Thursday, June 30, 2011

SAR #11181

If you view this as a financial crisis, you are missing the point.

New & Unimproved: The Greek vote changes nothing. Greece simply cannot pay its debts and 155 politicians being coerced into voting 'Yea' will not change that. It owes 160% of the country's GDP (and that's before the depression that the austerity program will bring on). Even if the Greek economy were to rebound, paying the debt down (not counting the interest payments) would take 5% of GDP for 30 years – and even then, in 2040, they would still owe 60% of GDP. The bailout will cost the average Greek family about 8% of its current income -  and a lot of workers’ current income is about to plummet. This is not about saving Greece. It is about saving European banks. It is about transferring the taxes of French and German workers to French and German banks via Athens – where the unintended consequences are just getting under way.

If At First You Don't Succeed: The Egyptian military, confronted with 5,000 protesters who wanted democracy, not a different dictatorship, tried to clear Tahrir Square, leaving nearly 600 wounded. Various lessons could be drawn from this.

No Shirt, No Shoes... The doctors' lobby has stopped the government from finding out how the doctors were treating (or not) the patients whose care is paid for by the government.

Bad, Then Worse: First Obama morphed into George W. and adopted Afghanistan and Guantanamo as his own. Now he is becoming Dick Cheney, seeking to jail a reporter indefinitely to force him to identify his sources – as punishment for letting the people know what the government was doing in their name, which has become anathema to the Executive Branch no mater which party is in power.

Grist: The Ohio House of Representatives has passed a ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable – about the sixth or seventh week. Roe vs. Wade gave women the right to an abortion up to the point the fetus is viable outside the womb – about 22 weeks. This discrepancy will allow the Supreme Court to revisit, revise, or reverse Row vs. Wade. Or confirm it.

Not So Deep In The Heart Of Texas: A poll by the Democrat-affiliated Public Policy Polling gave Obama a 2 point lead over Gov. Rick Perry. In fact, 59% of Texas did not want Perry to run for President and 55% didn't think he'd done a very good job as governor. There's bound to be a Republican poll that shows just the opposite.

Negating Negotiations: It is not a negotiation when one side won't negotiate. Take it of leave it is not a negotiating strategy. The Democrats have agreed to large spending cuts, but want some tax loopholes closed and some gross discrepancies in taxation rectified. So the Republicans walked out. That's dictation, not negotiation. But neither side actually acknowledges – if they even know – what is really under discussion. What is really being talked about is the end of plenty and whose constituents are going to suffer and whose will prosper as economic growth ends. It is the opening chapter of the struggle to reform our economic and social fabric in an era of increasing scarcity.

Strategy: The release of light crude oil from strategic reserves is a puzzling event. Yes, economies are starting to stagnate and turn down, but the reason given was to make up for the loss of Libyan oil from the market. But that happened back in February. Did it take this long for them to notice? Was it to drive down the price of oil? Well, it didn't, and buying back the oil to refill the reserves will only add to the demand in an already tight market – driving up the price. Was it a political message sent to the Saudi Arabia to encourage them to increase production? What if they can't? Will there be more releases from the reserves? Why? Why not? Very strange.

Record Keeping: NOAA scientists reported, as “unmistakable” signs of global climate change, that Greenland's ice sheet melted more last year than in the previous 50 years, that Arctic sea ice shrank to its third smallest extent, that the world's alpine glaciers shrank for the 20th consecutive year, that 2010 was either tied for the hottest year on record or was the second hottest, that from “ the top of the atmosphere to the bottom of the oceans” there were multiple unmistakable signs of global warming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

SAR #11180

What will happen to all the empty houses?

The Emphasis Game: The Case-Shiller house price index is out. Depending on which part of the data you wanted to emphasize – the 10-city index, the 20-city index, adjusted, unadjusted – house prices are either up a little bit, flat, down a little bit, or down a lot. Best guess is things were pretty flat – 0.1% of 170,000 is pretty much statistical noise.

The Golden Age: After 30 years of decreasing federal regulation, decreasing taxes, decreasing unionism the US should be entering an age of plenty for all – according to Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and the GOP. How are things in your neck of the woods?

It's A Gas!Insiders are suggesting that the extracting natural gas from shale isn't all it's fracked up to be, that shale gas is “inherently unprofitable” in today's market and that boosters may be... overstating? the productivity, profitability and the size of their reserves.

Bad to Worse: Scientific research confirms that humankind has raised the Earth's temperature a little less than 1ºC so far, and that - absent a dramatic change in our carbon emissions – another 3ºC rise is inevitable by 2100. If 1ºC is enough to melt the Arctic, and it is, 4ºC will be a disaster, one from which technology will not save us.

Not Necessarily News: Republicans are willing to accept cuts in defense spending rather than agree to even one cent in increased taxation.

Halfway House: Both parties have drawn lines in the sand on deficit reduction, with Democrats demanding tax increases and the Republicans refusing to talk about them. Obama offered to raise $600 billion through tax hikes and the elimination of various subsidies – which goes half-way to reducing the budget deficit by $1.2 trillion, just like the GOP wants. They just said no. Nancy would have been proud.

Today's Puzzler: If Brazil has to preserve its Amazonian rainforest, why does the US get to burn up Canada's tar sands?

Sneak Attack: West Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf is being eroded from below by warm currents from the deep ocean. The glacier is dashing into the sea at 2.5 miles a year and dumping 80 cubic kilometers of ice into the ocean – 50% faster than 25 years ago.

One More: Along with fires in Arizona and floods in Minot and riots in Athens, don't forget that 10 million people in the Horn of Africa are suffering under the worst drought in 60 years. Add them to the list.

Perspective: Medicaid serves 68 million Americans, including the disabled, the elderly, certain women and children, and the poor. House Republicans, not being personally acquainted with a lot of poor people, want to cut the program- a lot. Just 5% the first year, but 15% in 2014 and by 35% by 2021.

Pot/Kettle: Michelle Bachmann says the Democrats are using 'scare tactics' and assures us that "the interest on the debt could easily be paid.” Maybe someone should ask her about the principle principal.

And what will happen to all the people from all the empty houses?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SAR #11179

Magic flourishes in every season.

Keeping Score: The Greek bailout is not a gift, it is a loan. A loan bearing a high interest rate - €21 billion over 4 years on €110 billion. And it is not really a bailout of Greece. Taxes paid by French and German workers are being loaned to Greece so Greece can pass the funds (plus the interest) back to the French and German banks. It is the European version of Washington bailing out Wall Street with Main Street's money. The same game is being played in Ireland and Portugal and soon in Spain. And it's still going on in the US. Everybody knows that Greece, with debt at $44,000 per capita, cannot pay its debts. Nor can America, where it's $45,000. Everybody knows.

Taking It Personally: Personal income was up 0.3% in May, spending was flat while savings edged up 0.1%. Core PCE (price inflation) was up 1.2% y/y. Not quite a wage-price spiral.

