Thursday, March 31, 2011

SAR #11090

Is the American voter dumb, or simply self-destructive?

Here's the plan. Drill baby drill, carefully. Clean coal, whatever that might be. More nukes, very carefully. Give away taxpayer's money to ethanol farmers to convert food to fuel and to various other unprofitable biofuel adventures, recklessly. Cut demand through efficiencies, insulation and magic cars, brownouts and longer and deeper recessions. And kitchen sinks. He forgot the kitchen sinks.

Surplus: Republicans are afraid that American Muslims are going to use up all our civil rights and not leave any for the bigots on the right.

Keeping Score: According to the TARP special inspector general, the trillion or so bucks thrown at the Wall Street meltdown achieved two things: (1) it rescued a handful of too big to fail banks from the brink of collapse and allowed them to achieve record profits, stupendous bonuses and a government-backed advantage over the little guys, and (2) destroyed the government's credibility to the point that it will be unable prevent a total meltdown the next time around. What it didn't do was (1) prevent or moderate the damage done to the housing sector and (3) save or create any jobs outside Wall Street boardrooms. Success!

For the Profits, Of the Profits: Time Warner and Comcast have gotten their Republican sock-puppets in North Carolina to pass a bill prohibiting cities from providing better internet service at lower cost than the monopolists do. The GOP, it's for the free market. In politicians. Buy one today.

Going Down: The 1Q 2011 GDP figure isn't out yet and has already dropped from 4% to 2.8% while the projected GDP for all of 2011 has already fallen from 3.0 to 2.8%

Behind the Curtain: As oil prices continue to creep ever higher, people are looking for explanations. One camp blames the conflict in Libya. Some blame OPEC for being unable to make up for the production lost in Libyan flames. Some suspect that the civil problems in the area are masking peak oil related problems and that the beginning of the end is upon us. But mostly, people are afraid that oil at over $100 a barrel will thrust the world back into recession and don't really care what the cause is, they just want it to go away.

Can You Hear Me Now? A NASA-funded study has confirmed that the second '100-year' drought in 5 years has left an area of the Amazon three times the size of Texas with dramatic decreases in greenness levels. What do you call a rain forest where it doesn't rain?

Greenspawn: The Chairman says we shouldn't try to limit Wall Street's ingenuity, for fear they will take their clever innovations overseas. We've seen what “the financial best and brightest” can do - if they want to flee the US to avoid regulation, let's help them pack.

About Renewables: Give an ethanol farmer enough fossil fuel to grow his corn for one year. After that, see how much corn he can grow using the ethanol made from his corn and the profits he made selling his corn as food. See how long it takes for “zero” to be the end product. Ditto for the natural gas used to make his fertilizer. Try it with the windmill people – build them one wind turbine and have them build the rest from the profits and the energy produced by the windmill – no fossil fuel inputs. Now tell me again how magic is going to save the world.

Sic Transit The American Dream: Houses as investments have lost their glitter and won't get it back soon, if ever. If a real down payment is required, house sales will not go galloping again soon if ever. Without massive improvement in the job market and similar increases in real income, debt-laden college graduates are not going to be eligible for mortgages either. The Snidely Whiplashes of the world will buy up many of the foreclosed properties and rent them back to their one-time owners – who are unlikely to ever be viable buyers again.

Democratic Definition: Compromise, to Washington Democrats, appears to mean 'giving up', as in the Democrats have given up and will allow the Republicans to sell off most of the EPA in return for two bushels of corn and a pair of boots.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SAR #11089

When push comes to shove, we all push and shove.

Goal! Profits at financial institutions accounted for 28% of all corporate profits last year. Tell me again what it is these folks do that is worth a bucket of spit.

Ideological Roots: The GOP looked around, saw that the unions, especially the teacher's unions, and the pro-choice movement were the Democrats largest supporters. So they became anti-union, anti-teacher and anti-abortion. If they can abolish the unions, make serfs of the teachers and criminals of the women, then the Democratic base will dissolve, so they think. Does the GOP think it can win a civil war?

Justice For Some: Willie Nelson, caught with six and a half ounces of pot, was sentenced to sing a song for the judge. Over in Tyler, Texas, a kid caught with 4 ounces was sentenced to 35 years

Cut On Dotted Line: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – who is putatively in charge of caring for the health of the nation - sent the nation's governors a letter giving them hints on how to lower their Medicaid costs by eliminating “prescription drugs, dental services, and speech therapy” and suggesting they “add or increase cost sharing for services.” Maybe she should read her job description again.

Put It On My Tab: 30% of all mortgages in foreclosure have had no payment in two years, and nearly half have not made a payment in 18 months. It's one way to save up for a down payment on the next place.

Therefore: GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says the way to fix Social Security is to ban abortion. He says the reason we do not have enough workers to support the elderly is because they've all been aborted. Outlawing abortion would solve the problem, as long as the population keeps increasing geometrically. Maybe we should reverse the ban on cloning humans, too.

Daily Bread: Church-going Christians are 50% more likely to be obese than the atheist next door. According to a new study, the body is not a temple and the story of the fatted calf has been misunderstood. Stay after church for the potluck dinner.

Better Late...It turns out that a group of “thugs and hoodlums” arrested by DC police at the 2005 inauguration were just citizens expressing their opinion, and not vandals . Each will receive $2,000 and a signed portrait of President Bush for their wrongful arrest.

Shh! Don't Tell Kudlow: US corporations – large and small – are not heavily taxed. They are not even meaningfully taxed. Yes, nominal rates seem high, but as Leona said, only the little people pay taxes. And only the big people get bailouts – and still pay no taxes.

Cake, Having/Eating: While the rest of the world sits idly by, waiting for Saudi Arabia to increase production and save the world's economies, Saudi Arabia keeps pumping about 9 mbd while bragging it could pump 12 mbd if it wanted to. Meanwhile, more and more of the oil they do pump does not get exported – if the King does not feed the citizens, he may not get to be king much longer. So domestic petroleum use is expected to go from today's 3.5 million to over 8 mbd in 2028. That will leave damned little for export. Diet for a small planet, indeed.

Self Correcting System: Five major scientific societies united to issue a warning that the global availability of irreplaceable phosphorus fertilizer will begin to decline sharply just as the human population reaches 9 billion. If so, the population will not remain at 9 billion for long.

Cross My Fingers: When Fox lies, it isn't really lying, it's just engaging in “mischievous speculation.” Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon – who confessed to the offense - admits he finds some of Fox's reporting “rather far-fetched.”

