Friday, September 30, 2011

SAR #11271

Put to sea if you'd learn to pray.” Evan S. Connell, Jr.

Revised Standard Version: The BLS has rejiggered the way they fudge the employment numbers, resulting in this week's initial claims to be an unbelievable 391,000. The BLS acknowledged that “some of the improvement was due to technical factors...”

A More Perfect Union: A plethora of financial commentators are finally catching on to the fact that Europe's problem is not debt or fiscal irresponsibility, or even those lazy Greeks, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, Italians... The problem is the trade balances, or rather the trade imbalances among the member nations. If a nation runs a negative trade balance (negative current account) it must borrow the difference in order to pay the bills. If the Eurozone was one big happy fiscal nation, like these United States, then the 'states' wouldn't have this problem. Sure, the US runs a deficit with the world at large, but nobody gets excited that Pennsylvania has an imbalance with Iowa. Either they gotta fuse, or dismember the euro.

Some Experience Required: The quickest way to change your mind about austerity programs is to suffer one.

Face It: Facebook has “inadvertently” been keeping track of every webpage you visit – even if you have logged out of Facebook itself. Imagine, tracking every webiste visited by its 750 million customers, every day. Imagine, if you possibly can, that it was done “inadvertently”.

Revenge of the Sith:Over 100,000 acres of Georgia farmland are infested with Roundup-Ready pigweed. Twenty-nine Georgia counties are now host to pigweed that is resistant to glyphosate (Montsano's Round-Up). Montsano advises customers to supplement Round-up with herbicides such as Agent Orange 2,4-D.

Agreed: Krugman, on economics: “Something very bad has happened to this discipline.”

Who's That Masked Man? Ben Bernanke says that unemployment in the US is “a national crisis” and that someone should do something about it. He also says that monetary policy cannot do much to save the economy. He suggested Congress should take more responsibility. Ben might want to read the charter of the Federal Reserve System – of which he is the Chairman. Its mission is to control inflation and promote “full employment”.

Quoted: “The developed world is heading into recession and every major policy-making body is making the wrong moves.” - Citibank.

Women and Children First: The order in which your city is likely to cut things in order to balance the budget without any of those horrid increased taxes is: Fire/lay off the people who provide the services. Cancel infrastructure repairs and improvements. Close the parks, pools, libraries, animal shelters, rec centers. Collect the garbage less often. “Modify” the health care benefits of city employees. Reduce public safety spending, close fire stations, cut police patrols. “Modify” pension benefits. Cut public health services. Cut spending on schools.

Bullies: Texas oil refineries want Texas school districts to pay for the pollution-control equipment the refiners are required to install. They claim they cannot afford to stop polluting the environment unless they get huge tax refunds. Win or lose, little Johnny should get an education.

Annual Checkup: Health insurance went up 9% last year. A family of four now pays $15,073 a year for insurance that pays only some of the costs of being sick. Try that on WalMart minimum wage. Explain to me again why we don't have, don't want, single payer national healthcare.

Porn O'Graph: You We are here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

SAR #11270

Why do we keep trying to fix the wrong problem?

Another One Bites The Dust: France is joining the legions of the damned in imposing austerity measures in order to “reassure investors” that they will get their money back. Step one is cutting its budget for the first time since WWII, raising taxes and cutting 30,000 public employee jobs. These moves have not worked anywhere else they've been tried, but maybe French bondholders are still gullible.

Today's Trivia: The durable goods report was moderately upish, but was greeted rather grumpily by Goldman Sachs, which said it was “encouraging” but probably not sustainable. Go away, kid, yer bothering me.

There's Something Happening Here... In many ways the deliberately leaderless Occupy Wall Street protest parallels the organization and style of the Indignados. Soon to open a franchise near you. Are the times a'changin'?

Witching Hour: Many hedge fund investors must decide by Friday if they want to get their money back from their funds by the end of the year. Will they flee en mass? Maybe. Assets under management by the Man Group, the world's largest hedge fund, area already down 25% this year. Does this mean that 1 out of 4 hedgies will be unemployed next year?

Talking Head: The former head of the Budapest Stock Exchange and current head of securities services for Italy's largest lender says “the euro is beyond rescue.” He went on to predict payless paydays, cashless cash machines and the complete write-off of Greek debt.

After Action Report: The UN says that "violent incidents" in Afghanistan have increased 40% over last year and are on track to being the deadliest year so far in the decade since the US invaded. NATO says the UN data is "inconsistent with the data that we have collected". And the US says that in another 15 or 20 years victory will be just around the corner, if there are any corners left.

Softly, Softly: US money market funds have cut their exposure to the euro by 45% ($177 billion)in the last 8 months, so naturally the Fed has once again stepped in as the lender of last (or least) resort for European banks. This may or may not be a Good Idea, but it certainly gives critics of the Fed an opening.

