Saturday, July 30, 2011

SAR #11211

Anyone who says they know exactly what happens next is lying. Ezra Klein

Numbers Game: First Quarter GDP was originally reported as a 1.8%, then it was revised upward to 1.9%. Now it has been cut to 0.4%. Second Quarter GDP was originally supposed to be in the 2.8 to 3% range and has been 'expected down' to about 2%. The current 'real' number is 1.3%. GDP numbers for the years back to 2008 were revised – all downward. 2008 is now seen as a minus 8.9%!   Depressing, if not quite a depression.

Fun While It Lasted: It took the Senate just 2 hours to kill the bill that took Boehner a week and his leadership to pass.

This foul deed shall smell above the earth. That it is called “budget crisis” is a testament to the Republicans success at distorting reality. The government is not going to “run out of money”, and raising the debt limit is not a big deal to the bond markets. Not raising it is. But the GOP – and their adolescent offspring, the Tea Party – have chosen this place and this time to mount a massive attack on the federal government's social support systems. It is not about the debt, nor the deficit; it is about the Republicans' dogmatic insistence on abolishing all traces of human decency from US society.

Down & Out: Leading Tea-Partier Joe Walsh (R-IL) is $117,000 behind on his child support payments. The Congressman makes $174,000 a year defending the fiscal responsibility of the republic.

The Years of Living Dangerously: The world currently produces about 88 million barrels of oil a day. Demand during the second half of 2012 is expected to be 92 mbd. If the Saudis up their exports by 40% and no one else drops the ball we'll just scrape by. Of course Saudi Arabia isn't really going to increase their output by 40%, so something else will have to give.

Can't Please Everybody: ExxonMobil's profit for the second quarter, at $10.8 billion, was up 41%. Wall Street was disappointed.

Future, Tense: America has entered an age of political paralysis, with government possible only if the majority give in to the tantrums of the screaming infants (on the left now, but times change). There is little chance any significant or rational legislation will pass before the next election and there seems little hope that the next Congress will be any better behaved than the current bunch. How did we get here? Decades of gerrymandering of electoral districts to avoid actual political contests and secure safe seats for the incumbents, polarization of the electorate, monetization of the electoral process to prevent political change and exploding government deficits to provide the bread, bribes and circuses that grease the re-election machinery. And change is not permitted.

Shopping For Signatures: BoA plans to transfer the high-risk mortgages they inherited from Countrywide to sub-servicers. Wonder who they'll find to run the robo-signer.

Yon Cassius: Obama's problem is not that “he thinks too much” but that he hasn't yet learned that the Republicans do not compromise and that his efforts at bipartisanship are seen as offered out of weakness. He is – however ineffectively – trying to govern. Their only goal is to make sure he isn't around to govern after the elections. The entire display is appalling.

Bread Eaten In Secret: Senators Wyden and Udall are trying to get the administration to produce a “detailed assessment” of the differences between what the public thinks the Patriot Act says and the way the intelligence and security agencies interpret it. To put it another way, Wyden and Udall want to know what sort of abuses of the surveillance laws the government has been up to lately.

Unfinished Business: The largest rally since the Egyptian people deposed Mubarak and delivered the country into the hands of the military turned into a show of strength by Islamists advocating the imposition of strict Islamic law. This does not portend well for the future of peace or the course of reform in Egypt.

Straightjacket: Google wants to help you enjoy the internet by letting its Page Speed Service chose what websites you can visit and what portions of the information on those websites you can see. This will cushion you from ever having to encounter a viewpoint that you do not already agree with; ideal for the true believers -political and religious.

Friday, July 29, 2011

SAR #11210

Some suffer from visions they cannot describe.

No Confidence: The Tea Party, egged on by Sara Palin, has scuttled John Boehner's budget plan – and his leadership as Speaker – by refusing to submit to repeated calls to adhere to the once monolithic Republican discipline. Ah, multi-party gridlock comes to Washington. And yes, we do seem to be “governed by a bunch of selfish, incompetent wack-jobs who put their careers and politics ahead of the country's interests.”

National Security: Lawmakers should agree that national defense spending should remain mainly sacrosanct, although the military adventures overseas should cease. But domestic defense programs such as food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security should be strengthened. They are all that is keeping a hundred million Americans from taking to the streets to confront the oligarchs.

Reservations: Initial unemployment claims were under 400,000 this week, but expect the 398k report to be revised upward next week.

Clarification: There is no debt limit in the Constitution (and the 14th Amendment may provide for just the opposite). The US got along fine without a debt ceiling until 1917, and since 1974 the Congress has instructed the executive in great detail how much to spend on what as well as what to tax and how much. If Congress actually wanted to reduce the deficit or pay off the national debt, they could have started doing so years ago through the budget process. It is not the President who is bumping up against the debt ceiling, it is the Congress.

Gyrations: Sales of new houses have fallen for the last two months and existing house sales have risen for a couple of months. Move along, nothing to see here.

Easy As 1, 2, 47: First Wisconsin's Republicans passed a voter ID bill requiring a photo ID from the DMV, now Republican Governor Scott Walker is closing DMV offices – mostly in Democratic neighborhoods. Coincidence.

Ups & Downs: As a broke and penurious US cuts back on its space commitments in order to keep funding its wars, Russia announces it has put a new radio telescope into orbit. The Spektr-R, in sync with ground-based observatories, will have an effective “dish” 30 times Earth's diameter and will have a resolution 10,000 times that of the Hubble.

Right You Are: To protect the nation from the threat of right wing terrorism, Homeland Security has an analyst dedicated to the threat of domestic terror. 'An' as in one.

Please Explain: In Wisconsin you can turned away from the voter registration office if your bank account does not show enough activity. What's that got to do with anything and how do the clerks at the DMV know about your banking habits? If you are unemployed, does the loan from Vinny count as banking?

Big, Slow: The US Department of Health and Human Services says it “would review” its policy of rejecting blood donations from homosexuals and bisexual males – a ban that dates from the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Effective tests to safeguard blood supplies have been available for years. But the review will not occur for at least two more years due to Congressional restraints.

Garage Sale: Kuwait has reportedly bumped its production from 2.3 mbd to 2.7 mbd. Which is nice, but their net exports are down 13% from 2008. I don't care how much they get to use, I'm interested in how much of it I get to use.

Prologue to a Farce: In Illinois a little knowledge is expensive, but if you want to know too much you have to wait a year. It's their new version of Freedom From Of Information, for the first few requests you have to pay “the actual cost”. But if you get labeled a “recurrent requestor” your requests will go to the end of the line. Repeatedly.

Debt and Consequences:If the debt ceiling is not raised the US government will eventually be unable to meet its obligations. It is assumed that those first in line for what money there is will be the bondholders. Why? Why not put the unemployed, the elderly, the sick and the children first? You know, “we, the people.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

SAR #11209

Seasons pass, stories change.

