Monday, February 28, 2011

SAR #11059

Politicians are always willing to ask others to suffer.

Lumps: Those governments and investment banks and international corporation who did business with, loaned money to and otherwise commercially and politically encouraged and enabled dictators such as Gaddafi and Mubarak should suffer the same fate as a shareholder who invests in a company that goes bankrupt. They should lose what they invested and be left holding nothing - no properties, no claims, nothing. Why should the citizens of Libya and Egypt (and lots of others) pay for the debts of dictators and their satraps, or fulfill contracts they did not sign and did not profit from. There should be a real and painful cost to raping a country.

Help Wanted: As 125,000 marched to support public employees in Madison over the weekend, the governor called for help from police agencies across the state. Turns out they were not needed, as the protests were quietly well behaved – maybe that's why the media ignored such an outpouring of support for the unions. Might have got more attention if Obama had been there, leading the march to defend the working stiffs. But that'd be leadership, and our politicians don't do leadership.

Danger Zone: As you knew they would, the bankers – this time in the guise of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – are trying to get 'Egypt' to accept a billion Euros a year in reconstruction money in return for “free-market reform”. This comes while London bankers are trying to extract their pound of flesh for previous loans made to Mubarak. Why doesn't a revolution act like bankruptcy and wipe out all previous debts, especially those made to dictators, over which the people had no say? Is today's 'Egypt' the same as Mubarak's 'Egypt”? Who did the borrowing? Who should be made to pay? Ah. The usual suspects.

Union Busting: Lost in Gov. Walker's hysteria over the claimed 'budget shortfall' and the union's responsibility therefore is that during his first 10 days as Governor he gave out $117 million in tax breaks to businesses, which is 85% of the $137 projected shortfall. You can blame the unions only if the GOP is considered a union of big business interests. Yeah, let's bust that union.

Woodshed: America's biggest banks say they've been bad and expect to be sent to bed without a second helping of desert. They face a multi-billion dollar penalty for illegally foreclosing on borrowers. Separately, Citigroup is facing a $4 billion hickey for fraudulent disclosures (and non-disclosures) about its toxic mortgage assets. And on it goes.

Box Score: The economy has added a million jobs in the past year, almost all of them low paying service-sector jobs. During the Current Unpleasantness 40% of the jobs lost were high-paying, but so far only 14% of the new jobs are; and while only 23% of the jobs lost were low-paying, 49% of those added were.

Tough It Out: The Obama administration early on sent an envoy to Spain to warn them of the consequences if they indicted George W. Bush and his advisers for crimes against humanity, specifically authorizing and encouraging torture. The Americans were aghast to learn that, unlike in the US, the Spanish executive branch could not tell the Spanish courts what they may or may not do. The case is still open and pending.

Financial Infidelity: 31% of Americans lie to their partners about money, 80% spend money on stuff their partners don't know about. Big surprise – go out an look in the trunk of my wife's car, count the shoe boxes. Me, I'm gonna sneak another shot of the Laphroaig .

It's Nearly Quitting Time: Economists admit they were wrong; austerity is not going to save the Greeks, nor their creditors. Their current solution is for Greece to give up the euro, go back to the drachma and suffer in squalor and silence, while their bondholders write off 30% or more and just go away.

AIG The Sequel: AIG, the folks at ground zero for the last meltdown, say they have made a few more bad bets and now face losses on $46 billion in municipal bonds that “threaten the company's liquidity.” Which is AIG speak for “we're going to need some more taxpayer money.”

Damned Math! Wisconsin Governor Walker wants unionized state workers to “contribute more” to their pension and health plans – but they already pay 100% of every dollar that funds their pension and health insurance. In negotiating their contracts the public employees forewent pay raises in lieu of putting the money into insurance and retirement. It's called deferred compensation – just like the CEOs on Wall Street get. And it is the result of collective bargaining. The last time I checked, there were employees only on one side of the negotiating table.

It's the Unions! Surveys show that the long term unemployed have no health insurance, nor any money with which to buy it. Now the former middle class is joining the rest of the poor in the nation's emergency rooms and free clinics, cursing the teachers unions for ruining the economy.

Porn O'Graph: Oh, crap. Well, phosphate actually.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

SAR #11057

Interconnectedness was supposed to be globalization's advantage.

Considerations: As the slaughter in Libya reaches a crescendo, the US and NATO have begun discussing “humanitarian intervention”. How is this different that the humanitarian crisis in the Sudan? Oh wait, that's China's oil.

The Battle Is Joined: They keep saying there's no class war in this country. They lie. What's going on in Wisconsin is the opening salvo in the corporate plutocrats' attempt to impose a rigid right-wing conservative vision on the former middle class, to end collective bargaining, to abolish tenure, to sell off government properties to their friends – to do to us what they've done overseas for the last 40 years through the IMF and corporate raiders and the World Bank. The only budget to which this really applies is that kept by the Koch brothers and their ilk.

Oil Patch Humor: “Officials there have discovered approximately 70 major oil fields that they have left untapped over concerns that increased Saudi production would cause global oil prices to collapse.” Don't worry, “There is no reason for oil prices to rise because Saudi Arabia and OPEC won’t allow shortages to exist.” So sayeth the Saudis. Could you define 'major', please, then show me on the map... Oh, wait, the article is by Michael C. Lynch, Mr. $20 oil himself. Never mind.

What Will They Think Of Next? Arizona’s Republican-run Senate wants to require that foreclosures contain a complete chain of ownership for the property, that each change of ownership be recorded at the courthouse at the time of the transfer, and that recording fees be paid.

Things That Go Bump In The Night: Under cover of darkness early Friday morning, Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers and sent it to the Senate, where Democratic Senators remain on strike.

Hit & Run: The combined number of houses owned by the taxpayers through Fannie, Freddie and the FHA is now just shy of 300,000 units. More than enough to meet the current annual demand for new houses. But these aren't new – just a bunch of repos.

Pot/Kettle: A government study found that the US has wasted tens of billions of dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another study will soon find that the money spent on this study was pretty much a waste, too.

Better Late Than... The US has announced sanctions on the Gaddafi regime in Libya, so we can tell which way that wind is blowing. Meanwhile tens of thousands are in Yemen's streets and in the public squares of Baghdad. Stay tuned for the White House to figure out what it's safe to say, and when.

Shave: Fourth quarter GDP was revised downward from 3.2% to 2.8%. Let's have 10% less enthusiasm, please.

Surrender: The EPA has given in to the GOP and has revised air pollution rules to permit thousands of industrial boilers and incinerators to keep polluting our air and driving global warming meet federal air quality standards.

Dispassionate Analysis: “Global economic growth is not such a fragile beast that a spike in oil prices of $US10 or even $US20 will cause much harm. Define the duration of a 'spike' and describe how “much” is “much”.