Maybe, Just Maybe: There appears to be a link between the slowing of the polar jet stream, the rapid decrease in Arctic sea ice (three decades faster than predicted by the ICCP), colder winters with slower moving storms in the northern hemisphere and global warming. If true, this portends more extreme weather going forward. [The scientists acknowledge that two years of observations do not prove their theory, but they find the data convincing.]

Bring Out Your Dead... Senator Rand Paul (Alien-KY) is against forcing pipeline companies make repairs to prevent another explosion like the one in San Bruno last year, because he is opposed to the idea of letting the federal government issue regulations telling hearty capitalists who they can and cannot kill to make a profit. Actually, he's against the federal government, period.

Field Trials: It's popular in conservative circles to claim the failure of the Obama/GOP stimulus to produce Nirvana proves that Keynesian policy doesn't work. This is like claiming that the collapse of the USSR proved Communism doesn't work. Neither was actually tried.

On Crisis: The ongoing drama in Europe is mislabeled. It is not, at base, a debt crisis, it is the inevitable result of a monetary union (the Euro) in the absence of a fiscal union. The inevitable solution is doing away with one or creating (one or more of) the other. Austerity has no role in the matter except to make everything worse while letting the Germans feel virtuous.

Appalachian Spring: The Department of Energy estimates that most of the easy to get coal has been gotten and that within three years the Central Appalachian coalfields will produce about half what they did in 2008. Luckily there are cheaper ways to continue extracting coal, but they are more destructive to the environment. Given a choice, the coal miners of Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee will chose mining over starving.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SAR #11269

A depression is a great investment opportunity, if you see it coming...  

Teeter-Totter: The latest (for July) Case-Shiller report shows m/m prices flat but a 4.1% y/y decline. CoreLogic reported the 'shadow' housing inventory (also as of July) at 1.6 million, down from 1.9 million a year ago.

The Empire Strikes Back: “We are supposed to be proud of the U.S. empire but to reject with high dudgeon any accusation of having an empire while acknowledging that we have troops in 148 countries.”   A large majority of us want the rich and the corporations taxed heavily, but they are not.  We want the wars ended and the troops brought home, but they are not. We want military spending cut and the rich taxed.  None of this happens. None it is going to.

Asked and Answered: Can China Save US? No, and it is becoming obvious that they may not be able to  save themselves.

Fire, Theater: In Wisconsin you can be charged with disorderly conduct if you post a quote from a science fiction show in public. Actually, the charge would be “reckless use of the First Amendment” for the mention of violence and death. And fascism. Especially fascism.

Repeat As Needed: How do Our Betters plan to save the Euro, Eurozone and Europe? By finding a way to turn one euro into five and paying off the old creditors with new debt! The cure for billions in excessive debt is conjuring up trillions of new debt, plus a little smoke and mirror action. Okay, okay then: A lot of smoke and mirrors.

"____flation" Alert: The US treasury recieved $132 billion in offers for $35 billion in two-year treasuries, sold at a yield of 0.249%. Boy, those bondholders are sure worried about inflation. Not.

Sky, Falling: Thumbing its nose at the US, Wall Street and their own investment banks, Europe is planning to institute a financial transaction tax of 0.1% on stock and bond transactions and 0.01 on derivatives. The European Commission hopes to raise $50 billion annually. Think of it as a long overdue sales tax on financial transactions. Or as an outrage, if you're an investment banker.

If It's Broke, Don't Fix It: The cost of company-provided health insurance increased 9% last year. But your salary didn't...

Turn-about:An Iranian admiral has suggested Iran might send some of its military ships to patrol off the US east coast, much like the US Navy does to Iran. Except for the part about the aircraft carriers.

Qualifications: The US has agreed to sell Bahrain $53 million worth of military equipment it can use to put down its unruly citizens. Included are bunker buster and wire-guided missiles for use against... well, let's say it makes their military leaders feel more manly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SAR #11268

Grade on results, not effort.

Fiat, It's Not Just For Money Anymore... The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States wants to hear from you... every time you mention the Fed or fiat money or Bernanke or inflation or anything else even remotely connected to them, their actions or their product. He wants “to continuously monitor conversations”, a la NSA – doesn't matter if it's public media or private messages, in the news or on Facebook, or even in a blog. I, for one, think it is a Really Good Idea, Mr. Bernanke, sir.

Not A New New Record: Sales of new houses declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 295,000 - just above the record low for August set last year. Median prices fell 8.7% from a month earlier. The recovery is now in its third year.

Don't Trust Anyone Over 30: A key demand of the Tahrir Square protesters was repeal of the decades-old emergency law that curtailed Egyptian's civil rights. The military rulers who are now running Egypt (as opposed to the military rulers who ran Egypt for Mubarak) have announced that the repression of civil right will continue for at least another year. Protesters are once more gathering to protest the law. They should have read the fine print.

