Monday, January 31, 2011

SAR #11031

Reality is the Achilles heel of American foreign policy.

Humpty Dumpty:  “There is no turning back from the path of reform that we chose,” said a clueless Mubarak. “We seek more democracy and freedoms.”  Quite possibly (1) he believed what he was saying, or (2) words mean what I say they mean.

Wait, Children:  The Israeli government is “not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.” Saudi King Abdulla called the protesters troublemakers for calling for freedom of expression. Obama said the US supports an “orderly transition” - stop making a mess in the streets, go home and wait.

Pay to Play:  Obama's new best boy, former Wall Street exec William Daley thinks the US should sell off its roads, airports, bridges, sewers, water systems – its infrastructure.- to “private sources both foreign and domestic”. Silent auction, submit your bids.

Understatement:  “It seems clear that some basic premises of US policy towards the [Arab world] have been rendered invalid.”

Here We Go Again:   House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to replace Medicare with a voucher system to make recipients buy medical insurance with taxpayers' money. Ah yes, that'll make the health dollar go further.

Point of Order:  Pundits are pointing to rising food and energy prices, high unemployment, and great economic inequality as the triggers behind the people's street theater in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and so on. But Tunisia's unemployment rate was only 13% and Egypt's lower than the US at 9.4% And inequality in America is far worse than in any of these revolting countries. Someone should mention this to the Few, The Proud, The Financiers.

Whose Ox?  President Obama wants to cut the expensive and unnecessary subsidies granted the oil business, but Congress will not go along for fear of losing their expensive and unnecessary subsidies from the oil business.

Preventive Medicine:  On January 17th, between the Tunisian and Egyptian street fairs, Kuwait announced it would distribute free food for the next 14 months and $3,500 to each citizen. That's the bread, circuses to follow.

Genie/Bottle:  If the European Financial Stability Facility is going to rescue the countries in dire straights like Spain and Portugal, why are the interest rates on Spanish and Portuguese bonds back at all time highs? Is that Thomas I hear, over in the corner, doubting?

Where's the Beef?  There are loud but peaceful demonstrations throughout the US in support of the Egyptian cry for freedom and democracy. The US doesn't rowdy, enthusiastic street protests any more. The Egyptians – and the Tunisians and Yemeni and on and on – have realized that they no longer want to accept the gulf between the rich rulers and the rest. Wonder when we'll come to the same conclusion and take to the streets? Never, or just too late?

Two World Sympathy:  The Best and Brightest, or at least the Highest Paid, gathered at Davos do not understand all the concern about the economy and the lack of jobs and all. They, after all, are quite satisfied with the current status quo, where their status is quite nicely paid, thank you. Profits are good, bonuses better and they simply do not understand even the concept of the common man, mush less conditions in that other world, the one where actual work is – or used to be – performed.

That'll Teach 'Em:  Rumor has it that NY Gov Cuomo's new budget will short NYC about $1 billion in education aid, forcing the city to cut 21,000 teachers. Other rumors suggest this one is a preventive strike.

Porn O'Graph:  Oil upon Egyptian waters.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

SAR #11029

Second Law of Thermodynamics: Things get steadily worse.

Without Comment:  “Joe Biden: Mubarak's no dictator, shouldn't step down...”

Kill Switch:  Egypt, in an Internet first, shut down the internet within the country, exercising the same power Obama wants, and for the same reason. Syria, too, has shut down all international internet services. Jordanians have hit the streets lobbying for certain changes in their governance, as have the Albanians. International politicians (and bankers) are afraid the unreasonable thirst for freedom may spread with rising food costs.

Shhh, Don't Scare the Children:  CNBC anchor implies US must support dictators to keep cheap oil flowing.

Really Gross:  The US GDP for 4Q2010 increase at an annualized rate of 3.2%. Private inventories fell 3.70%, while personal consumption increased 4.4%. The US economy is slowly reviving and at this rate will get back to normal employment levels in 8 or 9 years.

Good Question:  “Why Is Warren Buffett Keeping $34 Billion In Cash?”  It's the economy, Stupid.

Test Tube:  As a microcosm of GOP/Tea Party effects on government, NY's Nassau County is instructive. Voters in the rich county thought the Tea Party's promise of smaller government and lower taxes was just the thing, so they elected Edward Mangano to do the deed. He promptly slashed taxes, but found the community really didn't want services slashed. The county even had to borrow money to pay tax refunds This week the state stepped in and appointed some adults to try to straighten out the mess caused when reality refuses to read the memo.

Drill, Baby, Drill:  Exxon has drilled an oil well a record 7.13 miles horizontally. One reason oil's not $12 a barrel any more.

Stepping on Cracks:  There's a GOP meme running around that is getting play as though it were true – the one about Social Security needing immediate life saving surgery. Cuts now to avoid cuts later, they say. The AP, for example, ran this bit: “Sick and getting sicker, Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037”. This is disingenuous at best. We planned for this back in Reagen's day. And after 2037 it will not be “drained”. With absolutely no changes to the program, SS will continue to pay out at least 78% of the benefits scheduled, which are higher than today's benefits. Remember the bit about repeating big lies until they're accepted? Go Team!

Clip & Save:  French President Sarkozy: France, Germany “will never let the euro fail”.

Going With the Floe:  The water flowing between Greenland and Norway has warmed 3.5ºF in the last century and is now 2.5ºF warmer than during the Medieval Warm Period (900 – 1300 CE), which affected the climate in Northern Europe and northern North America.

Easy Come, Easy Go:  Most experts agree that the rapid rise in the world's population was facilitated (allowed? made possible?) by the rapid increase in oil production. It will work that way in reverse, too.

Goodthink:  Republicans think statutory rape isn't really rape, and under their guidelines a 13 year-old impregnated by her father would not be eligible for Medicaid assistance. Also, no money from a tax-exempt health savings account could be used for such an abortion. Payments made out of pocket for such an operation would not be tax-deductible and if your health insurance would pay for it, then the cost of that health insurance is not deductible. This idea, much like the putative 13-year old, doesn't stand a chance. But it does tell you what Republican priorities are.

'Nuff Said:  “Unemployment Rate To Remain Above 9 Percent Through 2011, Will Remain Above 'Natural Rate' Until 2016: CBO”

Da Dah Don Dah:  The FBI, in an attempt to educate the public, has made mass raids across the US, targeting those who may have taken part in the “Operation Payback" cyber-attacks in defense of WikiLeaks. The bureau said suspects, if charged, could face up to 10 years in prison. Goodness knows how long they could be disappeared before they are actually brought to trial.

Porn O'Graph:  Real GDP growth, sort of, (or not down isn't up).

Friday, January 28, 2011

SAR #11028

One solution to our debt problems is to become a less affluent society.