Good/Bad/Ugly: Freddie Mac only lost $113 million in 4Q 2010 and just $14 billion for the whole year. It expects house prices to fall further, and needs another $500 million advance on its allowance.

Porn O'Graph: Wisconsin Roadmap.

Friday, February 25, 2011

SAR #11056

This is nowhere near over, and won't be when it is.

Harmless: Remember the Luddites who said GM crops were dangerous? They were right. Senior plant and animal scientists have discovered that pathogens found in Roundup Ready GM crops cause spontaneous abortions and infertility in livestock. The pathogens could cause “significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies,” and result in “a collapse of US soy and corn exports.”

Big Yawn: Another Federal District Judge has upheld the legality of the Affordable Care Act. Doesn't make a much noise when the wingnuts aren't shouting in triumph.

Motivational Speakers: The Providence, RI school district will terminate all 1,926 of its teachers on the last day of the school year, because the law says they have to give notice and the district is facing a $40 million shortage next year. Over the summer months they will try to find enough desperate souls to resume overcrowded classes with underpaid teachers come September. Bet this'll help the test scores.

The Grand Vizor Speaks: Goldman Sachs now says that the GOP's budget plan will damage their profits the economy.

The Prize: What is being decided in Wisconsin is whether anyone or anything that represents the American people will survive the corporate onslaught.

Happy Days: How does a 13% drop in house prices in the last six months support the claims of an improving economy? A modest rise in January existing home sales was achieved with another decrease in sales prices. Selling more for less was never a good business plan, especially in that foreclosure sales made up 26% of 2010 home sales, and sold for a third less than non-distressed houses. New houses sold at the lowest rate in damned near forever in January, achieving a 284,000 annualized rate.

Elsewhere: “Thai Police Free 14 Women From Illegal Baby-Breeding Farm In Bangkok”

Fairly Unbalanced: Fox News Boss Roger Ailes told a former News Corp executive to lie to federal investigators about Bernard Kerik. Lying to federal agents is a federal crime. Soliciting others to lie to the feds is at best impolite.

Nose/Face: Governor Walker's rush to cut $30 million at the expense of the public employees may cost the state $46 million. Somebody should tell him the idea was to drain the swamp.

Strategy: If John Boehner's goal is to embarrass the President and humiliate the Democrats by shutting down the government over the deficit, and the President and his party are unwilling to be humiliated, guess which side will get blamed for the inevitable government shutdown? (a) The Democrats. (b) Obama. (c ) Obama and the Democrats, or (d) All of the above.

Repeat After Me: Sometimes an increase in the price of a commodity is caused by an actual physical shortage, not just nasty speculators. Silver, in this instance.

Rank Has Had Privileges: General McCrystal's buddy General Caldwell has been caught mounting psy-warfare campaigns against visiting members of Congress. The operations, which are illegal, were executed over the protests of junior officers who didn't understand the mission.

On the Up and Up: The FHA reported that its REO inventory increased nearly 10% in December and is up 47.5% since December 2009. No wonder real house prices are back to 2000 levels and the NAR continues to overstate sales.

Editorial Revision: NJ Governor Christie would like to correct a misquotation. He was quoted as saying 'Unions are trying to break the middle class'. Actually, that should read “Unions are trying to break into the middle class.” We are sorry for the error.

Turnabout: More than half of America’s pets are overweight. So are their owners.

Big Sky Country: Crowds are gathering in Montana to protest “unprecedented GOP attacks on public services and education and laws that protect land, air, water and wildlife.” Y'think the GOPers misread the polls?

Porn O'Graph: Mother Hubbard's new house cupboard is pretty bare.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SAR #11055

In the US, the cartels don't use guns. Currently.

Editorial Interpretation: A USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 61% of Americans oppose legislation eliminating collective bargaining rights. Fox, using their superior expertise, inverted the data to prove that Americans wanted unions abolished.

The Bundle: Suddenly there are a plethora of voices calling for, or against, selling off The Commons for the the common good. Or for the good of politicians friends, whichever. Experience suggests that the citizens routinely lose on these deals. Just park on a Chicago street.But that doesn't stop some of the big guns from promoting the idea. Governor Unions-Are-Bad Walker, for example, in his Budget Repair Bill includes a provision that lets him sell state-owned power plants to the Koch brothers.

The Whites of Our Eyes: Indiana's Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox urged police in Madison to “use live ammunition” quell the demonstration, calling the state employees 'thugs'. Representative Mike Capuano (D-MA) agrees, says it's time to get out on the streets and “get a little bloody.”

Oily Days: Some think the turmoil in North Africa could reduce OPEC spare production by 2.1 mbd and drive the price of oil over $200 a barrel. But at least 3 cargoes of oil have departed Libyan ports in the last day, so panic may be premature. And so far OPEC has been unwilling or unable to provide extra supply as prices soar, claiming that everything is just dandy with them.

Belt Tightening: Wall Street bonuses fell 8% last year, totaling $20.8 billion instead of 2009's $22.5 billion. Look at it this way, I only got a million two instead of a million three. How am I going to break it to the wife?

Spot Quiz: Libya is in the same predicament, as is Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria, Angola... What happens when people are starving while they see their leaders living lives of luxury? Can you suggest any other places where the lessons of Cairo and Tripoli could apply?

In A Universe Long Ago and Far Away... People around the world once would flock to the dollar in times of trouble. Once. Oil is up, gold is up, silver is. The dollar? Not so much.

Just-In-Time: The future for the American worker is not a union job, nor anything resembling a traditional job. The future is “just-in-time” work as a self-employed day worker with no benefits, no vacation, no health coverage, no seniority and no security. Temps.

Progress: The Department of Justice has announced that it will stop defending the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, as they have concluded that the Act is indefensibly unconstitutional.

Good Ole Boy #47: Georgia House Republican Bobby Franklin, in HB1 for the year, would make an abortion into the crime of “prenatal murder” - with punishments equal to those for murder. All miscarriages to be investigated by authorities, but no criminal penalties will apply if the woman could prove the miscarriage was natural and spontaneous. Miscarriages would require the issuance of “fetal death certificates.”

Parse the Following: "Sustaining Fiscal Stimulus In Democracy During Peacetime Is Difficult"

Comps: Just as American kids do poorly in international comparisons of educational achievement, American teachers rank 26th on the list of international pay scales. I wonder if the two might be connected in some way? Perhaps not, since our healthcare and our longevity are mediocre at best while our doctors are far and away the best paid.

It Ain't Over 'til It's Over and It Ain't Over: Professor Shiller says houses could fall another 15-25% before the light goes out in the tunnel.