Whose Ox? The politicians in Washington are hung up over the question of aggregate demand. The Republicans claim that tax increases would depress spending in the economy. The Democrats point to reduced government spending as reducing spending. Both are right; it is just a question of who suffers - the poor from spending cuts or the rich from tax increases. Flip a coin. Draw straws.

Give & Take: Over the weekend hundreds of thousands of Yemeni demonstrators demanded the immediate resignation of President Saleh. The President did not immediately resign.

Nothing Happening Here... Until the EU finds a way to get meaningful private-sector “contribution” to the bailout (as demanded by Germany) without it resulting in a “default rating” for Greece (as demanded by the ECB) both the riots in Greece and the debate in the Greek parliament are irrelevant.

Money Talks... Some More: The  Supreme Court has ruled that now that corporations can spend as much as they wish buying public offices, there is no need for the pretense of fairness that public funding brings to the bazaar.

Correction:TSA maintains that its personnel did not tell an elderly lady to remove her adult diaper, and they certainly did not touch the poopy thing. They told the woman's daughter to remove it, which she did. There, glad we cleared that one up for you. Be prepared, carry a spare.

Delusions of Security: Reconstructions of four instances of abrupt climate change during the last 5 million years imply that the climate models used by the IPCC systematically underestimate the potential for sudden climate change.

Barefoot and Pregnant: Republican Wisconsin has removed all state and federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, leaving the 73,000 patients they see each year without access to the medical services it provided – 96% of which were cancer screenings, STD or STI testing, counseling, education or pregnancy testing and prevention. Wisconsin thus joins NC, TN and IN. Texas will follow suit soon.

In a New York Minute:God has told Pat Robertson that America will be destroyed because of the same-sex marriage laws. All in a good cause.

Clip and Save: A survey of 26 stock analysts from places like Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, etc, unanimously see the stock market higher at the end of the year, with the S&P 500 increasing from today's 1268 to at least 1350. Unanimously.

Equality: One of the bedrock American myths is that of equal opportunity, that all of us have an equal chance to make something of ourselves and that those who rise to the top have simply worked harder or smarter. Not true. No small part of a child's future success stems from being born healthy and raised in a healthy environment. If you happen to be an underweight black baby born into a polluted slum, the odds are pretty strongly against your becoming CEO of a major corporation – just the odds against you surviving childhood are fairly daunting. Equality – don't leave home without it.

Reparations: The $20 billion a year spent on air conditioning tents in Afghanistan is more than the entire NASA budget.

Shocking! Mortgage lenders denied 26.8% of loan applications in 2010, which seems astounding until you note that the rejection rate was 23.5% in 2009. Maybe people are not buying houses because they can't afford to buy a house. Mercy!

Just Because: The Bank for International Settlements has joined the OECD and the GOP in their determination to make someone suffer for something making up reasons to justify imposing austerity on workers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

SAR #11178

Judge them by their victims.

That Was Then, This Is Now: New York Fed refuses to tell a federal Inspector General, investigating the loss of pallet loads of cash in Iraq, how many billions it shipped to Iraq during the early days of the US invasion, because, they say, it wasn't their money. It belonged to the people of Iraq and to talk about their funds would be unethical. Apparently secretly shipping their money – unsecured - to Baghdad was not unethical. Iraqi politicians, many of whom are suspected of stealing great chunks of the greenbacks, say yes it was the Iraqi people's money and the US lost it , so the US has to replace it. So they can steal it again.

Preconditions: Egypt's military is reportedly anxious to hand over governmental control to an elected government as soon as they can hand pick the candidates and rig the election.

To Be Continued: Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Syria again last Friday – as they have for over 100 days – despite the violent repression by government troops. About 1,400 have been killed to date. In the northern provinces over 12,000 have fled across the border to Turkey and are now living in tent cities provided by the less than happy Turkish government. Neither Assad nor the Syrian people seem inclined to stop the violence.

Way-Back Machine: Before they'll even talk about the debt ceiling, Republicans want deep cuts in spending and enforceable spending caps aimed at a Constitutionally mandated balanced federal budget. While this may sound good in some abstract way, none of it is remotely possible in the real world. But we're too young to remember 1937, right?

Ask Not.... While TEPCO declines to build a containment wall around the nuclear cores that have melted into the earth and are threatening the groundwater because the expense would harm the value of their stock, pensioners led by a 72-year-old former anti-nuclear activist will help clean up the site.

"After That, We Will Take Europe." Spain's "indignant" activists, having graduated from the streets to the squares and now to the roads across the country say that even the 400 mile marches are just the beginning. They make no secret that their goal is not to reform the government in Spain, but to change the economic landscape throughout Europe.

Representation Without Taxation: While professing deep concern for our nation's future if the deficit is not brought under control, they will not – not even for the sake of our children's future – even consider increasing any taxes on any one no mater how rich, claiming that the government takes too much already - even though federal tax receipts as a percentage of GDP are near historic lows.

Protect and Search: The ever vigilant TSA wheeled a 95 year old woman to a private area and ordered her to remove her adult diaper as part of a 45-minute security search. Asked about the incident, a TSA spokesperson said that TSA always acts “in a respectful and sensitive manner” when strip searching the elderly.

Interpretations: Michelle Bachman's financial records show that her husband's counseling clinic got nearly $30,000 from the state of Minnesota over the last five years while a family farm (of which she is listed as a partner) in Wisconsin has received $260,000 in federal subsidies. Bachman, who is rabidly against government handouts, says “My husband and I did not get the money.” It depends on the definition of 'money'. In response to questions about these transaction she explained she had been a Christian since she was 16 and suggested the reporters investigate the administration's use of limousines.

Exercise, Eat Sensibly and Pick the Right Parents: Studies suggest that lowering your body fat may not lower the risk for heart disease and diabetes if your genes have predisposed you to these risks.

...Walls Came Tumbling Down: An protective berm, 8 feet tall and 16 feet wide at its base, that was protecting the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant has given way but, according to the Omaha Public Power District, the plant is not in any danger.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SAR #11176

Are we winning yet? Anywhere? On anything?

"When in the Course of Human Events..." We are about to witness the collapse of the European Union. The collapse is avoidable – it would be far cheaper for Germany and France to pick up the tab, convene a grand constitutional assembly and start over, but emotion has overtaken reason. The needed steps are as clear – a single tax system, a unified banking system, and a directly elected federal system of law and government - as they are unlikely. The problem is, and always was, the failure to back the idea of a single currency with an economic and political union. The collapse is signaled not so much by the problems of Greece, Portugal and Spain as in the collapse of the Schengen treaty. Protectionism, nationalism and fear of the neighbors foreshadows a return to times of economic strife, political posturing and war between the insecure. There first victims will be the poor, the unemployed and the 'foreigners'. Inevitably poverty, suffering and political unrest will follow. It is not the euro that is doomed, it is the idea of the euro. Maastricht is a vague memory. What is needed is a new Treaty of Westphalia. But there will not be one. The nationalist right and the global bond markets have won. There will be no rapture – just an end of days.

Shortform: Total US payrolls today are 131 million, less than in 2000 - even though the population has grown by nearly 30 million.