Hiroshima, Mon Amour: As suspected, the Stuxnet cyber attack was designed and implemented by the US to target a specific piece of equipment in a specific nuclear facility in Iran. Nothing like a little inside knowledge...

Phase Two: The loose alliance of rebels that overthrew Gaddafi are now hoarding weapons and hardening positions as attempts to form a new government bump up against long-standing regional rivalries and generations of distrust.

Now It Can Be Told: The collapse is coming... and Goldman Sachs rules the world.

Charity Begins At Home IMF: The IMF announced that if it is to continue bailing out the world, it needs a bail-out itself. The $400 billion it has "pales in comparison with the "potential financing needs of vulnerable countries and crisis bystanders." European leaders told the IMF they had given at the office that they were trying to boost their own bail-out fund. The open secret is that all the money has been spent, a lot more has been borrowed and the only thing any of the financial nabobs can think to do is to conjure up some more money out of thin air. To build confidence, they say, as they happily march off to the same idiocy that brought on the Great Depression.

Accounting Note: The Bush-Cheney-Obama "war of choice" in Iraq has cost the US $1 trillion so far. None of this expenditure was matched by increases in taxation or reductions in other spending over the last ten years.

Clan of the Cave Bears: Morgan Stanley analysts say that current earnings estimates suggest a 28% decline in the S&P 500. The International Labor Organization says that the world's major economies lost 20 million jobs in the last 3 years and expects that figure to reach 40 million by the end of 2012. Maybe a group hug will help.

Today in Paranoia: GOP Wannabe Michele Bachmann says that Hezbollah wants to establish training camps and missile sites in Cuba.

Monday, September 26, 2011

SAR #11267

Leverage works both ways.

The Future is Cancelled: The GOP's latest moral stand is to skimp on disaster relief, kill the government's efforts to develop clean cars, and increase 'donations' from Big Oil. If they put the government out of business along the way, that's a bonus.

Magic Act: Bahrain is holding an election to 'democratically' eliminate the leading Shi'ite opposition party from participation in the government. The opposition is resisting this Washington-approved charade to "maintain order and usher in genuine reforms."

Once Upon A Time: The NYPD's use of excessive force to disband the Wall Stareet protesters (who had already been herded into a compound park some distance from their targets) is but the latest devolution of what once was the right of the people to peaceably assemble in designated "Free Speech" protest zones behind chain link fences. The media, both print and electronic, including twitter, internet and cell phone providers, have cooperated with the authorities in regulating destroying the right to peaceful assembly.

Syrian Cyberwar: Running out of easy targets to gun down in the streets, Assad's forces are now using electronic means - cell-phone intercepts and tracking, surveillance of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter, and plain old internet monitoring to identify anti-regime individuals for arrest and disposition.

Beggar Thyself! Germany says it will be a decade before the Greek economy will become competitive. Will the German taxpayer support the Greeks that long? Will either populace accept a decade of suffering?

The Other Guy:The Pentagon's main mission is to prevent any significant cuts to the money it funnels to defense contractors - most of whom are clever enough to spread their operations across as many Congressional Districts as possible. The needed cuts must come from non-important, non-defense areas, such as veteran's benefits and public education.

Six Of One... In Alabama you get your choice, go to jail or go to church. In Alabama there's often not a great deal of difference between the two.

The Others: The world is in for a serious resource crunch. Never mind supposed supply-side salvations. It's the demand side that demands more attention than it gets. Populations in places like China and India want to be middle class – and there simply isn't enough stuff to go around. By 2035 China's 1.38 billion will use 80% of today's supply of paper – leaving but 20% for the other 84% of the world's population. How many more trees can we cut every year? And those same Chinese would gobble up 70% of today's grain production, again leaving 84% of the world snacking on 30% of today's production while waiting for... for supplies that are not going to be there. And so on. But don't panic. Thing's that cannot happen, won't.

Principal Principles: The US has agreed 'in principle' to lease or sell drones to the Turks to help them in the resolving their Kurdish problem.

Eunuch, Already: GOP Wannabe Rick Santorum says that "any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military." Rick should check out the birth rate at a nearby Army base.

This Little Piggy: Portugal has the highest number of expressway miles per capita in Europe. This has led, inevitably, to the population becoming increasingly dependent on their cars even though the country has good public transport systems. Does this have anything to do with their current debt problems? Probably.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SAR #11265

The poor accept, the rich expect.

Dissonance: The Recovery ™ has been underway for over two years. Corporate profits are at record levels. China and Brazil are booming. Yet paychecks are stuck where they were a decade ago and over 16% of our workers are underemployed or not employed. To put it in crude, class warfare terms, the war is over and the owners have won. Or have they? Even before this week, stocks had turned in their worst 10-year run since the Great Depression. The real recession – hallmarked by stagnant wages caused by globalization of labor – started more than a decade ago and continues. Maybe it will eventually dawn on the rich that their end of the boat is connected to our end of the boat.

