all this exporting will be directed was unclear.

Best Friends Forever: Iran says that the Saudis have promised not to ramp up their production to make up any shortage in the market caused by an international embargo on Iranian oil. In that Iran and Saudi Arabia are pretty much the Hatfields and the McCoys, perhaps this is another way of saying Saudi Arabia cannot meaningfully increase its current production for any sustained period.

Silence: Gold dropped like a lead weight today, probably due to panicked liquidation in anticipation of pending margin calls as Europe swirls around the drain. While nobody can predict the future, Citi predicts gold will reach $3400 "in the next two years" and maybe go as high as $6,000. Especially if you buy your gold through them.

Due Diligence: The nuclear lobby says that "nuclear power remains an indispensable part of the US energy mix" and there should be no over-reaction to the Japanese experience. No, no, we should wait for our own disaster before deciding how safe nukes are.

Emperor/Clothes: Set aside all the ballyhoo about shale gas and salvation and check out the books. Is there any fracking operation that is producing gas profitably? Is there any light on the horizon to suggest that they will produce natural gas profitably next year? In ten years? Ever? how expensive does natural gas have to be before an actual real-world profit shows up and can pay off the costs, including financing?

Squaring the Circle: OPEC has increased its production ceiling to 30mbd, the first increase in three years. This simply acknowledges what has been a fact for some time, as the OPEC nations routinely ignore their quotas. On the other hand, 30mbd seems to be all they can produce anyway. Even when Libya's production dropped off the market, OPEC kept producing about 30mbd, which suggests that that's all folks.

Do As I Say... Doctors don’t die like the rest of us. They seek far less “end of life” treatment than most Americans. But then, they know what medicine can and cannot do and accept that a good death is better than dying in pain amid heroic but doomed measures.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

SAR #11346

The placebo effect is wearing off.

Finders, Keepers: Following the principles taught me by Mrs. Bartlett, that a ball that's thrown through her window becomes her property, Iran has no intention of giving the US back its drone. Yes, Mr. Cheney thinks we should bomb them, but that's been his solution to almost everything except gay marriage. The US also lost another drone, this one in the Seychelles, east of Africa. Theories abound.

Excitable Adolescents: The GOP-led House will soon pass a silly law making it illegal for the Administration to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Iran. Unless not doing so “would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security”. Like war, for example, which Ron Paul thinks this will lead to.

Sackcloth, Ashes: From this distance it is clear that EU leaders are wrong to put so much emphasis on austerity without any real plans to stimulate economic growth, pointing out that austerity budgets in Greece, Poland and Ireland have not accomplished anything except to rile the voting public. Sending Italy and Spain down the same path hoping for a different result is called leadership.

News, Mostly So-So: China has cut way back on killing its citizens this year, executing only 4,000 of them. Syria has done them a bit better, killing 5,000 so far this year in the name of peace and tranquility.

Republican Tax Math: Gingrich's tax plan is a lot like Paul's and Bush's - give the rich the breaks and the rest the taxes. Newt would give the top 1% about $430,000 each and the top 0.1% about $2.3 million extra. It would also drive up the federal deficit by at least $1 trillion the first year, more each year thereafter. More evidence that the Republicans simply are far less fiscally responsible than they pretend.

One Hand Clapping: Greece is having difficulty finding bondholders who are eager to lose half their investment. Without enough "volunteers" the haircut – which is coming either with 'em or without 'em - will become "a credit event" and trigger a round of musical chairs as CDS writers try to figure out who's holding the biggest bag and the rest of us watch the dominoes do what dominoes do best.

Good Government: California Gov. Jerry Brown says the state will cut another $1 billion from schools and social services, as the states tax revenues fell over $2.2 billion short of the wildly optimistic estimates that went into the budget. Brown said that making these cuts was a sign of California's improving fiscal health.

Going Bust: There's a lot of glib talk about one or more countries 'leaving the euro'. Here's the play-by-play: Over a weekend the banks are nationalize, a new currency issued, use of the euro outlawed & those not turned in within 24 hours will be confiscated, bank accounts are recalculated in the new, worthless currency. Not only are the banks broke, so is the country, which defaults on all of its euro-denominated bonds. The economy grinds to a halt, the local stock market drops 90% and freezes up. Then things start to go bad.

Shots to the Foot: Top counter-terrorism experts argue that indefinite detention and detention without trial, torture and the rest of the affronts to common decency and the Constitution that have become commonplace are increasing terrorism and mark significant losses in the war on terrorism. It's not that the enemy is winning, it is that we are defeating ourselves while they sit around the campfire, laughing.

Porn O'Graph: Your slice of the pie.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SAR #11345

Confusion is often mistaken for insight.