Break In Case of Emergency: At his confirmation hearing to become CIA director, General David Petraeus said that torture should not be used unless a detainee is thought to be withholding information that is immediately needed to save lives. Innocent survivors of the questioning would receive lifetime room and board in a deniable overseas prison.

Definition: Privatization is neo-liberal globalization's version of colonialism – extracting the wealth of the conquered nation for the benefit of the investors.

If... Then: If the industrialized governments will release oil from their stockpiles to drive down the price of oil, why not do the same with corn and wheat? Oh, their citizens grow the corn and wheat... And cheaper oil may put a few more voters back to work before the presidential elections. Is this another case of the free market working in favor of the self-designated free,  a reaction to the reality of peak oil?

Ten Years And Counting: Politicians are arguing about how long the US must stay in Afghanistan. I wish one of them would explain why we're there, using facts - not hand-waving emotional arguments.

Reformatory:A third of New Jersey's Democratic lawmakers have joined the GOP in requiring public employees to pay 40% more for smaller pensions after more years of work, while taking cost of living increases away from all state employees – even the retired. Now, having impoverished a generation of public workers, Governor Christie plans to decimate the state's educational system so as to impoverish the next generation, too.

Bailing Out: Do the EU plans for imposing their austerity program on Greece include extra funds for riot police and fire departments?

Wanting/Getting:Georgia officials who wanted to rid the state of illegal workers are dismayed to discover the state now has a shortage of illegal workers that has – as predicted - forced farmers to leave millions of dollars’ worth of crops rotting in the fields. The Governor suggested they use chain gangs hire ex-cons.

For Better or For Worse:  People with mortgages are staying married because neither one can afford the house payment if they divorce, the house isn't salable, and they have no other savings...

Friday, June 24, 2011

SAR #11175

Politicians have an admirable ability to believe their own lies.

Clue: “We don’t have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting.” So says Clueless Ben Bernanke – the man who supposedly has the compass – as the Fed admits it has done all it is prepared to do to stimulate growth for now. “The first step to fixing the Fed is for them to get a firmer grasp on understanding their own lack of understanding.”

The Big Miss: Unemployment claims climbed 15,000 to 429,000 this week and the moving average moved to 426,250.

Principia Mathematica: All sorts of excitement arose out of the IEA/US plans to release 60 million barrels of oil from their reserves. That is about 80% of the amount of oil the world uses in one day. Officials said it was supposed to have “a calming effect” on the oil markets. Others say this as a political move aimed at the Saudis. Supposedly this was enough to scare the speculators and drop the price of oil 4$ to $90. The US said it would release more from its 727 million barrel reserve “if necessary”. If this is ‘necessary’ than we are far over the peak of oil production and gathering speed down the hill.

What's Commercial About It? Commercial real estate prices dropped 3.7% in March, m/m, and were down 13% y/y and down 49% from the peak in 2007.

Nothin' Up My Sleeve... Bailing out Greece is easy, compared to the gyrations French and German officials are going through to let Greece default on its sovereign debt without calling it a default – because no one wants to go to bed waiting for the CDS market to discombobulate.

Protect & Serve: You can (and will, in Rochester, NY) be arrested for standing in your front yard and videotaping police making a 'routine' traffic stop. If the cops order you to leave your yard and go in the house, they don't have to ask nicely.

Woods, Out Of: We always knew that the big debts run up by major governments to keep the banks system operating would one day come due. The fine print says they will come due whether we are ready or not, and we're not.

All The News That Fits: About 97% of scientists agree that man-made global warming is both real and really dangerous, yet the American public is less likely to believe in global warming than it was just five years ago. Why? Because the fair and balanced main stream media keeps giving equal time to the lunatic fringe, under the ridiculous pretext of “airing both sides.” There is not a “both sides”, there is global warming and there are shills for the fossil fuel industry, and politicians who believe whatever their contributors tell them to believe.

Penny Saver Special: Bernanke says there'll be a pickup in the second half of the year. Right, a 1973 F150 with new seat covers and a tub of Bondo?

You Don't Got No Privacy: The Supreme Corporate Oversight Committee ruled that  your prescription records can be sold to anyone who can come up with the cash. It would be a restraint on the marketing of nostrums if Big Phama couldn't target you specifically in their marketing.

In This Corner: The headline said “New Home Sales Come In Better Than Expected.” This was technically true. It is also true that “New Home Sales Fell 2.1% Last Month”, which would be technically truer.

Generation: Obama tells us the war in Afghanistan will last at least 3 more years. The war in Iraq is already scheduled to last indefinitely. Does it bother anyone that in both Iraq and Afghanistan there are teenagers are likely to turn 20 without remembering a single day when their countries were not occupied by the US military and their mercenaries?

Porn O'Graph: Ten,? Do I hear ten?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

SAR #11174

We are addicted to simple solutions.

Teaching Point: The euro-zone bailout of Greece is a misnomer – it is a bailout of European banks. Opposition to Papandreou's plan to accept Germany's terms for surrender is growing and is unlikely to survive next weeks vote. But the EU has tied further support to the Greeks adopting “contentious” austerity measures. But the populace understands that it is unfair for the poor to suffer so European bankers can get paid, and if the austerity measures do pass “society will explode”. It does not matter; eventually Greece will default and the euro-zone collapse, but not until a few of the chosen get their new Greek Island playtoys.

Water Is Wet: A majority of real estate experts (that's generally someone who wants to sell you a house) believe that house prices will bottom in 2009, 2010, 2011.

Aqua Naturale: Italian voters have been negative of late. They voted not to re-establish a nuclear power program. They voted not to grant Berlusconi immunity from prosecution. And they most emphatically (96% against) voted not to let the government privatize their water supply systems.

Don't Just Do something, Sit There! The latest CBO analysis of the government debt problem shows that if Congress would only sit on their hands and Do Nothing about the problem, the problem would go away. But politicians want to Do Things, so they will do the wrong things (extend the Bush tax cuts ad infinitum, pay doctors more for Medicare patients), and make things generally worse.

Inconvenient Datum: Medicare spending has risen less than premiums on private health insurance.

Austerity is as Austerity Does: The British government wants to increase the retirement age from 60 to 66, to recalculate how they calculate pensions and to increase contributions by 3.2%. Work longer, pay more, get less. Ah, did you see where their labor unions are planning the biggest wave of strikes since before the Great Depression? Similar strikes have occurred (and continue) in every European country that has tried to impose severe austerity programs – like those planned for the US.

Horses... Mouth? According to the Fed, there has been “no change in the economy” and things are getting better at a glacial “moderate” rate. Very moderate.

Step This Way: Unless you've been unlucky enough to have been assaulted by them, you are probably unaware that TSA fondlers screeners slip away from airports from time to time and descend on train stations, bus stations, ferries, subways and even the San Diego trolley system, seeking ways to upset ever more Americans while wasting taxpayer money. The invasions of privacy will continue. Wear clean underwear.

Repeated: A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms that the current raise in seal levels along the US Atlantic cost exceeds any rise in the last 2,000 years and shows a consistent link to global warming.