The Snow Ate My Job:  There were 454,000 initial claims for unemployment last week, up 12.37% from the previous weeks rather questionable 403,000. Excuses abound.

Program Notes:  Yemen has joined the street-based social networking phenomena, as has Gabon. Meanwhile Egypt plunges further into regime change, popular style, with reported confrontations in Suez and Cairo and reports of 'massacres'.

Distressed Signals:  Sales of 'distressed houses' increased 3% last month on two different indexes, the HousingPulse Index reported 47.2% of all house sales as distressed, while the NAR reported that 36% of all house sales involved distressed properties. This percentage will increase as foreclosures increase in the spring.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell:  If you've been bullish on oil, gold and silver, go lie down someplace quiet for a while.

Misnomer:  In what is being laughingly called “a gentleman's agreement”, Senate leaders have sidestepped the question of filibusters by the minority to get their way. In exchange for a promise (that they haven't broken yet) not to filibuster everything, they retain the right to filibuster everything. They also promised to block only bills and nominations they disagree with. The Democrats, in turn, get their bellies rubbed. Someday.

More Hawk than Deficit:  Iraq has burned up $3 trillion so far (your T-shirt is in the mail). How did your favorite cost cutter vote?

Unendurable:  New orders for manufactured durable goods decreased $5 billion (2.5%) in December. Non-defense transportation took an immense hit (cars, car parts and civilian aircraft), down nearly 13%.

Dreamland:  Russian inflation, now at 9% and rising, has forced the government to impose price caps on foodstuffs and other “socially important” commodities. This will drive companies to cut overhead and labor costs – lowering the ability of workers to cope and opening the economy to black markets – something not unfamiliar to Russia.

Fingers Crossed:  John Boehner now says he was just fooling when he campaigned on the idea of raising the Social Security retirement age to 70. He was just kidding. He didn't mean it, claims he was “just having the conversation...” Talking to himself?

Ten Foot Pole:  “Abortion Doesn’t Increase Mental Health Risk, But Having A Baby Does”

Follow The Bouncing Ball:  Ramiz Yousef, who organized the first World Trade Center bombing, and Khalid Sheidh Mohammed, mastermind of the second bombing, both trained under Abdul Rab Arasoul Sayyaf, who was responsible for various atrocities and mass murders in Afghanistan in the 1990's and was once a close associate of Osama bin Laden (remember him?). Sayyaf has been chosen by Hamid Karzai to be speaker of the Afghan parliament. Wonder if Petraeus will attend the swearing in.

Asked & Answered:  Does a narrow social elite run the country? Yes. They were asking about the UK, but the answer is generically global.

Weather or Not:  We have seen a remarkable run of extreme weather events – droughts, floods, cold and snowy in the temperate zone and balmy in the Arctic. If you think speculation is the only factor driving up food prices, you are wrong. If you think this is all “just the weather” you have your head really, really deep in the sand.

Wrong Target:  Wyoming is considering mandating the ongoing videotaping of teachers, statewide. They'd make a bigger imact on student performance if they videotaped the students and their parents at home.

Porn O'Graph:  New Houses, really, some did sell.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SAR #11027

It's a home, not an investment.” Again.

Turn About:  After supporting Egyptian strong-man Hosni Mubarak for 30 years the US suddenly advises him to “respond” to his citizens. Which he is doing, with water cannon, batons, arrests and incarceration. What more could the US want, free speech zones?

Taking Names:  It's fun to watch the housing headlines. In 2010 the fewest number of new houses was sold in over 45 years. Selling prices in November fell at a 12% annual rate from October's levels. Yet if you squint, you can get the following headlines: “ New home sales at 8-month high.” Single-family home sales jump 17.5%. And sales of New Homes in U.S. Rose More Than Forecast. Same houses.

Looking Back:  Investigation into The Causes of the Current Mess find it was an “avoidable” disaster caused by widespread failures in government regulation, corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking by Wall Street.

On the State of the Union:  “It amazes me that the discussion on change centers on 'improving competitiveness' when the crisis was caused by a massive financial fraud and political and regulatory failure that goes largely unresolved and unrepaired, sucking the life out of the real economy and spreading corruption of thought and action.”

American Economy Explained:  The uptick in consumer spending occurred because "People got bored with being frugal. It's much more fun to go out there and spend money." Even if you don't actually have any.

Wrong Haystack:  The US Military admits it has been unable to find a link between Julian Assange and PFC Manning. The mistreatment of Manning will continue until he confesses to some crime he can incarcerated for.

In-Laws:  Tony Blair's sister-in-law thinks he should be tried for war crimes. So do my in-laws.

The Bad News:  Despite Obama's pronouncements about clean energy, the fact is that “almost all the energy infrastructure that we'll be using in 2020 is either in place now, or in the final investment stage." And is nearly all coal and natural gas and it will most certainly speed us towards a 3.5ºC warmer planet. Primary energy use is set to grow 40 percent through 2030 not retreat.

Honest Mich: Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) explained Wednesday that Republicans would be happy to work with the President "If the president is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway.”

Statue of Limitations:  The Justice Department wants Internet service providers and cell phone companies to be required to hold on to records until the government has a chance to persecute prosecute you. Why duplicate what NSA already does?

Trend:  Along with proposing a law to forever ban any federal funds from going to anyone who can even spell the word 'abortion', the GOP now wants to punitively tax insurance plans that cover abortion procedures. It may be your money and your choice, but that doesn't mean they can't punish you for your choice.

Sounds Good To Me:  NY DA Cyrus Vance is seeking mandatory prison sentences for securities fraud.

One Plus One:  House Republicans are rushing a bill to the floor that will kill the federal financing system for presidential and other elections, reversing decades of attempts at campaign financing reform. This comes at the very moment that corporate contributions, unlimited and uncontrolled thanks to the Roberts Court, have surged into the pockets of the Republican leadership. Correlation is not causation. Not always.

More Sound to No Effect:  Republicans want to use the debt ceiling as "leverage" to force spending cuts, but it is a hollow threat. Neither the Senate nor the White House would go along. Another all show-no substance drama.

Porn O'Graph:  Dedicated to those who stayed behind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SAR #11026

Desperation takes many forms.

SOTU For From Dummies:  “I want to be liked by everyone and I am afraid of offending anyone, especially big money and the Republicans (but I repeat myself) and have no particular goals. The country cannot let politicians pick winners but must let the rich continue to do so. Politicians can and will pick the losers and we have decided that the old and the very young and the sick are the first to go. Despite abundant evidence that Wall Street needs close supervision, I will not let regulation stand in the way of the continuing rape of the environment or the people. Let's have some ice cream.”

Dominoes:  A wave of anti-government protests is sweeping the world, some based on shortages and rapid price inflation of food and fuel, others rooted in decades of oppression. A partial roll call: Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Yemen.