By Any Other Name: The punditry warns that no mater how the debt debate is resolved, serious austerity measures are inevitable. Someone should tell them austerity moved in some time ago.

Masked Raider: BP reports that its 2nd quarter profits are up even though production was down 11%. In other words, they're selling off the furniture and booking it as profit while the roof is caving in. An oil producer that does not produce oil is not a good investment no matter how much 'profit' their accountants can make.

How Much Is The Puppy In The Window: Absent the current brouhaha, the government was predicted to spend $46 trillion over then next 10 years. If by chopping wildly at social safety spending the GOP is able to save $2.2 trillion, that's about 5% of the whole pie. But if it all came out of non-Defense, non-Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid discretionary spending, it would be 30% of domestic discretionary spending. That would be a big ouch. But raising taxes to increase projected income by 1% would pretty much take care of the problem being “solved” at the moment.

Rational Discourse:The House GOP leadership was able to enlist the support of the Republican members behind the modified Boehner plan by explaining to them they'd better “get your ass in line.” Of course it has absolutely no chance to pass in the Senate, so this is just some sort of pecking-order thing in the House.

June Bride: Durable goods orders were a “very disappointing” -2.1%,. This points to slower growth in the near future, with the GDP growth now expected to dip below 1%.

Towards chaos: In the US – even if debt limit doom is avoided – Obama and the Republicans will finish destroying the last bits of New Deal social safety nets and sacrifice our children, our elderly, our helpless and the hopeless to the deficit Gods. The coming cuts in the public sector at both state and federal levels, together with an abrupt shut-off of unemployment benefits, will drive unemployment towards 20% - all in the name of reviving the consumer economy.

Progress Report: S&P reports that the EU/IMF rescue of Greece has been so successful that bondholders should lose no more than 50 to 70% of their investment.

Numb Numbers: BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2011 says “In 2010, world oil production grew by 1.8 Mb/d and surpassed the level reached in 2008. Growth was the largest since 2004...” But their own data shows that since 2005 global petroleum liquids production has been in the 81 – 82 mbd range and does not reflect the “1.8 mbd increase. EIA data for global crude+condensate production (the oil that the peak oilers talk about) has been in the 73 – 74 mbd range since 2005. Plateau, not peak.

Too Many To Count: The Obama administration says “it is not reasonably possible” to know just how many Americans have had their private communications legally intercepted under the domestic anti-terrorism laws. It's the 'legally' part of the question that poses the difficulty.

Tradition: GMAC – one of the nation's largest mortgage servicers - had a problem: It wanted to foreclose on some mortgages originally made by the now defunct Ameritrade. But there was no proper paper trail, so it had its employees forge the necessary documents. Business as usual.

Starvation: “Deprived of food long enough, the bodies of starving people break down muscle tissue to keep vital organs functioning. Diarrhea and skin rashes are common, as are fungal and other infections. As the stomach wastes away, the perception of hunger is reduced and lethargy sets in. Movement becomes immensely painful. Often it is dehydration that finally causes death, because the perception of thirst and a starving person's ability to get water are both radically diminished.” The famine now starving Somalia affects 3.7 million people. If you stand by and do nothing, when you could do something, are you guilty? Of murder, or something more acceptable?

This Just In: The US government is simply too big to fail. The Fed will keep buying the Treasury's bonds. Wall Street will see to it.

The Reign In Spain: The protest by the Indignados in central Madrid has increased dramatically after riot police forcefully removed them from the area they had previously quietly occupied next to the congressional building.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SAR #11208

The chickens are crossing the road; coming home to roost.

Once More, With Feeling: In Great Britain a year of economic stimulation through severe austerity has resulted in a 0.2% GDP growth rate, not the promised 2.6%. The Chancellor says he has no choice but to impose even harsher austerity. Don't smirk; Obama and the Republicans plan the same thing here.

Cleaning Up: The GOP's funding bill cuts EPA funding by 18%, to reflect their lighter workload - the EPA will no longer be required to protect the environment. Regulations that hinder the exploitation of the environment and workers will be rescinded. Henceforth the agency will be charged with assisting the destruction of the environment in the name of Motherhood, God and Profits. Mostly profits.

Devil/Details: Another 11 million foreclosures are in store before house prices will hit bottom. That's the “reasonable” estimate from Amherst Securities' Laurie Goodman. Get 'em while they're hot.

Eli's Coming: The media is full of talk about the terrible things that will happen to Wall Street, to the bond markets, to the banking system if the debt ceiling is not raised. But they do not talk about the terrible things that will happen to the people when the debt ceiling is raised.

Hail Damage: May's Case-Shiller report shows a 4.5% y/y decline in housing prices.

Lest Ye Forget: The median wage is $26,261. For the mathematically challenged, that means that half the workers in the US make less than $26,000 a year. The richest 400 individuals pay only 18% of their income in taxes.

In the Cards Plan: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concludes that Boehner's latest plan “could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. History. … In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including [those] for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.”

Trick Question: Can economic growth last? No. Après moi, le déluge.

The Secret: UPS domestic package traffic has remained static, yet profits are up 29%. They claimed it was increases in productivity - paying workers less to do more.

Observation: “In hindsight, attempting to engage the House Republicans on long-term fiscal issues was a silly idea — these are people who think you can raise revenues by cutting taxes.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SAR #11207

Where's Robin Hood?

Ten Years and Counting: Back off and put the angry words down. What we're fighting over isn't worth fighting over. The big deal seems to be cutting this, cutting that, taxing this more or taxing that less. But is there really a monster under the bed? As best we can estimate (Having let the CBO do the figuring) if nothing is done but march on ahead, the by 2021 the federal budget deficit would be $729 billion – after paying $800 billion in interest. Not great, but not worth all the hair shirt and ashes routine either. If we stopped fighting 2 or 3 wars, we could easily be close to break even, even. However, if we do not let the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire and/or we adopt the gang of six's $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, then of course it'll be time to buy granny's cat food by the case.

Lest Ye Forget: Only 56% of Americans are covered by employer-provided health insurance. The rest of us are on Medicare, Medicaid or are dependent on free clinics and emergency rooms.

Miracle Whipped: A return to a 6% unemployment rate in 4 years is a nice goal. Unattainable, but a nice goal. To do it, the US would need to create just under 250,000 jobs per month for four straight years. This has – at best – a 1 in 10 chance of happening. Getting it down to 8% in 4 years is a 50/50 proposition. Don't hold your breath.