The Goal: I'm all for nuclear power plants - as soon as they can build one that is “walkaway safe,” meaning that even if all power is lost and the coolant leaks and there isn't a human around for 2500 years, there would be no meltdown, no radiation leakage.

Stuffing: The nation's inventory of foreclosed houses is increasing faster than they can be sold off. The foreclosed inventory level is now at 30 month's sales.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SAR #11088

If there's no answer, maybe it was the wrong question.

The Road: Baseball season in Japan has been pushed back, and when it does start there will be no night games. The idea is to keep people from wasting gasoline driving to the stadium and for the stadiums not to waste electricity lighting up ballparks. Likewise Tokyo's pulsing electronic billboards have been switched off and trash goes uncollected to save on diesel fuel, while factories are closed due to electrical shortages. Think of it as previews.

Stopped Clock: Senator Joe Lieberman suggests that the US may have to intervene in Syria if President Al-Assad begins killing protesters in noticeable numbers. As the senator points out, “there’s a precedent now that the world community has set in Libya, and it’s the right one.” As usual, Joe is half right.

So True: A Pogo moment.

Interesting, Very Interesting: I was pleased to learn that Portugal supports the US Africa Command in West Africa's drug wars. I was not quite so pleased to learn that drug interdiction in West Africa was a mission for the US military.

The Alfred E. Neuman Market: Stock markets around the world keep rallying; “there's lots of bad stuff out there, and nobody seems to care.” Tomorrow comes soon enough.

American Mutawas: As ever-vigilant as their Saudi counterparts, Republican thought police are ever ready to read your emails just in case there is something they can use to bully you into supporting them, or at least stop criticizing them.

Revolting Developments: From 2000 to 2007 (latest data available) the wealthiest 10% of Americans received 100% of the average income growth throughout the nation. All of it. Better yet, they convinced the rest of us this was a Good Idea. In 2009, the richest 5% claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. And got a tax cut. What's on TV tonight?

Freedom From Information: Another area where Obama mirrors Bush is in providing non-responses to FOI requests. The political interference is ‘meddling,’ ‘crazy’ and ‘bananas’. Not to mention non-responsive and illegal. “They don’t like to abide by the law or be reminded that they are breaking it.”

Playing Phone Tag: Yes, we know you know that the cops can find you via your cell phone. But did you know that the phone company keeps a record of where you were – every 7 seconds of every day for the last six months? Any idea to whom they sell the info?

Except: The more inflexible an American's political belief, the more likely the person is to believe that “We're Number One!” The best in everything. Here's a few things we lead in, among industrialized nations: The highest poverty rates. The greatest income inequality. The lowest amount of GDP spent on social welfare. The lowest rank on the index of material well-being of children. The highest mortality rate for infants. The highest rate of obesity. The highest portion of GDP spent on blowing things up and killing people the military. Lowest tax rate on the rich. What could be better?

Nutshell: Productivity and profits are growing, payrolls and wages, not so much.

All Over, For Now: NY's Gov. Cuomo & the legislature have agreed on a budget that closes a $10 billion deficit – mostly via smoke and mirrors. There are no draconian cuts to Medicaid and social programs, and the 8.79% excess greed tax on incomes over a million dollars a year will not be extended even though 71% of NY voters wanted it continued. Some of the money to close the deficit will come – hopefully – from increased tax revenue stemming from “continued economic revival.” But if the state's unions do not agree to $450 million in cuts, come April Cuomo says he will fire nearly 10,000 of their members.

Discouraging Encouragement: Consumer spending increased in February, but more than half of the increase was due to higher prices for gasoline and food and not because consumer discretionary spending improved.

Porn O'Graph: Remember when....

Monday, March 28, 2011

SAR #11087

Austerity promotes discord.

No, No, Nanette: Secretary of State Clinton insists that the US will not get involved in the internal conflict in Syria because the situation is completely different from Libya. Syria has no oil and the US will not complain about Assad killing his own citizens as long as he continues to torture the “suspects” the US sends him.

Fair & Balanced: Richard Lugar (R-IN) claims the cost of the military actions in Libya “will exacerbate the nation's budget deficit.” He explained that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not run up the budget because they were off-budget items.

Flattery: Half a million Brits protesting the government's austerity program turned Trafalgar Square into Tahrir Square for the day.

Where The Boys Are: Could one reason for the urgency behind the US handing off operations in Libya be connected to the movement of the USS Enterprise out of striking range in the Red Sea into the Strait of Hormuz to join the Vinson? What's going to happen in the Persian Gulf that will require the attention of two US carrier groups?

Parse This One: “Japan Says Nuclear Crisis Not Worsening as Radiation Levels Rise”

Marshal Dillon: Of course the government would say that Tokyo's 32 million residents are not in any danger from the nuclear power plant disaster. Even if they were not safe, where would they go? There's no getting out of Dodge this time.

Be Prepared: The government has extended unlimited FDIC coverage to all non-interest-bearing accounts “regardless of the balance” or the ownership of the accounts through December 31, 2012. Which major bank is going to fail and cause the entire credit/banking system to freeze between now and New Year's Day 2013?

Miss Manners: It would be best if all your non-work emails carried the caveat “written on and sent from my personal computer using a private, non-business ISP.” It would also be good if it were true.

More Is Better: John Boehner maintains that cutting social support programs, firing teachers and government employees, and ending unemployment benefits will lead to rapid economic recovery because people without incomes soon become willing to work for pennies, driving down wages and wresting jobs away from China and Bangladesh.

Get That Education: The idea that a more educated population is the route to economic happiness seems proven by Portugal's 37.1% dropout rate, next to last in the OECD countries. But in Ireland, which has already collapsed, the dropout rate is only 4%, while Greece’s rate is 8.6%.  Iceland, which went down the tube first has a 10% dropout rate. And the US is way back in the pack at 23%.  All this must mean something, prove something,  but I’m not good at math.

About Schmidt: How many people who actually vote are drawing social security? How many actual voters are within 10 years of drawing social security? How many voters' parents would have to move in with them if social security were cut? How much will each of these categories of self-interested voters change as the boomer generation ages? Do votes count more than deficits?

Priorities: Great Britain's austerity budget cuts will lead to at least two years of decline in the nation's standard of living, along with inflation that will easily outpace any salary increases. Meanwhile, MP expense reimbursement, previously curtailed as part of the austerity reforms, will be reinstated and enlarged.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

SAR #11085

"We are not in a position where we can be optimistic."

The Hard Part: Now that nuclear is not our favorite solution and you haven't fallen for the oil-will-last-forever fantasy, and actually understand that coal will kill us in the end, where do you think the energy to power a world with 9 billion people is going to come from? Have you done the math on solar power lately, figured out how to build windmills without fossil fuel, and still think the economy will continue to double every 25 years?