You've Been Warned:  Praising Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) “fabulous” plan to privatize Social Security and 'voucherize' Medicare, Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) put forth a plan to drastically cut Social Security and end traditional Medicare and most Medicaid. In that the Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus and is solvent as is until 2037 and the majority of voters overwhelmingly oppose these cuts, what is the GOP's long term game plan? Abolishing elections?

War Is Still Hell:  For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Future Is Now:  China is going to merge Guangzhou and 8 other Pearl River Delta cities into a megalopolis larger than the state of New Jersey, with a population of 42 million. Late last year the merger of Beijing and Tainjin to form a core city of 19 million in an urban area holding 60 million was announced.

Huh?  GOP Arizona State Senator Linda Gray blames abortion, not too many guns in the wrong hands, for the Tucson shootings.

As the World Turns:  Now that Fannie and Freddie hold all the mortgages, the banks want to take over securitizing them, with government guaranteeing the mortgages and thus the MBS based on them. A good business plan: let the taxpayer shoulder the risk and let the banks pocket the profits. Sounds familiar.

Modern Times:  They have money. We have votes. How is it, then, that a tiny fraction of the population managed to pervert the political-economic system to the point where we, the many, are marginalized and ignored while they steal everything that's not nailed down? Because one dollar equals one vote and representative democracy be damned.

Wrong Question:  The headline question was “Are We Finished with Major Expansions of the Social Safety Net?” It should have been 'Are We Finished With The Safety Net?' And the answer is yes.

Ludicrous:  California’s state treasurer has denounced efforts to permit states to declare bankruptcy, saying no state needs to declare bankruptcy. “It's a phony crisis” he said, pointing out that California's cuts to health care and education programs plus deferring payment on bills until some tax money shows will put of the crisis for a while and that when that ploy fails the state can issue IOUs. Then comes bankruptcy.

Falling House Zone:  Fannie & Freddie hold about 30% of all US repossessed houses – some 242,000 houses 'valued' at $24 billion. They are being held so as not to flood the market and drive down prices even further. Sooner or later they will have to sell them and drive down prices. It's a home, not an investment!

Qualifications:  Rep Michelle Bachmann believes “that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States," claiming that "men like John Quincy Adams... would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country." John Adams, not John Quincy was a founding father, but he died on July 4, 1826 (as did Thomas Jefferson) and slavery was not outlawed until the 13th Amendment was approved on December 6, 1865.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SAR #11025

We are impervious to inconvenient data.

Hiding the Body:  Mortgage lenders, seeking to end harassment by their victims, are asking court permission to destroy 22,100 boxes of original loan documents/mortgages and loan agreements. This would make the MERS system the only record of who may (or may not) own a particular house. But they'll provide affidavits that testify to the accuracy of the (proprietary) computer's version of reality. Seems a little early to destroy the evidence.

The Rules:  There is a five year statute-of-limitation on securities fraud and time is running out. Just in case you were wondering.

Popular Movements:  Watching the Republican lock-step empty-headed attack on the health care act makes it hard to remember that it is nearly exactly the health care plan the conservatives championed 15 years ago. To follow the GOP's gyrations requires passing into another dimension, one unsullied by logic and consistency. That's okay, ignorance is strength. Why tamper with a winning formula?

Bated Breath:  Two Italian scientists claim to have succeeded in creating a sustained cold-fusion reaction. Not only does it produce power, it produces copper as a byproduct. Hoax or alchemy, the anxious world awaits further developments. Caveat: The actual 'working' of the reactor was not disclosed because it is an “industry secret.”

Cowards:  For no discernible reason except an ingrained inferiority complex and a complete lack of balls, Senate Democrats have abandoned the idea of majority rule in favor of letting the minority party dictate legislative action again this term.

In This Corner:  The GOP has chosen Paul Ryan (R-WI) to give the party's reply to President Obama's State of the Union address. Ryan, author of the “Roadmap for America's Future”, would privatize Social Security, abolish Medicare, push the federal debt past 100% of GDP and raise taxes on 90% of taxpayers while lowering taxes on the rich.

On Your Mark, Get Ready...   FEMA has published a request for bids to supply “pre-packaged commercial meals to support readiness capability for immediate distribution to disaster survivors... in support of disaster relief efforts based on a catastrophic disaster event within the New Madrid Fault System.”

Significant?  The Fed has decided that it can move the bad assets it bought from Wall Street from its balance sheet to the Treasury, magically erasing substantial losses. Accountants have a strange sense of humor.

Mirable Dictu!  Paul Krugman is surprised that Obama's version of American competitiveness concentrates on corporate interests and not the country's.

The Big Dippers:  The US consumer, faced with lower wages and fewer hours, has turned to the piggy bank to support spending – drawing $311 billion from savings and investment accounts in the last 2 years. This is the first time in 57 years there has been a net negative quarterly withdrawal. Previously Americans added an average of 12% of disposable income to their holdings; now they are reducing their holdings by 1.4% of their disposable income. That's a net 13.4% of their seed corn that's disappearing into current consumption instead of being put aside for future needs.

Same Old Same Old:  Not getting the praises they expected for playing charades with the health care act, the Republicans are turning to that all time favorite, allowing fetuses to carry concealed weapons. banning the use of federal funds for abortions.

My Way of the Highway:  The Congressional Budget Office - the closest thing American politics has to an umpire - refuses to consistently please either party. And the Republicans are getting sick and tired of this impartiality, so they've will try to abolish the agency.

Cliff Notes:  Dr. Jim Hansen & friends claim that the much praised goal of limiting global warming to only “2°C and CO2 to 450 ppm are prescriptions for disaster.” No “significant cushion remains between today's climate and dangerous warming.” Modest increases in warming will trigger strong feedbacks that will cause the rapid deglaciation and the disintegration of ice sheets. The note that “the rate of sea level rise will depend on the doubling time for ice sheet mass loss” which appears to be 10 years or less, which in turn implies a multi-meter sea level rise this century.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

SAR #11024

Appealing to the better angels of our nature assumes facts not in evidence.

What Part of 'No' Don't You Understand?  The best tidbit from the Al-Jazeera documents is that when Palestinian negotiators offered Israel all but one small part of Jerusalem as part of a peace deal, Israel rejected the offer out of hand. So much for a two-state solution, so much for any solution not draped in blood.

Competing Views:  Before Team Obama gets too far into a training regimen for The Competition, we should do well to decide what the event is, what the goal is, where the goal posts are and who keeps the score. Or is this a Special Olympics event?

Multiple Choice:  Clarence Thomas's failure to report over $680,000 of his wife's income over five years was (1) lying (2) accidental (3) inadvertent (4) an oversight (5) deliberate falsification of a federal record.

