Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SAR #11242

There is no easy way out.

Comfort: It says here that the Euro/European debt crisis will be over in two or three years. Nice to know. But others are sure the Eurozone is headed for a crash...

Can't Win: Homeland Security, The Weather Channel, Mayor Bloomberg, and governors from North Carolina to Massachusetts all are accused of over-reacting to the Hurricane Irene threat. Good for them. Now let's hope they note the infrastructure weaknesses the storm pointed out and over-react to them, too.

The Longest Day War: August 2011 has seen more Americans killed in Afghanistan than any in the previous ten years. Does anybody remember why we are there? Does anybody think it is worth the lives, the money?

The General Idea: “We have in our power the ability to amend the Constitution of the United States to vastly limit the power of money to manipulate and control the electoral process. Let's do it. Those in our society who unfairly use the power of money to oppress us do not have to prevail” Yes, indeed, let's do it. And soon.

Health vs Profits: The administration says that seven new regulations will cost the economy more than $1 billion a year, but will improve American health, reduce our energy dependence and slow the production of greenhouse gases. The Republicans say that the cost us way overstated because they intend to prevent them from ever being enforced. It is a mater of profits vs. people, and to the GOP profits come first.

Made In the USA: “By debasing the U.S. and its commitment to the rule of law, encouraging unjustified foreign wars, and attempting to re-legitimate torture in a way not seen since the Middle Ages, Dick Cheney has likely done more damage than any other Bush administration official – or anyone else in US history — to our nation’s security and future prospects." - Chip Pitts of Amnesty USA

Grapevine: Did the government funnel every but if America’s electronic communications through NSA's computers? Yes. Do they still? Yes. Did they have a warrant? No. Do they need one? Ah. Yes, under the Fourth Amendment. But, no, under the national security state, where we have to lose our freedoms in order to preserve them.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The GOP - witness Perry, Bachmann and Romney - is becoming the “anti-science party”, where embracing willful ignorance is required. Some day soon we may wake up and find that our leaders believe in science by opinion poll – or prophetic scribbling.

What Took Them So Long? Republicans want to change the UN budget process so that countries (or Republicans, in the case of the US) can pick which parts of the UN budget they want their money spent on. No more US money would find its way to Palestinians, peace-keeping, etc. This is another in a continuing series of useless noise made by adolescent House Republicans made with the full knowledge that it will never pass the Senate.

Lesson Learned, Briefly: Lenders are making more subprime auto loans again – over 40% of car loans go to people who cannot afford the new car they are 'buying'. No problem, the lenders know that when the loans g0 sour en mass, the taxpayer will once again bail out the lenders and the car companies. They hope.

States (Far) Rights: Republican governors want to 'reform' Medicaid, by 1) giving the money to the states and 2) let them decide who lives and who dies design their own programs, 3) with no federal oversight 4) of the managed-care programs run by their largest contributors for 5) a few – very few – qualifying voters.

Porn O'Graph: Hey, big spender!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SAR #11241

Energy is the master resource.

Not So Fast: The FDIC has filed an objection – as an investor, not as a regulator - with the State Supreme Court of New York regarding the $8.5 billion MBS accord. A number of states and other investors have also objected to the settlement, claiming there was not sufficient information provided to evaluate the terms of the agreement. BofA claims there are "compelling reasons" why the settlement should be approved. Such as avoiding bankruptcy.

Getting Better? Personal income in the US was up 0.3% in July, m/m, and spending was up by 0.8%, which is a neat but unsustainable trick. The core PCE price index was up a miserly 0.2% in July. For some mysterious reason, this tidbit drove up U.S. stocks more than 2%.

Quickly: The European debt crisis has taken a turn for the worse, as the problems with their banks, and ours, have returned. Money markets are seizing up as the global economic recovery stalls. A full-scale credit crash may be ahead. Or it may already be here.

Pin Money: Bank of America, which does not need to raise any capital, sold 13 billion shares of China Construction Bank for $8.3 billion, bringing its ten day total unnecessar increase in capital to $13.3 billion. Smells a lot like Denmark from here.

Silly Question: The question was: Does the US even need manufacturing jobs? If we don't make things and continue to turn our agricultural output into carbon emissions via ethanol, what are we going to trade to others for the stuff we need? Are we going to offer to flip their burgers for them? No... that won't work. What magical services can we export to pay for all the clothing, cars, shoes, diapers and soccer balls? Should we become like Venice and all be in the tourism business - making beds and taking tickets? A sign of the Times.

The Explanation:A key fact that brought us where we are today is that global oil production basically stagnated between 2005 and 2009.” Read the article, follow the data.

Tea Leaves? Since 1948, every time the four-quarter change has fallen below 2 percent, the economy has entered a recession. The second quarter has now been revised downward from a preliminary 1.3% to 1.0% in real terms.

Easy Come, Easy Keep: Corporate profits – at $1.45 trillion – made up a record part of the country's GDP in the second quarter. That works out to a profit-per employee of $15,278.72 -- up 22.3% from last year – which was mostly achieved through offshoring and job and wage cuts.

Unbelievers: The IMF has cut its forecast for US GDP growth for 2012 to 2.0% (down from a 2.7% guess earlier) and has marked down Eurozone growth to 1.4% for 2012.

Present At The Creation: When you hear 'Social Security is a Ponzi scheme... It won't be there for you... Social Security is broke..." you are hearing echoes of a conservative attack on Social Security that started with the Cato Institute in 1983. These things were not true then and are not true now. Conservatives hate Social Security because it has worked and continues to work and by so doing demonstrates the value of progressive governance. It is We, the People, taking care of each other. And that is not a world the GOP wants to live in. Remember, Social Security is entirely self-funding and has $2.3 trillion in its piggy bank. The military, on the other hand, has no money in its trust fund; does that mean we'll have to do way with invading places at will? Or that we can't expect the military to be there for us in 2038?

Delinquents: This summer's employment/population ratio for the 16-24 year-old population was 48.8% the lowest on record.

Porn O'Graph: Facts is facts, sort'a.

Monday, August 29, 2011

SAR #11240

Remember free markets?

Oracleizing: “Temporary factors can account for only a portion of the economic weakness that we have observed... Most of the economic policies that support robust economic growth in the long run are outside the province of the [Federal Reserve].” Chairman Ben, letting the cat out of the bag.

Translation Exercise: What does 'cooperation' mean in the German phrase "closer cooperation is the only way forward?" Or this: "Let us hope that being German and being European are now one and the same, today and forever."

Someone Finally Noticed: Why does this rate a headline? "Wall Street bailout failed to rescue Main Street" Where the hell you been for the last three years?

Place Your Bets: How long can the ECB prop up Europe's sick banks? Dunno, how long can you hold your breath? Or play make believe? Hints: Royal Bank of Scotland, down 45% in August, Société Générale, down 39%, US money funds started abandoning European banks in July . "Some European banks hold almost half a trillion euros in questionable government bonds. They’re relying on ECB funding to stay in business."