Collateral Damage: Turkey's President and Prime Minister have criticized French President Sarkozy as “lacking a conscience” in leading the more-or-less allies in the Libyan air war.

Clarification: President Obama's Navy is conducting high-profile submarine exercises in the Arctic Ocean this month to demonstrate the US commitment to peaceful exploitation of the area's resources. Establishing once again that the US is first among nations, and you'd better not forget it.

The List: Add Jordan to the list of countries where the government is willing to kill citizens in the public street, joining Bahrain, Ivory Coast, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

To The Rear, March! In NC the Republicans want to repeal a renewable resources law mandating that the state's power companies provide 12.5% of 2021's electricity through renewable sources – even though the power companies are in favor of doing so. The GOP-controlled House passed a bill that makes the death or injury of a fetus at any stage of development a crime, even if no one – including the woman – knew she was pregnant. The provision would not apply to legal abortions, which will soon be outlawed under the murder statutes.

Up & Down & Back Up: The 2010 fourth quarter GDP growth was a)3.2%, b) 2.8%, c) 3.1%, or d) all of the above at one time or another in the last two months. They'll get it right eventually.

Trial Balloon: The Irish Property Council plans to file class-action lawsuits against banks and former government officials, seeking to hold them directly responsible for “knowingly and recklessly” giving mortgages to people who were subsequently ruined financially when they could not make their payments. It's the “they made me take the money” strategy.

Yes, But... When figuring out how much to pay for a car, do you just look at the sticker prices and don't bother with the sales and markdowns and rebates? Four states want to pretend that distressed house sales do not happen, do not affect the value of the house next door. This is an effort by builders and realtors to establish a system of willful ignorance that would allow them to inflate the value of a house so they could sell it for more money, even though it would immediately be worth tens of thousands of dollars less. Comes with a lollypop.

One-A-Day: Today's most disgusting GOP ploy is to eliminate food stamps for any family that has a family member out on strike. In that these gratuitous attacks on society have absolutely no chance of becoming law, what does this sort of petty viciousness say about the GOP's target audience?

With Footnotes: If speculators are not responsible for soaring food prices, why do we all think they are? 1) It's nice to have someone to blame. 2) We have no idea where our food comes from, so anything's possible. 3) They buy up all the food on the spot market and put it in big warehouses. 4) They somehow cleverly play both sides of the trade and make a profit.

Dead Budgie: Housing is dead. The inventory of unsold new houses is so big that by the time we need another house built no one will remember how to do it. But at least we don't have to worry about housing declines hurting the economy further – the Girl Scouts pulled in more from cookies than anyone made from building houses last month.

Plus One: Starbucks is everywhere, as attested to this list of “15 Facts About Starbucks”. Here's a sixteenth: I've had only three cups of Starbucks coffee, all of them paid for by other people.

Friday, March 25, 2011

SAR #11084

Reality is incompatible with most American dreams.

The First Cut: Michigan is cutting the maximum period it will pay unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks. Michigan's unemployment rate is 10.7%. Nearly half of the nations jobless have been unemployed for more than 20 weeks. The justification? “This insures that employers won’t be taxed through the roof for unemployment benefits.” It also insures that the unemployed will suffer more, sooner.

Constitutional History: There used to be three co-equal branches of government. But Bush and Obama (and Clinton, Bush, Reagan before them) have pretty well castrated the Legislative branch. Now the Executive branch is pruning back the powers of the Judiciary, interpreting Supreme Court decisions as they wish. Miranda, for example, no longer applies to those suspected of terrorism. Of course it is hard to ask for a lawyer when you are tied down with a rag in your mouth being waterboarded.

Datapoint: New houses are now selling at half the rate they did back in 1963 – even though there are 60% more people in the US today. At the current rate, there will only be 250,000 new houses sold this year. Another new record!

Foot Bone/Leg Bone: The unrest and violence in the Middle East is driving up the cost of petroleum, which drives up the cost of diesel fuel and nitrogen fertilizer. Tractors use diesel and crops need fertilizer. Farmers have to make a living, so you will be paying more for the food grown by the farmers who are using the more expensive diesel derived... and so on. But it won't be called inflation.

Protection Racket: The government has 'suggested' to the five largest banks that they bribe delinquent borrowers $21,000 to hand over the keys and leave without trashing their houses. Do the borrowers get to make a counter-offer?

Yawn: Seasonally adjusted unemployment claims: 382,000. The four week moving average is at 385,250. Both are a tad lower than last week, not great, not even really good, but hopeful.

Clues: Portugal's government has collapsed over disagreements about how much more austerity the country could stand. Irish bonds are yielding over 10% as their austerity measures collapse the economy. British austerity moves have completely undercut any GDP expansion. In Greece “austerity” is synonymous with “riot!” The castor oil crowd claimed that austerity – especially cutting social programs and workers salaries – was a magic elixir that would produce bounding growth instantly, which seems to be an overstatement. Someone should tell a few Republican Governors.

"Unexpected” Today it was durable goods orders turn to come in “much worse than expectations”. Instead of being up 1.1% they were down 0.9%. This makes it 4 out of the last 5 months with reported decreases.

Future Imperfect: Today the US has 310 million voracious consumers and expects to add 110 million more by 2050, while the world adds 2 billion more to the current 7 billion – most of the increase in the poorest countries. You know the problems: energy, water, food... Don't tell me technology is the answer. They told us 'technology' back in 1968 when there were only 3.5 billion of us, and see how that's working out.

Facts Not In Evidence: “...the natural tendency of a free market economy to seek an increase of the well being of its citizens.” Aw, the free market cares, isn't that sweet?

Manning The Barricades: An Associate Press story appearing in papers around the world cites as its source: “A senior US defense official revealed the contents of the intelligence report on condition of anonymity because it was classified secret.” I hope they put him in a cage right next to the naked Private Bradley Manning, just to show how serious the administration is about these leaks.

Trick Question: Are CEOs Overpaid?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SAR #11083

Cycles end.

Don't Go Near The Water: Water in Tokyo is too radioactive for children and other living things.

Data: When the economy collapsed, the US applied (half-)massive stimulus spending while the GOP yelled for budget cuts and austerity. Things are looking up, but the GOP is still screaming for more hardship, less pity. In Great Britain they went for the budget cuts and austerity like the GOP wants the US to adopt, and collapsed their economy and have set inflation loose. Does this mean that raving liberal Paul Krugman was right all along about the need for a vast government stimulus to lift us out of recession? Nah. See, we haven't cut spending enough yet and we have to give even more money to the rich and the banks and... Of course it does, you idiots!