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof: The revolutionary claim that neutrinos can commute between CERN and a lab in Italy at 300,006 kilometers per second - seven hundredths of one percent over the speed limit set by Einstein – is being met with a great deal of skepticism. If the results can be duplicated and verified, it would suggest that Einsteinian physics, like Newtonian physics before it, does not account for everything under the heavens.

Self-Hoisting Petard: A new Gallup poll shows that 55% of the public do not believe Gallup polls.

Timing: While Palestine was presenting its statehood recognition petition to the UN, the Obama administration made it known that the US had presented 55 of the military's most powerful bunker-busting bombs to Israel.

Charity, Compassion: Newt Gingrich, asked about unemployment insurance, said “It is fundamentally wrong to give people money for 99 weeks for doing nothing.” He didn't suggest how many weeks the unemployed should be paid “for doing nothing.” To Newt the unemployed are like wives – if they can't work, get rid of 'em.

Come Monday... FEMA will run out of money for disaster relief operations as soon as Monday, and all but 'essential' government services will stop on October 1st if the Republican's don't get their way. Sound familiar? The apparent object of contention is emergency relief funding – the Dems wanted $6.9 billion, the GOP is offering $3.65 and that only if cuts are made to social programs elsewhere in the budget. The real fight is over continuing government as we've known it since the Great Depression, or transitioning to some Ayn Randian state of Social Darwinism where the poor and the unfortunate are kicked to the curb and left to rot. Except, of course, in Tea Party Land's Joplin, Mo.

Smoke on the Water: For the first time since the 1980s, a newly built oil supertanker will be mothballed before entering service, an indication of both the overbuilding of capacity and the expected drop in petroleum demand as a global recession sets in.

Rats in a Maze: Visa and MasterCard plan to increase the fees for small-ticket purchases made with debit cards from 8¢ to 23¢ on a $2 purchase. The merchants will either put up 'minimum debit-card purchase' signs or raise prices, or both. Some consumers will switch to using credit cards, some will pay the ATM fees more often, and some will shrug and pay the higher debit-card fees. Remember, many forms of social welfare payments come as debit card deposits – and that's the real target here, more service fees for the banks since the recipients can't easily switch to cash.

No Choice: Requiring millionaires to pay at least the same percent of their income in taxes as their employees is (a) reasonable (b) too little, or (c) class warfare. For extra credit, explain why dividends, interest and capital gains are not taxed higher than income earned by actual labor.

Be Reasonable: That Arctic sea ice is disappearing has been known for decades. But it is disappearing much faster than the computer models predict. Theory says the ice to be gone by the end of the century, the actual rate of ice melt suggests it will be gone in a decade or two. What have the scientists left out? Soot is the most likely explanation, but other 'short term forcings' are also possible. Since the end of Arctic ice is much closer than predicted, what other surprises are we in for? “When reality is changing faster than theory suggests it should, a certain amount of nervousness is a reasonable response.”

Wannabe Follies: While Michele Bachmann was advocating eliminating all taxes, the audience was busy booing a gay soldier, and multi-millionaire Mitch Romney was claiming to be middle class, Rick Santorum explained how socialists were teaming up with radical Islamists to run training camps in Central and South America.

Friday, September 23, 2011

SAR #11264

I'd be happier about a strong dollar if I had more of them.

Succinctly: This has been the third largest weekly drop in the DJIA in history, behind 9/11 and the Lehman event. But the week's not over yet.

Friends: The US is pretty sure that Pakistan's intelligence service had a significant role in the Haqqani bombing of the US embassy in Kabul last week. Pakistan says the US should mind its own business, which is not a ringing denial.

Futurama: The EIA projects that global energy demand will grow 53% by 2035, that it will largely br met by fossil fuels, mostly coal, and that greenhouse-gas emissions will increase by over 40%. Won't that be grand?

Over in the Real Economy: Mr. Bernanke wants you to buy a house, so he's trying to hold down long term interest rates. That those who cannot afford a 5% or 4.5% mortgage won't be able to afford a 3.85% one either. What they need is a job, not a mortgage. But the private sector will not borrow and build if they do not see increasing demand for goods and services. The federal government is going to spend less money. States and cities are laying off additional staff. Social support payments are going to get trimmed. And Bernanke wants to revive the housing bubble with cheap money. Didn't we try that just the other day?

Downfield Blocking: Yahoo apologized yesterday for preventing people from using its e-mail service for messages about the anti-wall Street protests. They didn't do it, they claimed, and if they did it was inadvertent, besides, it's been fixed and they know who you are.

One More for the Road: Seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims dropped a tad to 423,000 from last week's 428,000.