Rear View Mirror: How'd we get here? Greatly it is a moral, not an economic problem. Our current levels of inequality are a moral problem, not an economic one. We've lost our way and the social norms that made us US have been trampled by individual greed and mass delusion.

Degrees of Difference? Republicans claim that their moral crusade to cut the size of government reduce the deficit will (somehow, magically) create jobs. How is it that a company building a new office creates jobs while the government hiring people to repair our infrastructure doesn't? Why does it create jobs when a company buys new computers, but destroys job growth when the government buys new computers? How many fewer angels can dance on the head of a pin if government stimulus money buys it?

Porn O'Graph: A little in the red.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SAR #11173

We have chosen self-destruction... deliberately.

Street View: The protesters in Athens' Syntagma Square are the disenfranchised – those on the receiving end of forced austerity that has no goal except to transfer even more wealth out of Greece. Some fear the growing separation between the government and the population over austerity could prove 'explosive'. The rest of us know it will.

Rinsed & Repeated: Sales of existing U.S. homes decreased in May to the lowest level in six months, Purchases of existing homes fell 3.8 percent to a 4.81 million annual pace last month it may take years to absorb the 1.8 million distressed properties on the market that are weighing down home values. Shop around for a spin you like: it is a sign for the worse, a sign for the better, a time to sow, a time to reap...

Upset: Green Bay teachers are 'upset' that they will be required to work an additional 2.5 hours a week and do their planning work “off the clock” while their pay has been frozen and they must pay more towards their retirement and health benefits. Why would they need a union when they employer treats them so well?

Once Around: The IEA warns that replacing nuclear power with fossil fuels will result in both higher energy costs and higher CO2 emissions. Japan, which is rapidly souring on nuclear power, has declined to renew its carbon reduction pledges from the expiring Kyoto Protocol as it begins to switch to more fossil fuel power production. Scientists report that the Arctic is melting much faster than the IPCC's forecasts, and that sea level rise is occurring far faster than previously estimated. Britain’s Royal Society fears that a 4ºC temperature rise this century has already been assured and that further CO2 emissions will only increase the warming of the atmosphere and acidification of the oceans.

Top of His Class: Jon Huntsman invited the press to his ceremony announcing his entry into the Republican presidential sweepstakes. The press passes his campaign sent out spelled his name wrong.

Getting & Getting More: In 1975 America, the richest 0.1% collected 2.5% of the nation's income. Now they get 10.4%. And the very cream – the 15,000 who make up the top 0.001% increased their take from 0.85% to over 5% of the total income. And because most of that $27,000,000 each is from capital gains, they pay very, very low taxes – which gives them far, far more than 5% of the take-home pay.

Huh? The US Supreme Court says that although South Carolina violated a man's right to counsel by not providing him with a lawyer, the state did not have to provide him with a lawyer. Right. Read that again, slowly.

Kiss & Tell: NATO said one of its unmanned drone helicopters disappeared over Libya on Tuesday. Unmanned drone helicopters?

Ancient History: Mankind, with its pollution of the waters and of the air has driven the world's oceans to the brink of a mass extinction of marine life unseen for 55 million years. The simple truth is we cannot change our ways in time to stop it – the oceans are already dying faster than the dire forecasts of a few years ago. Unlike the melting of the Greenland Ice Cap, which will take hundreds of years, the death of the oceans will be rapid enough to impact those alive today. Think of it as a real time disaster movie.

Hail Mary: Ireland was a warm-up, Greece is an appetizer. Portugal will be a brief introduction and Spain the first act – but the main event in the Euro drama will take place in Italy in a year or so. Either the EU/ECB/IMF comes up with a winning play, or when the conflagration reaches Italy the game will be over.

Consider This: Massachusetts is the most unionized state for teachers, South Carolina the most anti-union. Massachusetts has the highest student test scores, South Carolina the lowest.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SAR #11172

Is it slavery if we volunteer?

Change You Can Bet On: Syria's Assad has promised “change”, but only after the protesters stop demanding it. Until then he will continue to use the Syrian Army to educate the people.

Gnats: The US military is working feverishly to develop surveillance drones the size of cockroaches, which seems appropriate. Bees and beetles and other insects are being imitated in a drive to develop monitoring devices that can literally litter the environment and report back to Big Brother. If you think these devices are destined for use in the mountains of Afghanistan, raise your hand.

Better Never Than Late: The IMF suddenly realizes that Greece could upset the whole global financial applecart and says the EU has to “act quickly to stabilize the situation.” Easier said than done.

Remedial Reading: If you thought replacing Bush-Cheney with Obama had reduced the assault on individual rights, read this and weep.

First Lines: The US Corporation Supreme Court has ruled that victimized women are each discriminated against in their own way and have no collective bargaining class action rights. Specifically it said that each of the 1.6 million women Wal Mart has discriminated against must find a lawyer brave enough to take on the Behemoth of Bentonville. Sort of a preview of how they're going to rule on the union - collective bargaining issue.

Kissing Booth: It does not matter how many times the pig gets kissed, it is still a pig. Greece cannot repay its debts. Ever.

Watch And Learn: If you learned how to do CPR back when it was called CPR, it is time you updated your lifesaving merit badge. Now.

Fine Print: The Catholic Diocese of Belleville, IL claims that a jury verdict awarding $5 million to a boy who had been sexually abused by a priest is an attack on religious freedom. The Church is confusing freedom of religion with the priests long-standing freedom to sexually abuse children, which Constitutional experts and most theologians do not view as the same thing.

Inquiring Minds: How did Obama turn out to be the greatest Republican President ever?

Scapegoating: Sen. McCain claims that illegal immigrants – starting signal fires like Indians in a John Wayne movie – are responsible for the Arizona wildfires. They are also responsible for the obesity epidemic, this spring's tornadoes and the Missouri River flooding. At least it lets the gays off the hook for a bit.

Correction: Reports say that Texas Gov. Perry is being “coy” about a possible presidential run. I've seen pictures, the governor is a couple of decades past being able to pull off “coy”.

Just The Numbers: Banks hold about $3 trillion in mortgage loans. Twenty percent of these loans are 30+ days delinquent. Most of these will end up in foreclosure. The banks typically recover about 40% on a foreclosure. If they lose 60% of the 20% of the $3 trillion, they'll end up losing $350 billion – and that's big money at my house.

Reversing the Rules: The National Credit Union Administration (there really is such a thing) has sued JPMorgan and RBS for lying to their clients. Who knew it was illegal, the financial folks have been doing it since forever. Haven't the NCUA people ever received a call from their broker?

Porn O'Graph:Recovery is as recovery does. Or doesn't.

Monday, June 20, 2011

SAR #11171

Greed will find a way; greed always finds a way.

Unanimity, More or Less: Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and US Defense Secretary Gates agree that there are ongoing peace talks with the Taliban. Gates, however, said that the plan is not to have any “significant results” from the talks until December, and that US troop drawdowns will depend on the political situation in the US and have little to do with the progress of the ten year old war.