Summertime:  Greenland's 2010 “melt season” was nearly 50 days longer than average. The season “started exceptionally early at the end of April and ended quite late in mid- September."

Helping Hand:  Worried that pharma not making enough money new drugs, the government is building a billion-dollar drug development center so the taxpayer can fund the research for the next generation of overpriced pharmaceuticals.

Recycling:  The Fed capitalizes the Treasury by buying Treasury bills. But now the Fed needs recapitalization, so the Treasury will write checks to the Fed so it can continue to buy Treasury notes.

Who's On First:  President Obama has chosen GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to chair the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, saying “Jeff's somebody who brings a wealth of experience to the table," referring to the money he got from TARP for GE, the profits GE made by shipping thousands of jobs overseas and his conviction that “what is good for our country is good for General Electric, and vice versa.

Quoted:  “Only 47% of working age Americans have full time jobs... the long term unemployed make up 42% of total unemployed... a full one third of the US population receives at least part of their food through [the food stamp program].”

Let Us Count the Ways: Thousands of Tunisian-inspired Yemenis are demonstrating to end the 32-year despotic rule of “President” Ali Abdullah Saleh, a strongman backed by the US military and little else.

What He Said:  Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) says that if the GOP discards its confrontational approach now, “the shooter wins”. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed, claiming that “nobody is going to put a gun to anybody's head here.” No, they do that in Arizona.

All You Need Know:  GM and Chrysler are not profitable making and selling cars unless they get to finance the cars and bank the interest on the loans.

Progress:  In the olden days blatant corruption and fraud were so infrequent that things like the Keating Five were scandalous. Today the American government does not cover up fraud and corruption; it is defined by it. How else can the complete lack of indictments, arrests, and trials be explained?

Reincarnation:  Obama, channeling Clinton, Summers and Rubin, is planning to use a “regulatory review” as an opportunity to embrace even more of the Republican economic plan, dismantling more of the regulatory protections that have so far escaped gutting. Under the guise of being a “fiscal conservative” he will use the State of the Union address as a forum to praise “American innovations”. You know, innovations like writing sub-prime adjustable rate-option mortgages, bundling them into MBS, chopping them CDO and writing CDS, and bringing down the global economy.

Pay to Play: Last year the US shipped $337 billion overseas to pay for oil imports. This does not include several hundred billion on the US military's efforts at keeping the world's petroleum available.

Porn O'Graph:  Unseasonable weather.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

SAR #11022

Eloquence trumps evidence.

God & Country:  Seymour Hersh, with a long record of inconvenient investigative coups, is now reporting that a secret group of Christian nutcases has taken over much of the US military and have, in effect, “overthrown the American government” and replaced it with a fraternity of Crusading Knights Templar. Hope he includes the nuts at Colorado Springs.

Ignorance is Bliss:  The outlook for the economy does not support the market's current valuation. There is a (nicely recited) very long list of domestic and global economic issues that point to problems ahead, while the technical measures indicate a significant market decrease awaits. But the market promises more, more, and ever more; thus we dance. It is now abundantly clear that it will take a crisis far larger than 2008 to teach the necessary lesson.

Let the Good Times Roll:  “Employment won't get back to where it was. Maybe we're talking 10, 15, or 20 years to get to the really good days again.”

One Out of Two:  Several states are facing budgetary gaps serious enough that they must either receive outside help or be permitted some form of bankruptcy. The GOP controlled House is not going to provide any funding and is loath to let them enter a bankruptcy that would harm investors. Their plan will be to authorize states to renege on contractual promises to retirees and unions, yet require bondholders to be made whole. In short, kill the unions.

The Real Deficit:  About 60% of Americans want the government to cut taxes without cutting any spending.

What's Love Got To Do With It?  Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) wants an Treasury Secretary Geithner to investigate the BP/Rosneft stock swap. Mr. Geithner could begin by explaining to Mr. Markey that BP is a British company and Rosneft a Russian one and that neither of them had to ask 'May I'.

Protesting Too Much?  Another day, another hysterical attack on Meredith Whitney. The loudest of those the denying the possibility of a “massive wave” of municipal defaults seem to have skin in the game.

Devil/Details:  If the US were to embrace “Drill, baby, drill.” as an energy policy, the main result would be an emptying of reserves that much quicker, followed by a total dependency on foreign oil by about 2030.

True Facts:  “The fiscal stimulus packages put in place in 2009-10 required most countries to run budget deficits... Treasuries issued new public debt - totaling $5.5 trillion since 2008 - to pay for the additional expenditures. To keep interest rates low, many central banks monetized that debt, injecting large sums of money into the economies. Central banks will face the difficult task of containing inflation without raising interest rates so high they snuff out further growth.” CIA World Fact Book, 2010.

Say/Do:  Sixty-seven percent of Americans feel now is a “good time” to buy a house. Yet in December almost none of them did so.

Gap Coverage:  Dr. Peter Höppe of Munich Re says that “For me the most convincing piece of evidence that global warming has been contributing already to more and more intense weather related natural catastrophes is the fact that while we find a steep increase in the number of loss relevant weather events (about tripling in the last 30 years) we only find a slight increase in geophysical (earthquake, volcano, tsunami) events.”

Irony:  JPMorgan handles food stamp debit cards in 26 states, child support debit cards in 15 states, and unemployment insurance debit cards in 7 states. If you have a problem with your debit card you just call the JPMorgan service center. In India.

Friday, January 21, 2011

SAR #11021

What middle class Americans need is middle class jobs.

Peak Food?  When oil prices zoom upwards the explanations are either 'peak oil' or 'speculation'. With food it comes down to supply/demand and speculation based on supply/demand. Either way, the chickens have come home (to America) to roost. GM, Kraft and Kellogg have begun hiking prices on their products. Hope they got The Chairman's approval, because Mr. Bernanke is pretty sure that (a) there is no inflation and (b) price increases on food and fuel don't count.

Health Care, The Substitute:  The Republicans have revealed their plan to improve America's health care: Stop all those pesky malpractice suits and keep people from suing the doctors who injured them. That's it. Feel better?

Cyberwar as Boogeyman:  An OECD study concludes that 'cyberwar' is mainly a boogeyman designed to frighten the public and control internet activity while increasing the budget and profile of cyberwarriors. Just don't ask Iran about the Stuxnet worm.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines:  A bankruptcy court has ruled that Vallejo, CA can void contracts with public employee's unions as part of a bankruptcy. The city has already informed its unsecured creditors that they would receive as little as 5 cents on the dollar from the city. Pension plans in Illinois are about $200 billion in the hole and unlikely to bridge the gap – another blow to public employees. In Los Angeles whole departments will be eliminated and employees terminated. And on it goes. Even as JPMorgan forecasts increasing numbers of munincipal bankruptcies, Bernanke repeats his view that the Federal Reserve's authority will not permit the Fed to rescue bankrupt cities. Only their banks and stockbrokers.