Some of the People Some of the Time: 75% of Americans disapprove of congressional Republicans ( better than the Dems, who garner a 68% disapproval rate). The voters also disagree with the Republican 'no-new-taxes' mantra, with 69% saying increased taxes are a necessary part of balancing the budget.

Conundrum: Why, if the government can finance its operations by borrowing money at a real, inflation adjusted, negative interest rate, are they trying to scrimp and save? Today it would be far cheaper for the government to borrow all of its cash and pay it back over 5 to 7 years. Yet our whole national discussion is pathologically focused on the idea that we are borrowing too much money.

Balanced Budget: In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbet cut $2 million from the education budget and granted $833 million in tax breaks to corporations. That’ll teach ‘em.

Something New: A previously unknown river flowing deep under the Amazon rainforest has been identified by Brazilian scientists. Named the Hamza, if flows slowly eastward abut 13,000 feed beneath the surface and empties into the ocean deep underground.

Wheat/Chaff: "U.S. regulators have asked some banks to take more deposits from large investors even if it’s unprofitable..." Interesting times indeed, when banks don't want your money in either dollars or francs.

Storm Surge: In the first quarter of 2011, nearly 11 million homes – 23% of all US houses with a mortgage – were underwater. In Florida it's 46%, in California 31%. Why do these folks keep wasting their money?

Business Weak: A smaller percent of prime working-age men (those 25 -54) have jobs today than at any time since the end of World War II. The percentage of men working and the median wage they earned has dropped steadily since the 1970's, the decline was masked by the increasing numbers of women in the workforce. The portion of men holding a job- any job, part or full time - fell to 63.5% in July. This is the lowest number since 1948. —These are the lowest numbers in statistics going back to 1948. And men who do have jobs get paid less – their wages have dropped 27% in the last 40 years.

To Tell The Truth: Rick Perry says that Social Security is a “monstrous lie”, “a Ponzi scheme.” Fact is Perry is a politician. If his lips moves, it generally is a lie. Not always monstrous, but nearly always a lie. Nature of the beast.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

SAR #11239

Today’s game has been called due to rain…

Friday, August 26, 2011

SAR #11238

In American politics, facts are irrelevant.

Appetizers: CDS for several large European banks is at historic highs – higher even than in 2008, and have sought over $4 billion in emergency funding from the ECB, a big jump from the half-billion they sought the day before. But the ECB's got the cash – they got it from the US. Yields on Greek bonds are at 45% and rising and Greece has put emergency liquidity measures in place as their banks make a “last stand”. For the second Greek bailout, Ms. Merkel rejects the whole idea of collateral, but the Finns would not go along without some. Cyprus only days from needing a bailout and France has unveiled a new austerity plan – exactly the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time. And finally, Spain, Italy, France, Greece And Belgium have extended their bans on short selling, 'due to market conditions.' Desperate measures all. And you thought Bank of Bernanke America was a big deal.

More of the Same: Unemployment claims rose to 417,000 last week and the moving average moved up to 407,500. Extended benefits have expired for more than 1.2 million Americans so far this year.

Mistaken Identity: Warren Buffet is not a charity, nor is he anybody's kindly uncle. His $5 billion has but two purposes – to safely earn 6% from Bank of America and hold options on 7% of the company, while protecting his much larger investment in Wells Fargo – on the theory that a BofA failure would seriously discombobulate the economy. It also gives the lie to BofA's insistence that it did not need capital.

First Cut's Always the Deepest: Eric Cantor, the Leader of the House Republicans, says – just as he did when the tornado leveled Joplin MO, that there will be no emergency federal funds for survivors of Hurricane Irene unless offsetting cuts are made to other spending programs – like food stamps, or unemployment benefits, or his salary.

Data: In 2008, the average annual income of the richest 400 Americans was $227.4 million -- and that was before 10% of us lost our jobs.

Pot in the Kettle Business: The Pentagon has been... encouraging?.. the MSM publish a string of 'The Chinese are coming, the Chinese are coming!' stories in the last few days. China says that the US is “exaggerating” the threat posed by its military spending, and points out the the US doesn't have any high ground to complain from – spending about $1 trillion to China's $91.7 billion.

All the News that Fits: One way to quickly terminate a Fox News on-air interview is to bad-mouth Sara Palin. Ask Karl Rove.

Spotted Quiz: What do the following dead guys have in common? Benjamin Rush, John Hancock, John Jay, John Witherspoon, John Peter Muhlenberg, Charles Carroll and Jonathan Trumbull Sr. They are the nation's founding fathers, according to the Texas State Board of Education. In addition, Texas 11th-graders will learn all about how "missionaries moved the United States into the position of a world power."

Once Upon a Time: I once lived in a country where justice was a believable concept, where work was fairly rewarded, where the police responded to the citizenry, where there was a decent regard for the law and a decent social safety net for those who needed help, and where a decent retirement was part of the social contract. My grandchildren think I'm making this up.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAR #11237

Our habits blind us.

As Ordered: New orders for durable goods rose 4.0% in July (seasonally adjusted), the largest gain since March. Before you get all enthused it is important to note that most of the boost came from aircraft orders now that Boeing seems to have the 787 in salable shape. Absent those orders the durable goods zoomed up a paltry 0.7%. Business spending on durable goods (the non-aircraft, non war stuff) actually fell 1.5%. Pays to read the fine print.

Follow Punish the Leader: Because he wants to do his job and put criminals in jail, NY AG Eric Schneiderman has been kicked off the executive committee of the 50-state AGs trying to paper-over working toward a settlement with the banks over their foreclosure-related activities. This follows a "heated conversation", between Schneiderman and Kathryn Wylde of the NY Fed over the foreclosure settlement deal. The problem is that the politicians want to give the banks (especially Bank of America?) get-out-of-jail-free indemnity in return for pocket change, and a few AGs - led by Schneiderman - want to hold those who committed crimes responsible for their actions.

Sheep Dip: In our modern democracy, just because an elected official is holding public meetings with his constituents doesn't mean you can record it with your cell phone or camera. It's forbidden, at least in some Republican districts, for suspected Democrats to film public events. But participatory democracy always worked best as a theory.

Everything, Explained: Free trade is “almost always the best answer.” but sometimes there are “short-run distributional consequences that fall on some segments of the population” (ie. massive unemployment) that “we can always use protectionism” prevent. If slashing your arm is a good idea except for the need for bandages, I say put the knife down.

Fine Print: The US Geological Survey estimates there are 84 trillion cubic feet of "technically recoverable natural gas" contained in the Marcellus Shale – 80% less than earlier claimed by the US Energy Information Agency. Easy come, easy go.

One More Time: The government plans to transfer sell its enormous portfolio of REO housing held by HUD, Fannie & Freddie to selected, pre-approved vultures investors from the hedge fund and “private investor” communities ( i.e. Goldman Sachs and friends). You? No, you cannot participate in this, the largest transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector since the railroad right-of-way bonanza in the 19th century.