Best Question: What if the Greeks don't want to be rescued? The Greeks are growing fed up with austerity and are “very unwilling” to suffer even more for foreign bondholders. Maybe they'll figure out they owe the banks so much that it is the banks' problem, not theirs. EU politicians are worried about how their voters will respond to any more bailouts for the Greeks, and how their voters will respond to the far nastier results of not saving the Greeks.

The Full Monty: “A new regulation prohibiting US residents from trading over the counter precious metals, including gold and silver, will go into effect on Friday, July 15, 2011.” It may be a free market, it sure ain't a free country.

Fukushima Mon Amour: A flare-up of radiation halted an attempt to clean up some of the radioactive water at the destroyed nuclear power station within hours of the start. Engineers have not figured out how to handle the 100,000 tons (and growing daily) of radioactive water left from cooling the reactors. Concentrations of radioactivity are being found far from the evacuation zone, more radiation has been released than previously admitted, and – worst of all – there is no known way to scoop up and contain (for a few tens of thousand years) the cores that have melted down.

RSVP: The second test of the 14-foot unmanned X-51 Wave Rider drone ended in a crash off the California Coast after it was launched from a B-52 bomber. The aircraft is designed “to give the Pentagon a new way to deliver a military strike anywhere around the globe within minutes.” Which implies a sky full of pregnant B-52's with baby Wave Riders ready to descend on wedding parties anywhere, anytime.

Pay Me Now, Pay Me Later: On the theory that preventive medicine is cheaper than paying for the results, TEPCO is asking Japanese life insurance companies to provide money to help bring their crippled nuclear power plants under control and thus lower the danger of reducing the life expectancy of their policyholders.

Fun With Numbers: The Labor Department reports that while food prices have risen 4% since December and energy costs are up 19%, real disposable income has remained unchanged. Things cost more & you haven't had a raise; this is news?

Simpleton Math: New York has 213,000 houses “in severe default or foreclosure.” Over the last six months there have been an average of 286 foreclosures completed. At that rate it will take just over 62 years just to clear up the backlog. Facts may be facts, but methinks there's something wrong with this data – or the situation.

Self-Interest? AARP, the insurance company that primarily targets old folks, has taken up the call for reducing Social Security benefits. The AARP board had made the decision earlier, but are announcing it now under cover of “fiscal responsibility.” This is a business decision, aimed at future profits from an expanded market for their retirement products.

Yellow Brick Green Back Road: We erred in reporting earlier that $6 billion of the $20 billion in cash the Bush administration piled on pallets and shipped off to Baghdad with no accountability had been stolen disappeared. Reports now suggest that at least $18 of the $20 billion went AWOL. Repeated audits have been unable to find any trace of the money. It is, however, dwarfed by the $1 trillion the US has pissed away so far on the Bush/Obama Most Excellent Adventure.

Wrong On So Many Levels: A Jerusalem rabbinical court has condemned a dog to be stoned to death because it is the reincarnation of a lawyer who insulted the court 20 years ago. The proper term for 'stoning' is 'lapidation'. The proper term for the court is 'bonkers'.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

SAR #11169

What happens when the economy gets even worse?

All In Favor Say 'Aye': Germany and France have agreed not to force “private” holders to take a loss on their Greek bonds as part of a second Greek bailout, but said they can participate on a voluntary basis. Would all the bank presidents and CEOs who would like to be unemployed please raise your hands. And note that this agreement to provide more debt to resolve the problem of too much debt will not make it possible for Greece to repay either the original debt or the new, improved, higher debt. It will let the looting of Greece get underway.

Seeing Double: Prices for the rare earths used in things like plasma televisions, energy-saving light bulbs and lasers have more than doubled in the last two weeks. Even the communists in China know what to do with a monopoly.

The Old See-Saw: Oil dropped precipitously to $93 a barrel in anticipation of economic chaos in Europe following a Greek default. At the same time, economists say that current and developing shortages will drive the price of oil significantly higher this summer. As they say in the oil markets, heads we lose, tails they win.

On Deck: Kuwait's emir warned that "zero tolerance" will be shown to any Kuwaiti who is less than ecstatically happy with the way things are.

The Beating Goes On: The battle has resumed. Wisconsin's supreme court has let stand Gov. Walker's bill stripping bargaining rights from state employees. Republicans in New Hampshire and Missouri are seeking to make their states “open shop” - which allows workers to benefit from union bargaining without paying union dues, starving the unions of essential funds. Republicans in Congress plan to punish the National Labor Relations Board for a pro-union ruling. Remember, “unions bad, poverty good”.

Another Good Idea: Russia plans to build 8 floating nuclear power plants in the Arctic ocean to power the search for oil and gas deposits. What could go wrong?

Read His Lips: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that al-Qaeda's new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri is marked for death. “"As we did both seek to capture and kill - and succeed in killing - Bin Laden, we certainly will do the same thing with Zawahiri." Capture and kill, any questions?

Lies, Polite Lies and Spoon Feeding: In an article warning, very softly, that we have seriously underestimated the amount of sea level rise that will happen this century, the claim is made that “the window of opportunity” for keeping global warming to 2ºC by 2100 “is rapidly closing.” Poppycock. We are on course to easily exceed 4ºC by then. And it seems likely that even 2ºC will be enough to trigger the complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which will – over several centuries – push the oceans of the world 20 feet or more higher.

...the smell of politics in the morning.” The US military wants to keep the number of troops in Afghanistan at the current “surge” levels until September 2012. American troops are scheduled to begin their retreat withdrawal in October, coincidentally just in time for the Presidential elections.

Two Out Of Three: Social Security and Medicare seem to be escaping the knife, while Medicaid is facing significant cuts in the Biden bipartisan budget deal. Medicaid is the target because it is a state-level program that Congressmen can distance themselves from, and the program primarily serves the very young, the very poor and the very disabled – none of whom carry much, if any, weight in electoral calculations.

Tales from the Crypt: The far right would have us believe that New York state workers are retiring at age 55 and drawing over $100,000 a year in benefits. Actually, the average benefit paid by the state's main pension program in 2010 was $18,300. And New York state's pension is 100 percent funded. Damned liberal facts.

Bears/Woods: Will the 700,000 jobs lost to the Republican deficit witch-hunt push the US back into recession? Similar reductions in Britain certainly did, resulting in real household incomes there equaling the lows of 1931. What happens when 6 million workers lose their extended unemployment benefits? Does it matter whether GOP politicians are stupid or simply lying as part of political gamesmanship?

Climate Changed by Degrees: Minnesota State Senator Michael Jungbauer proudly calls himself the "No. 1 global warming denier in Minnesota." He also claims to have a bachelor's degree from the Moody Bible Institute with a "background in biochemistry." Except he doesn't. Jungbauer holds no degree, although he was ordained by Christian Motorsports International, which provides "chapel services" at "races, car shows, cruise-ins, and tractor pulls."

Friday, June 17, 2011

SAR #11168

The GOP does favor redistributing wealth…  upward.