Deciphering Doom: Cutting government spending takes money that used to re-enter the economy in the form of wages, social transfer payments and government purchasing and gives it to paying off the debt. This cuts consumer demand and the economy shrinks. As the economy shrinks (and parts are carted away via privatization) tax revenues fall and the government cuts more workers, makes ever smaller transfer payments, and so on, reducing even more the income of the consumer and depressing the economy further. But the banks must be paid, so taxes on the struggling workers must rise. Rinse and repeat. Then show surprise when it doesn't work as advertised.

Asked & Answered: Can urban agriculture – by which they mean growing food in humongous indoor farms in the midst of cities – feed the world? Yes, but only after they come up with an infinite supply of energy. Oh, and find some phosporus.

Point of View: The Republicans claim the Democrats are unnecessarily stirring up class warfare over government spending. Unnecessary because the rich have already won the war.

Assigned Reading: 'Do The Math' an article by Tom Murphy. It considers the place of energy in our universe and our place in the universe without it.

Been Down So Long: We think the recovery has been slow (or non-existent), but when compared to previous serious downturns, the current recovery is pretty average – the problem is not the rate of recovery but the depth we have to recover from.

Planning Plans: Boehner claims he's got a budget proposal that will cut government spending $3 to $4 trillion over 10 years. Call it $350 billion a year, or about what a second-rate hedge fund guru makes in a year. And he'd take it all out of entitlements. It this what all the noise has been about? $350 billion? We gave AIG almost that much...

Qui Bono? If the Bozos in Washington want to cut something, cut the funding for the War on Drugs, a colossal failure at home and abroad which has done nothing to stop drugs nor drug abuse. Time to step back, decriminalize and start behaving rationally. Of course there is far too much money on both sides of this charade for those in power on either side (or those in power at the top on both sides, which probably are the same people) to accept an end.

Porn O'Graph: Where the boys are.

Monday, July 25, 2011

SAR #11206

"This is not the country I was born in." Jesse Ventura

Buyer's Remorse: "In many crucial areas, Obama has done more to subvert and weaken the left's political agenda than a GOP president could have dreamed of achieving. So potent, so overarching, are tribal loyalties in American politics that partisans will support, or at least tolerate, any and all policies their party's leader endorses – even if those policies are ones they long claimed to loathe." It's amusing to watch the mental and ethical contortions of progressives, now that it is obvious that Obama is the leading force behind the push for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Kick The Can: The dedication with which European leaders ignore the obvious is admirable.

This Week In Democracy:In Egypt, where Government Overthrow 1.0 has been ineffective, the streets are getting bloody again as the protesters take aim at the military dictatorship that replaced Mubarak. In Spain the Indignant completed their cross-country marches where they have stopped in villages along the way to hold teaching meetings – some with up to 200,000 people. All they want is an end to corruption and an end to welfare cuts – and jobs. In Syria tens of thousands, perhaps as many as 1.2 million, took to the streets in defiance of the government crackdown against them. In the US, citizens cheered the end of the pro football strike.

Constitutional Un-Convention: The politicians negotiating over the debt ceiling have proposed that Congress elect (or appoint, or accept) a Super Congress composed of six members of each house – three from each party- and let them rule the country.

Details, Devil: The administration is looking for a way to take foreclosed homes off the market by somehow taking them over and renting them. This is motivated by the combination of rising rents and falling house prices. The government will somehow become the owner of a bunch of empty houses. It will rent them out (through some agency or via private contracts) in competition with private landlords, undercutting the market yet somehow paying for the maintenance on all these houses. Somehow being able to rent houses even more cheaply will lower rents, do away with the housing glut and reverse the fall in house prices while taking prospective buyers off the market. Somehow. And these folks are part of the solution?

Long/Short: The only Social Security reform needed is to remove the income cap and let the well off pay their fair share..

Secret War, Inc. The State Department refuses to let its own Special Inspector inspect anything about the mercenary army it will field in Iraq come 2012, when “security operatives” from over 5,000 different contractors take up arms. The Ambassador insists that the chief inspector is not supposed to inspect security, just reconstruction. Which suggests the mercenaries are not part of the reconstruction effort. Remember back when an informed public was the guardian of democracy?

Charades: It is difficult to believe that the latest moves in the debt drama are not scripted passages aimed at causing a crisis, under cover of which even more treasure will be transferred from the taxpayers to the rich and shadowy.

Damned Facts: Non-defense discretionary spending in areas like foreign aid, education and food safety did not create the deficits. Social Security has never contributed to a deficit. The deficit is the result of the Bush tax cuts and the Bush wars and the tax revenue lost to the Greenspan housing recession.

The Big Sleep: As the recovery enters its 27th second year, mass layoffs are back. Yes, Borders, Cisco and Lockheed Martin, but also the states, with 142,000 so far this year, lots more to come.

Porn O'Graph:  He's not heavy...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

SAR #11204

Political deals at best only last until the next election.

Don't Want to Belong to a Club that Would Have Me as a Member: The only hope for Europe and the Euro is some form of political and fiscal union. Such a union has zero chance of passing a vote by the citizens of many European countries. But it would be economically ruinous to drop the euro and return to the nationalistic bickering and wars and persecutions of earlier years. In the end they will destroy the EU trying to save it.

Proportion: The attention of the US has been focused on the debt limit drama in Washington for weeks now, as the Republicans struggle to chop $3 billion out of entitlements and the Democrats want to get the debt limit up to $16 billion even if they have to starve granny and throw dad out of the nursing home. But back in 2007-8, the Fed handed out more than that – more than the entire federal debt – over $16 trillion in loans. Secretly.

Memory Lane: Housing isn't looking up, hasn't been and won't be for some time, because the real determinants in housing are the employment and wages of prospective house buyers. Etcetera.

Sound Familiar? Saudi Arabia's new 'counter-terrorism' law will give Homeland Security the Interior Ministry enormous powers to tap phones, search houses, arrest, interrogate, secretly try and indefinitely imprison any one criticizing the President king.

Bring Out Your Dead Pitchforks: The US has much greater inequality than Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Greece and Spain. Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff says that “high unemployment rate and high levels of debt in the U.S. will sooner or later trigger serious “social unrest from the income disparities in the U.S.” Sooner or later being relative terms.

Wheeling & Dealing: US taxpayers lost $1.3 billion bailing out Chrysler. Better luck next time.

The Bell Jar: In the early 20th Century the nation's rich paid virtually nothing in taxes to the federal government and the government did virtually nothing to better the lives of average Americans. By the middle of the century the average American had forced the rich and their corporations to pay progressive taxes that went to better the lives of the many. By the end of the century the rich had taken back control of the government, had lowered their taxes to near invisibility and were intent on completely dismantling the social compact. Along the way there were unions, strikes, wars, market crashes, the rise and fall of the American empire, union busting, recessions, a great depression and the beginnings of a greater one. Now what?