100% Unlikely:  Some pathetically optimistic folks are claiming that building 4 million wind turbines, etc. etc. by 2030 is possible and would produce enough energy to replace fossil fuels. That's 700 new wind turbines a day, every day, for 20 years. In what world, with what governmental system?

Ben Tre:  Last October the Afghan town of Tarok Kolache received 25 tons of bombs from General Petraeus's counterinsurgency offensive. But, the military assures us, there were no civilian casualties. And now no town, either.

Department of Duh: “FBI: MLK parade bomb may have been racially motivated.”

Bonding:  Goldman Sachs says holders of Greek Bonds are unlikely to be repaid in full. Maybe in half. Ireland is offering its bondholders 70 cents on the dollar, which BNP Paribas urges them to take. Can you hum the tune to Sovereign Defaults Don't Happen?

Can You Hear Me Now?  ExxonMobil expects global carbon emissions to rise by nearly 25% in the next 20 years, in effect dismissing hopes that runaway climate change can be stopped. And that assumes only a 40% increase in demand for energy and the use of “less carbon-intensive fuels.” The Pollyannaish forecast of only a 2.1ºC to 3.7ºC rise this century is hopelessly beyond reach.

Doubled Trouble:  Funny thing, scientists now admit that they underestimated the amount that the melting of Arctic ice and snow would contribute to global warming. By half.

Health Care Reform Explained:  A short presentation by those who think America is too great to improve.

Yes, But:  “If the cost of labor increases, someone has to pay for it. Laborers may pay in the form of decreased work opportunities, investors may pay in the form of decreased returns on capital, or consumers may pay in the form of higher prices required by increased costs.” But if the cost of labor decreases, someone benefits, either the investors or the consumers. Oh, wait. The consumers are also the laborers and thus have lost even more of their ability to buy what they make and that will cost the investors money, too. Slave labor is a good idea as long as you have a large pool of consumers who are immune from slavery. Did Mises have a formula for that?

Porn O'Graph:  Stopping the starts.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

SAR #11020

Not only has it come to this, but it came to this some time ago.

On the Other Hand:  The deep-water oil reserves off Brazil's Atlantic coast may hold 123 billion barrels, not the previously estimated 50 billion barrels. Then again, they may not.

Housing Records:  Housing completions in 2010 set a new record low at 703,000 units. The previous lows were last year's 844 thousand and 1.244 million back in 1982. In December there were only 529 thousand (seasonally adjusted annual rate) house starts, down 4.3% from November. Single-family starts decreased 9.0% in December.

It Can Happen Here:  Ventura, California is moving some city facilities inland to escape the rising sea.  Is it global warming, normal erosion, or the result of bad planning?

Cut & Save:  Technician/chartist Tom DeMark is predicting an 'imminent' 11% drop in the market averages and says an eventual decline of 20% or more is possible.

Grocery Stopping:  The global increase in food and other commodity prices should be welcomed by US investors, because it “largely reflects economic growth” (and thus more profits for speculators). Corn has hit a 30-month high, wheat prices are increasing as stockpiles shrink, and soybean prices are up in expectation of increased demand from China. India is suspending taxes on foodstuffs as prices soar and record food prices in Africa have spurred riots in several cities. A revolt seems to be brewing in Egypt, too, although there it seems more about dictatorship than food and fuel.

Please Explain:  Iraq has agreed to pay people to come and find their oil and then take it away. Isn't this like paying burglars to come ransack your house?  Are they using some of the US billions to do this?

Shovel Ready:  The Texas AG argues the EPA should not be able to regulate CO2 because it is a naturally occurring emission of living things. Which is a load of crap, also an emission of living things, especially politicians.

Be Prepared:  British MPs are urging the government to institute an energy rationing system to deal with an impending energy and climate crises. First in, first out?

Insurance Dance:  Most of us agree, most of the time, that no one should be kicked to the curb and denied health care when they need it – we're not to the point of letting the poor die on public streets. Not yet. The question we do not agree upon is who should pay for this care, and how. What is the fairest way to share the burden of basic health care for our citizens? If everyone is to benefit, then all should contribute – proportional to their incomes. And if we're going to do that then we must adopt a fair, efficient system that eliminates the profit motive and unnecessary administrative costs. And that leads us to a single payer system of some type, for some degree of health care for all. Or should we just look away and walk on by?

Protecting the Guilty: A Federal appeals court has supported the Obama administrations view that letting the American people know about (have access to the transcripts and videos of) the torture conducted in their name would lead to the prosecution of many former high-ranking officials (and not a few current ones) for war crimes, so the public cannot be allowed access. That's not what the court said, just what they meant.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SAR #11019

Hoping for the best is not a reliable economic policy.

Dreamland:  Camden, NJ is becoming what the Republicans desire - a place where government intrusion into the life of the citizenry is disappearing. In order to balance its budget, the city is laying off 25% of its workers, including 50% of the police, 30% of the firemen. Plan a visit soon!

Half Time:  The current European plan is to shift the PIIGS liabilities to China and to Europe's dwindling base of taxpayers in the hope that an economic recovery will occur sooner or later and bail them all out. What will they do when the Chinese do whatever it is they are up to and the European taxpayers turn Tunisian? This will not end well.

The Elephant:  The real health care problem is the cost of health care services for the elderly – which is almost entirely paid by the government – that is, by the taxpayers. Seniors have, in fact, a single payer system, thanks to the taxpayers. Too bad the Republicans won't let the taxpayers have a single payer system for themselves. But the Republicans are opposed to such a reform for fear that the poor will not suffer sufficiently and that it would be immoral for the taxpayer to ease that suffering.

One Step Over the Line:  The Tunisian disease has spread to Oman, where government employees are protesting low wages and soaring food prices.

Omerta:  Giving the lie to the Vatican's claims that the church had never told bishops to hide priestly pedophilia, a 1997 letter has surfaced that instructs Ireland's Catholic bishopst to do precisely that. Now the Pope will have to cover up the cover-up.

Asked and Answered:  Will the financial crisis lead to America's decline? Yes. What will the American Dark Ages be like? Not pretty. Or so says Niall Ferguson, who blames it all on economist's inability to realize that the economic system is really, really complex and constantly adapting. If it sounds familiar, it is. Check your bookshelf under Animal Spirits, Sandpiles, and Swans.

Infinity:  Last week, insiders sold $163 million in stock and bought none. Zero. Bupkis. This is the first time in memory, and perhaps the first time ever, than not one business insider thought enough of his company to buy stock in it.

The Prestige:  “The economy remains on government-assisted life support, and the government has been very successful in creating the illusion of economic prosperity. It is doing this to buy time and help preserve social stability as the adjustment towards housing deflation, consumer deleveraging, and chronic unemployment takes its toll.” Preserve social stability? Is that one of the Fed's new jobs, along with puffing up the stock market?