Qualifications: The majority of Republican voters believe in young-earth creationism, think climate change is a 'contrived phony mess', fear political and economic equality, are ashamed of their own ignorance and express it as a hatred of 'educated liberals', and wallow in evangelical religious twaddle. Which is sadder, that Republican wannabes pretend to hold these views, or that they're not pretending?

Points of View: Nearly 70% of Israelis think Israel should accept Palestinian statehood. About the same percentage of US Congressmen disagree. The difference seems to be that Israeli citizens do not receive payments talking points from AIPAC.

Silly Question: “Can the I.M.F. Save the World?” No, but it was never supposed to save the world, just the bankers.

Bumblebees: The US government is developing small – model airplane sized – drones with onboard cameras and computers to identify 'targets' and to call in strike drones to 'neutralize' them. The target could be something as small as the GPS chip in your cell phone. It is also building secret bases from which to launch drones. Right now the bases are being clustered in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula as part of the undeclared wars there, but times change.

On Stare: Has it ever bothered you that GM's OnStar system knows where you are, 24/7? it should. , OnStar says it has the right to collect and sell information on your vehicle, including speed, location – even whether you are wearing your seat belt.

Inflation Check: Right now, before Bernanke's QE3 drives down interest rates, US 10-Year Treasuries are yielding 1.77%. So we'll apply another round of austerity, cut the budget, avoid all that ruinous borrowing for fear of inflation.

Verities: Why is it that the pro-life, anti-abortion faction is so strongly in favor of the death penalty?

Collateral Damage: Nano-this, nano-that, nano-technology is high on the list of next big things. Commercially. But now comes research that shows that nanoparticles - which are a lot more common than you suspect – cause tiny holes in vertebrate brains, causing nerve cells in the brain to die. And they may accumulate, like mercury, and become a persistent and progressive hazard to wildlife. And humans.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SAR #11263

He who asks timidly makes refusal easy.

Words, Too Many Words: The Fed announced it would sell short-term notes and use the funds to buy longer-dated Treasuries. It will also roll the proceeds from maturing mortgage and agency bonds back into the mortgage market. The object is to hold down long-range interest rates to give CPR to the housing industry while covertly making asset purchases (via MBS) to further prop up the banks. Bernanke said this would cure all our problems. The market was not impressed. Don't worry, be happy!

Here's The Plan: International experts say the best way to use less gasoline is to turn off the engine. Likewise they are again urging Greece to shrink its “public sector” even further (that's bankerspeak for cutting jobs, cutting wages, cutting pensions, cutting social support programs), to raise taxes and sell off the family farm. The austerity previously imposed has driven Greece's debt upwards of 200% of GDP and now they're told to cut even more. In olden times, the barbers recommend bloodletting.

Hush Money: After watching democracy and revolt sweep through Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, spread to Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain, and threaten Saudi Arabia itself, the oil dictatorships of OPEC are bribing their citizens in hopes of clinging to power a bit longer. Saudi Arabia is doling out $43 billion, Kuwait is feeding everybody free for a year, Algerians got a 34% pay raise, and the UAE is offering uninterrupted free electricity.

Sales, Sailing: According to the NAR, existing homes sales rose 7.7% m/m and were 18.6% above a year ago. But 31% of these sales were cash transactions for 'distressed' properties. Despite the increase in sales, prices for existing houses declined 1.7% m/n and were down 5.1% y/y.

Essay Question: Polls show that 36% of South Carolina Republicans believe President Obama not born in U.S. Usual prize for best explanation as to why these people are allowed to reproduce vote.

Nostalgia: The US poverty rate is back to Johnsonian levels - 15% and rising. Median household incomes are back to 1997 levels and 37% of young families with children are living in poverty - it was just 20% when Bush took office. The right takes this data and data that shows the elderly have taken less of a hit and use it to argue that the old folks are getting too much and Social Security and Medicare must be slashed. The truth is just the opposite. The elderly are doing passably because of the social support systems. That makes a fine argument for extending the safety net to other classes of the needy. Can we afford it? Wrong question. Since the US is one of the lowest taxed of the rich nations, how can we afford not to?

Baloney: The GOP leadership's mini $3.7 billion version of disaster relief funding was voted down by a coalition of Tea Partiers who don't want any spending on silly things like rebuilding the infrastructure, and Democrats who didn't want to off-set the expenditure by killing government support for the development of fuel-efficient vehicles. The government's main disaster relief program could run out of money early next week for victims of Hurricane Irene. FEMA has already held up thousands of longer-term rebuilding projects like repairs to roads, sewer systems, bridges , and parks.

Worthy: Before you can get food stamps in Michigan, you have to divest yourself of all your money and most of your property. You get to hold $5,000 in assets such as a beat-up old car, but your retirement funds (!) will not be confiscated. The rule about groveling and wearing sackcloth and ashes was dropped.