Going To Extremes: It is impossible to point to any one snowfall, downpour, cold spell or heat wave and conclusively claim it to be the work of global climate change. But you can compare the ongoing series of events with the long term record and conclude that significant increases in precipitation intensity are occurring, and occurring even faster than current climate models predict.

Porn O'Graph: The day after.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SAR #11054

The greater the danger, the deeper the denial.

Decisions, decisions: Libya's Gadhafi vows to fight on or die a martyr, Okay, let's take a vote.

United We Stand:  Indiana.  OhioWisconsin.  Idaho.  In May, 1933, Hitler arrested all the union leaders, abolished collective bargaining and outlawed the unions. The best time to enslave a people is when they are down. In repeating the sins of their fathers, not only are the arch-conservatives setting up a replay of the Great Depression, they are making the workers realize how much they need unity, unions.

In The Beginning... Saudi King Abdullah has announced new benefits for his subjects.

You Know It's Bad When.... Wal-Mart's same store sales fell 1.8% in the quarter ended January 28th, which included the entire Christmas season. This was the seventh straight quarterly sales decline. Shares fell sharply as the company blamed the economic “recession/depression” for their poor sales.

Raw Data: The numbers of reports of stillborn dolphins on the Gulf Coast has increased tenfold since BP claimed everything was just fine.

Fog of War: According to the Washington Post, General David H. Petraeus told President Karzai that the children among the 60 civilians killed during a clash with suspected Taliban forces “might have been burned by their elders to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties.” Petreus went on to say that residents had invented stories, or even injured their children, to pin the blame on US forces. Has Petraeus lost his mind? Have we?

Being There:Consumer Confidence levels in the US are at a three-year high based “on economic optimism”. Must be, it's certainly not based on economic facts.

Home On The Range: One out of every four US counties is fading away, as first the jobs, then social and economic structure, then the people wander off in search of yesterday and the Republicans rush in to clear away the underpinning of government. It's not just rural counties in Oklahoma and devastated cities in Ohio, but retirement communities in Florida and agricultural areas of California. Ghost towns are springing up, just like in the last Great Depression.

Whistling Past the Graveyard: US Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman says that the big oil producers should pump more of their product and drive down the price of oil. It is a good thing the oil countries aren't capitalistic and won't mind foregoing the profits so we can keep on keeping on.

Wrong Question: The question isn't “Can a US state go bankrupt?” The question is how long can they keep on pretending they are not?

Company's Coming! The UN expects that within 10 years there will be more than fifty million "environmental refugees" pouring into the global north, driven by food and water shortages resulting from global climate change. Factoid: "When people are not living in sustainable conditions, they migrate."

Miss Manners: "You won’t be allowed to withdraw your money if you are just standing there without a queue ticket number." In South Korea there are strict rules about how to conduct yourself at a run on the bank.

Again, Again: Case-Shiller reports that during December house prices reached new lows in 19 of the 20 major cities they track.

Starvation: Michigan State “education” officials have ordered Detroit to immediately implement a financial restructuring plan that calls for closing half the schools, firing half the teachers, and increasing high school classes to 60 students. Emergency financial director Robert Bobb said “In the long run, the district will be stronger. There can be no retreat." And apparently little education.

House That Again? National Association of Realtors says that CoreLogic is probably right when it suggests the NAR “over-counted” house sales. Regularly. Since 2007. They say that the 20% discrepancy would possibly be corrected by summer. Then again, they may just keep lying.

Porn O'Graph: The Monster has no clothes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SAR #11053

Democracy didn't used to mean “every man for himself”.

Bring Out Your Dead... Libya's capital is littered with corpses, Gadhafi's object lesson in the costs of hope.

Egress Eager: The administration is going through a series of 'speed-dating' meetings, trying to find a couple of senior Afghan Taliban officials willing to sit down and be bribed enter into formal peace talks.

A Map of the Territory: The GOP's Wisconsin attack is part of a larger strategy they have aimed at splitting the middle class from the workers, pitting unionized workers against non-unionized workers, trying to set the general public against the demonized government employees, dramatizing the gulf between benefit seeking oldsters and younger workers and to set the working middle class against the poor. Why? To distract the 90% from the rapine of the uppermost 10%.

Decisions, Decisions: As Germany prepares to dump Ms. Merkel, the choice between greater integration of the European Monetary Union or the eventual disintegration of it swings toward the “no more bailouts” side, which is not good news for Portugal and the rest, including us.

Evidence Evidentially: The Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) knew that it did not have the legal standing required in foreclosure proceedings, admitting that it was not the Owner & Holder of the Note and only actual physical possession of The Note was required. So why did they continue? Fees.

Noted: Saudi Arabia's oil exports fell 4.9% in December, m/m. And that was before...

Economics 101: Mainstream economics teaches that rational people always put self-interest first and that the world would be a far better place if everyone was self-centered. Certainly goes a long way to explaining who we are and how we ended up here.

Points of View: While BP maintains that the oil-munching microbes in the Gulf of Mexico have done a great job in disposing of the oil from the BP blowout, scientists report that the microbes have only digested and dispersed about 10% of the total spill. The remainder is still down there, killing the sea-floor's creatures.

Real Estate Humor: “Residential real-estate prices dropped in the 12 months to December by the most in a year, a sign the U.S. housing market is struggling even as the rest of the economy recovers.”

Fill In The Blanks: The CIA carried out ___ drone attacks in Pakistan in 2010, costing a million bucks each and killing ___ “militants” (including wedding parties, etc) of which a total of __ were “high-value” targets. (Answers: 118, 581, 2).

Poor Me... Saudi Arabia claims that it needs assistance from the $100 billion climate aid fund, because as the world shifts to clean energy sources they will lose income from providing oil to the polluters. Big Coal should take notes.

What's For Dinner? As the global population grows from 7 billion next year to 9 billion in 2050, , "we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000 years."

Porn O'Graph: The target.

Monday, February 21, 2011

SAR #11052

Relax, things aren't collapsing; we are just transitioning...

Ambushing the Ambushed: Libyan security forces (some reports claim mercenaries) fired machine guns into mourners at a funeral for some of the 200 protesters killed by the same security forces earlier in the week. Thankfully Qaddafi isn't one of Uncle Sam's close friends – like Yemen's dictatorship, where protesters have also been killed, or the royal family in Bahrain, where continued demand for democracy – despite several deaths - may lead to financial problems for the US and others. The pro-democracy (or anti-despot, which isn't the same thing) movement has spread from Morocco to China, where guards have been increased in key locations and political activists have disappeared. to prevent any bubbling protest movement.

Quelle surprise!  Who were among Wisconsin Governor Walker's largest moneybags? (a) The Koch Brothers. (b) All of the above.

What Happened? Greenspan is still baffled about how the collapse collapsed. Bernanke didn't see it coming and doesn't see the next one coming, either. Commissions study, economists theorize, and everybody avoids mentioning that what you see is what you got when you let investment bankers take over the country.