Growth Industry:  The CEO of Unilever says the global crisis in food production is reaching "dangerous territory" with prices soaring and demand outstripping supply. He points out that EU and US “market distortions” work against the needs of the developing world, cites bio-fuel subsidies as harmful, and feels we must adopt sustainable models of agriculture. Unilever is one of the world's largest food producers.

Speed Kills:  If we continue burning fossil fuels at our ever increasing rate, atmospheric CO2 will jump from the current 390 ppm to over 1000 by 2100. This will – over time – increase the global temperature by some 29ºF, which will make large parts of the earth uninhabitable by humans for thousands of years. The temperature rise will be much faster than many (most?) species will be able to adapt to.

Shocked:  Paul Krugman, reprising the role of Captain Renault, is shocked to discover the GOP's political programs are illogical, and that they say things just to get elected and then do whatever their masters tell them to do. Wait until he finds out about a guy named Obama and the Democrats.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

SAR #11018

The unimaginable becomes imaginable when people take to the streets.

Snidely, Whiplashed:  GMAC has agreed in a Maryland case that it would dismiss every foreclosure case in the state that relied on affidavits signed by robo-signer Jeffery Stephan. Stephan has admitted to signing 10,000 false affidavits a month. GMAC can refile on each of the approximately 10,000 houses, but only if they submit to mandatory mediation between borrower and lender before moving to foreclosure. Will this expand to all the other robo-signers and foreclosures in other states?

Just Asking;  Would Tunisia's food-price-based recall election seem more important if it had been held in Riyadh?

Final Exam:  There is $830 billion in outstanding student loan debt in the US – more,even, than credit card debt. But there are far fewer debtors and they are far less likely to pay their debts (60% is not being actively repaid). There seems little hope that most graduates (or more likely, drop-outs) will be able to repay their loans. Ever. But that's okay, most of them didn't need the education anyway – let the banks repossess it.

In for a Penny in for a Pound:  The Irish central bank is printing up the money it needs to support the Irish banks. This wouldn't be a problem except they are printing Euros, not Pounds. They did tell the ECB that it was doing so, but it did not ask “May we?” It will be interesting if this sort of inflationary printing becomes popular in the other PIIGS.

Liar's Poker:  Venezuela Claims Its Oil Reserves Surpass Saudi Arabia's...

Heresy:  Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser says the Fed does not know what to do, hasn't got the power to do much, has far exceeded its statutory authority, and is trying to do the wrong thing. Bernanke would like to send him straight to bed without supper, but that, too, is beyond the power of the Fed Chairman.

Alarums!  The International Energy Agency (IEA) finds current oil prices to be “alarming” and fears they will have a negative impact on the global economy if OPEC does not “signal its intent to lift supplies.” Or better, demonstrate it can. OPEC raised its forecast for 2011 world oil demand growth by more than 1.23 million barrels but did not increase production quotas even as prices reach a 27 month high. We may never know if production increases (or decreases) because the US Energy Information Agency is going to stop publishing its International Petroleum Monthly which has been the one relatively reliable source for global production data.

Higher Education: Whistleblower Rudolf Elmer has given Wikileaks CDs detailing the tax-evasion and money laundering on 2000 high profile Swiss bank clients, including 40 powerful politicians.” Elmer said he had done so “in order to educate society.”

Potemkin Budget:  The $720 billion (plus the cost of actual wars and the waste and bribery that goes with them) US defense budget: (1) Is required by the threats the US faces. (2) Makes the US safer than a more reasonable figure, say $100 billion, would. (3) Is the result of Bush, Reagan and the GOP. (4) Is necessary. (5) Is just right after Secretary Gates's $78 billion in cuts. (6) None of the above.

Childhood's End:  Senator Lee (R-UT) maintains that the nation's child labor laws are unconstitutional and prevent parents from fully capitalizing on their assets because children are not generally involved in interstate commerce. Never mind that in US v. Darby Lumber (1941) the Supreme Court has long since dismissed this fantasy. Maybe the Roberts court will bring back the 16 hour 6 day week, too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

SAR #11017

The collapse of the oil-fueled economy will produce full employment.

Endgame:  How many times are we supposed to sit and nod our heads when OPEC tells us they have lots of oil and that $65 $80 $100 a barrel is a reasonable price? We are not supposed to notice they are pumping as fast as they can.

Running Hot and Cold:  Current research indicates that the Atlantic ocean can undergo radical changes in circulation patterns on timescales as short as decades. Not to say it will, but it could.

Fuel to Fire:  Adding some statistical support to the argument over whether oil prices helped cause the Current Mess (as opposed to blaming it all on sub-prime or poor credit judgments or simple greed), a study of oil market 'disruptions' and economic downturns since WWII showed that all but one recession was preceded by an increase in oil prices and vice versa, every oil market 'disruption' (except one) was followed by an economic recession. “Contributing factor” seems a safe description. And look out, here comes $4.00 gasoline.

Never Say Never:  The S&P 500 index has not closed below its 10 day moving average once during the past 30 days.  "This has never happened before, in 82 years of history."  Cue offstage thunder.

Travel Voucher:  The Obama administration plans to ease restrictions on “people-to-people” travel to Cuba to increase contacts between Americans and Cubans, and to allow more US cash into the country. Just like the Batista days, when Americans went to Havana for hookers and gambling. Of course Bush started this with his free trips to Guantanamo Bay.

For Sale By Owner:  Those who have sold enormous amounts of precious metals that they do not own may have to settle up pretty soon. Either JPMorgan is covering up a naked silver market shorts in its own dealing, or fronting for China. The 'China version' is full of twists and turns, with China trying to put the US in an untenable position. Or some other facts are needed to explain the current silver market. I vote for greed at JPMorgan.

More Is Better:  Taking 10,000 steps a day is better than taking 3,000, but taking 3,000 is better than nothing – vis a vis obesity and diabetes. Excuse me, I gotta go walk.

What's It Mean, Ollie?  Russian state oil firm Rosneft, with a £10 billion share swap, now has a 5% interest in BP. Americans, naturally, do not trust Putin and are upset – especially those who know that BP is the largest petroleum supplier to the US military. Did no one stop to wonder if this wasn't Rosneft admitting it needed help, or BP recognizing it did?

Let Me Count The Ways:  New York is eliminating 20 percent of state agencies. New Jersey skipped a $3.1 billion payment to the state's pension system and is cutting public workers' benefits. Illinois raised its income tax 75%. Texas has an estimated $27 billion shortfall in its two-year budget. South Carolina plans to end funding for museums and arts programs, cut college budgets and drop state workers' pay 5%. And that's before the states start paying the interest ($1.3 billion a year) on the $41 billion they've borrowed to pay unemployment benefits. And then there's the $41 billion...