Quoted: “The world economy is now in the grips of a damaging feedback loop involving deteriorating fundamentals, lagging policy responses and destabilized financial markets. ...the world risks slipping into a prolonged recession with worrisome institutional, political and social consequences.” PIMCO's El Erian.

Chapter 13: Last year the US spent over $1 trillion on national defense, adding to the nation's bankruptcy. For that money the US could have given every unemployed citizen with a job paying $50,000 a year, with over $200 billion left over for health insurance, job training...

It's Only Make Believe: The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that unemployment will remain above 8% well into 2013. They also are predicting GDP growth of 2.3% for 2011 (which seems most unlikely at this point) and 2.7% for 2012. It also claimed that if the BUsh tax cuts are not extended and the agreed upon budget cuts are enacted, the federal deficit will fall below 3.5% of GDP in two years. More likely, government budget cuts and the associated slowing of the economy will result in a much bleaker reality.

Neverland: A new study by the Congressional Budget Office claims (with a straight face) the budget deal will cut the US deficit in half over the next decade.

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, 99 Bottles of Beer... The Fed is still paying banks not to lend out money. Instead the get to lodge it with the Fed at 0.25% (which is more than a 2 year T-bill pays) as “excess reserves” - and $1.6 trillion is pretty excessive. If they couldn't earn income on this money, maybe they'd actually loan it to customers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SAR #11236

Capitalism, the process of maximizing profits by socializing costs.

On The Cuff: People are stashing their money into Treasuries, looking for safety and willing to take 0.00% interest in return. Not just for overnight lodging, but for two months at a gulp. They'll accept 0.22% on a two year note, while all T-bills for the next 3 months are yielding negative returns. All this no-interest stuff is... interesting.

Bad, Bad Idea: Spain is incorporating a balanced-budget amendment into its constitution. If you know of a state or nation that has successfully operated within the confines of an honest balanced-budget regime, raise your hand.

The Short Course: Bank of America – after nearly $450 billion in government loans and guarantees - is collapsing, mostly because the market does not believe its claim that its reserves are worth $222 billion. But if you mention this, BofA gets upset. If BofA goes bust, it may take the economy down with it, so it seems likely that Geithner will, at some point, arrange a marriage. JPMorgan is the whispered about favorite, but the Feds would have to sweep aside legal constraints to such a merger. The government could seize BofA, but is reluctant to have one of the world's largest capitalist institutions taken over by the government. And taxpayers are not likely to be excited about such a deal either, so whatever funding the government puts in the pot will be a state secret.

Worser, Slower: New houses sold slower than expected again last month, down 0.7% from June. 2011 will easily be the worst year for new houses in half a century. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports a 5.7% decrease in its Purchase Index in the last week. It now stands at its lowest level since 1996. A comatose housing market will be with us for years – years.-

This Much I Know Is True: The Obama administration will not hold bankers accountable. For anything. No matter how egregious. And there will be no help for families destroyed by the housing collapse if doing so would harm Wall Street. That's why Geithner told Andy Cuomo (then NY AG) not to prosecute bankers for fraud. And that's why the administration is working feverishly to force the 50 states to accept a settlement with the banks that amounts to a get out of jail free card.

Another Precint Heard From: The Richmond Fed's manufacturing index came in at a -10, the lowest reading since June 2009.

Questioning The Questions: Headlines now ask “Has Ron Paul suddenly become electable?”, while reporting his 45 to 47 match-up with Obama. The question ought to be “Has the media finally caught on that a lot of voters like this guy?”

Bad Apples: Only 7 percent of all physicians faced a malpractice claim during any given year, and just 1.6 percent of physicians in any given year faced a claim that resulted in payment. Hard to believe that 98.4% of physicians are perfect.

I Remember, Mama: Do you remember the pre- 9/11 America? Back when you weren’t stripped in the airport or body-wanded at the ballpark, and cops didn't arrest you for taking pictures of City Hall? Back when we looked to the courts for justice? Before successive administrations decided that years of pre-trial punishment was the American Way?

The Crone's Cackle: Alan Greenspan has noticed that "the euro is breaking down and the process of its breaking down is creating very considerable difficulties in the European banking system.” Good eye there, Alan, good eye. He also thinks “the major thrust in the demand for gold is not for jewelry.” Is there any way to shut this guy up?

Run & Hide: Get your hands on some real, physical gold, put it in “safe deposit box ideally outside the US, in various locations- Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada,” lay low and wait for Marc Faber to give you the all clear. Or Chicken Little, whichever.

Porn O'Graph:Bunch'a delinquents.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SAR #11235

Tell me again what it was we learned from Hover? From Japan?

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Note the lack of shock and disgust in all those reports about the Wall Street Aristocracy getting a secret $1.2 trillion boost from The Bernank. We are so shell-shocked by the level of corruption that we no longer react – it is not news, just more of the same.

Good News: A new survey says salaried workers in the US can look forward to a 2.8% increase in their pay next year. Many hourly workers will may continue to have jobs.

Anschluss Zwei punkt Null: "Unless and until a fundamental change of regime occurs involving an extensive surrender of national fiscal sovereignty, it is imperative that the no bail-out rule that is still enshrined in the treaties and the associated disciplining function of the capital markets be strengthened." Surrender? To whom? Oh, Die Deutschen. Again.

Repeat After Me: Workers are consumers. And vice versa. It's not just the unemployed who can't buy things. Many workers' incomes are so low they cannot afford much beyond the basics. Median wages dropped 1.3% in the last 8 months, and they now earn less in real terms than they did a decade ago. Every company that continues to squeeze payrolls needs to understand they are squeezing their customers' wallets.

The Mission: Lowe's is going to “invest” $5 billion in repurchasing its own stock – which it finds is a better investment than spending the money in expanding its actual business.

Attack Dog: Over the weekend the MSM, led by the Washington Post, opened a new front in the war on Social Security, alleging that the SS Disability fund was comatose. Not true, of course. The Disability Fund is fully funded through 2018.  The combined Social Security/SS Disability Fund is wholly funded until 2038 and – if the Republicans are still around and still blocking any increase in taxes on the rich – will be able to continue paying at least 80% of scheduled benefits for much longer. This “disaster” was faced before – back in 1994 – and can easily be resolved the same way now as it was then.

Euro peoned: Free, efficient, and central-bank free markets will save us, we're told, if only the ECB can monetize enough PIIGY bonds.

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off the Shore They Go: Obama's relentless pursuit of Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama insures that more middle-class manufacturing jobs will be shipped overseas. The future – according to the Trade Rep Ron Kirk - belongs to those with multiple college degrees. Half of our trade deficit, he says, “are things that frankly, we don't want to make in America, you know, cheaper products, low-skill jobs.” Not highly skilled jobs like flipping hamburgers.