Cliff Note: The only thing those gathered in Durban actually agreed on was to put off doing anything about global warming for 8 years. Everything else was essentially a matter of waving hands and expressing sincere best wishes for a future, as the world approaches the edge of the precipice and prepares to jump off.

True Believers: Europe's leaders (for which read Germany) wants to commit the continent to severe fiscal austerity believing there is some magic in mass suffering that will make contractionary policies produce expansionary results. No mater how righteous suffering may be, it is not going to save the euro. The cavalry are not coming. And remember it was the Germany obsession with austerity and hard money that created the conditions that gave rise to Hitler.

Times Change: Young, relatively wealthy Russians are no longer afraid to speak out politically and are turning out by the tens of thousands to express their disapproval with Putin. Odds are that Mr. Putin will find ways of expressing his disapproval of them, too.

There They Go Again: Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says the Consumer Finance Protection Board the Democrats want to pass (oops, it's already law) has no independent nor Congressional oversight (which isn't true), and the conditions the GOP insists on do not exist for any other regulator. It's also not Stalinist just because it protects people, not businesses.

Fifth Amendment? The SEC is demanding that US companies doing business with Syria, Iran, and other “state sponsors” of terror must publicly confess their sins so investors will realize what poor an investments they are.

Self-Survey: it should not come as a surprise that federal agencies such as the DEA and ICE use drones to spy on protect the public, but how do you feel about your local police using drones to monitor your behavior?

Shadows at the Center: Last month the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development reported that there was a significant deterioration of belief in democracy and in the free-market system in the “transition economies”. Nobody wants to say “fascist” but that's the fear.

Wannabe Watch:

Geography Lessen: Ask Rick Perry to point out on a map “the country of Solynda”, on which he says the US has spent “over $500 million”.

Math Problem: Wannabe Michele Bachmann claims to have ”spent 50 years in the real world as a private business woman.” But her work history shows 5 years at the IRS and 11 in elected office. Even if she started at age 5 working for Newt in a coal mine her business experience could not amount to more than 35 years, most of it part-time while she was in grade school and college. Maybe she counts raising foster children as business experience.

Try Before You Buy: Leading wannabe Newt Gingrich thinks the unemployed are being paid “99 weeks to do nothing,” and wants unemployment taxes to go to fund training programs like the one in Georgia that pays the “unemployed” $240 a week for eight weeks of forced labor provided free to companies who can, but are not required to, hire some of those who complete their “tryouts”. The serial adulterer has (once more) promised to “ uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others”.

Monday, December 12, 2011

SAR #11344

Something's not working the way it's supposed to.

Constitutional History: The concept of habeas corpus, the right to know the charges against us, and the right to a jury of our peers are the very basis for our consensual government. Congress is trying to take these rights away from us, and the White House says we no longer have them anyway. The dispute between Congress and the President comes to this: the Administration does not want to open its dictatorial powers to public scrutiny.

Pot/Kettle: The US has called on Russia to respect peaceful protests.

Too Little: The climate talks in Durban accomplished nothing, no matter what spin is put on it. The agreement was an agreement to negotiate. Not to do, to negotiate, to pursue a new accord with the hope of competing it by 2015, that would bring all nations under greenhouse gas restrictions – without being “legally binding” - by 2020. It is too little, too late. But, as Tony Blair admitted back in 2005, “The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge.”

Too Late: Even with a strong La Niña, 2011 was one of the ten hottest years on record and 13 of the 15 warmest years on record have been in the last 15 years. Arctic ice is melting faster than at any time in the last 1450 years. Melting permafrost will soon begin releasing massive quantities of methane. The IEA's Fatih Biro suggests we are on path to a 6ºC warming by 2100. Government climate-change negotiators pretend they want to keep the rise to “only” 2ºC, but Dr. James Hansen warns that a 2ºC average global temperature rise “is a prescription for long-term disaster... If we want to maintain a planet that looks like the one humanity has known, then we're out of time. We have got to start reducing emissions,” else civilization may not survive the present century. We know what we must do, we simply are not going to do it.

It Pays To Advertise: Studies show that people do not recognize government benefits that are hidden in the tax code as benefits at all, but view things like mortgage interest deductions as a right, not a benefit. Hiding government programs in the tax code undermines the social support system because it obscures the role that government plays in society.

Euro Mural: The main accomplishment of the 8th Save The Euro meeting was to place the European Union in jeopardy. The best possible outcome now is that the ECB – or someone - will find a way to hold the whole thing together until March, when the circus reassembles. The markets want the ECB to bail them out – and that's the bottom line. To that end the bankers want strict budget deficit limits, EU level approval of national budgets, and bailout funds provided (via the IMF to provide pretend legality) to absolve the banks of their stupidity while stripping debtor nations populations of their wages, pensions, health care and infrastructure. But all this would require a new treaty, and there is not that much time left.