Vacation Planning: Now that Japan has been struck from the list, why don't we go to Europe? Start in Portugal, where the forth round of austerity measures brought some 300,000 to the streets, or Ireland, where a handful of bankers brought financial ruin to the country, sticking it with an unpayable  sovereign debt. Or Greece, for the street life. Or Italy – I understand there are some really good political parties there. But the exchange rate sucks.

Re-Covering: Another new low in new house sales – an annual rate of 250,000 nationwide. It was, of course, “unexpected”. New house sales fell 16.9% y/y and existing house sales fell 9.6% while the median price fell to $202,000.

Command & Control: In war the enemies 'command and control' centers are the first target. In governing, you are the target of the government's command and control efforts. Remember, to have social order, someone has to give the orders.

Thought Experiment: The US debt is a tad over $14 trillion and this year's budget is $1.7 trillion short. With 97% of House Republicans and 85% of the GOP Senators signing on to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform — which is a promise to never ever raise taxes, what programs are going to be cut? Not the military, which is busy getting and guarding resources. Right, social programs. That's been the plan all along – to take as much as possible from the people and deliver it to the rich. What's going on in Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan and the rest is not about teacher's unions, it is about rolling back the entire 20th Century. And these are just the out-of-town tryouts. Wait until the GOP brings austerity, contract negation, pension looting and the rest to the whole nation.

Price Inflation? How come TARP & Friends, QEI & QEII have not produced massive inflation? Because it has – in the stock markets of the world. You didn't think the last two years of non-stop gains was driven by reality, did you?

Socialism: In Japan, as in the US, corporations do not pay for the damage they do, the damages are socialized. Taxpayers will have to come up with over $300 billion to bail out their nuclear industry and clean up from its mess. Oil and nuclear power are not benign genies, happy to serve us. Nor is coal.

Room With A View: Fox employee Steve Harrigan explained how he earned his Combat Journalism Merit Badge: "I can stand outside on my balcony and report what I see,"

Porn O'Graph: New new home sales.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SAR #11082

We aren’t paying for any of this with real money.

Breaking Broken News: "When you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from the dictatorship here. You don't expect it from the other journalists." Two things: these were Fox employees, not correspondents, and we actually do expect lies and deceit from Fox. We just don't expect them to be quite so blatant about it.

Crooking the Books: David Stevens has a new job, as head of the Mortgage Bankers Association. And he didn't have to give up his day job either – as Assistant Secretary for Housing in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and as the Commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration – where his job was is to regulate mortgage bankers.

Leading By Example: Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav has been sentenced to seven years in prison for multiple counts of rape and molestation during his term as president from 2000 to 2007. Wonder what an ex-president would get for war crimes?

Whistling/Graveyard: “Global markets are signaling that sustained economic growth will more than make up for Japan’s worst disaster since World War II, rising commodity prices and uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa.” When the next pandemic erupts, go long caskets!

Sorry: The US Army has apologized for letting its killers take pictures of their trophies.

Reliability: OPEC says that it is “perfectly happy” with $120 oil and that the price will not impair economic growth around the world. They said the same thing a couple of weeks ago at $100 a barrel and back in 2008 when it was $145 barrel.

Takes One to Know One: As chair of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) promised to “give government contracting a hard look -- and root out waste, management[sic], and fraud.” Starting with herself. She has admitted she “improperly billed taxpayers” $88,000 and “failed to pay “287,000” in property taxes.

Queen For A Day: Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) share today's 'Clueless' award for their proposal to eliminate pensions for new federal employees and to renege as much as possible on previous pension commitments. The bill would not correct the alleged underfunded liabilities that do not currently exist.

Teamwork: Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Sleepy Thomas, has gone to work at a conservative website. It is thought her salary will be reportable.

Gospel:Citing a lack of utility and social value, scientists say that religion is headed for extinction in Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Q&A: Crime rates around the country are plummeting, and no one knows why. Obviously, it's because there is so much less to steal these days.

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin: The right insists that the 'Special Issue' Treasury bonds that represent Social Security surpluses dating back 25 years are hollow promises that will never be honored. Possibly true. But if so, that makes the Reagan/Greenspan Social Security reform nothing but a cynical tax ripoff of the poorest of society's workers. It would be almost worth it to accept the neocons' view of the bonds if they'd just agree to call Reagan and Greenspan frauds, guilty of knowing theft.

Buckle Down: Barclays says that people must worker longer hours for more years for half the pay and nearly none of the social benefits they've grown accustomed to. And shut up and like it, too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SAR #11081

This is not an ideal world.

"Imminent Threat" Congress once had the sole prerogative of sending the boys off to war. Then representative government became too leisurely for the snap decision to use nukes. Now it has become simply inconvenient – easier to present the fait accompli to a cowed Congress. Usual prize for anyone who can find a constitutional basis for our war with Libya, or a definition of “consulting Congress” that passes the smell test. Ditto for Iraq. And Afghanistan. I'll even accept a rational argument for any of them.

Even So: The National Association of Realtors, which admits it is still overstating sales, reported that existing house sales declined 9.6% m/m in February while the inventory of existing houses for sale grew 3.5%.

Future, Tense: If you liked the Fukushima Daiichi extravaganza, watch geoengineering save us from global warming.

Bush 3: The President who promised to close Guantanamo Bay's torture center just signed an executive order that creates a formal system of indefinite detention for Guantanamo Bay inmates and anyone else who pisses off the Government.

"Fully Comply": The Federal Reserve, having fought all the way to the Supreme Court against telling the citizenry which banks got how much in the way of handouts – and having lost at every step of the way – has sullenly agreed to “fully comply with the court's decision” and will make the information available as slowly a possible, even if it might dissuade banks from accepting free money in the future. We should be so lucky.

Open Your Eyes: If you've had trouble imagining what the decline of an industrialized, oil-driven economy would look like, take a good look around.

Reminders: Home prices continue to go down, the number of underwater mortgages is expected to reach 48% by the end of the year. The number of foreclosures set a record in 2010 that will be surpassed again this year. New home sales are down 80% since July 2005. The recovery is nearly two years old.

Domestic Disturbance: Libya was not about genocide, it was a domestic disturbance edging into civil war. Intervening in domestic disturbances is a very dangerous proposition. The Libyan rebellion had failed and then we've stepped in to rescue them, to protect them. Next we'll arm them. We can't let Gadaffi win, so maybe we'll send in a few advisers...

Monday, March 21, 2011

SAR #11080

The cure for the ills of the effluent society is less affluence.