Early Call:  The Greenland ice cap has melted enough so that the sun rose two days early from its winter darkness.

Scary Thought:  Globalization's proponents say that those “trapped on the wrong side of globalization” - like the long-term unemployed in the US - and claim it “is a passing phase until rising wages in Asia restore balance to East and West.” Or falling wages in the West balance the East; works either way.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

SAR #11015

The line between citizen, subject and terrorist is growing finer.

Helping Hand:  European authorities fear that China may have been less than altruistic in buying up Spain and Portugal's debt. What if, they ask, the purpose was to push up the euro against the yuan and gain advantage for their exports? Well, China wouldn't be the Lone Ranger on that stage.

Look Ma! No Hands : According to Bernanke, the US economy will grow 3 or 4% in 2011, with no one hiring nobody.

On the Up & Up:  After November's retail sales improving 1.2% M/M, December's 0.5% seems anemic, yet it was up 7.9% from December 2009. Retail sales are up 13.5% from the bottom, and just above the pre-recession peak. Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Riots R Us:  Increases in food prices and oil prices and shortages have resulted in riots in Algeria, Chile, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen. Stay tuned for a location in your neighborhood.

Oh, By the Way:  Goldman Sachs explained today that when they reported $8.5 billion in losses on investments in stocks and bonds back in 2008, it really meant $13.5 billion. This was (a) a misstatement (b) an oversight (c) done to hide losses (d) a bald-faced lie (e) business as usual for God's own investment bank.

Dumb:  'Does a Bad Job Market Lead to More Discrimination?' Yes, why do you ask?

Dumber:  Has The Fed Lit Inflation Fuse? Again, why do you ask?

True Confessions:  The IEA, agreeing with the US EIA, says that increasing oil prices could slow or reverse the global economic recovery and bring on another recession, explaining that “most of the major economic downturns in the United States, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region since the 1970s have been preceded by sudden increases in crude oil prices.”

Forewarned Is Depressing:  The US Energy Department says retail gasoline prices could top $4 per gallon and diesel prices may rise 14% this year, which should be cause for alarm for consumers who have already seen a steady climb in fuel prices.

Hat's Off: The EPA has 'withdrawn' a federal water permit for a mammoth mountain top removal project, Arch Coal's Spruce No. 1. The EPA found the mine “would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend." Expect a Republican/Business backlash, joined by the Democratic politicians from the area, all crying about lost jobs (and profits).

Davy Crock:  Tennessee Tea Partiers want textbooks to portray the Founding Fathers owning slaves and our nation's genocidal campaign against Native Americans in a positive, uplifting way.

Close Shave:  A new report reveals that in late 2008 the FDIC was ready to close Citigroup because it was not able to meet its liquidity requirements. A hasty government “intervention based as much on gut instinct and fear of the unknown as on objective criteria" saved the day. And what did we get from the Citigroup bailout?

Down and Out:  Banks have walked away from nearly 1,900 foreclosed houses in Chicago, leaving them to the tender mercies of the weather and the streets. Often the foreclosure process is deliberately left incomplete so the banks can evade responsible for upkeep and taxes.

For Your Own Good:  Republican led states are handing out tax breaks to corporations while raising taxes on ordinary citizens. Why this is reported as news is a mystery.

Friday, January 14, 2011

SAR #11014

They'd tell us if things were going to keep on getting worse, wouldn't they?

Game, Set, Match:  Bill Daley's appointment as Obama's gate-keeper means the banks have capped their conquest of the financial/political system and will continue to reap the rewards (bailouts, interest-free money, no re-regulation, lower taxes).  And they will ride the economy into another crash, profiting all the way.

Dumb:   “The Giffords Tragedy: Is the Media Partly at Fault?”   If you have to ask...

Dumber:  “Can Europe Be Saved?”   If you have to ask...

Party Time!  After the EU, the ECB, China and anonymous big banks forced Portugal to pay 6.7% to sell 10-year bonds and Spain 4.5% for 5-year notes, it was smiles all around and stock markets took off as investors pretended that this patch was a fix . It isn't.

Three Card Monte:  During the 16 months from last payment to foreclosure, auditors and regulators let banks count the missing payments as income.  How else are they going to look solvent?

Mother Nature Seems Upset:  Over 500 have been killed and thousands left homeless by mud slides that have wiped out three towns in Brazil. Over 60 people are missing as flooding causes £3 billion in damages in Australia.   Flooding in Sri Lanka has killed over 20 people and forced over 1 million from their homes.  Mount Etna is erupting.

The Recovery To Date:  "Of the 1.1 million private jobs gained in the last year, 60% are have absolutely no real wealth creation capacity, nor do they provide any real benefits."

Slow Learner:  NJ Republican Governor Christie wants to balance the state's budget by 'reforming' education, which is code for slashing education spending – the state cut its school bond offering by more than half.  The goal is to save money, not educate children.  He wants to eliminate teacher tenure (instill fear – it improves performance!), increase charter schools (which have repeatedly shown to be no better than public schools), close low performing schools (for which read schools in poor neighborhoods), and institute merit pay for teachers (whose success or failure is mostly dependent on the parents of the students).  He'd do more for education if he pushed for abolition of tenure for failing parents.  Or if he did something to make sure every child had a home, a place to sleep.  And a parent with a job. And food on a regular basis. Everyone's got the answer to education and it is always the teachers fault?

One More Time:  Initial unemployment claims were reported at 445,000, up 35,000 from the previous week.  You win some, you lose some, some get seasonally adjusted.

On the Up and Up:  The USDA has reported a surprising drop in 2010's US corn and soybean crops, citing abnormally wet weather and high temperatures (ie, global warming). Prices jumped amid concern for tighter supplies of food and a shortage of grain to make biofuels.  Historically low stockpiles of grain and oilseeds globally will leave little buffer as demand – and prices – rise.

The Way of the World:  “… market economy means capitalism, which means big money, which means large bribes for the best connected.”

Plan to Plan:  Over the last 4 months money growth as measured by the St Louis Fed was 7% for M2 and 10% for “Money of Zero Maturity”.  With oil now closing in on $100 a barrel and other commodities, especially foods, at record highs, expect inflation to become a coffee break topic pretty soon. It will be interesting, living with deflation in our assets, jobs,and wages, and inflation in our expenses while we try to make the mortgage payment. Wonder how that'll work out.

Stirred, Not Shaken:  Half of the world's small (5 square kilometers in area) will be entirely gone by 2100, but the Himalayan glaciers are expected to only shrink by 15% by then.  More to come.