Sadly: The unraveling of the Eurozone that is now underway should not come as a shock. All the hocus pocus around Greece was just pantomime - Greece was never going to be bailed out and will eventually default. A lot of European banks will flail about for a bit and be rescued by their respective Central Banks, which will be bailed out by the the German taxpayers, backed by the US Fed. And neither the Lone Ranger nor the Chinese will come to the last minute rescue. This isn't a movie.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SAR #11262

The US has a Single Prayer medical system.

Collapse, Revised Edition: While there is little enthusiasm among senior European leaders for full fiscal union, there is sufficient agreement on the continent to extend and pretend the current put-offmanship long enough to protect European banks from a Greek default and Italy's slow collapse into insolvency. Unfortunately the German constitutional court has ruled out the mechanisms that would permit this happy resolution.

Disastrous Relief: The GOP is insisting that only $3.65 billion be approved for disaster relief to keep FEMA running, and that every penny of that must be offset by taking it from “elsewhere in the budget.” The Dems say that nearly twice that much - $6.9 billion – is needed and want it included in the continuing resolution needed to keep the government running after September 30. Neither side seems inclined to yield. Ah, I love the smell of government shutdown in the morning.

What's Permitted: August housing starts were down 5% m/m and 5.8% Y/Y, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 571,000 houses nationwide. Building permits were up a bit both m/m and Y/Y, so maybe one day soon...

Promises, Promises: Now balloons are now being floated to test the waters for dramatically changing the military retirement system and reneging on promises already made to retired warriors. Before the foaming at the mouth begins, please keep in mind that most of the retirees are enlisted men, with an average pension of about $26,000 a year. And remember what they've done to earn it.

The Doctor Is In: The IMF, which has prescribed austerity all-around, now says that austerity programs will limit global economic growth to 4% next year while cutting the US GDP expected growth from 2.5% to 1.5%.

What's That Smell? The Co-Chair of the Congressional Inquiry Into 9/11 (and former Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee), Bob Graham, is now calling for a new investigation into the 9/11 disaster, with emphasis on what the FBI knew and what the FBI covered up, and what the government knew about the Saudi role in the events. He joins 3 former members of the Commission, other Senators and Congressmen who feel there are many reasons for a re-do of the investigation.

O Lucky Man: In the last decade average wages have fallen across the board except for Lawyers, Doctors and PhDs, whose incomes have soared are up 3%. That's why it's called higher education.

Internment Anyone? Everyone: The Armed Services committee of the US Senate is considering changing federal detention laws to permit imprisoning citizens without charge. Without trials. Indefinitely. Through military channels.

Porn O'Graph: If no nails need hammering, no hammerers are needed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SAR #11261

When did 'Double or Nothing' become an economic policy?

Hope Floats: Investors have a deeply held, religious faith - shared with international financiers - that creating more debt out of thin air will produce a sound financial system. So let's all do the twist.

Turkey, Talking: Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu explained Turkery's new vision of the Middle East, where Turkey and Egypt form an alliance to bring order, democracy, and economic progress to the region. Turkey and Egypt are the strongest, most populous and most prosperous nations in the region. Not the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire, but perhaps an echo.

Crass Warfare: Obama hopes to make the super-rich pay taxes at a rate as least as high as average Americans do. Even that weak effort gets called "class warfare" by Republicans.

Depraved Indifference: Following the US theory that giving money to an aid agency that feeds the children of possible terrorists makes you a candidate for Guantanamo, a Lloyd's insurance group has filed suit against a leading member of the Saudi royal family, several Saudi banks and prominent charities for financially supporting al-Qaida and indirectly financing the 9/11 attacks. It seeks £136 million in reparations. Choices, as they say, have consequences.

Where's Waldo? The world has not been warming fast enough - sure it's getting warmer, but it is not getting as warm as the atmospheric CO2 load would suggest. Where's the missing heat? Most likely it has migrated to the deep ocean, from whence it will eventually emerge... with consequences.

Sausage: Just as beef is simply cut up cow and veal is a polite name for dead baby cow, superPACs are bundles of bribes. They are not donations, they are investments.

Lips, Moving: “Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership... This administration’s insistence on raising taxes on job creators and its reluctance to take the steps necessary to strengthen our entitlement programs are the reasons the president and I were not able to reach an agreement previously, and it is evident today that these barriers remain.” John Boehner. Please explicate.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: America is fundamentally changing. Once a middle class nation, it is now a divided nation – the rich and the rest. Perhaps you are still doing fine. Your neighbors are not and you are not immune. America is getting poorer. For a detailed, and depressing, enumeration of the symptoms, read and weep.

Misdirection: Pundits are asking if the new spate of new Republican-driven voter registration laws are designed to prevent fraud or to suppress Democratic voters. Silly question; to Republicans they are the same thing.