This Is A Test: Florida's program of requiring welfare applicants take drug tests does not save taxpayer money unlees the average drug-free recipient stays on welfare for at least ten months, otherwise the state is spending the money just to punish.. oh, right.

Remember When: Obama once said the chances for another recession are not likely and he would go all out to help create more jobs and economic growth. Right, last week.

Grapes of Rather: Politicians in the US continue to ignore the worker in favor of the bankers, pretending that the years of economic inequality are the natural order of things. It would take courage and principles to stand up to Wall Street and the rabid right and work to re-balance the wealth in the society – things like jobs programs, some form of debt forgiveness and a shifting of the tax burden on the top 10%. But our politicians would rather keep taking handouts from the corporations, even as the future slips away.

Farmyard Odor: The British Defence Ministry is blocking construction of hundreds of wind turbines because their vibrations would interfere with detecting nuclear explosions.

Porn O'Graph:What Little Boy Blue Saw. (How the cow ate the corn.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

SAr #11234

One way to slow global warming is with a global depression.

Shortfall: There has not been nearly enough anger about private military firms being used by BofA to harass reporters sympathetic to Wikileaks, nor about the same set of firms working for the Chamber of Commerce in an effort to sabotage progressive organizations.

Too Cute By Half: Great Britain says banning Syrian oil would hurt the ordinary Syrians, not the regime. But how many ordinary Syrians get any of the oil revenue? It goes, as usual, into weaponry to keep the despots in power. Curtailing their oil would curtail their purchases of weapons... from Great Britain.

A Modest Proposal: Obama's current stump speech emphasizes his intention to "reform the tax code, close loopholes, and make some modest modifications in programs like Medicare and Social Security." Reforming the tax code means raising taxes on the middle class. Modest modifications means driving the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 – which means you can't retire until 67 because you cannot afford to pay the medical insurance. It would be another broken promise.

A Is for Austerity: Greece expects its GDP to decline at least 5% this year and with luck to be flat next year. Optimism in action.

Not Necessarily News: "A former senior analyst at Moody's has gone public with his story of how one of the country's most important rating agencies is corrupt to the core. The analyst, William J. Harrington, worked for Moody's for 11 years, from 1999 until his resignation last year."

Synchronicity: A flurry of articles popped up this weekend, detailing the terrible effects of  new EPA rules on coal-fried plants. They are disingenuous at best. A non-partisan report points out that the plants being forced to close will are the oldest, the dirtiest and the most expensive to operate. On average they run onlhy 40% of the time. As far as causing blackouts, between 200 and 2003 the industry added 200 gigawats of capacity, far more than will be lost over the next 6 years. Republicans in the House, have been scrambling to block the measures, at the behest of their sponsors.

Bonuses Questions: (1) Where has Uncle Sam’s bailout money gone? (2) Has the money been paid back yet?

Das Kapital: “Karl Marx, it seems, was partly right in arguing that globalization, financial intermediation run amok, and redistribution of income and wealth from labor to capital could lead capitalism to self-destruct.” Roubini.

Turn About: The difference between the Bush tax cuts for the rich and Obama's payroll tax cut for working stiffs is that the GOP is in favor of making one permanent and ending the other as quickly as possible – even though both meet their definition of a tax increase, which they say they are unalterably against.

Datum: The Social Security trust fund holds $2.66 trillion in US Treasury bonds. They are as good (or bad) as the bonds held by China or Wall Street Banks. If the money is not stolen, Social Security will be able to make full payments until 2037. If the cap on income is then raised by 10%, the funding would be sound for much longer. Any politician who says different is looking to give that money to his friends on Wall Street.

The Pledge: Michele Bachmann has promised that she would “guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation.”

Similar, but Different: During the 1990's, Rick Perry invested between $5,000 and $10,000 in Movie Gallery, a company that rented pornographic movies. His campaign maintains that it was “nothing different than a Blockbuster chain.” Except, of course, that it rented porn out of the back room. Besides, he sold his stock in less than a year.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SAR #11232

When it comes down to what matters more to us -- democracy or capitalism -- what will we decide? And will we be allowed to choose? - Jakob Augstein

Nude Descending a Staircase: Now JP Morgan has downgraded its prediction for US GDP growth – to 1.0% for 4Q11, down from 2.5% and 1Q12 to 0.5% from the previous guess at 1.5%. And Goldman signs in with 3Q11 at an optimistic 1% and 4Q at 1.5%

Through a Glass, Darkly: What can explain the enthusiasm investors have for locking up their money in 10-year Treasuries at 2.0%? To be satisfied with that return you have to firmly believe that everything else is going to do worse. If the US economy picks up sometime in the next ten years these investors are going to suffer terrible losses. And the same will be true for those investing in other long-term, low-interest paper: mortgages, car loans and all the rest. But the market right now says that's not going to happen. It sees little or no growth for the next decade. And the market is always right, right? We live in interesting times.

Subtle Differences: Everyone can understand that Saudi Arabia's interest in building nuclear power plants to provide domestic power while it continues to sell petroleum abroad. Iran, on the other hand, has no excuse.

Warm-up Question: Is the endgame for the Euro approaching? Yes, it was handicapped at birth and its current physicians seem intent on making things worse as quickly as possible. This is not a Disney film; a happy ending is too much expect.

Timing is Everything: Why have the Republicans decided to gang up on the EPA right now? Quite possibly because the agency is preparing rules to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants – mercury, ozone, coal ash, water quality, and – gasp – greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously the GOP's sponsors in the coal and power industries see offense as the best defense, especially when it is very hard to defend ruining the environment for a couple of hundred years just to increase profits by a few cents per share.

It's Not Just the Dow: House sales dropped 12.7% m/m in July. In NYC, sales dropped 40% y/y in the second quarter.

The Little Things: Say the Euro-zone dissolves and the Euro goes away, as Soros speculates. Sure, their will be all sorts of other problems, but what happens to Euro-denominated bonds? Are they reissued in a local currency? Which local currency? At what conversion rate? It could make US Treasuries at 2.0% look like a good deal.

Lily Gilding: As part of its nationwide campaign to fight proposals to ban plastic bags, the American Chemistry Council helpfully revised California's school environmental curriculum to include positive comments about plastic shopping bags.

On Received Wisdom: The GOP has long maintained that no one wants to see taxes increased. And that has long been a lie. While people do not want their own taxes increased, for at least the last 20 years most Americans have wanted the taxes on the rich raised. They look at their paychecks and know that the right-wing blather about 51% of them paying no income taxes is a red herring. If I (and my employer) have surrender 15.3% of my wages in payroll taxes, why does the guy making $500,000 pay only 3%? And the guy making several million for pushing paper around Wall Street pay less than 1% of his income?

Truth Telling: Rick Perry's suggestion that the students decide on the right answers to science questions was marred by a minor factual error. Well, a couple of them. One, evolution is the most tested and proven theoretical concept in science and we long ago “figured out” it was right. And two, Texas schools do not teach creationism.