A Piece of the Action: Ten million dollars a day gets smuggled out of Kabul every day. In suitcases. Sounds like a lot of theft and corruption until you remember that $18 billion in unmarked bills was sent to Baghdad, where it disappeared. Yawn.

Silver Horse: The question isn't why is there so much unrest in the Middle East nor why the citizens of Greece are rioting and those of Spain politely demonstrating. No, rather like the dog that didn't bark, the question is why Americans are so docile about being stripped of what little they have previously been allowed to keep.

One If By See: Massachusetts wants to equip cop cars (and intersections and so on) with scanners that would capture every license plate that passes by. And keep that information for years, in case they decide they need to know where you were, when. Key question: “What kind of a society are we creating here? There comes a point where the surveillance is so pervasive and total that it’s a misnomer to call a society free any longer.”

Porn O'Graph: In and Out the Briar Patch.

Friday, July 22, 2011

SAR #11203

     We judge the economy by Apple's sales and Microsoft's profits – not by the hungry and the homeless.

Selective Bargaining: The idea behind “selective default” in which Greece doesn't “fully renege on its obligations” is that eventually everyone gets paid somehow. It's the 'somehow' part that's tricky. I tried the 'selective default' option on my marital vows and it didn't work.

Chapter 15: Unemployment claims last week increased 10,000 to end up at 418,000 – week 15 of the continuing over 400k series. Expect claims to continue above 400k as former Borders and Cisco employees fall in at the end of the line.

Data Point: 1 in 66 Americans is a diagnosed psychotic,a victory for Big Pharma's advertising.

Define 'Needed': Faced with the imminent demise of the Euro, Germany and France the European Union has agreed to “reaffirm our commitment to the euro and to do whatever is needed to ensure the financial stability of the euro area as a whole,” with a plan that is exclusively for Greece. To that end they are buying some Greek debt back from the market, but warn that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution and that Portugal, Spain and Italy will be dealt with later, maybe. This is really just more of the same old same old. The solution is a true financial union (impossible) or abandoning the Euro (pretty close to undoable).

Wages of Sin: The attorneys general of all 50 states are planning on giving the major banks immunity for all the “irregularities in handling foreclosures” (most of which are crimes) even while the banks continue to file criminally fraudulent documents in their courts.

Anti-Gravity: The US tax system is based on the idea that the more you make, the less you should pay.

Hot Enough For 'ya? Every 10 years, NOAA recalculates the “climate normals” - 30 year temperature and precipitation averages -for about 7,500 locations across the US. The latest data shows that the last 1decade was 1.5 degrees warmer than the 1970s. Just like those people keep saying. Imagine.

Round Trip: The banks that borrowed money from the CPP part of TARP have been paying it back – with money borrowed from another Treasury program. And the Treasury claims it is making a profit off the shuffle.

Tough Audience: Only 52% of Americans think God is doing a good job. Still, that's better than Obama's numbers.

Profits and the Lost: US families are using credit cards to pay for their daily necessities because they do not make enough to keep up – even if they have a job. In June the number of credit card transactions increased 0.8% and the amount charged increased 10.7%. But while the American consumer is down, corporate profits are up – at the highest levels since the 1960's, while wages are at 50-year lows relative to company sales.

Choices: Republicans in the House have blocked US aid to help small, impoverished nations adapt to climate change because 1) There is no such thing as climate change and if there were humans didn't cause it. 2) Obama asked for it. 3) It would send tax dollars overseas instead of to Wall Street. 4) Foreign nations are full of foreigners.

The Reckoning: The total US GDP for 2010 was $14.5 trillion. Between December 2007 and July 2010, the FED loaned over $16 trillion to US and foreign financial institutions in order to save the capitalists from themselves. How are things at your house?

True Believers: GOP Florida lawmakers turned down $50 million in federal money aimed at preventing child abuse because they think the state should not ell parents how to discipline their children because the funds would come from the hated Affordable Care Act.

Porn O'Graph: Rich, getting richer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

SAR #11202

Our lives depend on others.

Don't Leave Home Without... Described by one of its authors as “the only plan that is going to ever pass”, the diet recommended by the Gang include reductions in deductions for health insurance, home mortgage interest, charitable gifts, even retirement savings. Medicare and Medicaid would be diminished and Social Security undermined. While most taxpayers will pay higher taxes under their plan, the top tax rate would drop from 35% to 23% and those big hedge fund incomes would be taxed as capital gains – which would be unchanged at 15%. And the alternative minimum tax, designed to force high-income families pay at least some bit of income tax, would be repealed. It proposes a “territorial tax system” which would be a windfall for US multinationals. What's not to like?

Existentialism:June's existing home sales fell eased 0.8% m/m to 4.77 million (annualized), and were 8.8% percent below June 2010. Naturally the realtors say the decline was due to the debt/deficit fight in Washington.

Financial News: The ingredients in a loaf of bread are water, salt, yeast, and wheat. And petroleum-based energy. Guess which is the most expensive and is mainly responsible for the increase in prices.

Shortly: “Goldman Will Sach 1,000 Workers Because it Only Made A Billion Dollars Last Quarter.”

Crime and Punishment: Signing someone else's name to a legal document is a crime. It is also a crime to sign an affidavit testifying to the accuracy of facts you have no knowledge of. It probably is an even bigger crime if you have a robot do the signing. It may be even more illegal if you promised to stop doing it eight months ago, and didn't.

Spy Vs Spy: Following the Christchurch, NZ, earthquake, in which an Israeli tourist with five or six passports was killed, the Israeli ambassador flew from Canberra, Australia to personally drive three of the deceased 'student' friends to the airport and to take possession of the passports. Soon thereafter an Israeli “rescue team” was apprehended in the disaster area by NZ officials – although both sides now claim it never happened.

En Passant: “Market prices almost always tell you something useful. But sometimes what they tell you is that there’s a marketing scam in progress.” Sometimes?

Exports: Domestic demand for petroleum in Saudi Arabia is growing, production slowing and exports dropping. Internal use grew from 1.6 mbd in 2003 to 2.4 mbd last year, while exports shrank from 9.1 mbd in 2005 to 7.2 mbd in 2010 – which was 28% of Saudi production. At this rate, Saudi Arabia will become an importer of oil by 2025.

An Oracle of the Law: Albuquerque's chief criminal judge was arrested for raping a prostitute. The evidence is a video of the attack purchased by an undercover police officer. The judge will appear in court on Thursday to explain that it was not him on the video, it wasn't really rape, and he won't do it again.

Dead Budgie: Is natural gas going to save us from global warming? No, putting carbon into the atmosphere must stop no mater what the source. The safe level is about 250 ppm, we are at 393.69 ppm and on track to reach 850 ppm by 2100 – and that's a lot more degrees than anyone needs. Slowing down the rate at which we are killing ourselves is hardly going to make the difference.