Role Reversal: The United States, which helped Mubarak suppress freedom in Egypt for 30 years (in return got customized torture services), is now gushing accolades and promising support to those who deposed him. We knew we had no shame, but we never thought our leaders could be so transparently cynical.

Playing to the Crowd: Have you noticed that teachers unions and public employee unions are not under sentence of death in states with Democratic Governors and legislatures? Is the crime in Wisconsin and Ohio economic or political? What are the essential similarities and differences between labor unions and free trade capitalism?

Believe You Me: "There is no physical reason why a house should become more valuable at all... It just sits there. It becomes more valuable only because people believe that it will become more valuable."

A Lose/Lose Situation: Domestically, the Republicans have taken charge of the agenda and relegated Obama to the role of cheerleader, internationally the students in the street have made the State Department and White House spectators as the empire unravels. The Army is still a non-starter, being tied up in interminable warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Let's Be Friends! The FBI says not enough people are friending them on Facebook and practically no one BCC's them on email, so out of frustration and a general sense of isolation they want to require providers of social-networking sites and peer-to-peer services to permit them real-time access to everybody's dirty laundry.

Timing Is Everything: Most who think civilization will collapse, think it won't happen until at least a a week or two after they do. Most of us simply want to believe there’s some chance that the next half century - or the next twenty years (depending on their age) - might not be quite as ghastly as they secretly fear it will be.

Disconnect:  Glen Beck told his viewers that the protesters in Wisconsin were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, representatives of the UN, union members, NGO representatives and even Google people, all intent on creating a New World Order or something like that. Rush Limbaugh, more reasonably, limited himself to calling Wisconsin's teachers anti-democratic parasites.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One:  It wasn't the greed of the banks and everyone else in the mortgage issuing, chopping, mixing, blending and shilling business that was in the least responsible for the Current Whatever. The Bernank has finally figured it out: It was “Foreign investors’ hunger for safe US assets...” Probably a bunch of those sneaky Frenchmen. It certainly wasn't the years and years of low Fed interest rates.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

SAR #11050

The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing. Ralph Peters

Reality Check: Wisconsin Governor Walker claims that public employees salaries and pensions are responsible for the budget crisis, and that crushing the unions is the only possible solution. But, the budget “crisis” is a $200 million shortfall over two years, $117 million of which is due to three bills Walker and the GOP passed last month. The $3 billion shortfall he cites is of his own making. Wisconsin state employees do not have his alleged “extremely generous benefits packages”, and in fact get paid about 5% less than equally experienced and educated private sector workers.

Match The Following:Pair up the country with the type of violence used to put down pro-democracy protests: Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Wisconsin and Yemen, with Batons, Grenades, Shotguns, Tear Gas and Water Cannons. Which are not US allies?

Rhetorical Question: Could rising food prices spark an Egyptian-style upheaval in Africa?

There You Go Again: Just as the stock markets are reaching post crash highs and the only way is up, up, up, along comes those Gallop poll folks reporting that unemployment is up to 10% in mid-February, and underemployment has reached 19.6% again. Plus the percentage of people 55 and over in the work force (42%) is the highest level in 35 years – they don't dare retire as long as the long knives are threatening Social Security.

Easy Does It: "The Solution in Afghanistan: Get Out"

The Wording: A new study concludes that human activities have "likely made intense precipitation stronger, on average, over the second half of the 20th century,” explaining that "The observed change cannot be explained by natural fluctuations of the climate system alone."

Kinder, Gentler: Complaining that “all currently fielded non-leathal ammunition is single shot”, the US Army says it “has a requirement for rapid-fire non-leathal” weapons and is seeking bids for a “rubber bullet” machine gun.

Vocabulary Test: Use the word 'agnotology' (culturally-induced ignorance) in a sentence. Extra credit for working in the word 'shibboleth'. Usual prizes.

Now They Tell Me: The question: Why Does College Cost So Much? The answer: “The service often is the time of the service provider, and you cannot use less of the provider’s time without compromising the quality of the service. Also, the service providers … are highly educated, highly skilled workers. In the last quarter of the last century, economic forces generated rapidly increasing wages for highly educated, highly skilled workers. The combination of these two factors, slow productivity growth and rapidly expanding wages, results in rapidly rising prices.” Translation: Because they can get away with it.

Parallels: Do some members of the American Capitalist Financial system make as much off illegal drugs as they do from war and ongoing Pentagon contracts?

Baby It's Coal Outside: A Harvard professor reports that if public health costs are included in the cost of coal, along with the environmental damage done by mining – and ignoring the eventual costs to us all from global warming – the coal industry inflicts a $345 billion in hidden costs on the public every year.

Disconnect:Part of the problem with the US economy is that large numbers of Americans believe “that the government is responsible for what happens” to them. As sophisticated investors know, this is incorrect. The government is responsible only for what happens to AIG and Goldman Sachs.

Friday, February 18, 2011

SAR #11049

Our minds are the main enemy.

There, There: Economists reassure us that the cost of the food in our food is minuscule, and that soaring food prices will hardly be noticed in retail prices for 'food'. Even so, wholesale prices rose sharply in January. Excluding food and fuels, prices rose by the most since October 2008.

Drip, Drip, Drip:  The House has extended the Patriot Act for another 3 months. That'll make all the difference.

Be Careful What You Wish For:  Wisconsin is planning on calling up the Guard to replace striking public employees. Wonder what Army MOS qualifies PFC's to teach 4th grade? If you don't want to have public employees, don't bitch when you don't have any public employees.

Sorry, We Gave at the Office:  Under the 'You Break It, You Bought It' rule, Baghdad wants the US to pay $1 billion for the damage it has done to the city.

Can You Hear Me Now?  While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was giving a speech condemning governments that arrest protestors and limit free speech, police and plain clothes officials grabbed a man who was standing up in the audience with his back turned to the Secretary. The 71 year-old man was beaten and dragged from the auditorium.

Side-Show: While you were reading Obama's budget documents, the yield on Portuguese bonds hit another all-time high. Don't worry, “the euro is a stable currency with strong fundamentals”.

Hockey Stick II: Over 90% of human-caused warming goes into the oceans. The temperature of the Atlantic Ocean water entering the Arctic ocean is “unprecedented over the past 2000 years.” Air temperatures in Greenland have risen roughly 7º F in the past few decades.

Pictures At An Exhibition:  Some people, mostly Wall Streeters, make over $1 billion a year. The median US income is about $30,000 a year. If that's you, and you somehow save every penny you earn, in just 35,000 years you'll have a billion. The top 1% owns more than the bottom 90%. Why should this go on? Why should we let this go on? Why isn't their marginal tax rate at least 90%, as it was under Eisenhower?