Mirror, Mirror: Don't look to the unemployed, the discarded, the unneeded to explain what drove the looters into London streets – look to the bankers, the politicians, all those who have made more and more and more the ultimate goal.

Friday, August 19, 2011

SAR #11231

Cutting Medicare/Medicaid, would deprive the largest health-care providers and insurers of easy profits...

Near Miss: The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index came in 8 standard deviations below the expert consensus estimate. It reinforces the negative report in the NY Fed's Empire Index earlier this week. The CPI numbers, at 0.5%, reflects the same big bump that the PPI reported earlier. (Although the gasoline price blip – half the increase - has now gone away.) Initial employment claims, at 408,000 were worse than expected, too. T-bills are at 70 year lows, mortgage rates are at 50 year lows and sales of existing houses were down 3.5% m/m. Gold closed the day at $1,822 and reached $1,870 overnight.

Syrian Terrorists: Assad's troops have been ridding Syrian cities of protesters armed terrorist groups through the surgical application of tank fire. To calm the populace, the mangled corpses of protesters suspected terrorists are dropped in their neighborhoods after "questioning".

It's Official: Corruption and cover-up are an engrained practices within the SEC, where the documentation for over 10,000 inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation have been destroyed over the last 20 years. It wasn't the innocent they have been protecting.

Bar Bet: Neuroscientists report finding "few reliable differences between boys' and girls' brains" that would justify same-sex schooling. Yes, adolescents think about sex a lot. But they will do so anywhere, anytime. Remember?

Night of the Long Knives: An email from the Obama for America campaign describes Paul Krugman as "a political rookie." It goes on to blame the "ideologue Left" for complaining about Obama's willingness to sacrifice Medicare, which OFA believes "is a sound political strategy.”

Daylight Massacre: Morgan Stanley slashed the entire world's outlook for economic growth, cutting the 2011 global GDP forecast from 4.2% to 3.9%. Why? Blame the politicians, they said. Recent "policy errors" in the US and EU and the prospect of further fiscal tightening will push both "dangerously close" to recession.

Seems Like Old Times... Oil giant BP says it is investigating a new sheen in the Gulf of Mexico. No further information was offered. BP made it clear that “there is a lot of sheen in the Gulf of Mexico area” and that the substance did not necessarily come from a BP site . “Not necessarily.”

You Are There: Let's see, the financial system is more leveraged today than during the Tech Bubble, mutual funds are more into stocks than at any time in the last 40 years, the global economy is slowing sharply, European banks are teetering, and the US recovery has gone AWOL. Should we expect a market correction - or civil unrest, bank holidays, riots and such?

Asked & Answered: What do Massachusetts, Switzerland, and Singapore have in common? Their students can do math. As for the rest of the US, their 15-year old students ranked 32nd out of 65 OECD countries.

Sure Thing: Ms. Bachmann claims she will bring back $2.00 a gallon gasoline. Interesting. Petroleum is a global commodity. While I'm sure she would cripple the US economy, the only reliable way to bring down the price that far would be a world wide depression.

Fun With the Arithmetic: The latest CBO projection is that the ratio of the federal government's net interest payments to GDP is 0.8% - the lowest since WWII. Where's the beef?

Errata: To the litany of things that Rick Perry doesn't believe in, add evolution. Climate change is a hoax perpetrated by scientists seeking cash. He also believes that most of what the federal government does is unconstitutional. He does seem to believe in miracles, especially the ones he thinks he performed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SAR #11230

Governments rest on the consent of their victims, too.

Devil/Details: The leaders of Germany and France have proposed the eurozone form a “true European economic government” led by the president of the EU and consisting of the leaders of the 17 eurozone nations. They also want a constitutional requirement for balanced budgets to be adopted by all the eurozone nations. A few details remain to be worked out.

In The News: The Mortgage Bankers' Association reports that applications for mortgages fell 9.1% last week. The market's volatility got noticed.

Politics, As Usual:How do you judge economic performance? Number of jobs? Number of unemployed? Employment/population ratio? Average wage? Pick the one that makes you look good, or him look bad. Tiebreaker: 44.7% of the US population has a job; 43.5% of Texans. It was 47% in Texas when Perry took over.

Echo? What Echo? A Shell platform off the Scottish coast has been leaking for over a week, but so far Shell has been less than forthcoming with information about the size, cause, and prognosis for the leak.

Question: Deficit this, deficit that, deficits everywhere and under the bed. How big is this deficit thingy? After all the numbers and assumptions and grinding of teeth and threatening to evict grandma from the nursing home, it turns out that the CBO assumption that makes the ten-year deficit a problem is the assumption that the Bush tax cuts never expire. If they end when they are supposed to under current law, presto-chango, no big deficit problem.

Up In Smoke: In July, China increased its coal imports by 36% y/y, to 17.5 million metric tons. How much is that in atmospheric CO2?

Ransom Note: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor vetoed Obama's plan for a major jobs program even before the plan had been announced. He insists that the Republicans stop any discussion of new stimulus spending. New tax breaks are fine, but any new spending will have to come at the expense of existing spending, preferably from health care and social services.

Art Appreciation: In Long Beach, CA, the cops will arrest you if your vacation photos do not have any "apparent esthetic value." The officers have no specific training or guidelines, but will arrest you "based on their experience" if you are not engaging in"regular tourist behavior."

Leftovers:Saudi internal consumption of petroleum increased 15% y/y. Good thing their production is up by 17%.

Prospecting: Obama seems to think busing around the country saying 'we need more jobs' is going to get him re-elected. It won't. Actually creating jobs by hiring people to build infrastructure with the free money the world is begging us to take pretty much interest free, now that's an idea...

Faintly Praised: Rick Perry is George Bush “without the intelligence or the ethics.”

Maybe: Further economic deterioration, such as that anticipated to follow the budgetary cuts demanded by the Republicans, is likely to trigger higher unemployment and another fall in aggregate demand resulting in a recession which will trigger yet another leg down in housing and increase in foreclosures - which would increase banks balance sheet problems. But when they turn to Washington for further bailouts, the cupboard will be bare. Note the "is likely". Ditto for Europe.

Capitalism Explained: The meaner you are, the more money you make - $9,772 a year more.

Porn O'Graph: 'Crushing' illustrated.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SAR #11229

The darkness, and the madness, will rise again Jesse.

The Outlook Look Out! Moody’s has cut its forecast for US GDP growth in the second half of 2011 to 2% (annualized), down from July's guess of 3.5%. Goldman cut its forecast to 2.1% from 3.0%.

Cloak of Invisibility: Why doesn't Ron Paul, the Invisible Man, get respect? I mean other than his staunch libertarian beliefs. Because he is honest, consistent, and he doesn't sell out his opinions for lobbyist money. He is not a Washington politician. Rather, he is dangerous to those who mold the media.

Blood from Turnips: Even with lower sales and lower traffic in its store, Wal-Mart managed to increase its profits by 5.7% in the second quarter. Selling less for more; not always the low price.