Easy Come, Easy Go: Two years ago the federal government reached out to the states with $90 billion to help with the increased load on Medicaid that the recession had caused (20% of Americans use Medicaid at some point every year). Now, though little has happened to alleviate the problem, the money has run out, increasing the load on the states by 10% - money the states do not have. Thus millions will be tossed from the program and millions more see increases in co-pay and reductions in service. Welcome to debt reduction – and note that it starts with the poor, the disabled, and the children.

Over There: Retail sales in the UK, responding to the government's deficit-cutting austerity measures, fell 1.4% in May (m/m). Somebody didn't read the memo.

Unprecedented Precedents: Researchers report that while none of the various weather extremes the nation suffered in April were – by themselves – unique, the concentration, variety, and severity of the winds, downpours, droughts, tornadoes, hailstorms and flooding had never before occurred in a single month. While “these things were clearly interconnected” it would be premature to credit these events to global warming. Not wrong, simply 'premature'.

More Or Less: Since 2009, the average compensation for workers has increased 1%, while his bosses pay went up 28%. Them that has, gets.

Watch What They Do: Ohio's legislature has passed Gov. John Kasich's budget, which cuts $8 billion from the state's 2011-2013 budget. The budget will cut 50% of the funds local governments were receiving from the state – forcing them to either drasticly cut services or raise taxes. The state's prisons will be sold off, endangering the income of current prison workers. Estimates are that over 50,000 state employees will lose their jobs, including 10,000 teachers. State universities (think Ohio State, one of the nation's largest) will have its funding cut 13%. And so on. But the estate tax (paid only by the top 8% of estates) will be abolished and income taxes on top wage earners will be slashed. Did I mention that the Legislature and the Governor are Republican? Right, that's why rural counties are prohibited from covering abortions in their employees' health care plans and any hospital receiving public funds is prohibited from performing abortions.

Now It Can Be Told! “The quarter when the economy was supposed to stage its comeback is looking just as bad as its disappointing predecessor.” And the GDP forecast – which was originally at 3.5% growth, has been lowered again, to 1.9%.

Backing Sideways: Florida Governor Rick Scott has (very quietly) suspended his order that all state employees undergo drug testing. Not because he has come to his senses, but because the testing is being challenged in court.

Mendacity: Just as the GOP cry that Social Security will be bankrupt in 2034 is false, their claim that Medicare will be “insolvent” by 2024 is false. Not true. A lie. Both will – on those respective dates – cease to have sufficient income and reserves to pay full benefits, but both will be able to continue to fund 90% of promised benefits. With Medicare, only Part A will suffer a shortfall, Parts B and D are “projected to remain adequately financed into the indefinite future.” A 10% shortfall is not scary enough for the Republicans, who still suspect someone, somewhere, may be getting away with something that could be turned into private profits.

Cutting Back: The percentage of US households that consist of a married couple with children has dropped from 44% in 1960 to 20% today. God is said to be disappointed.

Better But Not Good: Initial unemployment claims came at 414,000, 13,000 less than last week's report, making 10 consecutive weeks with claims over 400,000. 115,000 more of the long-term unemployed ran out of extended benefits, bringing the number of the out of work and out of benefits to 1.5 million.

Late Broken News: On June 6th, the FAA banned aircraft from entering the airspace within a two-radius of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. On June 7th a fire knocked out the cooling process for spent nuclear fuel rods at the plant. The Omaha Public Power District claims the FAA closed airspace over the plant because of the Missouri River flooding. That's pretty deep.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SAR #11167

Last time, the Germans didn't use accountants.

Depends on What The Definition of Is Is: President Obama says he doesn't have to politely ask “May I?” for his war in Libya because “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.” Besides, the Pentagon is paying for the un-war with spare change left over from its lunch money, so no appropriation is needed and so the House doesn't get to have an opinion.

Empire Falls: The NY Fed's Empire State Manufacturing Survey showed indicators of business conditions falling 20 points into negative territory, reflecting a serious drop in general business conditions, shipments, new orders and employment.

Dominos: Greece is insolvent and cannot, now or in the foreseeable future, pay its debts. The Greek default will seriously compromise if not outright bankrupt many major European banks. The European countries that still have some credit and credibility will be very hard pressed to prop up their banks. US banks (and hedge funds) will not be immune and the euro is likely to vanish in its current form. And that's just the financial part of this mess. The riots have already started in Greece and are well along in the planning stages in Spain, Portugal and...

Ah, That's The Problem: “...all of the big names surrounding economic policy are no longer economists but lawyers and people associated with Wall Street.”

Coal Miner's Daughter: China has more than doubled its coal consumption in the last decade. The global transition back to coal is fully on course, with a veritable second Age of Coal now on the horizon, which is getting harder to see through the haze.

As High As An Elephant's Eye... Republicans, ever alert to find ways to cut the budget, have quietly maneuvered to prevent reductions in federal farm subsidies. Instead, compensating cuts were made in domestic and international food aid programs. The Senate, not to be outdone, refused to end the completely idiotic $5 billion tax subsidy to the ethanol industry. And these folks are going to reduce the deficit?

Trees/Forest: Deforestation in the Amazon increased from 103 sq km in April/May of 2010 to 593 sq km this year. Most of the rainforest is being cut in order to expand the soybean crop. Let me know when the last tree is cut – we'll hold a memorial.

Early Worm: Early indications based on regional MLS sales suggests that existing house sales were down 5% in May, m/m and down 15% y/y.

Longer Time Plans: Chairman Mullen of the Joint Chiefs says that while a few troops are being withdrawn, the US “is not leaving” Afghanistan. Sorry Admiral, but we will leave. The question is when and under how much pressure.

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's A Politician! Spanish legislators in Catalonia have resorted to police helicopters to reach the regional parliament without facing demonstrators protesting proposed austerity measures.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SAR #11166

America is economically obese, too.

Democracy, Limited Edition:The enthusiastic middle-class youth who brought down Mubarak are not as happy today as they thought they'd be. But then they didn't think the new military government would throw 7,000 of them in jail pending abuse, torture, a trial and more jail. They should have read the fine print.

The Good News: US retail sales fell, but less than expected – so stocks zoomed up.

Busy, Busy: As the US House voted against funding the start-up war in Libya, the Pentagon stepped up its undeclared war in Yemen – but this one is funded through the CIA so the Congress can't do anything about it.

Pandering: In New York, a proposed law would let disgruntled parents fire half the teachers, or the principal or both, or close the school, or privatize it. Okay, but let's require that any parent voting for such an action must have completed high school, attended all of their child's parent teacher conferences and PTA meetings for the last two years, volunteered to assist the school on at least one project in the current year, and voted in favor of a school tax increase.

Smaller Small Business: Hiring by small businesses in May was at an 8-month low.

Forward To The Past: Republican presidential wannabes, when not running in lockstep against Obama, sing in 7, 8 or 12 part harmony about the glories cut-throat capitalism could bring back if only the government would stop helping the poor and elderly, quit protecting the environment, let the Wall Street rapists investors have their way, outlaw unions and the minimum wage, and keep out all illegal aliens who are not agricultural slaves, nannies or roofers. They are undecided about the 40-hour work week and child labor.