Ululation: Adjusted initial claims for unemployment were up 25,000 this week after dropping 35,000 last week.

Drilling, Baby, Drilling:  Exxon Mobil says that over the last decade it has been able to find only 95 barrels of oil for every 100 it pumped. The easy oil is long gone and the hard to find oil is... well, hard to find.

Rules of Engagement:  The current budget deficits are mostly due to the economic downturn. The longer-term projected deficits are wholly attributable to the health care system. If the US paid the same amount per-capita for health care as the rest of the industrialized countries, we'd run a surplus.

Permanent is Relative:  Global warming is on a path to thaw about 60% of the world's permafrost over the next 200 years. Carbon that has been trapped in the permafrost for tens of millions of years will be released into the atmosphere. Scientists say that if we start reducing emissions now, the thaw will still occur, but further into the future. Don't worry, luckily you'll be dead by then.

Porn O'Graph: Steady as she goes?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SAR #11048

There is no Left left here.

Getting Pushy: The Producer Price Index for finished goods has risen 3.6% in the last year, and has increased 0.7%, 0.9, and 0.8% in the last three months. That is pretty close to a 10% annualized increase in the cost. In the costs for intermediate goods (which will become finished goods soon) the rate is 20% (annualized). Either margins shrink (and profits with them) or prices increase (and sales fall). It looks like inflation, it smells like inflation, Bernanke maintains it's a duck.

The Good and the Bad: Only 35% of Americans want federal funding for the Affordable Care Act cut. Unfortunately, just 41% want defense spending cut.

P-KB4: Obama threatens to veto GOP budget.

Numbers Game: The NAR says sales of existing houses fell 5% last year, to 4.9 million units. CoreLogic can find only 3.6 million houses that were sold last year, down 12% from 2009. Would it help you to understand this discrepancy if I reminded you the first set of numbers came from the realtors?

Belaboring the Obvious:Madoff maintains that the banks he dealt with "had to know" he was running a Ponzi scheme. So? The willing suspension of disbelief is more than a literary conceit.

Qualifications: Banks are beginning to insist that purchasers make 20% down payments in order to get a loan. Liberals are up in arms because this means people who shouldn't be buying a home won't be allowed to. Conservatives are worried that this will kill the profits from the mortgage securitization industry. Maybe the way to get Fannie and Freddie out of the mortgage business is to make the mortgage business go back to being a business, not a social project. Why would anyone with 20% to put down on a house buy in a market where prices are still falling? That level of stupidity should disqualify them for a loan.

Chinese Puzzle: Will China's inflation – now at 5% per annum – be shipped to the US in containers bound for Walmart? Sure.

On the Other Hand: The punderati are split between those who buy the GOP mantra that Social Security is killing the budget and running up the deficit, and those who understand that this is a myth and that the real villains are healthcare and defense. What none of them want to talk about is the fact that people make money from our outrageous healthcare costs and military budgets, and that paying back the money borrowed from Social Security to bail out the rest of the government for the last 20 years will result in higher taxes.

'Nuff Said: “Dear Poor People, Thank You For Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War”

Porn O'Graph: Housing Starts, stopped.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SAR #11047

You cannot have a wage-price inflationary spiral with 15 million unemployed.

Smoking Gun:  As any number of irresponsible lefties claimed at the time, the Iraqi codenamed Curveball, who was the source of all of Dick Cheney's “intelligence” about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, now admits he made it all up. Now can we pick up our ball and go home?

Mercy Killing: South Dakota's Republican legislature plans to classify the murder of doctors and nurses involved in providing abortion services as “justifiable homicide”. Licensing and an open season are being planned.

Compassion:  The Obama/Democrats' budget strategy – tax cuts for the rich, austerity for the poor – differs from the Republican approach only in that the Democrats pretend to feel bad about it.

Present at the Creation: One factor hidden behind the revolution in Egypt is this: Egypt's petroleum production declined over the last decade, as the population increased. In the last year or so it became a net importer of petroleum. What had been a money source became a money sink. It may not have been a prominent cause of the upheaval, but it certainly did not help.

Lost in the Mist:  The Royal Dutch Shell plea that the Royal Navy “do something” about the Somali pirates who have taken two large oil tankers this month has been overshadowed by other events in the area.

Pocketbook Veto: Retail sales were up only 0.3% in January, markedly down form the 0.9% rate of increase for the previous 6 months. And all of that gain, and more, came from the increased cost of food and gasoline (both up 1.4%). Seems that after we pay for gas and food we don't have money left for other stuff. Good thing they don't figure in the cost of living. Just as we were becoming numbed by reports of ever increasing food prices, along comes a warning to prepare for a 10% increase in clothing prices.

Pay to Play:  An Italian court has indicted PM Berlusconi on charges of paying for sex with an under-age girl and abuse of power. Ah, those Italians, so romantic.

The Rule:  A NY court ruled that the fact that MERS was involved with 50% of all residential mortgages in the country did not make the deliberate avoidance of the traditional mortgage recording process legitimate. The willful repetitive breaking the law does not establish an acceptable precedent for breaking the law.

It's Only Natural:  Economists have a secret meaning for the word “natural”, as in 7% is the new natural unemployment rate . Poverty, thus, is the new natural condition.

Crime and Punishment, Punishment, Punishment:  In return for a promised two year sentence, Ibrahim al Qosi, 50, pled guilty to being an enemy combatant and was sentenced to 14 years punitive confinement. After he serves his sentence he will be held indefinitely - or for the rest of his life, whichever comes later – in punitive confinement. Do you ever really stop and think about the things done in our name?

Ancient History:  In January 2008, Bush's EPA Administrator told him that it was no longer credible to deny climate change and to put off regulating CO2 emissions any longer. Bush overruled him, based on the wishes of Dick Cheney and Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Yes.... And?  Tim Geithner just noticed there is “lots of unfairness' in the US tax system.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SAR #11046

One generally does not want an insurance policy to pay off.

On The Budget & The Deficit: If a proposal, no mater who makes it, does not address ways to reduce health care costs and cut defense spending (in real terms), it is a hypocritical sham. Ignore the noise.

Evidence, Evidently: Gen. Petraeus has been telling everyone that his troops have been phenomenally successful in reducing the capabilities of the intelligence officials to accurately report a significant increase in Taliban strength of the Taliban in 2010. Garbage in, garbage out.

Role Reversal: The US State Department, which is openly sending tweets to Iranians urging mass protests against the state, accused Iran of hypocrisy for supporting the anti-government revolt in Egypt but seeking to prevent anti-government demonstrations in Iran.

Parse and explicate: "An American jihadist who set up the terrorist training camp where the leader of the 2005 London suicide bombers learned how to manufacture explosives, has been quietly released after serving only four and a half years of a possible 70-year sentence." Discuss the possibility that he had been a US intelligence asset before the bombing. Usual prizes.