Tinkering: What's up with the UN attack on the leadership of a country that has (of late) done nothing to anyone outside its borders, nor harmed the financial interests of any foreign corporation? On humanitarian grounds? Ah, I question that moral certitude. Think of the precedent; of what the UN response be in Yemen? Bahrain? Syria? Ivory Coast? Or more involved situations like Tibet, Chechnya? What about the old pretense that sovereign nations were... sovereign? Does the possession of resources matter? Oil? Chocolate? Does any of this pass the laugh test?

As Ever: A Washington Post/ABC poll found that 53% of Americans support same-sex marriage. None the less, playing to their dwindling base, the GOP in Montana voted to keep the state law that criminalizes gay sex - even though the Montana courts have ruled it unconstitutional and unenforceable. Form over substance.

Anonymous Investor: “The human toll in Japan looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”

Gray Swan? Reports are filtering in from the Gulf of Mexico that another oil disaster may be in progress, resulting (so far) in an oil slick 100 miles long and 10 miles wide trailing off from a Matterhorn SeaStar oil rig about 20 miles away from the Deepwater Horizon site.

Populism, Revised: Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wants to cut the tax rate for the richest of the rich to 25%. To pay for it he would like to see popular middle class tax deductions eliminated. This would add $2 trillion to the public debt over a decade, but well worth it in terms of campaign contributions.

Maybe... Worried that tons of radioactive spent fuel may have ignited and that the pressure is building again inside one reactor, experts fear that Fukushima may eclipse Chernobyl in severity of damage.

Overqualified: Elizabeth Warren is objectively the best candidate to lead the Financial Consumer Protection Agency, which explains why the Republicans and the bankers are out to dismember her, citing her effrontery in wanting to begin protecting financial consumers before July 1st. Until then it is supposed to be open season.

Idiotology: By a vote of 34 to 19, Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee have voted to outlaw global climate change. Criminal and civil penalties will follow. Heliocentrism is scheduled for hearings and possible revocation.

Rhetorical Question: Is Nuclear Power Worth the Risk? 1) No. 2) NIMBY 3) Risk?

Stigmata: There is a new threat to the economic recovery – the fear that all those who lost their jobs and then lost hope and withdrew from the labor market, thus reducing the number of unemployed – will look for work if the economy improves. Which will make the statistical recovery look bad by driving up the unemployment rate some more. In order for the the Pushkin recovery to continue, some way must be found to keep the long term unemployed and discouraged workers from actually trying to go back to work. Perhaps once a former worker has been branded 'untouchable' he should no longer be considered as part of the labor statistics.

Softies: Minnesota Republicans have revised their goal of prohibiting anyone receiving any form of public assistance from possessing any money, to making it illegal for them to have up to $20 a month. And no checking accounts, either. Instead, they will be required to use state-issued debit cards and special terminals set up in Republican-controlled business.

No Reservations Needed: The US Census Bureau reports that nearly 20% of Florida's houses are vacant. Also rans: Arizona with a 16.3 vacancy rate, and Nevada at 14.3% California, for all the publicity, is way down the list with only an 8.1% vacancy rate.

Elsewhere: Ann Coulter says that “radiation is good for you.” God had a wife, Asherah. Apparently He got the kid in the divorce. The GOP, afraid we've forgotten, wants to renew our vows with “In God We Trust”.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

SAR #11078

“A no-fly and no-drive endeavor.”

Acts & Deeds: Gaddafi's Libya says it has stopped killing its citizens. Others say “Not so much.

The Struggle is A Joy: The more European bankers and the IMF continue their attempts to impose austerity measures and senseless privatizations on Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and others, the more European citizens tell them “Go Fish.” No matter how little the bankers like it, governance requires the cooperation of the governed, and these citizens are loath togive up the wages, improved working conditions and subsistence pensions that they and their unions successfully fought for over the past half century – just to make up for the damage the banks have done to their economies.

Next: Yemeni doctors say at least 31 people have been killed when 'security forces' – including snipers on rooftops - fired on protesters. One gun, one vote.

Details, Please: Did you have an abortion this year? Was it the result of rape or incest (or most likely both)? How did you pay for the abortion? Do you have a receipt? Identify the date of this abomination, the name of the baby killer and the identity of the facility. Was any tax benefit, directly or indirectly, involved in paying for this abortion, or for the facility that provided the procedure, or the education of the doctor who performed this act of first degree murder? Or so the questions on Schedule A of your 1040 will read next year if the Republicans prevail.

Q&A: Do we need big banks? No. Are big banks more efficient? No. Are big banks systemically dangerous? Yes. Are big banks able to corrupt politicians and manipulate the government? Yes!

Finally, The Question: So why not John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and George W. Bush?

The Untouchables: We have created an underclass of 15 million untouchables – people who cannot find a job, or cannot find full time employment. Plus millions more who have been forced to take large cuts in pay in order to find any sort of job. One out of six American workers. And the Republicans think now is the time to cut social welfare safety nets.

Can You Hear Me Now? Citigroup says Europe’s debt crisis won’t be resolved “until a number of country’s restructure their debt and clean up their banks’ balance sheets.” Which is another way of saying that someone holding sovereign euro-bonds is going to lose money.

Cake, Having & Eating: US multinationals (actually, by definition there cannot be “US multinationals”) have more than $1 trillion in profits stashed in overseas tax-havens. They want the Republicans to create a “tax holiday” loophole so they can repatriate the money without ever paying any tax on it. It is, they stress, for the good of the country.

Friday, March 18, 2011

SAR #11077

These are not my people, this is not my country.

Blankly: The difference between Libya and places like Dafur or Rwanda is ______. Hint: three letters beginning with 'O'.

Testing. One, Two: While Gaddafi prepares to annihilate the pro-democracy movement in Libya, the US continues to end up on the side of whoever – no matter how bloody – controls the Middle Eastern oilfields - today. That dictators, tyrants and kings won't last forever is a given, but then neither will the oil and we want it now. Bahrain is the object lesson for what the Saudi response to protesters will be, and 'democracy now' does not figure into it.  Ignore the bribery, it's the stick that counts.

Inflated Inflation: Inflation is increasing at either 2.1% or 1.1% annually, depending on how much you drive and what you eat. I'm on a low-carb diet except when I watch sports on TV.

Previews: A single US drone strike killed nearly 40 people in Pakistan. Some say all the dead were 'suspected militants'. Others claim the drone hit a house where elders were meeting to resolve a business dispute and had nothing to do with Taliban/al Qaeda. The US has not yet made up issued any comment.