One Shoe: The EU/IMF solution for the PIIGS has been to cut social spending, increase taxes, sell off the family silver, cut imports and concentrate on exports. And now Ms. Merkel discovers that her export-heavy economy isn't doing well because... see above. German GDP grew(?) 0.1% in the last quarter. Wonder how they'll do as their importing partners continue to swoon? We are entering a global recession, so the flavor of the day – austerity – is the wrong medicine.

Tea Leaves: The Fed reports a 0.9% increase in US manufacturing production last month, but the spurt may simply be catching up from the supply shock caused by the Japanese earthquake and not the real thing.

Mortgages One, Two, Three: Four of the country’s biggest banks have convinced a NY Superior Court judge that they can now be trusted not to commit outright fraud to avoid “inadequate or inaccurate paperwork” in their foreclosure filings. However, Nevada's AG joined 3 other states in questioning the proposed 50-state settlement of banks' mortgage practices that gives the banks get-out-of-jail-free cards. The banks want immunity to extend to their bundling of loans into securities, which are coming back to bite them.

The Reckoning: The US war machine gets something on the order of $7.2 trillion a year (plus VA, interest on military debt, AEC, NSA and so on). Yet Panetta and Clinton insist that defense cuts would “terribly weaken” the US.

The Payoff: The American consumer seems to be learning a lesson. They have cut the number of credit cards they carry, used debit cards more rather than run up debt balances, and even reduced their rate of late card payments to the lowest level in nearly two decades. No wonder the recovery is so sluggish.

Assigning Guilt: All of the deficit projections assume steady growth, low inflation, falling unemployment and much higher interest rates? Low inflation we've got, the rest not so much. Only continuing low interest rates and that someone has a huge ulterior motive in ringing the deficit alarm bell seem certain. There is not a “long-term deficit problem.” There's a long term threat that pure propaganda will prevent a just solution to the problems caused by unnecessary and unfunded wars, unwise tax cuts, and unregulated financial markets.

Political Honesty: No longer will Republicans submit to the cries and curses of their constituents. No more open town hall meetings to discuss policies with the voters. From now on the voters will have to play by the same rules as corporations – if you want to speak to your GOP Representative, be prepared to pay for the privilege.

Mantra: Fiscal issues are not and should not be the principal worry in an America with high unemployment and rock-bottom sovereign-debt costs.” Repeat until it sinks in.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SAR #11228

Poverty is globalization's poster child.

Entrails: The August Empire State Manufacturing Survey fell again this month, making it three months in a row of progressively greater declines. New orders, a preview of future business conditions, also fell for the third month of progressively steeper contractions. This suggests that a year or so from now when the NEB gets around to dating the start of the next recession, they'll pick June 2011 as the beginning.

No Harm No Foul: A Shell oil rig in the North Sea has leaked "several hundred tons" of crude oil into the ocean off the coast of Scotland. One ton = 7.4 barrels = 42 gallons. Multiply by "several hundred."

Subdued Enthusiasm: Detroit area house sales jumped nearly 10% in July y/y. Prices also increased nearly 9% y/y, with the average price soaring to $78,000.

Apples to Apples: The people who rant about 51% of Americans "paying no income taxes" (but who do pay payroll taxes) are strangely silent about the fact that more than two-thirds of corporations don't pay any—and they aren't subject to Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid taxes either.

Some Myths: Quantitative easing helped the economy. Republicans are fiscal conservatives. The US has the best healthcare. Tax cuts increase tax revenue. The US has the world's highest standard of living.

Stop and Think: The conventional wisdom is that it's a horrible idea to raise taxes during a recession. The economy is weak, so why take more money out of the economy? But we are constantly told that corporations are sitting on cash because they cannot see significant demand to justify building new or opening old factories, much less hiring anyone. Banks have literally hundreds of billions in excess reserves parked at the fed earning 0.5% because they can't find anyone to lend the money to. And best of all, what does Uncle Sam do with the tax money? He spends it. Get it? He spends it. Pays people.  Buys stuff. Builds things.

Principals: Michelle Bachmann paid 6,000 people to vote for her, but only got 4,800 votes. At least 1,200 voters were smarter than she is.

Multiples of Choice: The stock market is driven by: a) Innovation, b) Computers, c) Greed and fear, d) Fear and greed, (e) Speculators, f) Financial engineering, g) Manipulation or h) The Plunge Protection Team. More than one answer may be correct.

Either/Or: On the day that Iraq’s Vice President said that removing US troops from Iraq will "improve security," the White House announced it would consider (hint, hint) any Iraqi request for US troops to remain in the country past December.

Know the Candidates! Which of the following are Rick Perry's positions on the issues? 1) Social Security is both evil and unconstitutional. 2) Regulating banks is unconstitutional. 3) Protecting consumers from fraud is unconstitutional. 4) Nearly everything the government does is unconstitutional: gun laws, civil rights laws, environmental protection laws, and the minimum wage, for example. 5) Global warming is both unconstitutional and a liberal ploy to conceal the fact the world is cooling.

Porn O'Graph: Austerity breeds anarchy. More cuts, more crime.

Monday, August 15, 2011

SAr #11227

Political leadership requires the inability to admit error.

Rainyday: The first thing that governments do when faced with social problems is to curb citizen's freedoms.

All the Way from A to B: Wal-Mart, with sales at US locations open over a year falling 2.6%, says that the lack of sales is due to a lack of customer traffic in their stores – which they did not seem to connect to the outside world. To Wal-Mart there is no outside world..

Silver Lining: Instead of bemoaning the passing of the American Empire, consider these: What good has being the world's policeman done for Americans? If you count all the costs, in money and in lives, has it been worth it?

Bait and Switch: Texas utility bills have a small surcharge on them, the proceeds from which are supposed to go to a fund that helps the poor pay their utility bills. Supposed to being the sticking point, the Republican controlled legislature keeps stealing from the fund to balance the budget without raising taxes.

Point of View: Strange that the right doesn't recognize themselves in London's rioters – looters are capitalist without regulation.

Short Version: Long term performance data show that nearly all mutual funds perform worse than the minimum-fee market index funds. On average, you can't beat the average, and if you are paying fees for someone to be average, you'll be earning less than average. Another instance where Wall Street's expertise is in emptying your wallet into their pockets.

Enigma/Nutshell: Three things to remember about Rick Perry are: He is a politician. He has been governor of Texas for 10 years. When in doubt, see #1 and #2.

The Spoils: In an attempt to save their native environment, the people of Nigeria's Ogoniland kicked Shell out in 1993. Twenty years later the mangrove swamps they call home are still inundated by a thick carpet of crude that Shell left behind. Shell has, by the way, received approval to explore for petroleum off-shore in the Arctic.

Ouch: In the US, 81% of all stocks are owned by the top 10% and 91% by the top 20%. Why 80% of the population should care about the stock market is a mystery.