Hire Education: Get that degree, they say. Folks with degrees get the jobs the others don't, they say. What they don't say is that 26% of college grads who are not seeking advanced degrees are unemployed... and deeply in debt.

How Dry I Am: Columbia, using Chinese money and expertise, plans to build a “dry” canal to ship containerized freight by rail across the isthmus in competition with the Panama Canal.

How Good Is Greed Capitalism ? If it's all about profit, then shouldn't the proper CEO devote much of his effort trying to erect regulatory barriers to competition and to begging for bailouts and subsidies for his company while denying them to others,? The ideal would be an entrenched, government supported monopoly, no?

Yes, But: “In a better world, politicians would talk to voters as if they were adults.” True, but in an even better world, the voters would be adults. I'd even push for honest politicians, but there are limits.

Dishonest Broker: The US can no longer claim to be an honest broker in the search for peace. Egypt proved that our leaders see freedom as a question of strategy, not principle. For example, according to a 2009 diplomatic cable, the US views President Teodoro Obiang, dictator of Equatorial Guinea for over 30 years, as one of “the good guys” the US should strengthen, even though Obiang’s regime has either killed or forced into exile a third of the country’s population. The country is a prime supplier of petroleum to the US.

Here and There: I plan on retiring in about 5 years. My retirement plan includes an entry “Return on Investments Yet To Be Made.” I got the idea from the oil industry, which plans to meet future increases in demand with “Crude oil fields yet to be found.” I'm looking to buy a car – yet to be designed - that will run on petroleum yet to be found.

Best Headline: “Spin, Wishful Thinking, and Delusion” – on the housing situation.

Porn O'Graph: No defense for Defense.

Monday, February 14, 2011

SAR #11045

Other things are never equal.

Business As Usual: The media are all full of comments, analysis and predictions about how the government will wind down Fannie and Freddie and get out of the housing business. Yawn. This is the initial jockeying to determine how Wall Street will get the government to underwrite the risks while giving them the rewards for hiking mortgage rates. I suggest a moratorium on the whole process until a bill actually passes congress. It'll be a couple of years, so relax.

Wording: The Justice Department has ruled that the FBI can obtain phone records “without oversight.” And apparently without warrants, too.

Better Late Than... Egypt's successful first step towards democracy is worrying the old guard for fear that this could be the start of something big. Bahrain has begun proactively granting concessions after blatant bribery didn't work. Protests continue in Yemen, while Algeria, Jordan and Sudan have large scale protests of their own to contend with. Women in Italy have finally gotten fed up with Berlusoni and taken to the streets, and there seems to be a leaderless but growing thirst for change emerging in the US.

Why Not? A US study has linked pesticides to Parkinson’s disease, as concerns grow for the possible damage we have done to ourselves in the name of progress and profits.

Earned Errors: Those who do not want the government to mess with their Medicare and Social Security and despise those who free-load on the public are just reacting to the lies the politicians have told for years. Folks, Social Security is not a pension plan. Medicare is not health insurance. They are transfer payment programs, where the government takes tax money from some taxpayers and return the money to other taxpayers in the very same budget year. The people have been misled to believe they are (or someday will) receiving the benefits “that they paid for.” Nope, they’re just getting other people’s money.

You Don't Count: The reason the collapse of municipal bonds won't be a big 'systemic' crisis is that Goldman Sachs and friends don't hold munis – you do. They are mostly owned by “people small enough to fail”.

Unclear on the Concept: Vermont is considering a law that would require sex offenders to user their real names on internet social networks. Duh.

Whose Ox? So-called Community Bankers are afraid that phasing out Fannie and Freddie will lead to them being cut off from the write 'em and dump 'em and collect the fee loan-milling they've become used to and force them to actually consider the credit-worthiness of their customers. That is, they claim, no way to make a profit.

Cut Them off at the Pass: Obama is going to burn down the barn to save the horses. Or at least shred the budget in an attempt to save it from being cut to pieces by the Republicans. He'll do it with love, not anger. It'll make all the difference.

Wish-consin: Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) says he is going to cut benefits for current and former public employees, castrate their unions, and call out the National Guard to put down any protests the citizenry may raise. Did he stop to think that many of the National Guard are public employees, many are married to public employees? He says, “We're broke. And it is time for us to pay up.” Note that the “we” and the “us” are two different groups.

If Only: Investigation into the death of Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has resulted in an arrest warrant being issued for former president Musharraf for his role in the conspiracy that lead to her assassination.

Porn O'Graph: The gas ceiling.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

SAR #11043

The revolution was televised.

Help Wanted: The United States has immediate openings for loyal despots, high pay plus enormous upside potential. Prior experience with secret police and enhanced interrogations required.

Balancing Act: The December US trade balance was -$40.6 billion. Paying for foreign oil and the negative trade balance with China account for the entire deficit. For the year the trade deficit amounted to $497.8 billion, up 33% from last year.

Battering Order: With at least 20 more countries on the wannabe list, revolution withdrawal does not seem to be a problem. The pro-democracy alliance in Algeria is expected to defy ban on demonstrations and take to the streets by the thousands. An additional 10,000 police have joined the 20,000 already stationed in Algiers. Train and bus service has been curtailed in an attempt to keep people from gathering in the city. In Yemen 'security forces' quickly convinced a protesting group of about 3,000 people that overthrowing that dictatorship wasn't on the day's agenda.

A penny saved... Switzerland has reportedly frozen Mubarak's assets – rumored to be $70 billion - in that country's secretive banks. Do we get a refund?  Do the Egyptians?

Nutshell: Americans young and old overwhelming support Social Security — because it works. But if it bleeds it leads and if it's not bleeding the media is not above sticking the knife in and turning it, with misinformation and political agendas (if they are not the same thing). Before we embrace “fixing” the program, we must remember that Social Security provides over 50% of income for two out of every three seniors, and without it most elderly Americans would live in poverty.

Friday, February 11, 2011

SAR #11042

Countries appear opportunistic and amoral because they are.

Snow Job:  Initial claims for unemployment dropped 36,000 from last week, down to 3836,000 and the 4-week moving average dropped to 415,600, a decrease of 16,000. Lots of “it's the snow, stupid!” commentary out there, but keep in mind it is what it is, a number from the BLS.

Slip Sliding Away:  The ECB has had to step in and become the buyer of last resort for Portugal as its financing costs on 10-year debt jumped to a fresh euro-era high of 7.63%. Cue the fat lady.

Generating Heat:  In the largest domestic spending cut announced to date, the White House said it plans to save a few billion in the 2012 budget by letting the poor freeze cutting federal energy assistance for the poor. This is bound to be hotly debated.

Lost In Translation:  Republicans are trying to keep the courts out of any rulings on climate change legislation, preferring political passion to factual judgments.