Factor In...According to the GOP's talking points, if we'd just 'drill, baby drill!' we could be energy independent and gasoline would be 32 cents a gallon forever. Except the US has only 2% of the world's oil reserves and uses 20% of the world's oil. Also, oil is a global commodity – cars don't care where they are or where their gasoline comes from – so the price is set by global supply and demand. The US simply cannot pump enough oil to drive down world oil prices. Only Saudi Arabia even pretends to have that much spare capacity.

Spring Flowers? Initial unemployment claims fell 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 385,000, and the four-week moving average stayed below 400,000 for the third consecutive week. Employers added 192,000 jobs in February, the most in nine months.

Easy Does It: Senate Republicans oppose lifting the country's debt ceiling unless entitlements – codeword for Social Security and Medicare - are cut significantly. Medicare is a problem, but the GOP is set against health care reform that would take the profits out of the big pharma and the insurance scams, so they really want to cut Social Security and turn our retirements over to Wall Street. This another area where the GOP is courting voter backlash, for nearly 60% of Americans are against raising the retirement age and almost 70 percent were against cutting benefits. What the public wants is to tax all income, not just the first $107,000. And that, the CBO says, would wipe out virtually all of Social Security’s shortfall.

Know Nothings: All 31 Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee refuse to accept the overwhelming and unequivocal scientific evidence that global climate change is underway. It's not in the Bible and the coal companies don't like it.

Point of View: Representative Spencer Bachus, (R-AL), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee: “ view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

Health Un-Caring Act: The US Government is on temporary life support, so House Republicans will seize the opportunity to pass a tax bill that will curtail abortion access for most Americans, by eliminating employer tax deductions for health insurance for workers if the plan covers abortion. This would either force the employers to stop giving employees health coverage or force the health industry to change their policies – 87% of all policies now cover abortion costs. Polls show that 54% of Americans support the right to legal abortions, and the Democratic Senate is not about to pass such a bill, so this is simply the GOP grandstanding for the far right.

Declawing: Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) wants the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be run by a 5-member commission (3 Republicans and 2 Democrats in his dream) instead of by a Commissioner. Which is his way of throwing Elizabeth Warren under a bus before she can do anything that might actually protect the consumer.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SAR #11076

We prattle on about deleveraging as though we know what it is.

Faint Praise: The steepest rise in food prices in 36 years was greeted with the usual mantra, “Underlying inflation is contained.” The producer-price index was up 1.6% from the prior month and 5.6% y/y. Most of that increase was due to a sharp rise in vegetable costs, which increased nearly 50 percent. In that inflation is everywhere except at the Fed - at least for the stuff people actually need - what they meant to say was “Under lying, inflation is contained.”

Special Delivery: Saudi and Bahrainian 'defense forces' continue to complete the delivery of US made bullets to the citizens of Bahrain – all part of the US petroleum security plan. The Pentagon says there's lots more where they came from.

Emphasis: Reports claim the US stock market's strong decline was due to concern over Japan's nuclear crisis. The rapid increase in producer prices and the dramatic fall in housing starts were not sexy enough.

Chickens, Roosting: The young people who overthrew Mubarak have refused to let Secretary Clinton take credit for their courage.

Resistance: Correctly reading both the mood of his people and the intentions of the IMF, Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates said he would not ask for an international financial 'rescue' because that would be signing away the country's sovereignty. The country's only hope of escaping the IMF's clutches is even more cuts to health and welfare budgets, which are strongly opposed in the country. But today's reception to Portugal's auction of €1 billion in 12-month bills – with a 4.33% yield - led Moody's to downgrade the country's debt two steps, to A3. Look for Portugal to be repossessed bailed out any day.

Succinct: Housing starts fell 22.5% in February, to their lowest rate since 1984; building permits have fallen to the lowest level on record.

Net, Net: Senator Franken explains the Republican version on “net neutrality” quite well: Big corporations need the right to destroy the internet as we know it so they can make lots of money while ending the disturbing freedom and equality it now provides. In its place the big guys will institute a tariff system that will let the monied pay for faster speeds and priority access, leaving everyone else – that's you – behind, paying more and getting less. Sound familiar?

Unclear on the Concept: Palin ays the President has deliberately driven up the price of gasoline in order to tank the economy and ruin his chances of re-election.

On Letting Old Folks Starve and Veterans Suffer: All “social justice” programs involve the use of force “to acquire one’s desires — not to earn desirable goods by rational thought and action, production and voluntary exchange, but to go in there and forcibly take goods from those who can supply them” and give them to lazy worthless parasites who cannot fend for themselves.

Required Reading: The Panic Virus (Mnoonkin) and Deadly Choices (Offit) explain the roots of the absurd anti-vaccine movement and the dangers it poses to all of us.

Memorize: If Social Security is just part of the federal budget, with no trust fund of its own, then it is part of the federal budget: there can’t be a Social Security crisis. All you can have is a general budget crisis. And unless the Congress votes not to honor US Treasury bonds, Social Security is sound.  This is all an effort by the burglars (Congress and Wall Street) to blame the victims for their thefts.

Hide the Valuables! The Fed's Open Market Committee says “that the economic recovery is on a firmer footing, and overall conditions in the labor market appear to be improving.” Firmer than what?

Porn O'Graph: Crumbs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SAR #11075

We are not the citizenry the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Partners: Both the Nikkei and a number of Japanese nuclear reactors are melting down. And the Saudi 'support' for Bahrain didn't help their markets much, either.

Ups & Downs: That oil price shocks are among the major contributing causes to the slowdown in the business cycle, is backed up by empirical evidence dating back to the 1970s – no matter how often people claim $145 a barrel oil had nothing to do with the Great Whatever of recent memory.

Sharing, Redefined: For over a decade many states (here Wisconsin and Ohio raise their hands) have over-estimated the return on state pension funds which allowed the states to significantly – disastrously – underfund these obligations. Now, fingers scalded by reality, the states propose to make up for their mistakes by punishing their employees (through either lower benefits or much higher contributions, or both) and the taxpayers (through much lower social services and infrastructure maintenance).

Questioning the Question: “Will Japan Disaster Halt a US Nuclear Renaissance?” What US nuclear renaissance?

Another Victory: General Petraeus, the Hero of Iraq(tm), says he has been able to slow the Taliban's momentum in key areas, especially public relations, enough to permit US forces (as many as 2,000!)  to escape Afghanistan on schedule, well ahead of the GOP primary season.

Explicate: "I think the fact is that NAFTA allowed us to build jobs in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, in competition with China. I mean, our big competitor is not Mexico. Our big competitor is China and India. And I’d rather have jobs close to the United States than have jobs overseas in places like China and India." Newt Gingrich, who helped Clinton pass NAFTA and is a long time advocate of globalization and divorcing sick wives.