Wholly Grail: If the US could convert 100 percent of the solar energy stored in plant matter into fuel, it would supply only half our current energy consumption.

Now That's Rich: If you are tired of hearing that the 400 richest Americans have as much wealth as the poorest 150,000,000 of us, try this: The six Wal-Mar Waltons have more than the poorest 100,000,000 of us put together. But they're not the idle rich, no, no. They spend a lot of time making sure that inheritance taxes never touch them. And they did not do it by 'creating jobs', they did it by killing tens of thousands of small businesses and shipping hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas.

Porn O'Graph: The big upswing...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

SAR #11342

The day ends, the world appears unchanged; we are again deceived.

Addition, in addition: If you borrow $25,000 to buy a car, pay the money back and a few years later buy another car with another borrowed $25,000, how much money have you borrowed? If you borrow $100 million overnight, every night for, say, 1000 nights, how much money has the Fed lent you? $29 trillion and change. The change being converting the US Treasury and Federal Reserve into piggy banks for the entire world's financial institutions.

Tale of Two Cities: Brussels wants to take over the EU in the name of the eurozone nations. London does not think this should happen. If Merkozy go very far down the indicated path, it may or may not lead to the end of the euro. It most certainly will lead to the end of the European Union, which was a treaty between sovereign states.

At the Register: Amazon has a new ap for your smartphone that will instantly let them undersell  any store, anywhere, anytime.... and give the user an extra $5 for evading the state sales tax. Retailers in stogy old malls think this is unfair. They are right, at least as far as evading the tax goes.

Getting Out the Vote:Newt the Wannabe, in an attempt to win the Israeli vote, has decreed that Palestinians - those folks whose parents and grandparents lived in Palestine before it became Israel - are "an invented" people with no right to any state of their own except wretchedness. Meanwhile, Rick the Wannabe Santorum has promised to reduce the cost of the food stamp program by not letting obese people eat. After all, " If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem... ?" Now it's not just Cadillac Welfare Queens, its Obese Cadillac Welfare Queens that are ruining the country.

Finger/Spot: ".. the decision to provide the energy for industrialization by burning fossil fuels was the most consequential, although perfectly innocent, misstep human beings [have] ever taken."

Assignment: Yeah, it's the weekend and you don't need the downer, but read about LAPD's finest hour anyway.

Asked & Answered: What does Peak Oil look like? Look around; this is what peak oil looks like. " ...a long ragged slope of rising energy prices, economic contraction, and political failure, punctuated with a crisis here, a local or regional catastrophe there, a war somewhere else—all against a backdrop of disintegrating infrastructure, declining living standards, decreasing access to health care... Which of course has been happening in the United States for some years already."

White Flag: European Union leaders have dropped their demand that investors share the cost of bailouts by taking "haircuts" on their bad investments. Ie. the bankers are winning. Again.

Excuse Me: I read that the Library of Congress is going to receive entire Twitter archive of ever public twitter ever tweeted. Why is there a “Twitter archive” in the first place?

Friday, December 9, 2011

SAR #11341

Perpetual economic growth is necessary, but impossible.

Carpe Diem: Saying they're going to sign a new treaty and actually getting it done are two different things. Also keep in mind that this is the 17-nation Eurozone telling the 27 member European Union how life is going to be. The 17+ co-conspirators must individually amend their constitutions to cede financial sovereignty to the technocrats in Brussels and to tie themselves to a mandatory balanced budget. Which is the same as imposing austerity conditions on their citizens to infinity and beyond... And once they do all this, no bailout money will have been approved (or found), they're all still broke except for Germany (which may be by then) and the ECB still will have no money. Unless it just prints the 2+ trillion euros they need...

Temporary Suspension of Disbelief: The Department of Labor invites you to believe that unemployment claims dropped 23,000 in a week, to 381,000 - a number that hasn't been seen since Jesus lost his paper-route. We're saved, and just in time for Christmas shopping, too.

Ignorance is No Defense: John Corzine, former Goldman Sachs CEO, former US Senator, former NJ Governor, and hopefully future federal prisoner, says he "didn't intend to break the rules" (these rules are criminal statutes), nobody told him anything, he was just the boss and he didn't know the gun was loaded.

What Part of 'No' Don't You Get? The US Chamber of Commerce, acting through their toadies in the GOP, have beaten back another attempt by the administration to install someone as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Until a way of rendering the CFPB toothless and impotent is found, the Republicans paymasters do not want it to operate.

Yes, But: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling. It would be better to force them to revisit Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad and actually rule on whether or not a Corporation has rights under the Bill of Rights. They never have, you know.