SeeSaw:  US foreclosures either were up 12% last month (from November) or fell 11% from a year ago. The headline depends on whether you are a buyer or a seller. The apparent y/y decline is due to the halt to foreclosures caused by courts wanting better looking falsified documents; foreclosures in states that do not get courts involved jumped 23%, while they fell 7% in states where the niceties of law have to be followed.

Asked & Answered:  “Can America Afford Democracy?”  No.

Tiptoe Through the Tulips:  A Dutch court has upheld the Dutch central bank's ruling that the glassworkers pension fund must sell most of its gold because the central bank does not think it is a good investment. Or at least that's the reason they gave. Wonder what Bernanke will say when he comes around confiscating gold...

Too Bad:  Much to the disappointment of Certain Parties, research indicates that taxing the rich does not prompt them to decamp for tax havens overseas.

If “A” then “B”:  The Mortgage Bankers Association is appalled to discover that increasing mortgage interest rates are driving down applications for new loans. Another one of those complex mysteries of high finance.

Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis: Arctic sea ice extent averaged over January was the lowest January ice extent on record. Areas of Hudson Bay that normally freeze over by late November did not freeze until a couple of weeks ago and the Labrador Sea is still largely ice-free.

Thoughtlessly Absurd:  Republicans promise to end all “job-killing regulations” — especially those that lower corporate profits such as health, safety and environmental regulations - ccording to House Speaker John Boehner. This is, of course, a red herring – there was no sudden rush of federal regulations in 2007 that tanked the economy. It was a lack of regulations, specifically financial regulations that did the job on jobs.

Phaux News:  A former FOX employee, speaking anonymously because of non-disclosure agreements, claim that viewers would not believe “that stuff is just made up", and that it is run as a purely partisan operation. But perhaps the source had worked at FOX so long he could no longer tell the truth, one way or the other.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

SAR #11041

Emotion is proof only of emotion, it does not refute science.

Not Necessarily the News:  Today's big buzz from WikiLeaks is that the Saudis have probably been leading us on for years, exaggerating their recoverable oil reserves by at least 40%. If you've been paying attention, this – like many of the WikiLeaks cables - is not a big revelation.

Precisely:  Italy's Berlusconi says that the probe into his sexual activities is “disgusting”.

Job Security:  Investigations show that making mistakes, committing homicide, imprisoning and torturing the innocent and general incompetence are punished by promotions at the CIA. Why not, isn't the CIA's mission to make serious mistakes, one after the other?

Inquiring Minds:  A UK court has barred a man with a low IQ from having sex. Is there a sliding scale?

Hail Mary:  President Obama wants to give the states two additional years before they will have to start paying interest on the funds they've borrowed to make unemployment payments and to begin paying back these loans. The proposal is unlikely to garner GOP support since they think letting states go bankrupt will destroy public unions.

Getting back to the real world...  More than 140 million people and over $1 trillion in infrastructure is less than 1 meter above high tide levels around the world. In 40 or 50 years, they won't be.

Damned Speculators:  The UN is warning that the worst drought in 200 years is threatening the Chinese wheat crop – the largest in the world. At the same time the US is reporting that corn reserves are at their lowest level in 15 years. 'Perfect Storm' is an overused term, about to become more overused.

Plotline:  A jet linked to a Texas philanthropist, loaded with millions in gold and cash, has been seized by Congolese Authorities. Assignment: Define 'philanthropist'.

More, After This:  Another two million houses will be foreclosed on this year, adding to the 7 million already foreclosed. Things continue to deteriorate, as US houses lost $798 billion in value in the last quarter, bringing the total value lost to about $10 trillion.

People/Profits:  India says that banning the widespread use of Endosulfan – which disrupts human endocrine systems – would jeopardize the country's food security and leave millions of farmers without an affordable alternative. On the other hand, continued use may deprive the farmers of customers.

Call Me In The Morning:  Republicans keep urging medical malpractice tort reform as a quick solution to healthcare cost control, even though their Texas experiment hasn't worked out that way. The promised decline in medical costs and decrease defensive testing has not occurred. But the insurance companies seem to be the main benefactors – which may explain why the GOP so avidly seeks tort reform.

Daily Meditation:  “Colorado provides less than 1% of the food consumed in the Denver metro area.” What's in your backyard?

One More Time:  Polls of what the American voter wants tell us more about what the people paying for the poll want than about the dreams and desires of the public. The budget (and overall government) is not a rational issue for most Americans. Contradictory beliefs and hopes are rampant. The only thing that seems certain is that, once explained, there is but a limited demand for limited government.

Onward:  A complete lack of evidence appears not to be slowing the rush to throw WikiLeaks' Julian Assange into the Empire's gulag for conspiring to tell the truth.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SAR #11040

The actual words are “the pursuit of happiness” not “go shopping.”

What do we – the United States, the American people – do when Mubarak unleashes the security police? What do we do when the people resist? What do we do if some Army units side with the people and others do not? Have we the courage to live up to our heritage, just this once?

Progress:  The Egyptian government keeps making piddling little concessions to the Egyptian people's revolution, incapable of understanding the message that several hundreds of thousands now in the streets have long since made clear. It is time to start over, not reform – an no designated hitters from the US dugout, either.

Eye of the Beholder:  Question for bankers about their toxic assets: Is she the wife, or an unrealized loss?

Boy Scouts:  After handing the Taliban a series of devastating setbacks in Kandahar province (so the press releases and sound bites have said), the US is prepared for a sharp and possibly successful resurgence. “We are definitely expecting them to come back at us hard.. showing they are still a force to be reckoned with..." said a spokesman, preparing the homefront for setbacks and losses in refutation of the glorious advances made to date.

Another One Bites the Dust:  An NYU report claims that the Taliban's reputed ties to Al Qaeda have been overstated and that “there was substantial friction between the groups’ leaders before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that hostility has only intensified.” Another excuse for another war turns out to be... inaccurate.

The Norquist Diet:  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says that the House will prohibit the use of any federal funds to implement the health-care reforms. But that's not what their masters – the insurance industry – want. They do have some reforms in mind: Re-instate 'pre-existing conditions' as a bar to insurance. Remove the minimum-benefit requirements so they can resume selling useless policies. Return the opportunity to charge older folks five to ten times as much as younger, instead of the paltry three times allowed by the Act. But do not touch the mandate – that's hundreds of billions of dollars of profit for years to come – much of direct from the taxpayers.

Cat/Bag:  Asked about the possibility of lessening crime by legalizing drugs, Secretary Clinton responded, “I don’t think that will work. … There is just too much money in it.” I'm with Hillary; raise your hands if you think a lot of that cash ends up on Wall Street.