Too Much Money: Banks have an interesting problem; Americans are shoveling money into their bank accounts and the banks do not want it. Wells Fargo, as an example, only pays 0.1% on a one year CD, Citi pays but 0.3%. And the banks fear the Feds will lower the interest rate it pays on excess reserves, which is the only safe place the banks have found to park all the cash. Someone more attuned to finance than I might see banks not wanting free money as a bad sign.

Here's a Clue: How bad is it in Great Britain? Look at it this way, when you sign up for unemployment benefits the government will give you a referral to the local charity-run food bank. It beats begging or starving. But the chit is only good for three days food and you can only get three of them. And on the tenth day...

Monday, September 19, 2011

SAR #11260

The war on science will do far more harm than Al Qadea ever could.

Definitions: Obama says Americans must "pay their fair share" to narrow the deficit. Whether this is a prelude to taxing the rich or code-speak for increasing the tax burden on the middle class remains to be seen.

Adam's Rib: Creating Israel to assuage communal guilt after World War II was a mistake, one that has led to nearly all of the problems in the Middle East. Allowing Israel to dictate US foreign policy for the region has not helped. Now the US is again choosing to be oblivious to the overwhelming importance that resolving “the Palestinian question” has for Arab public opinion. None of this is exactly news, and the expected US veto of Palestinian statehood will not improve the situation and will likely make it worse.

Insight: The commentariat are beginning to suggest the US taxpayer could be stuck bailing out Europe. Could be?

Drama? Where's the Drama? The US debt ceiling was increased by $500 billion last week – without threats, histrionics or a repeat of Republican speeches warning of sackcloth and ashes. Civilization did not, it must be noted, did not end.

Tweedledee: If Greece is bound to default pretty soon, the banks would prefer it happen on September 20th. Has to do with CDS expiration dates.

Best Defense is Offensive: The Pentagon has threatened Congress that cutting the defense budget will increase unemployment by millions. This is not news - for the last 50 years the US economy has been dependent on the war industry, which has long since been privatized.

Signpost? A doubling of capacity at a Saudi Arabian cement factory has been postponed due to the “non-availability of a fuel allocation”.

This Day In History: The fraud that caused the current crisis began long before the 2007 crash and continues today. Yet no one was sent to jail. According to the former IG for TARP, “Before the financial crisis, the banks were essentially lying to the purchasers of the mortgages about the quality.” And the robo-signing “is just a symptom of that. Banks have not yet figured out a way to undo the wrongs they caused.” Yet no one is being sent to jail.

Diagnosis:Roads and bridges in the US are literally falling apart because local governments cannot find the money to fix them. Transportation networks are becoming vast parking lots because state governments have no money to expand and improve them. But never fear, private enterprise will come to the rescue. If you don't believe me, just ask an anti-tax Republican.

False Dawn: A majority of Germans do not see the benefit of membership in the EU. They don't see much benefit in listening to Geithner's lectures either.

As I've Been Saying: “Sorry, But The Republican Arguments Against A "Millionaire's Tax" Are Just Preposterous.”

Echo? Four people, including an 11-year old, were killed by Syrian security forces over the weekend. Also under the benign indifference of the US and NATO, Yemeni security forces using automatic weapons and anti-aircraft guns attacked tens of thousands of protesting citizens, killing at least 16 and wounding dozens.

Be Prepared: It is not too early late to ask what a post-euro Europe will look like. Almost, but not quite. Do it quietly so as not to disturb those in high places who are busy solving the wrong problems.

Jobs Are Job One: Paul Ryan thinks businesses should get to use those drawing unemployment benefits for as long as the state pays them. This may marginally differ from slavery but certainly echoes Dickensian poor houses.

Runs In The Family:Jeb Bush plans to lead a for-profit disaster response company. His brother, you may remember, also headed up a disaster. No, not Neil and Silverado. The other brother.

Without a Prayer: Michele Bachmann now claims that her husband's “pray the gay away” therapy was an attempt to reverse the aging process – something, she says, “like a mid-life crisis”.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

SAR #11258

Would it help if we kept a list?

Reversal:The White House says that all those who thought they heard Obama say he would make changes to Social Security should have their hearing checked. The administration's suggestions to congress “will not include any changes to Social Security.” It will however, “include tweaks to Medicare and Medicaid”. Unless, of course, it doesn't.

Hints: A key official at China's central bank says “The incremental parts of our of our foreign reserve holdings should be invested in physical assets." Just for the record, US Treasury bonds are not “physical assets”. What's he have in mind? “We would like to buy stakes in Boeing, Intel, and Apple” And congressmen, they're always a good investment – ask Wall Street.

Poor Showing: A tad over 15% of Americans live in poverty, and 22% of US children live below the poverty line. You remember children, the ones that weren't going to be left behind?