Spanish Civil War, Part II: Saudi troops and Bahrainian police shot over 200 protesters and killed several. The out-of-town tryouts for rebellion in Saudi Arabia are not going well, and the reviews from Libya are discouraging.

Democracy In Action: Wisconsin Republicans say that the Democratic state senators' return from the wilderness is not enough, so they may no longer vote on legislation. Winner takes all, the Republican version of democracy.

Memo: This is a reminder that higher oil prices are deflationary. Yes, the price of oil goes up, but that just kills any recovery in the market, driving wages down, which drives prices down – for there is less money to go around to the non-petroleum crowd.

Busy Day: After agreeing to let the government continue to function for three more weeks, the Republicans have scheduled a meeting for Wednesday at which they plan to resolve the budget issue by stripping public radio of all federal funding, because a conservative group released a disingenuously edited video smearing the news organization by taking comments out of context, etc. etc.

Headliner: “GOP Candidate: Deport Latino Farmworkers, Replace With Inner-City Blacks” [It's beginning to look like the Democrats secret weapon will be Republicans.]

Facts? What Facts? TN state senator Mae Beavers wants the state to require ethnically challenged candidates for public office to produce a “long-form birth certificate”. Asked what that meant, Beavers admitted she had no idea, but said that Republicans in other states are doing it, so she thought it was a good idea, “you know how it is, you file your bill and, you know, you prepare before you go to committee."

Password? Sperm whales announce their individual presence with a distinctively timed 5-'click' patterns, seemingly announcing “I'm here!” which would suggest they, and their listeners, know who “I” is.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SAR #11074

We have only two modes—complacency and panic.

One Damned Thing After Another: Japanese officials say the nuclear fuel rods appear to be melting inside three of the troubled nuclear reactors.

Size Matters: The clever bankers of the world hold about $2.5 trillion in pretty worthless Portuguese, Irish, Greek and Spanish government bonds. Germany alone is holding about $569 billion of the toxic stuff. Remember, if you owe the bank $100, you have a problem. If you owe the bankers $2.5 trillion, they have a problem.

Here and there: The outlook for democracy in the Middle East dims by the day, much like in the United States, where speaking out against senseless torture gets you fired.

On Wishing: Among the things the Republicans want to cut are the budgets of the National Weather Service (you want tornado warnings, look out the window) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (you want to know if there's a tsunami coming, go down to the beach and look). Be careful what you wish for.

What's the Point? 42% of US millionaires say they don't have enough money, and that $7.5 million is the very least they could get by on. Remember, this wealthiest 4% of Americans have 55% of all the money. And it's not enough.

Crying Over Un-Spilt Milk: The Republicans have been complaining about the EPA applying the containment and cleanup standards for oil spills to milk spills in dairies. Okay. The EPA cannot find any such regulation. Doesn't matter, the lie will get the attention, not the truth. As planned.

Union Scale: Saw another one of those right wing pundits complaining that unions prevent individuals from negotiating their salaries directly with the corporations. With 5 unemployed for every job opening, how do you think those negotiations would go?

Commons Tragedy Part VII: House Republicans have passed an amendment that prohibits the US from trying to prevent the catastrophic depletion of fish stocks. They maintain that if a US fisherman does not catch the last tuna, cod, haddock, snapper or whatever, someone from one of those socialist nations might.

God Will Know His Own: Echoing the Albigensian Crusade, voters in Wisconsin are planning to have recall votes on every Republican holding statewide office, on the general theory that they are all guilty until proven decent.

History Lessened: Michele Bachmann (Nutcase-MN) says that E Pluribus Unum is um-American – never mind that the Founding Fathers incorporated it into the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. She also wants Obama to stop talking about “inalienable rights” unless he acknowledges God's copyright on the phrase.

Clip & Save: The only way Social Security can fail is if Congress votes not to honor the US government bonds held by Social Security. That’s not going to happen. Social Security has been run responsibly and has a surplus; the rest of the government has not. So why are we talking about a Social Security crisis?

Porn O'Graph: Gone, fishing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

SR #11073

It's called "demand destruction" for a reason.

Rhetorical Question: Is nuclear power still the answer?

Prague Spring? Saudi Arabia has sent troops to put down protests in Bahrain, where protesters had pushed the police out of the main square.  The UAE also has a contingent on the way – but “they asked for it.”. Gaddafi is sure enough of his position that he's told the oil companies to come get their oil and give him the money. Elsewhere, police in Yemen opened fire on protesters, as did Saudi police.  In Wisconsin, tens of thousands picketed the capital.

A Challenge: Define 'enough' so it is both the problem and the solution.

Don't Let The Door Hit You... President Hamid Karzai has called on NATO and US troops to “stop their operations in our land... We are very tolerant people but now our tolerance has run out."

Sharing, Redefined:Republican Gov. Rick Snyder says that Michigan citizens must do what's best for business everyone rather than just themselves. Facing a $1.4 billion shortfall, he is raising personal income taxes to raise $1.8 billion, all of which would go not to the budget deficit, but to lower business taxes. Snyder's plan will cut business taxes by 86 percent while increasing individual income taxes 31 percent. He said his goal was to fundamentally change Michigan's culture to more closely resemble the Middle Ages.

Word for the Day, GOP Edition: Blowback.

More, More! Finding that severe austerity programs have not fixed Portugal’s debt problems, the government has announced a fresh round of spending cuts and public sector reforms, deeper cuts in heath services and social welfare safety nets. Let's face it, austerity hasn't worked, so let's be more austere.

Updater: In West Texas, oil field services ads used to end with “If you don't have an oil well, get one, then call us!” Same idea: Why don't big unions own big banks? It'd stop all this GOP “kill the unions” nonsense.

NOW They Tell Us: Teachers are not overpaid. We get what we are paying for. Used to be teaching was one of the few professions open to women, and it paid reasonably well. Then came women's lib and equality and all the bright women went off to business school and the professions and (ignoring the noble and dedicated few) left the unmotivated to be teachers. Today 47% of K-12 teachers come from the bottom third of the pool. If we paid enough to lure the bright folks back, scores would improve.

As Always: Scientists have mapped out who will suffer most from the early stages of global warming. Naturally it will be those people least responsible for causing the problem.

As I Said: The main cause of most, if not all, of our social, economic and cultural problems is that there are too many people. A lack of attention to “fast growing population... [has] led to a multiplication of problems and the squeezing of our resources.”