On Time:  Biden says the administration will seek approval of a six year $53 billion plan to build a national high-speed and intercity rail network. It may be cold out now, but that snowball don't stand a chance.

Round and Round:  Yes, revolving consumer debt (credit cards) grew in December at an annualized pace of 3.5%, but over the whole fourth quarter it fell 2.75%. Non-revolving credit (cars, mostly) increased in the quarter by an annualized 5.5%. Nothing in the hours and wages reports explains how these debts will be paid.

Chicken/Egg:  Watching their leaders hack away at the economy in the name of austerity has convinced Britons that the economy is god-awful, prompting the public's confidence in the economy to take its biggest drop in 20 years. So, government's slashing spending and wages has frightened the consumer into saving which will cut consumption even more which will cause even more austerity which will cause...

Experimental Bias:  Researchers have linked processed foods to lower IQs in children. Or is it that children from lower IQ homes eat more processed foods? Or is it not the snack foods that lower their IQs but the mindless games, tv and videos they watch while they snack? Is it the fat/sugar/salt/starch they snack on, or what they do while they snack?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SAR #11039

The Age of Enlightenment had a good run.

Muslim Egyptian Brotherhood:  For all the fears in DC, in Tahrir Square Egyptians seem to be Egyptians first. Christians (mainly Coptics) stood guard over Muslims at prayer. Muslim youth protect Christians at prayer and their churches. Sunday's Sermon was ““In the name of Jesus and Muhammad ..” After all, Mubarak was an equal opportunity despot, persecuting everyone.

The Jones's:  Obama proposes to give $7,500 directly to folks who buy an electric car. He is going to go door to door in their neighborhood, collecting from the neighbors, I guess.

Double (for them) and Nothing (for you) :  Today the United States government guarantees losses from nearly all mortgage loans (and the securities based on them) for the lenders. It provides nothing (except tax deductions on mortgage interest) to the borrowers. Therein lie the basis for the Great Recession and the rest of our current economic turmoil. Guess who wants the same system to be perpetuated? Right, everyone from your local realtor to the executive offices on Wall Street - the same banks that were bankrupt until taxpayers' money rescued them so they could get back to grabbing record billions in bonuses. They want to do it all again, and why not, it's not their money.

Extra! Extra!  Egypt's largest newspaper, safely under Mubarak's thumb for decades, has cast him aside and declared its support for the uprising.

Words In A Certain Order:  The Secretary of the Air Force has instructed all members of the US Air Force that they and their families may not read any of the WikiLeaks documents, nor reports based on them. Also, in that to do so is to violate Title 18 of the US Code (espionage), members have a duty to report family members who violate this rule.

Quoted:  “The real economy is so detached from the one presented by official data and the stock market that "growth", explosive or modest, is a matter of managed perception, not reality.”

Good News:  The recent cyclones have devestated Australian sugar crops and a world-wide shortage is possible. Except in the US, where high-fructose corn syrup will save the day. Well, unless we need more ethanol for the cars.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum:  The question is, will Mexico collapse? Perhaps, for much like Egypt, Mexico is facing a rapid increase in the price of staples (corn up 52%, wheat up 47%) while the country's oil revenue continues to fall. Both are facing serious population pressures. Add in similar levels of corruption and extreme inequality, plus the drug cartels' control of much of the country, and it begins to look like a sure thing.

Enron End Run:  The Texas Public Utility Commission is investigating the convenient price surge in electricity last week, just as a deep cold spell sent demand zooming.

Geography Lesson:  Baluchistan is the large province that makes up most of Pakistan's south-western territory. Most Baluchis would rather not be part of Pakistan, which they view – quite correctly – as an occupying power. The ongoing unrest in the area, which borders on both Iran and Afghanistan, makes both the proposed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and the long desired Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline problematic.

One Stop Service:  Homeland Security continues to seize websites in its continuing effort to protect copyrights. Terrorists? Certainly, for anyone who deprives the copyright holder of revenue is, ipso facto, a terrorist.

Monday, February 7, 2011

SAR #11038

Sorry, folks, the world is going to hell faster than I can type.

Words and Deeds: In 2009, in Cairo, President Obama said, "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone." Why then is Hillary trying to impose an American non-democratic solution on the Egyptian democracy movement? Why does the US want to rescue the Egyptian regime from the righteous anger of its citizens, if not to hide the torture Mubarak's thugs have carried out in return for US Aid? Maybe we could invite some people from Tahrir Square to come give us lessons.

Headline Only:  'Business Does Not Need The American Worker.”

False Hope/Thin Ice:  Some computer climate models suggest that the loss of the remaining Arctic sea ice is not inevitable if mankind slows the emission of CO2 quickly and eventually stops completely. Which will happen right after the pigs get back from their latest flight.

Future, Tense:  Deutsche Bank predicts that nearly half of all mortgaged US houses will be underwater by the end of the year.

For Want of A Nail:  It won't make the Bernanke critics happy, nor will it satisfy those who want to blame the banks and the speculators, but the sad fact is that, per the IMF, the reason there are food shortages and high prices all around the world is that “we've had a huge global harvest failure.” The world is closer to a major famine today than it has been in decades because recent crop failures due to droughts and floods have reduced global food stocks dramatically.

Mighty, Fallen:  China to bid for US defense contracts.

Fear and Loathing:  Health care in the US is a gigantic scam, sucking up immense amounts of money while delivering far less that was promised. And it is the money, the profits, that motivates politicians to repeal the health care act – the fear of losing profit – even though Obamacare is almost certain to increase health care costs.  Health insurance companies all over the United States have already announced plans to raise premiums substantially because of the new law, even though their profits were up 56% in 2009, to over $12 billion in profits for the 5 largest insurers.

Wish You Were Here:  George W. Bush has canceled a planned trip to Switzerland for fear of being arrested for war crimes, specifically torture. He can still vacation in the Keys, next door to Kissinger.

Orphan Pleads Not Guilty:  Robert Benmosche says business should not rely on government for bailouts. As CEO of AIG, the company which got a $1182 billion bailout from the Bush administration, he should know. He added that AIG “does more business in Republican-leaning states as it signs up more reliable customers than those in “more liberal” areas.” 'Liberal areas' are those that complain about AIG execs giving themselves $123 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses as a reward for incompetence.

Wholier than Thou:  The Pope's organs are too holy to donate.

Cue Calliope:  Republicans are now promising to cut domestic agencies' budgets by 20% or $30 billion (marked down from $100 billion). Yep, another ride on the merry go round, going nowhere.

What's in a name?  Georgia state representative Republican Bobby Franklin has proposed a law requiring that the term "victim" – as in 'rape victim' – should not be used until someone is convicted of the crime. Until then she is just a rape 'accuser'. Same with 'accusers' of stalking, harassment, family violence and spousal abuse. The dead will remain victims.