Paralysis: Wall Street keeps transferring the nation's income from the workers to the owners. The owners will not invest in new factories, nor even fully staff the existing ones, because they have no customers. Unlike Jacob's ladder, every rung leads lower. In Marx's terms: the continuing redistribution of income from labor to capital, from wages to profits, makes the problem of inadequate aggregate demand even worse. Capitalism, unregulated, consumes itself.

Principles: The primary concern of free-market capitalists is whether the US and European governments have both the will and the wherewithal to save their asses one more time.

The Enemy: The USDA says that there are 5 fast food places for every grocery store in the US and that 23 million Americans live in low income areas with no “ready access” to grocery stores.

Just Say No: Dictator wannabe Rick Santorum says there should be no abortions. None. No exceptions. Rape? Nope, "one act of violence is enough." Incest? Nope, "that child is an innocent victim." No, Mr. Santorum thinks that having suffered the violence of rape or incest, the women - or young girl, more likely - should be then forced to suffer the trauma of unwanted pregnancy and forced motherhood.

Part-time President: Rick Perry wants to become president so he can do away with the job, promising to make the federal government "as inconsequential in your lives as I can". Imagine how much better off we would be if there were no constraints on Wall Street's greed and chicanery... and no government bailouts for banks... and no unemployment insurance... and certainly we should stop taxing people to support a large military... He thinks global climate change is "all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight." He ought to visit Texas.

Passing the Buck: Ron Paul claims that governments exist to protect “all life,” and that because “we cannot play God and make those decisions”, those God wants to be raped must bear the children. Ditto with incest. Ditto with those God wants to be born only to live brief lives of agony. Thus the government in banning all abortion is doing Gods will. Everything else the government does, according to Mr. Paul, is the work of the devil.

Porn O'Graph: Mirrored images.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SAR #11225

Supporting tyrants is always wrong.

One Size Fits All: When the eight Republican presidential candidates were asked “Is there any ratio of cuts to taxes that you would accept? Three to one? Four to one? Ten to one? Would you walk away from a 10 to 1 deal?” They immediately, as a group, all raised their hands. No brain cells were harmed in this experiment.

Keeping Score: The CIA maintains that none of the drones it has fired into Pakistan in the last year have harmed a single non-combatant civilian. Opinions vary.

One From Column A: Cameron considers shutting down social media. 'London Police Say 1,051 Arrested Over Riots.' NPR. 'Widespread policy failures have bred a feral British underclass.' Sydney Morning Herald. 'Panic on the streets of London.' Penny Red Blog. 'Caring costs – but so do riots.' The Independent. 'Anarchy and Austerity: Why London Won't Be the Last City to Burn.' The Atlantic. 'It is too simplistic to blame the coalition’s cuts for these riots.' New Statesman. 'Police chief attacks ‘irrelevant’ politicians.' The Times. And last but not least: 'U.S. would deal with UK-style riots... by sending the Army to areas with 'large numbers of minority groups'. The Daily Mail.

The Beat Goes On: Syrian security forces fired into protesters as they left a main mosque in Deir al-Zor after Friday Prayers demanding President-for-their-lives Assad step down. In Yemen, hundreds of thousands poured onto the streets in cities and towns across Yemen, demanding President step down. In Israel, 88% of the public support the ongoing demonstrations demanding cheaper housing, education and health care.

Sin Banned: Thinking the banks are going to collapse Short-selling financial stocks has been banned in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, South Korea and Turkey. They are allowed to make money from your troubles, but turn about isn't fair play.

Risk Free Loans: Once upon a time a banker was expected to be an excellent judge of character, protecting his depositors by only extending loans only to those he had good reason to believe would repay the money. Today a banker is expected to get the government to cover any lapse in judgment made by the bank in making loans. Since it is a risk-free business, why pay these people so much?

Point: In real dollars, the average worker's wages have been stagnant for the last 30 years, and actually fell 15% from 2007 to 2009.

All's Fair: Michele Bachmann promised to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits for all future enrollees, starting immediately . “We will reform the entitlement programs now, not five years from now, not 26 years from now, [but]now.” Rick Perry, on the other hand, says God told him Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional.

Homework Assignment: For a good weekend read, a list of things not to read.

Less Is Not Less: Yes, the number of new foreclosures is down, but that's because the banks are pretending to get the actual paperwork together instead of fraudulently filling with forged documentation. It takes longer to do these things right legally. Once they do, they can't sell them because title insurance companies cannot figure out who has the legal right to sell them.

Pot/Kettle: Russia urges Ukraine not to politicize gas deliveries.

Crime In Progress: The American political and financial overlords intend to see their theft of the Social Security Trust Fund through to completion. Back in Ronnie's days they conned the public into overpaying FICA taxes and promised that the overage would go into special Treasury bonds so the money would be there when it was needed. But they spent the money on current budgets instead of paying their fair share of taxes. The intention was to raise your taxes and cut taxes on the rich. And so they did. If we could raise taxes to repay the money borrowed from Social Security, the fund would be fully funded for another 25 years. And then we could raise the taxes on those making over $125,000 or so and the system would remain solvent. But that's not the plan. The plan is to finish stealing the money, then stiff the public.

Shocker! From deepest Iowa comes the startling revelations that few of the GOP presidential wannabes support gay rights. Few?

Porn O'Graph:Correlation may well be causation this time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

SAR #11224

Once we get rid of the environment, business will really flourish.

Crooks and Thieves: Of course they are hooligans and criminals – everything is so hunky dory in Mr. Cameron's England that it just must be a bunch of degenerates. No, not his government – the unemployed youth of London. His answer: plastic bullets, water cannon and troops on the streets. Sure the police warned that the austerity regime would cause “social tensions” and “widespread disorder”, but what did they know, they weren't economists.

Statistic: More than 20% of American children live in poverty. They are the most impoverished age group in the nation.

Toe/Water: The latest balloon to come floating out of the West Wing suggested that Uncle Sam could become the nation's largest landlord by renting out Federally owned foreclosed houses. What the housing market really needs is another few layers of complexity riddled with corruption and graft. Which problem are they going to solve? Whose problem?

Pot/Kettle: The US has asked China to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier. Probably for the same reason the US has eleven of them and is building two more.

Vox Populi: 23 recent polls show that – by an average of 65% to 30% - the American public wants tax increases as part of the deficit reduction process. That's nice, but it does not matter. The GOP no-taxes agenda has been out of step with the public for 15 years or more, but public opinion, like unemployment, foreclosure and the economic struggles of the average voter, does not matter to the Republican Party.

My Friend: Mitt Romney assured his 'friends' at the Iowa State Fair that he would not raise taxes on corporations in order to save Social Security and Medicare because “corporations are people,” too.

Experimental Data:Greece reports that cutting the government's budget and imposing the IMF/EU mandated austerity measures has resulted in a 16.6% unemployment rate – an increase of 36% y/y.