Making Progress: A homeowner pays more to insure a $1 million home than one that goes for $125,000. Only fair, he's got more to lose than the other guy and will gain a far larger benefit if disaster strikes. Likewise, if the government's job is to provide the physical infrastructure and the financial, legal and social systems in which both the rich and the poor function, the rich should pay more (much greater % of income in taxes) because they get so much more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SAR #11071

Economic forecasters don't have to be perfect, but they ought to be right once in a while.

Testing 1, 2, 3: The Federal Reserve spent several months investigating mortgage and foreclosure practices and is proud to report that no homeowners – not a one - had been wrongfully foreclosed. Best argument yet for doing away with the Fed.

Let Them Eat iPads: William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed, says that things are getting better and better. If you can't afford food, he said, buy an iPad. The increase in commodity prices is temporary he said. As soon as enough folks stop buying food, prices will come down.

Turn About:They laughed when Meredith Whitney sat down to play the municipal bond market, said she had a tin ear. Now that municipal bond king Jeff Gundlach has likened municipal bonds to subprime mortgage bonds does she sound any better?

Don't You Sass Me! Saudi Arabia reminded its restless citizens the “any finger lifted in the face of the Kingdom will be cut off.” Cuts down on dissent.

The Other Foot: Wall Streets TBTF say that the government has to pay for their losses even though it might smack of “moral hazard” because they are, after all, too big to fail. Homeowners are different, they say. Forcing the banks to write down billions in unrealistic loan balances would not be right. “It’s not that we don’t want to help troubled borrowers,” but “it’s a moral hazard issue."

Inconvenient Factoid: , the average member of the country’s largest public-sector union “earns less than $45,000 a year and receives an annual pension of roughly $19,000.”

Report Card: US Education Secretary Duncan says that 82% of public schools are expected to 'fail' the No Child Left Behind standards this year. While schools may need improvement, NCLB needs major repair. "We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk."

Malice In Wonderland: Republicans claim that Obama's efforts at preventing climate change have caused the price of gasoline to rise. They say that increasing domestic production would solve the problem and the government must give gas and oil companies more than the paltry $41 billion a year in tax breaks they now get. Let's face it, $100 a barrel simply isn't motivation enough.

Strip Poker: House Republicans have voted to strip the EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gasses, appointing a committee of experts from the fossil fuel industries to police themselves.

Jiggle The Handle: Rand Paul (R-Ky) says he doesn't like saving water, doesn't want to save energy and really doesn't like those curly light bulbs. The senator doesn't understand the difference between leading and holding up the line.

See No Evil: Scott Garrett (R-NJ) says it is not enough to impede the Commodity Futures Trading Commission by cutting its budget by 30%, he thinks more stringent rules should be delayed until the financial markets figure out how they are going to get around them.

My Hero: PIMCO's Bill Gross thinks he and other wealthy Americans are not being taxed enough and should pay higher taxes. “I think high-income earners would work well into the 50% tax rate up from the mostly not effective 36% top rate,” he said. He also thinks it would be a good idea to make corporations actually pay taxes.

Feelings: Only 1 American in 7 can sincerely recite the party line that an economic revival is underway. They keep believing their own eyes instead of CNBC and the government.

Sticks and Stones: Former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Sir Fred Goodwin – who drove the bank into the ground when he was in charge - went to court and got an injunction barring the media from calling him “a banker.” Then he went to another, supersecret court and got an injunction forbidding the media from reporting on the previous injunction. He'd pretty well proven he really wasn't a banker. You can call him 'sir'. He likes that.

Porn O'Graph: Warmed by Ancient Sunlight.

Friday, March 11, 2011

SAR #11070

It's time to plant some seeds.

Cat/Bag: Wisconsin's Senate Majority Leader has acknowledged that the primary motivation for the GOP's union busting legislative drive is to deprive the Democrats of union support and money in 2012. Wonder how that's going to work out.

Controlling Healthcare Costs: As part of its effort to improve US healthcare, the government has given KV Pharmaceutical the exclusive rights to sell a drug that prevents preterm labor. The price of the drug immediately went from $10 for the weekly shot, to $1,500. No research, no real marketing required. Just profits.

Remain Calm: The Saudi government has told its subjects that dialogue, not street protests, is the way to bring about reform. It also said that it would take strong action against activists in the streets and that people should remain calm. That from the guy holding the gun.

Bill Me: PIMCO has completely abandoned US government bonds in favor of cash. About time.

Vocabulary Quiz: Define “legitimate government” so as to include the leadership of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

Old News: Surveys continue to show that – by huge margins – the American voter opposes cuts to Medicare, education, environmental protection, medical research and community-renewal programs. Another way to put it: Americans massively oppose what the Republicans claim their public wants them to do. The few, the proud, the moneyed.

The General Regrets... NATO has 'mistakenly' killed President Karzai's cousin Yar Muhammad Khan in his home near Kandahar, during a night-time raid. Let's see, one cousin = 9 young boys, right?

Light Bright Colors: A Florida GOP state senator wants to make it a first-degree felony to photograph, video record or even grab a shot with your cell-phone of “a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner.” Anybody remember Dorthea Lange?

Is There An Echo In Here? The rate at which the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting is "accelerating rapidly" and has become “the dominant contributor to global sea level rise, much sooner than model forecasts have predicted." “Sooner than predicted” - where have we heard that before?

Restating the Problem: The problem is not that we are running out of oil. The problem is we use too much and there are too many of us

Uncle Newt Wants You! Newt Gingrich, who has never married a wife he didn't cheat on, does it because he loves his country too much. That's his explanation for divorcing his first wife while she was in the hospital with cancer and telling number two that her contract was being canceled the same day she was diagnosed with MS. The current Ms. Gingrich – who dresses in flag inspired clothing and goes around saluting – takes exceptionally good care of her health.

Energy Saving Device: As many as 30 million people are held in slavery, and the price of an individual slave has fallen to $90 - a historic low. But even with the current $100 a barrel price, oil is still a cheaper energy source. Marginally.

Been There, Done That: The neocons – better known as the Iraq Cakewalk Crew - are trying to talk us into war – again. This time with Libya, where a no-fly zone over would be the gateway drug that leads to all-out American military invasion and occupation. We shouldn't go to war on the basis that it feels good.

The Gay '90s: While many would like to pretend that the housing decline has bottomed and boom times are just ahead, a glance at history suggests that a further 15 -20% decline is needed before prices return to the long term mean. The same data will show that in the long term houses increase in value at just about the rate of wage inflation. Wages in the US have not increased in real terms in more than 30 years.

The Greatest Generation: One in four children in the US lives in poverty. Tell me about No Child Left Behind again.