Family Tree: Fermilab's mad scientists have observed a new particle, the neutral Xi-sub-b, which was predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. It is composed of three quarks: a strange quark, an up quark and a bottom quark (s-u-b). This, my son-in-law the physicist assures me, is important because it “strengthens our understanding of how quarks form matter.” I don't think I was included in the 'our' part of the understanding.

Porn O'Graph: Where the Wild Things Are.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SAR #11201

There is no such thing as safe, just safer than...

Gang Initiation: The Senate's 'Gang of Six' has ridden to the rescue – hide the silverware. Just whose rescue seems unclear, but mostly the usual suspects make out and the usual marks pay the bill. It starts with $500 billion in actual cuts, in exchange for which the debt ceiling gets raised, the bond market is happy and stock markets go wild. It includes a promise of $3.7 trillion in cuts over the next ten years – but doesn't really specify anything much except that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security get screwed cut while Wall Street gets to keep their outrageous salaries classified as capital gains – the tax on which will fall. There's a lot of fancy footwork about 'guidelines' and “an agreement on a framework for what could become a plan" and "a fast track process for the committees in Congress to specify further savings." Savings here means more cuts. And the privatization of “unused federal property.” It is a magic pill, vast spending cuts that will – against all previous experience – supposedly spur the economy. They promised. Too bad they didn't ask Boehner or the Republicans in the House.

Termites: Bank of America lost $9.1 billion in the second quarter because it had to start paying back losses investors suffered on BA securitized mortgages. This was the worst quarterly loss ever for BA, and there's more to come

House Raising: June's single-family housing starts were up 9% from May – but at 453,000 (seasonally adjusted annual rate) the numbers are barely off the floor. Permits for single family houses were essentially flat at 407,000. Existing home sales were down 2.1% from May and down 10% from a year ago. At this pace the number of housing units completed will reach a record low this year, along with the fewest net housing units added since the Census Bureau started tracking the data.

The Price Of Justice: The San Francisco Superior Court is laying off 40% of its staff and closing 25 courtrooms – budget cuts, of course. It will take much longer to contest a traffic citation, 18 months longer to get a divorce and an extra 5 years before you can sue the bastards.

Charades: It sounds like.. Good news? Sure, foreclosure filings are down 29% in the first half of the year. The bad news is that the decline is due to the banks being caught faking various documents and pulling back on the pace of foreclosure. It will resume next year, with an extra million foreclosures pushed back onto the pile. Or maybe the year after. Prices won't bottom out until after the foreclosures are mostly completed, there is a big decrease in unemployment and a tidy increase in income. Do not hold your breath.

When The War Is Over: The administration is trying to find a way to withdraw US troops from Iraq in accordance with this year's deadline and to keep a few tens of thousands of troops after the deadline passes. Bribery is high on the list of options.

Quote: “Empirical support for the view that sharp, immediate cuts in government spending would be good for the U.S. economy was never strong, and it’s getting weaker.” The IMF agrees that deficit reduction will not boos economic growth. Don't tell Boehner or that other guy.

Ticket To Ride: After voters rejected a 13-cent increase in property taxes, the school board in Keller, Texas adopted a plan requiring parents pay $185 a semester for their child to ride the bus. Students on reduced or free lunches will owe $100. Payment must be in full before the school year starts. The footnote explaining how people who can't afford to buy their kid lunch are going to come up with $100 seemed to be missing.

Porn O'Graph: Uptick! (It helps to squint.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SAR #11200

Don't tell everything you know.

Dance Card: The struggle over the budget is not either/or, it is a three-way race with the third entrant getting no respect. “What I see is a three-way tussle among the rich, the not very rich and the not rich at all over who should pay the costs of balancing the budget” – that is the Republicans vs the Democrats vs the People, and the People aren't being asked to dance – just to pay the band.

Sarcasm On: “Have you heard the good news? Big banks are making more money than we thought.” No, nothing to be seen here. Back away from that pile of second mortgages.

Something Else to Worry About: Trading in Goldman Sachs Sigma X (don't ask), is said to have predicted the vultures descent on Italy – three weeks before the troubles started. Now Sigma X trading indicates that the UK may be next in line.

There's Something Happening Here: While our attention drawn has been drawn to the fight over the deficit and social welfare spending, the bankers have continued to to steal the country out from under us.

Believe More, Harder! Republican governors are admitting they are in over their heads and need the Almighty's help in solving the serious problems they promised to take care of if elected. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma has joinEd Texas' Gov. Goodhair (who has heard the 'call' to the presidency) who threw up his hands and said "it's time for us to just hand it over to God and say, 'God, You’re going to have to fix this.'" and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal who didn't understand that BP had an in with the Almighty.

Snidely Whiplash: As I've long thought – ever since I divorced one – MBAs are at the root of all evil our problems.

Acting: According to FOX, Sara Palin's “Undefeated” opened strong this weekend, playing to “packed theaters” and raking in $75,000. The theaters were packed all right - with people going to see the new Harry Potter film, which drew $168,550,000.

Apples to Oranges:OPEC reports that Venezuela, at 296.5 billion barrels, now has a larger oil reserve than Saudi Arabia. But much of Venezuela's is in the Orinoco Tar Sands and much of Saudi Arabia's (mostly heavy, sour crude) is a number pulled out of thin air in 1982 and has remained essentially unchanged since. What actual data shows is that the combined net exports from the two have dropped from 11.4 mbd in 2005 to 8.9 mbd last year. And while their net exports continue to decline by about a half-million barrels a year, their combined rate on internal consumption is increasing at about 10% a year. What they may have in the ground and what they are producing this year are not nearly as important as how much they are exporting. And that is decreasing.

Congressional Herring: A balanced budget amendment may or may not be a workable idea, depending on the definition of 'balanced' and 'budget'.

Antigonish: Rogoff & Reinhardt point out that “At some point even advanced economies hit a ceiling where the pressure of rising borrowing costs forces policymakers to increase tax rates and cut government spending.” Maybe so, but 10-year Treasuries at 2.9% is still as cheap as it comes. Interest on the debt (as a % of GDP) is now about half what it was when Newt tried to shut down the government back in 1995.

Headline! Headline! The Head Of The World's Biggest Hedge Fund Sees "Economic Collapse" Due To Money Printing By Early 2013.

Sharp Stick/Eye: Republicans do not care that Richard Cordray and not Elizabeth Warren has been selected to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans have promised to block any nomination until a way is found to make sure that no regulation of the financial markets will occur and most certainly no one will be allowed to go around protecting consumers.

Preaching to the Choir: Ron Paul, stepping down from Congress, proclaims: “We Need To Stop Allowing Secretive Banking Cartels To Endlessly Enslave Us". He also said some bad things about the Fed, again.