Deluge:  The Queensland floods have been disastrous to communities in their path, but their effect on the Great Barrier Reef will be catastrophic as the brown plume of runoff – soil, pesticides, fertilizer, trace metals from mines - fills the inshore lagoon for nearly 1000 miles.   Water visibility, usually more than 75 feet, has been reduced to nil and salinity has dropped to 10 parts per thousand, which is deadly to sea creatures and corals.  As the corals die, so will all the sea life and fish that depend on them.

In Perpetuity:  Congress is about to – very, very quietly – extend the Patriot Act again. Like the Bush tax cuts, the Act will be renewed ad infinitim.  It's only for another year...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

SAR #11013

Blowing things out of proportion is the American Way.

Profiteers:  The US attacked Afghanistan to punish the country for harboring al-Qaida, and invaded Iraq to get rid of Saddam.  That's what they said, anyway.  If those were the motives, why the “Long War”?  Yeah, yeah. I  mean besides the oil and pipelines. (A) Because it is profitable for American businesses.  or (B) Ditto.  Choose one.

Optimistic?  Maybe you should look at employment, housing, commodities and credit data and think again.  Best 1500 word essay wins the usual prize.

Magic Bullets:  There is not a single antibiotic to which at least some bacteria have not become resistant.  More than 90,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections.  That's more than are killed by car accidents, prostate cancer and AIDS combined.

Reading Assignment:  In a NYT article,  Paul Krugman describes the problems facing the euro from sovereign (PIIGY) debt that will be the subject of discussion in class.  Note it is descriptive, not prescriptive.  Pick a 'solution' and be prepared to defend it.

Importing Inflation?  Prices for imports rose 1.1% in December, 1.5% in November, but according to the government that's not inflation, just price increases in stuff like food. Besides, it's still less than 14% a year.  Inflation happens to other countries.

House Percentage:  In the last four years Atlantic City's casinos have seen a 31% drop in income, down 9.6% in the last year.  What are the odds for 2011?

Bummer:  It is pretty tough being one of the long term unemployed who cannot find a job. It is a much worse curse to realize that you may be one of the three quarters for whom there simply will not be a job.  You can't find what's not in the haystack to start with.

Parochialism:  If you get your news from the MSM, you probably think the Wikileaks documents are all about the US.  Not true.  Many are about discounted black and brown nations that don't show up in US navel gazing.  You can access the information without the filters if you go to one of the WikiLeaks mirrors (try this one).

Asked & Answered:  The headline asked if US house prices will fall below their 2009 lows. Silly, they already have.

Chicken in Every Pot : Since the recession began in 2007, the number of homeless children attending public schools in Florida's Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties has gone from 1,300 to more than 4,200.  How can they learn if they have no place to sleep?  If their only meals come from the school cafeteria's Title IV program?  Where do they do their homework?  How much did Goldman Sachs pay out in bonuses?

New Normal:  OPEC says that “Oil at $90 is not an extraordinary situation,” and the market is “well-balanced” and doesn't need an increase in supply. Just an increase in dollars.  Tell them to check with The Bernank about that.

Simple Math:  If your “How to Prepare for the Collapse” book tells you to get a rifle so you can shoot Bambi, throw it away.  After the first couple of years with millions of Rambos out killing everything, there won't be any deer left. Nor cows. Nor dogs.  Or, quite possibly, any birds.

Nothing Gnu Under the Sun:  The American Economics Association assures us that the economy will always revert back to its long-term growth trend, eventually.  Except when it doesn't.

Porn O'Graph: A house in the dell...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SAR #11012

The Guantánamo Bay torture center turned 10 yesterday. Happy Birthday.

To The Point:  Bob Woodward became one of the richest and most prominent journalists in Washington by exposing the secrets of government and publishing classified documents in book after book.  And while politicians often found him inconvenient, his fellow journalists simply envied him and tried harder to ferret out the hidden truths.  Yet Woodward was never labeled a terrorist and hauled off for re-education.

Nest Egg:  William M. Daley, the next Obama chief of staff, holds 175,678 shares worth $7.6 million in JPMorgan Chase, where he is vice chairman.

Debt Rattle:  Portugal has rejected the demand from Germany and France that it leap into the embrace of the EU/IMF 'rescue' process, claiming it does not need assistance and is well on the way to getting its problems under control.  Portugal's finance minister suggested that Germany's concern was not for Portugal, but for itself and it's own bankers.  There are reports that “technical talks” between Portugal and the EU/IMF are already underway.  If this reminds you of the final days in Ireland, there's a reason.

It Is and It Isn't:  The Bernank's quantitative easing is adding about 10 cents a gallon a month to the price of gasoline and driving up the price of food, too.  But it isn't inflationary because The Bernank doesn't count energy and food in calculating inflation.  Calculating is the right word.

Compromise:  “We should try to create the society each of us would want if we didn’t know in advance who we’d be.”

Over There/Here:  "Japanese workers´ willingness to accept wage cuts to safeguard their jobs is lowering prices and deepening deflation."  In the US, over half the unemployed who have found new jobs took a cut in pay, most taking at least a 20% cut in wages.

Knee Jerks:  The sale of automatic handguns like the Glock used by Lougner have surged as concerned individuals rush to stock up before additional restrictions – like a sanity exam - are placed on weapons capable of instantaneous mass murder.  Some Arizona lawmakers argue that the shootings are a good reason to expand the carrying of concealed weapons.

Interpretation:  The Ivory Coast says it is taking  'all necessary measures'  to avoid defaulting on $2.3 billion in bonds.  They've crossed their fingers.

Noted:  For the past decade the US has worked to establish a climate of fear.  It has abducted people and disappeared them into secret prisons; shipped them to its “less squeamish allies” to be tortured; thrown them in cages without charges; spied on its own citizens without warrants and arrested them without charges; all with one overarching objective: to create a climate of fear.   It worked.

Depressing:   We've now had 4 1/2 years of declining house prices, with a 5.07% drop y/y in November.  House values have now fallen 26% since the June 2006 peak.  This is more than the 25.9% drop during the Great Depression.  And the slide is not over.

Misdirection:  Newt Gingrich is pushing for federal legislation giving states “the right to file bankruptcy and renege on pension and other benefit promises made to state employees.”   But such a law would be unconstitutional, so one must assume the intent is to paint workers' pensions and union contracts as responsible for the devastation Wall Street has caused.

Anomaly:  For those who reject the idea that the markets are rigged, look at the surge in S&P 500 Futures 4 seconds before the bullish ADP data was released last week.  Lucky guess, right?

Better Late... International bank regulators have agreed to raise worldwide capital requirements whenever an individual country declares a credit bubble.  Given countries records at spotting credit bubbles and their disinclination to mention even an obvious one, this agreement means that once the horses are gone, they'll all yell  “Barn Door! Barn Door!”

Porn O'Graph:  Change in number of workers, or not.