Why? A headline proclaims: Secret US/Afghan Talks Could See Troops Stay for Decades.

Cart, Horse: “... the current slowdown in the US and, increasingly, global growth can be turned around if the globe’s automatic stabilizer, the oil price, eases.” From here it looked far more like the rising price of oil acted like an automatic deflator of economic growth. Again.

Egg, Face: The Republicans forgot that at least one major block of unionized voters was on their side. 'Was' being the operative word, at least among the police in Florida.

Killing Bambi: The benignly yclept Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act would authorize the slaughter of sea lions along the Columbia River. It seems they are eating too many salmon. Of course as soon as those sea lions are killed others will show up for lunch and then they'll have to be killed. And so on.

Porn O'Graph: Share and share unlike.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SAR #11165

In politics a false hypothesis is better than no hypothesis. Much better.

Unknown Unknowns: The Bush administration's disdain for planning for the post-war occupation and administration of Iraq led to more than $12 billion in cash being piled on pallets and shipped off to Baghdad. $6.6 billion of the cash simply disappeared. The theft is being blamed on Iraqi officials, but the lack of accountability and records permits other speculation.

Reality Test: The real interest rate on 10-year bonds was a measly 0.79 % last Friday. Tell the children, the Inflation Boogie Men have been delayed!

Shared Struggle: House prices continue to fall and household equity is at an all time low, so the $8.7 trillion uptick in household net worth have come from somewhere else. Well, the stock market has nearly doubled – maybe that's where all that QE money ended up, pushing up the prices on stocks – 81% of which are owned by the top 10% of the food chain. Tells you who Ben's working for, doesn't it.

Prediction or Prescription: “At some point, the citizens of Europe's periphery countries will remember what democracy is for.”

"Dominion over all the earth... " Humankind is rapidly destroying animal life in the oceans. By 2050 there will be few if any wild fish left, and nearly no shrimp, lobsters, clams, and oysters. As with the rest of our self-destructive behaviors, there is no reason to believe we'll change our ways.

Zero Sum Game: Only 58.4% of Americans are employed, the fewest since the 1980s, yet corporations have recouped all of the profits they had lost to the recession and the GDP has returned to its pre-recession levels – with 7.3 million fewer US workers. The “US” label is required, because the corporations are hiring people in Bangladesh and so on, waiting for the US worker to become “competitive.” For the usual prize, define “competitive”.

Hollow Victory: This is not a repeat of the Great Depression, they say. There are no bread lines, they say. Yes, 44 million Americans depend on food stamps, but there are no bread lines.

X-Axis, Y-Axis: Estimates are that China will build humongous numbers of cars and trucks in the future – as many as 100 million between 2015 and 2017. The fear is that they will end up using up all 'our' gasoline. The worry should be that they'll use up everybody's iron, coal, rare earths and everything else it would take to build all those vehicles.

Emperor's Clothing: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

Kicking Dead Horses: Robert Shiller (with Barry Ritholtz cheering madly) once again demonstrates that the Efficient Market Theory was (and still is) a load of hogwash.

Come the Jubilee: The only realistic way for the US to get out of debtors prison is through debt forgiveness. The rich who live off our interest payments are not about to call a time out, so we'll have to do it for them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

SAR #11164

How close are you to having nothing left to lose?

We've Only Just Begun: With Panetta moving to Defense and General Petraeus slipping into his seat at CIA, look forward to having the “robust operational capability of the US Armed Forces applied more often and more openly... “where needed”. Not just Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq.

The Anti-Apocrypha: The Facebook / Twitter / YouTube crowdsourcing being used to draw up a new constitution for Iceland is the general outline of what the youthful protest movements in Spain, Greece, Portugal, France and others are turning to as the preferred format for future governance. They call it Democracy 4.0. It would be careless to ignore their anger, just because it is being peacefully channeled. And it would be a mistake to think it is going to be limited to Madrid, Lisbon, and a few major Iberian cities. Under a variety of names, the movement(s) are dispatching organizers and trainers to smaller cities and towns – and not just in Spain, Greece, and Portugal, but also to France, Italy and even the UK. The first target is the end of June; mark your calendar.

The Boss: Saudi Arabia, in a fit of pique at OPEC for not doing things their way, says it will pump 10 mbd in July. Or maybe 9.5 mbd. Anyway, more than the 8.8 mbd its been putting out lately. This falls in the “clip and save” category.

Barefoot and Pregnant: GOP presidential wannabe Rick Santorum says that abortion should be illegal “even in the case of rape or incest”, and that “doctors who perform abortions should be criminally charged...” with murder?

Spring Is Sprung: The brief delusion that democracy might come to the Middle East is evaporating as the despots fight back with their US armed military forces and their torture cells. The passively quiescent world, led by the United States, is very silent. The outlook is grim. If the protestors remain peaceful, they will be slowly snuffed out. If they become militant, they will be crushed with tanks and helicopter gunships. There is little hope for democracy – there's not enough profit in it.

Fool Court Press: A federal appeals court has ruled that circumstantial evidence and hearsay are sufficient cause to keep you incarcerated indefinitely – to hell with a trial and all that nonsense. For the present, the ruling only applies to foreigners accused of being terrorists. Americans who are accused are simply executed with Predator drones.

Narcosphere: The Army's 7th Special Forces Group has deployed troops to 18 Latin American nations – including Mexico – as part of the (lost) war on drugs.

Laboratory Rats: After Ireland bailed out the private sector banks, the IMF/EU/ECB insisted on severe austerity measures as a precondition for lending Ireland billions at very high interest rates. The austerity was needed in order to stimulate the economy. So far about half of all the businesses in Ireland have fallen on dire times and are struggling to survive. Meanwhile the government will use the last €5 billion in the National Pensions Reserve Fund to try to save a few jobs. They'd already looted most of the pension fund.

The Consumed Economy: Vacancy rates are 9.1% for malls, 10.9% for strip centers – both figures being the largest since 1990. Politic/economists say we've hit a 'soft patch'. A soft patch is what's left after the family cat gets run over.

Repeat After Me: To be a Republican in good standing you must accept – contrary to all the evidence, both home and abroad – that lower deficits will lead to increased job creation and productive growth. Because, the GOP creed insists, lower deficits mean lower government borrowing which means lower interest rates which means companies will borrow more to expand production. How interest rates can go lower than effectively zero is not a permissible question. Why companies want to produce more when the customer has no money is also a forbidden topic.

The Numbers: Statistical data indicates that 2010's petroleum consumption exceeded production by 5 million barrels a day. A neat trick in that the world did not have 2 billion barrels of oil sitting around to draw from. What's the real story?

Almost There: The IEA's most recent carbon emission data show that we continue to exceed the IPCC's Business-As-Usual (A1F1) projections. You know, the one that leads to a 5ºC global warming increase by 2100, followed by even more intense heating as time goes on. The warming will not stop on January 1, 2100, although much of society will have long since ceased.

Lords of the Ring: At least 22, and perhaps as many as 28, of the 'worst of the worst' imprisoned at Guantánamo have been children – or at least started out that way.