Under/Over: The initial number for new unemployment claims was 395,000 – the first time it has been under 400,000 in 18 weeks (although this one will be adjusted upwards, too). The June trade gap was $53 billion, a 6% increase and way above the experts' expectation of $48 billion. Almost one-third of all houses sold in June were “distressed properties” on which the bank took less that the loan balance in payment. 6.5 million mortgages were delinquent or in foreclosure in June.

Take That!The CME raised the margin requirements on gold trades by 22%, resulting in a 1.8% drop in its price. They also raised the margin requirement on US Treasuries, another speculative investment.

On The Cuff: A broken AC or a car with engine problems would drive 64% of Americans to the pawn shop, a payday loan shark, or – last resort - a cash advance on a credit card to come up with $1,000 to fix things.

Choice, Really Choice: When he ran for governor, Rick Scott went around Florida scaring old folks by telling them that “Obamacare” would take away people's ability to chose their own doctors. This was not true, of course. Now that he is governor he has taken away state employees right to chose – the state will offer them only one HMO and the choice is take it or leave it. The governor pays $30 a month for his health insurance.

Chaos Theory: The Dow was -512, then +61, then – 632, up 429 followed by down 520 on Wednesday and closed Thursday a positive 423. Even my '57 Chevy never shimmied that much.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SAr #11223

Wealth is an illusion.. with the permanence of fog.

Sentimental Journey: The markets keep falling. It is amusing to listen to the rationales attached, when the true explanation of all market moves is either greed or fear. Markets go up or down depending on which prevails.

What Color Is Your Shirt? What if Great Britain's neighborhood mobs begin to fall under some form of effective leadership and expand and coordinate across and among cities?

Sideshow: While everyone was watching Societe Generale deny all the rumors in the main ring, Commerzbank AG, Germany’s second- largest bank, reported a 93% drop in quarterly profits due to losses on their Greek bonds.

Bunker Mentality: Apparently Obama is avoiding any job creation initiative because his political handlers do not think Congress would pass an effective bill so they have chosen not to try. Instead they will go along with the Republicans and pretend that the long term government debt is the current economic threat. They hope to spin a few minor victories on spending cuts into electoral victory - amid the economic ruins of the country. They are, in sad fact, the dream team.

Abstract: A quick survey from the Weimar Republic to modern day Greece and Great Britain suggests that fiscal austerity, politically motivated violence and social upheaval go hand in hand.

Reality Check: Federal taxes, at 14.8% of GDP, are the lowest level they have been in over 60 years, down a tad from 2009 & 2010's 14.9%. The post-war average is 18.5%. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” Someone else noted that you get what you pay for...

Smallpox: An Amazon tribe that had had no previous contact with modern civilization may not have survived its first brush with the 21st Century – a group of drug smugglers.

Credit, Where Credit Is Due: Now that the Tea Party has had a few moments to bask in the illusory warmth of an glowing economic future achieved by spending cuts alone, it is time to turn to the real question: Who will pay to fix the things that have been broken by thirty years of trickle-down free-market foolishness? Not who should – we all know they'll manage to escape – but who will?

Forecast: Real 10-Year Treasury yields are zero, predicting a future with no economic growth. This should kill the inflation boogeyman, but it won't.

Tanks for the Memories: Syrian military forces backed by tanks and APCs have occupied several villages near the Turkish border in their continuing attempt to crush protests and protesters. Heads of state are in full hand-ringing mode and harsh condemnations are expected.

Crumbs: The number of Americans receiving food stamps has increased over 40% in the last two years.

Two If By Sea: Fish caught 55 km (30 miles) from Fukushima contain radioactive cesium at levels that far exceed the allowable limits for human consumption.

Porn O'Graph: US exceptionalism, child poverty edition.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SAR #11222

It's time to try something almost anything else.

The Other Shoe: Don't sweat the stock market's jitters, its the slow freezing of liquidity that will pull the wheels off the wagon. The US dollar today has a negative value, and the Fed is not going to raise short term rates, so the dollar will remain under mounting stress. Look for things to get worse in the money markets.

Cognitive Dissonance: The yield on 10-Year Treasuries has dropped below 2.10%. At that level – according to traditional wisdom – stocks are 30% overvalued. After Tuesday's market, make that 35%.

Carpe Diem: Mitch McConnell intends to rescue Social Security and Medicare from their “clearly unsustainable path” by insisting on gutting both programs via “significant entitlement reforms.” The complete quote, for you Latin scholars, is “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.”

Eney Meeny, Miny, Moe:Maybe S&P's chutzpah wasn't the main cause of Monday's madness – maybe one or two big hedge funds got a call from Mr. Margin, and one thing led to another.

Finger On The Pulse: “Rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it’s politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit. The idea is to keep the public focused on the deficit drama – to convince them their current economic woes have something to do with it, decry Washington’s paralysis over fixing it, and then claim victory over whatever outcome emerges from the process recently negotiated to fix it. They hope all this will distract the public’s attention from the President’s failure to do anything about continuing high unemployment and economic anemia.”

Cartography: Here's a short review of how the US managed to go from surplus to disaster in 12 years – or in three Presidential terms, whichever is less.

Home Sweet House: House prices fell 6.2% y/y in the second quarter and are down about 30% from the 2006 peak. Foreclosures made up 19.7% of all sales, down from the March peak of 21.4%. Fake signatures on fraudulent foreclosure documents remain steady.

Factoid: 1,470 of our overtaxed millionaires paid no federal income taxes in 2009.

Previews: Since 1939, the market has seen 30 declines of 15% or more over four months, but such declines have only resulted in a recession one third of the time. The thing to watch for is a 20% jump in the 4-week moving average for jobless claims, which is now at 408,000.

Chickens, Roosting: The Feds are suing Goldman Sachs for $491 million in damages for selling to credit unions that subsequently failed $1.2 billion of MBS that were "destined to perform poorly."

General Principles: Michael Burgess (R-TX), says that President Obama needs to be impeached, but doesn't have a particular reason in mind. John Bruning, Tea Party sweetie in Nebraska, says welfare recipients are like "raccoons scavenging for insects." Tea Party favorite Allen West (R-FL) claims that the Republican's refusal to raise taxes had nothing to do with the S&P downgrade - despite S&P's press release that cited the lack of increased tax revenues as part of their decision.

Quoted: “I’m strong – my wife’s strong, and we make it. I’m not struggling. My family eats; we eat every day.” Ray Abrams, 45 whose only job is as a groundskeeper two days a week, taking home $135. We eat every day...

Appearances Count: Forget S&P and the deficit/debt stuff – the thing that makes the US look weak is the political shenanigans inflicted on the country by an extremist right actually wants economic Armageddon.

No Smoking: Much of what we do every day is - directly or indirectly - contributing to the end of our industrial society through any number of catastrophes: global warming, peak oil, over population, resource depletion, and on and on. None of this is news, but we prefer to pretend ignorance. Like smokers, we will deny and delay until we, and our way of life, are dying, then seek a miraculous cure.

Audition: Ratigan reprises Beale.