You Have My Word: Obama says he will not trade approval of the Keystone Pipeline for a Payroll Tax Cut. That's today's position. Tune in tomorrow, offer void West of the Rockies, your mileage may vary. As always, he's open to suggestions, so make him an offer.

The Ten-cent Tour: Turn on the 'Bright Lights' and take a tour of the secret dungeon the CIA operated for years in a suburb of Bucharest. Here's a handy guide. Don't bother to check Orbitz, your travel arrangements have been made for you.

And Bread Eaten in Secret is Sweet: The Republicans are urging the administration to publicly endorse undertaking covert operations against Iran and Syria. That's an improvement; Republican overt operations against Iraq and Afghanistan didn't work out too well.

Black Is White: Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS group is running ads against Elizabeth Warren implying that she was responsible for bailing out Wall Street. Lying, for the GOP, has become mandatory.

Betty Davis's Eyes. In Australia, archaeologists have found the insect-like eyes of an ancient super-predator, with 30,000 lenses in each eye. The better to see you with.

No Exit and Other Plays: Best question of the day: How can anyone possibly believe that totally incompetent and clueless politicians and central bankers who created the problem can or should be trusted to solve anything?

Nostalgia: Newt continues to maintain that making 5-year-olds work is "a good life experience" and that current restrictions on child labor are "truly stupid." Child labor, he says, brings children "into the world of work, the world or prosperity, the world of savings, the world of investment — and we want every young American to have an opportunity to do that.”

My Girls... Father of two girls, Barack Obama asks "When it comes to 12-year-olds or 13-year-olds, the question is: Can we have confidence that they would potentially use Plan B properly?" What he really meant was, like any father, he doesn't want his girls even thinking about sex until they're 34 and have been married several years. So he over-ruled the FDA on over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

SAR #11340

The real scandal isn’t that the banks got rescued,it is that we didn't.

Smoke, Mirror: When it heard the rumor that the Group of 20 nations were putting together $600 billion to rescue the euro, the stock market climbed rapidly. When the IMF said the story was a bunch of hooey, the enthusiasm ebbed and the market fell a little. But for a while there, the smartest people in the world believed that 20 broke and indebted nations could come up with $600 billion to rescue all of Europe - even though it would take $2 trillion to rescue just Italy.

Fine Print: Syrian President Assad says not only did he not order his military and security forces to crack down on civilian unrest, but that he could not have done so because "They are not my forces. They are military forces that belong to the government of Syria."

Bouncing Ball: OPEC says speculators are to blame for high oil prices and that there is no lack of supply for world markets, but that the world should leave Iran alone because it would be "very, very difficult to replace" Iran's exports. BP's CEO says that Middle East social unrest, supply worries, and increasing Asian demand have driving up prices. Saudi Arabia claims to be producing 9.9 to 10 mbd to meet demand, but independent data shows that that the Saudis have not increased production "for many years" and that its internal consumption has been rising rapidly, lowering the amount of oil it sells to the international markets. But Saudi Aramco's CEO says "we have adequate supplies" due to "unconventional resources." Deutche Bank observes that Saudi Arabia has halted its $100 billion expansion of production capabilities and estimates it now needs oil at $92 a barrel to break even because of greater social spending designed to keep the peace in the populace. As their production falls, internal consumption rises, and social unrest grows, they will need ever higher prices for their exports.

Drugs of the Irish: An Irish psychiatrist, citing widespread depression and increasing suicide among the general population, thinks the government should add lithium to the water supply. Just a maintenance dose, mind you, just to take the edge off.

Bad News & Worse: Scientists warn that the current promises to reduce carbon emissions will result in at least 3.5ºC of global warming - far in excess of the targeted 2ºC rise. But those promised reductions are not happening, and the current rate of increase in CO2 in the atmosphere promises a far more dangerous future with more than 4ºC warming by 2100. Progress towards more concrete and effective actions to curb dangerous global climate change is being blocked by the US, because what is necessary - cutting carbon emissions to40% below 1990 levels by mid-century if not sooner - would hurt the profits of politically important corporations. The US insists that all nations - even the most backward and least developed - must share "legal parity and responsibility for CO2 emission curtailment", and denies any significant financial responsibility rests with the US and other industrialized nations - just because they caused the problem.

Damned Data: A new study suggests that domestic projects such as improved education, universal health care and the development of clean energy would create at least twice as many jobs as spending the money invading countries and building bombs. Don't tell the Republicans.

Some of the Truth, Some of the Time:  The headline read “Payroll Gains Improve as U.S. Unemployment Rate Drops”, which was all true. Average wages went up 2 cents an hour and the unemployment rate dropped because a half-million former workers have used up their extended employment benefits and are officially non-workers.

Porn O'Graph: Counting the uncounted.