Porn O'Graph: Pick several from column 'A'...

Monday, July 18, 2011

SAR #11199

The smaller the differences the more they matter.

Lights, Camera, Inaction: Take the week off, there will be no action on raising the debt ceiling until the 11th hour. For now the GOP leadership has agreed to give the dogs a bone faithful a chance to cast votes in favor of $100 billion in budget cuts, a permanent cap on federal spending, and a constitution amendment requiring that the federal budget be balanced every year. These bills will not pass the Senate, and no President – of any flavor – would sign them if they did. Once the diversion is over, the debt ceiling will be increased.

Suits: The Supremes have ruled that executives of a firm are not liable for the lies told by the companies they run. Company's are people, remember. But you can't sue a company for lying – that would be a restraint on trade. Where's Joseph Heller when you need him?

Marginal Errors: Banks hold abut $3 trillion in non-securitized mortgages on their books, 20% of which are at at least 30 days delinquent or in some stage of foreclosure. The 'cure rate' past 60 days is essentially zero. After expenses, lenders take about a 60% loss on foreclosed mortgages. That would come to about $360 billion in losses. And will.

Batting Order: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, and now Somalia where the CIA has built a fort and set up a torture workshop – since the protests in Syria and the citizens' revolt in Egypt have made the use of their dungeons problematic.

The Way We Were Are: It wasn't just the housing bubble that burst, the consumer bubble has deflated, too. Businesses are not hiring because customers are not buying. They are not buying cars (sales down 28% from the 2001 pace – and that was a recession). They are not buying houses (sales are back to their lowest levels since the current crisis began). And that means they are not buying new stoves, ovens, furniture... They are not buying and their confidence levels are far below 2001's. But then, they don't have jobs, so what do you expect.

The Tide: When sea levels rise to match the levels reached during the last Interglacial Period, large parts of the US along the Gulf of Mexico will be under water, including half of Florida. Maybe not this century, but a meter here, two meters there adds up.

Just So: "Elizabeth Warren apparently is just too good, too smart, and too able to arouse the just concerns of millions of American families about the need to put the law-and-order wood to the corporate criminals, defrauders and reckless speculators with the savings and pensions of millions of Americans." So Richard Cordray gets the nod. Doesn't matter, The GOP isn't going to let anyone lead the CFPB.

Pockets Change: Proof that it is the oil companies and not the speculators that are driving up the price of petroleum is supposedly to be found in Chevron's $360 million in trading profits this year. Please, Chevron's first-quarter 2011 profits were $6.2 billion from the oil business, not from speculation.

Under the Big Top: While the clowns are running around in the center ring doing their rubber chicken act with the debt and deficits, and the equipment crew is getting ready for the twin global warming/fossil fuel crisis, no one has noticed that the closing act – food and water shortages - is in the wings, getting ready to go on.

Down the Drain: It's a good thing the USSR was a paper tiger all those years and NATO wasn't obliged to demonstrate that the acronym stood for Not Able To Operate. Libya should mark the end of that charade – four months of bombing at will, unimpeded arms supply to the rebels and unknown & unacknowledged special forces boots on the ground have led to the same convincing quagmire that pervades Iraq and Afghanistan. What did we ever spend all that money for? Why do we keep doing it?

Porn O'Graph: It's not just the water.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

SAR #11197

Generations pass, stories change.

Greatly Depressing: There is a cottage industry in claiming that (a) the US will not default even if the debt ceiling is not raised or (b) default will be no big deal. Both are false. Federal spending would instantly have to be reduced by about $100billion a month. Spending cuts of that size would reduce the US's 2011 GDP by at least -5% and possibly -10% and raise unemployment to at least 15%. And reduce the country to anarchy.

For Whom the Friday Bells Toll: After Friday prayers, hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets to protest the Assad government. Security forces fired into the crowds, killing 20.  In Yemen, tribal elements killed a regional security official as protests continued across the country. In Libya the US has recognized the rebels as the country's legitimate government – which will open the taps to Washington funding.

Sadly: Current research shows that black men live longer in prison than out. Go ahead, put a positive spin on that one.

Being There: Obama again urged Republican recalcitrants to back off their irrational demands and work together towards a compromise. He even put Social Security and Medicare cuts on the table. Instead the House Republicans plan a vote linking the debt limit increase with draconian spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment. Krugman captured the moment – a black comedy of “so many people who have been in denial suddenly waking up and smelling the crazy. This isn’t something that just happened... Anyone surprised by the extremism and irresponsibility now on display either hasn’t been paying attention, or has been deliberately turning a blind eye.”   Look into the camera and smile.

Fed Up Down:The NY Fed's Empire State Manufacturing Survey reports that conditions for New York manufacturers deteriorated for a second consecutive month. The general business conditions index remained below zero, at -3.8 and the new orders index also remained negative.

All You Need To Know: Most colleges are located in Lake Woebegone – where all of the children are above average and 43% of them get A's – up from 15% back in the days when you went to college to learn things.

Imperiled: A widely used & recently approved herbicide, Imprelis, is the leading suspect in the deaths of thousands of Norway spruces, eastern white pines and other trees on lawns and golf courses across the country. DuPont described the deaths as "unfavorable tree symptoms" and insisted that the herbicide was safe for humans...until proven otherwise.

Janus: Prime Minister and ruling oligarch Vladimir Putin says the global community must soon come to an agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. He also wants the state to to stimulate new production from Russian oilfields, which now pump 10 million barrels of petroleum a day – much of which ends up in the atmosphere.

Capture Released: A major utility has abandoned its efforts to implement a carbon-capturing process at a coal-fired power plant. So much for 'clean coal'.

Six of One... Forests soak up about 2.4 billion tons of carbon every year. Mankind, by cutting down forests, annually releases 2.9 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Watering Down: The GOP has passed a bill in the House that would eliminate federal oversight of water under the Clean Water Act and leave water quality standards up to the states. Isn't this where we came in?

Binding Cuts: This week, no free underwear for prisoners in Florida's Polk County jail. Wear 'em if you've got 'em, buy 'em from us if you've got money, else do without. Next week they'll address the question of toilet paper.

A Modest Proposal: Here's a pipe dream – a federal law that says any business receiving taxpayer funds or doing business with the government cannot pay its senior officers more than 25 times what the janitor makes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

SAR #11196

Ever notice the similarities between solvency and sovereignty?

Quote: “What’s happening in Greece is a dress rehearsal for what’s going on in the United States... What’s happening in Greece in the last week is exactly what’s happened in Minnesota with the close-down of government. And the demands of privatization–Greece to sell off its roads, its land, its port authority, its water and sewer–is just what Illinois’s been doing, what Chicago’s been doing, what Minnesota’s been told to do.”