Market Farces: The Republicans would have us believe that “market forces” are the answer to our healthcare cost problems. But the “the free market” is financially driven – the object is profits and only incidentally concerned with the actual consumer. Why would advertising-driven profit-seeking medicine be better than a process of expert, peer-reviewed decisions? Why would a system based on ads featuring flying bumblebees be better than a system based on independent reviews of treatment outcomes? Why would a system based on telemarketers, advertising and bribery be better than Medicare?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

SAR #11162

Politics is a form of resource war.

Rent-to-Own: The US has warned NATO that is cheaper and less bother to hire mercenaries than it is to continue funding an organization without a purpose - “the return on America's investment in NATO worth the cost," . That's the message Mr. Gates gave NATO, saying it “faces a dim, if not dismal" future.

My How Dry: The worst drought in over a century has settled in on most of Europe, including Britain which has long been watered by the Jet Stream. France is already toast – to the point that French soldiers have been deployed to help save hungry cattle and farmer's taxes have been forgiven. Note, too, that 44 of France's nuclear reactors draw their cooling waters from rivers – whose levels are dropping. Germany is the driest it has been since record keeping started in 1893. The Danube is now at 100-year lows. Russia, where drought and wildfires decimated the wheat crop last year, is already burning, and burning earlier and worse than last year.

Wisdom:“Any bottle of wine will get you nicely buzzed with your friends over the course of an evening no matter what you choose. So why not choose based on the label?”

On Outlooks: The Republicans' refusal to permit Elizabeth Warren become the head of the Consumer Finance Protection Agency has nothing to do with Ms. Warren and everything to do with the Republicans not wanting consumers' finances protected.

Knee Jerks: The vaunted American health system does not actually cure most things, especially the diseases of the elderly. Death is not the worst of the bad things that regularly happen to the elderly – disability, economic insecurity and social isolation are terrible curses. Instead of more pills and more 'procedures' maybe what we need is a cure for our society's penchant for trundling the elderly off to the care of others, to nursing homes and orderlies and specialists. Maybe we should spend less on end-of-life technology and far more on preventive measures much earlier in life – starting at birth – building active, socially rewarding, healthy lives; rather than prolonging death.

Pointedly: What's better than 'single-payer health care'? Socialized healthcare. You know, taking the profit motive out and putting the emphasis on actual health care.

Differences: We measure our economy by how much we spend – GDP – which seems appropriate in a debt-fueled economy. But what if we judged our well-being by how much we earned? What if our measure of prosperity was the difference between what we earned and what we spent? If prosperity was seen as the savings we accrued to invest in the future?

Export Land Model: The biggest danger to the international petroleum-driven economy is not peak oil production, but peak oil exports. When the producers of oil consume most or all of the oil they pump out of the ground, those who don't own an oil well won't be able to get any – at any price. For Saudi Arabia that date may be 2030.

Object Lesson: Syrian troops and tanks are laying siege to a rebellious town near the Turkish border. The US – acknowledging President Assad's usefulness in torturing the hapless for the US – remains aloof from the slaughter of citizens by their government.

Explicit Language: Reports claim that climate negotiators in Bonn to discuss new greenhouse gas emission standards are focusing on "constructive and creative" solutions so that wealthy countries can keep spewing as much CO2 as they wish. Which means that no agreement is likely.

Tributaries: The political/financial elite simply do not care that 25 million Americans are un- / underemployed, or that it now takes 40 weeks to find a new job. Instead of trying to expand the economy, our guardians are intent on cutting spending – which is the same as cutting even more jobs and making even more unemployed and lengthening even further the search for a job. Deficit spending to put the unemployed to work might hurt the idle rich, so we can't have that. And it is even worse in Europe. And so are the demonstrations in the streets.

Friday, June 10, 2011

SAR #11161

It is hard to prevent the past from happening.

Seating Chart: The EU, ECB and IMF are far more concerned with how good they will look after Greece collapses than they are in preventing that collapse.

Heresy: "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that. It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors." Mitt Romney. For a Republican presidential wannabe, that's bold. It will probably turn out to be a misstatement or to have been “taken out of context” or “a response to a 'gotcha' question”- one of those Republican thingys.

Reading Room: Wikileaks leading stories thus far for 2011.

Minor Major: Exxon Mobil claims to have discovered 700 million barrels of oil equivalent off the Louisiana coast, “a major find”. Well, if a 45 day supply is “major” - typically less than 40% the oil discovered is recoverable, and the world uses 85 million barrels a day. Historically speaking, this is a pipsqueak. That it is a Big Deal tells you how much trouble we are in.

Us vs Them: As the citizenry rebels against their long term dictator, the US has increased its support for the popular democratic movement drone and fighter jet attacks against Al Qaeda in Yemen. Better kill 'em now, in case Saleh's replacement isn't quite so accommodating.

So What? Just how have you been injured by Rep. Weiner's personal stupidities? How has the nation been harmed? Has he broken a law? Did his tweets interfere with his job performance? Yes, he doesn't share the strict social mores of the religious (and generally mendacious) right. So what? Far more egregious was Breitbart's violation of the Representative's privacy. Invasions of privacy do matter.

Make An Offer: The value of household real estate has fallen $6.6 trillion from the peak - and is still falling. Another 25% drop in home prices seems quite possible Robert Shiller. Certainly the continuing high level of unemployment insurance claims (427,000 new claims this week) does not suggest a strengthening economy

Just the Headline: “The destruction of the middle class will not be televised – 56 percent of American workers have less than $25,000 saved. Even worse 60 percent of retirees have less than $50,000 saved. 45 million on food stamps and the consequences of peak debt.”

Easy Question: After nearly five years of trying to put out the financial fires, signs abound that another crash is a real possibility. What's left in the bag of tricks that is (a) believable and (b) might work?

Parts Is Parts: The banksters have the following formula for Greece. They'll pony up €60 billion , those holding Greek bonds will take a voluntary €30 billion haircut (that means the default won't be a default), and Greece will sell Dominique Strauss Kahn a group of Greek islands worth privatize €30 worth of state assets. Seems like it should include a prohibition against the citizenry revolting.

Malled: Mall/shopping center developers are not doing much developing. In 2010, only 12 million square feet was built – a 40 year low and less than 10% of the average new space developed every year for the last 40 years.

Back Then: Today the average unemployed person has been out of work for 39.7 weeks. Before the recession started it took about 5 weeks to find a job.

Chock Full O'Nuts: GOP's favorite historian David Barton: "As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, they'd already had the entire debate over creation and evolution, and you get Thomas Paine, who is the least religious Founding Father, saying you've got to teach Creation science in the classroom.” Paine died in 1809, the same year Darwin was born. Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain : “I believe homosexuality is a sin... But I know that some people make that choice. That’s their choice.”

Alfie: AIG – the most expensive single part of the bailout brigade – now wants to buy up a lot of crippled RMBS paper from European banks, because there is a small, small chance that they might make a profit. If they don't, the taxpayer will pick up the tab. Again.

Porn O'Graph: Buying in bulk...