Takes One To Know One: Homeland Security's DTS is going to spend over $300 million on radiation-detection equipment that has not been tested and may not work.

Blind Faith: Through all the debt and deficit drama, investors calmly keep buying US Treasuries – Moody's be damned.

Map, Compass: If jobs are not coming back to America, and they are not, what happens to the former middle class? Is this a turning point not just for the economy, but for the society as a whole? What happens when the government can no longer borrow enough to keep the peace? The elite must find a way to keep the greatly silent majority silenced and docile or face the chaos that has lurked at the edges for nearly three years now.

If they cannot provide jobs, then they must provide the circus of entitlements and a face-saving form of welfare.

Meet The New Boss: Remember the stories your grandfather told about the grinding dullness of the exploited workers? The ones that made you think of those posters that said “Workers of the world, unite!” They were not just stories and those days are here again.

Tense, Very Tense: “Europe's austerity mantra could lead to disaster.” Could? And not just in Europe', either.

Perils of Pauline: Unemployment claims, at 405,000, make it 14 weeks in a row above the magic 400,000 level – although 399,999 would not sound good either. Last week's number was revised up to 427,000.

If you're going to San Francisco... Be sure to visit Pier 24. Call ahead.

Tevye: Asked why banks hold gold, Bernanke replied “Tradition”.

50 Cent: No, not the rapper, that's what the young ladies who sew your sneakers make per hour. Think of it as a preview of the sort of job your daughter will be able to get.

Perspective: The problem is not that we cannot afford our social programs, but that we can no longer tolerate our asocial ones. It is not our spending, but our taxing that needs reform, for any society is best judged on how it treats its weakest members. We should be judged by what we all have after taxes, not how much some have. Yes, we should cut down our war spending and eliminate all the programs that pay the rich for being rich and prop up the free market in politicians. But even more we should be expanding our transfer payments to the poor and the sick and those thrown into poverty by misguided economic policies that reward the few at the cost of the many.

Love & Marriage: If Italy is ready to embrace austerity, can privatization be far behind? How much do I hear for the Coliseum? For Venice, as is?

Better Question: Paul Kedrosky wants to know why tourist wear t-shirts from one tourist trap when visiting another tourist trap. I'd like to know why anyone would pay money to buy a shirt advertising Abercrombie, Fitch, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, The Gap, American Eagle and so on. They want to rent space on my shirt, I'm willing to negotiate, but not for free.

Connections: The availability of concentrate energy (fossil fuels) sets a limit to the amount of financial and “real” economic growth can occur. We are reaching that limit.

The Good and the Bad: The bad news is that the British austerity program has been a complete dud. The good news is it will go on for years, if not a decade or two, “to pay the price for an aging population”. Unless other solutions are found, stiff upper lip and all.

Asked and Answered: Is Facebook worth $100 billion? Depends on the supply of bigger fools.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

SAR #11195

I'm not sure I should believe everything I think.

Words in a Certain Order: Greece's default is now accepted as inevitable, and the banksters are scrambling to find a way to structure a default so that it isn't legally a “credit event or selective default”. Instead the "intention [is] to make Greek debt more sustainable," with interest rates lowered, maturities extended and the "flexibility and scope" of the eurozone bailout fund "enhanced". The big problem is Germany, which says there is no hurry to address the problem. Ireland's debt has been lowered to 'junk' status – and their problem had been 'solved' by the same set of financial wizards. Italy is going to solve its problems with more severe austerity plans – the kind that have worked so well in Greece, Ireland and Portugal and are the Republicans' favorite tonic for the USA.

Caveat Emptor: Radioactive beef has found its way to market in Japan. The US Forest Service reports that spraying fracking waste-water on trees isn't good for them and we already knew it was contra-indicated for humans. By 2100 global climate change will have driven 10% of today's species to extinction – the article wasn't clear if humans were part of that 10%.

Long Knives: Two lead Florida AG investigators assigned to the Economic Crimes Section have been forced to resign because they were investigating the economic crimes of foreclosure mills.

What Goes Around...Early in the 20th Century GM went around the country buying up and dismantling public transit companies – mostly trams. Now it wants to help out cities that don't have decent public transit by electrifying buses.

No Rest: US hedge funds are placing big bets on the collapse of Italy. Nice to see the vultures will be well fed.

Parts Is Parts: The National Association of Realtors has acknowledged the need for some revisions to their sales numbers. For example, in Illinois the NRA exaggerated the median price of of a condo in Chicago by claiming prices increased 10% when they had actually fallen 23%. They've been “overestimating” existing home sales volumes, too. Wait for the revised edition.

Sick: Every politician who plans on saving “the government” money by cutting Medicaid and Medicare should have to work a week in the emergency room of public hospitals or free clinics, and tour the shut in and elderly sick who depend on Meals on Wheels before they congratulate themselves on their virtue.

Devil/Details: Obama says we have to eat our peas, but not for a couple of years. He says “Nobody has talked about increasing taxes now. Nobody has talked about increasing taxes next year. We’re talking 2013 and the out years.” Yep. Chaste, but not yet.

If Only: A Harvard doctor says we should take fat kids away from parents and not return them until the parents have undergone “instruction on parenting.” Could we make the instruction a mandatory pre-requisite for parenthood?

Timing Is Everything: The Financial Times ran a piece claiming that government could and would bail out the banks the next time around. Of course, but why are they bringing this up now?

Keep On Keeping On:Wisconsin Democrats defeated the GOP's fake candidates in local primary elections. Seems the voters aren't quite as dumb as the Republicans hoped.

Unintended Consequences: One of the more serious consequences of the Republican shutdown of Minnesota's state government is the closure of the state tax office which collects taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. No tax stamp, no sales. The natives are getting restless

Just Doing It: A breathless report informs us that Nike, Adidas, Puma and everyone else making stuff in China is dumping toxic chemicals into China's rivers. Just like here, when they can get away with it.

Something Else: Preliminary studies in the Midwest suggest that genetically modified crops threaten butterflies by depriving them of their habitat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

SAR #11194

History is replete with accounts of the patience of the oppressed.

Bank On It: The banks are anxious to pay the combined state Attorneys General $30 billion and enter a no-contest plea to absolve themselves of any and all crimes they committed during the housing boom and bust. What crimes? Nobody knows, and the banks hope no one ever does.

The Solution: Cisco Systems is trying to solve its problem by cutting 10,000 jobs. Maybe it'll work better for them than it has for Greece.

Talking Their Own Book: Chesapeake Energy, a big player in the shale gas business, says it 'would' invest $1 billion over the next ten years to “hasten the adoption of natural gas” as a transportation fuel. It thinks the government should spend a lot of money promoting this goal. Before you get too enthused about shale gas salvation, go read Stoneleigh!

Best Headline: The Future Is Not Evenly Distributed.

Fair Warning: Chancellor Angela Merkel told Italy to stop scaring the banks and impose austerity programs on the playful Italians in order to “restore confidence.” Restoring confidence in the euro zone is going to take a bit more than putting more Italians out of work.

Road Rage: A semi hauling 400 beehives wrecked in Idaho Sunday, releasing 14 million bees. The bees were not amused.

Factoid: There are no more Democrats. Obama offered to increase the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 in exchange for a small tax concession from the Republicans, in a bipartisan effort to reduce the deficit. But the anti-deficit bunch isn't really anti-deficit, their real interest is dismantling the social welfare state erected since FDR's days. That's why they are adamant about no tax increases – they know that with no money, eventually the social safety nets will have to be dismantled.

Another Thing: One of the essentials for much of agriculture is phosphate. Mother Nature didn't leave a lot of it around, so supplies are limited. And there is no substitute – which really chafes supply and demand type market economists.

When The Music Stops: The Republicans have forced an end to “extended benefits” for the unemployed and want to reduce food stamps significantly. Has anyone explained to these folks that people that a consumer economy doesn't function without consumers?

On the Up and Up: The Commerce Department reports the May trade deficit rose 14% m/m to $50.2 billion. Most of the deficit resulted from importing petroleum and all that stuff from China for Wal-Mart's shelves.

Whose Ox? What nations' banks are at risk in Italy, Spain and Greece (outside their own captives, of course)? France, Germany, and the UK. Now do you understand the desperation, the devout wish for a miracle?

Follow the Money: The reason the politicians do not give a damn about the 14 million unemployed is because the unemployed do not donate to political campaigns and there are no longer unions to represent the downtrodden. The high unemployment rate is not harming corporate profits, and until corporations tell their politicians to address the mater, nothing is going to happen.

Shame! Those who would shut down Wikileaks seem pretty accepting of Murdoch's News Corp criminal assaults on common decency (not to mention criminal acts). Why are these people getting a free pass? Surely PFC Manning could use some company.

Old Time Religion: “Reagan proved deficits don't matter”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

SAR #11193

One way or the other this, too, will be resolved.

Scusi:Italy has gone to the head of the line... for decapitation, elbowing past Portugal and Spain and kicking Greece to the has-been gutter along with Ireland.

Taps: Dr. Han Seung-Soo, former UN climate change envoy, says that it is too late to formulate an agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. Under Kyoto, CO2 emissions increased 40% and no nation has any intention of cutting their own carbon emissions now, so I'm unclear on the harm in failing to agree on yet another hollow promise.

One: China's crude imports tumbled 11.5 percent in June from a year earlier to their lowest in eight months. This is not good news.

Minute of Silence: Like the soldiers who get the Medal of Honor for (foolishly? bravely?unthinkingly?) throwing themselves on a grenade to save their companions, Bradley Manning deserves a medal for the service he provided to his fellow citizens. He is more deserving than many recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Addictions: Chocolate beat out oil in the battle for increased profits last year.

Done and Done: BP claims that the $4.5 billion that has been paid out to buy off the public following the Deepwater Horizon disaster is enough and it wants the remaining $16 billion back. Time is money and they don't want any more time to pass (which might allow additional losses and damages to the Gulf to surface) nor any more money to be paid out. Let's agree, but insist that the remaining $16 billion be held in escrow for 20 or 50 years.

Predicates: The Greek government's budget deficit has increased about a third as the economy slows down under the austerity cuts demanded by the IMF/EU/ECB. Certainly bankers could not have foreseen that cutting wages and hours and employment while raising taxes would either harm the economy nor lower government revenue.

The Public: Half of all Americans who get help from the federal government – including 40% of those on Medicare - say they do not use any government social programs.

Powerpoint: Newly minted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta – fresh from the CIA – told troops in Baghdad that they were there because Al-Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11. His talk was greeted by (al-Qaeda?) rockets hitting the Green Zone.

Spontaneity: Angry pro-Assad mobs attacked the US and French embassies in Syria, protesting our condemnation of the killing of protesters by the government.

Sub Rosa: The National Security Agency has declassified “Cryptology: Instruction Book on the Art of Secret Writing” The 1809 spy instruction manual that popularized potato-starch secret ink.

Key Point: The 15 million or so Americans who have lost their jobs in the last 4 years and haven't been able to find a new one are lazy dolts whose job skills evaporated overnight. Right. Let's rephrase that: the economy isn’t fixing itself and no one in Washington gives a damn.

Understudy: Freshman Arizona state Senator Lori Klein whipped out uer raspberry-pink 380 Ruger, pointed it at a reporter's chest and announced her intention to be Sara Palin's understudy.

Porn O'Graph: The non-participant economy.

A Trip Report:

My wife asked me – as I read through the Usual Sources – what had changed while we were away. Not much, I told her. After all, it is no longer about the plot – only the performances count.

In Europe, the Serious Bankers and Statesmen continue to pretend that giving another loan to a country that can't pay its current debts is a Good Idea, and that stealing the infrastructure and forcing the people out of work will somehow will cause the debtor government's economy to flourish. In the Eurozone time has run out and the game is nearly over except for the entertainment of watching the citizens tear down the goal posts.

In the US, Obama and the Docilecrats have agreed to gut Social Security in return for being allowed to take part in the next round of “Let's Pretend” - as though the US is any more likely to repay its debts than are Greece or Italy. The US cannot, without risking collapse, even cut back on the growth of the debt. This is all just music to watch icebergs by.

Some want to talk about resolving concerns about inflation, asset bubbles, soaring food and energy prices, as though there were solutions. Mother nature simply cannot provide the basic services (to use the Archdruid's term) necessary to increase food production in the face of drought, flood, and the depletion of basic resources – especially energy. Anything that does not stop global warming and get rid of a few billion people is not going to make much difference. The process of getting there will be fascinating. Relax and enjoy the show.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

SAR #11187

Ecclesiasticus tells us we should travel to foreign places...

We're on vacation for a few days – will return Monday or Tuesday next week.

It is my turn for the complete vacation. It works this way: My SO and I long ago got tired of the “What should we do today?” “I dunno. What you wanna do?” “I dunno...” and so on.

So we decided – while standing crotch deep in a Central American pig farm, each blaming the other for the experience – that there had to be a better way. So now we take turns. When it is my turn I pick the destination, the travel arrangements, the accommodations and the major activities, and am responsible for providing adequate breaks from the schedule for rest and impulse.

SO's part is to smile and complement me at every turn – even when things turn into pig farms.

The next time it is SO's turn to do the planning and worrying and all that, while I relax.

It is SO's turn, so I'm relaxing. To make sure of that, SO has passed a 'no internet' rule. Talk about your pig farms.

...and try the good and evil in all things.