Me Too, Or Ten: Citigroup, joining a growing number of banks looking for ways to suck more money out of their customers, will now charge $10 a month for accounts with less than a $1,500 minimum balance. Take X as the number of accounts at Citi – say a million or so, just to keep the math simple. That's $1.5 billion bucks that Citi gets to use for free, for every million customers... unless you chose to pay them to keep your funds at their fine institution.

Hoarders: Here's why unemployment is high and job formation low: non-financial US companies are sitting on over $2 trillion in cash that they can't find any good use for. They don't need new factories – there's no unmet demand for their stuff. They don't need more production, they certainly don't need more workers. Soon they will begin to feed on themselves.

Pros, Conning: The Democrats are accusing the Republicans of taking advantage of unfairly rigging presidential elections closer to a direct popular vote by - in Pennsylvania, as an example for other states under GOP control – by changing the apportionment of electoral college votes to gerrymandered Congressional districts, instead of winner-take-all for the state.

Smoking Gun: Scientists have now proven that 'Gulf War syndrome' – which affects about 25% of Gulf War veterans- is the result of brain damage due to exposure to sarin nerve gas. The reports do not suggest whose sarin was the culprit.

Porn O'Graph: Engulfed and devoured.

Friday, September 16, 2011

SAR #11257

Questions are necessarily easier than answers.

Shooting Gallery: Obama's boys are going to keep floating trial balloons until they find an acceptable way for the President to announce big cuts in Medicare (which will harm seniors) and Medicaid (which will harm the poor ) as part of his plan to tie the hands of future administrations cut $1.5 trillion from future budget deficits while using 'chained CPI' cut Social Security, food stamps and veteran's benefits.

Out Of Control: Once again a 'rogue trader' has cost an investment bank billions. Just what is it that the senior managers do to justify their bonuses? Apparently they neither run nor oversee the operations...

Box Scores: The CPI increased 0.4% in August, an annualized 4.8%. The median CPI rose at a 3.6% rate. Unemployment claims climbed to 428,000 from last week's 412,000. The NY Fed reported manufacturing conditions worsened for the fourth consecutive week. But the Philly Fed's outlook was only half as negative this month as last.

Short Story: Banks are discovering that investing in various governments was a poor decision and that they stand to lose tens of billions of dollars. The banks, of course, want someone – the same governments? - to bail them out. Lots of luck with that one.

On the Up & Up: Initial default notices on US mortgages were up 33% nationwide, 55% in California. Filings by BofA increased 200%. This is the biggest increase in four years, and was caused by banks claiming they had cured their fraudulent filling ways and were playing catch-up. So the pace of foreclosures will build up, too. As will homelessness, urban blight...

Softly: “The traditional path of urbanizing and industrializing nations is incompatible with the reduction of carbon emissions,” so says Nate Hagens. What he means is that if we keep this up we're doomed.

Film at Six! Wisconsin state troopers dragged protesters out of the statehouse for filming the legislature – an act specifically permitted by Wisconsin law.

Apples and Oranges: Generally the private sector pays less than the government does for similar jobs – accountant, secretary, surveyor, whatever. This has led many to advocate privatizing as many government jobs as possible. But the comparison is not valid; what the government pays to out-source a job is nearly always much higher than what it pays a civil servant to do the same job. Which means government is less expensive at governing than private contractors are.

Politically Correct: When applying for an Australian passport, Aussies now have three choices for gender: Male, Female, and Other Indeterminate. But to get through door number three a Doctor's certificate is required.

Tax Fraud: Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has introduced a bill that would lower the US corporate tax rate to zero. This would be scandalous, except most big US corporations already pay no corporate taxes. However, it would let them fire a lot of lawyers and accountants...

Wrong in So Many Ways: “All I know is if you look at history and if you compare good medical care and you compare famine, the countries that are more socialistic have more famines,. If you look at Africa, they don’t have any free market systems and property rights and they have famines and no medical care. So the freer the system, the better the health care.” Ron Wannabe Paul.

Porn O'Graph:Blame it on Ronnie.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SAR #11256

You may be less sophisticated than you think.

Extend and Pretend: After a party-line call with George, Angela and Nicky again pronounced the Union sound and promised to support the error euro. The world's banksters, in need-driven belief, celebrated, and Greece assured everyone that they'd really, really, do austerity this time. But Soros isn't a believer and in the background there are murmurs that Austria has failed to approve an increase to 21.6 billion euros required as its part of the euro rescue fund (EFSF), but Germany will Anschluss shush them and the Dutch promised to save the euro – but didn't mention saving Greece, Portugal or any of the other party-poopers. Hope that clears things up.

This Just In: The International Monetary Fund, which has forced austerity and privatization on third-world countries for the last 30 years now says that fiscal austerity “lowers incomes in the short term, [and] also raises unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment.” All they had to do was ask their victims.

Dumb: “Geology doesn’t create oil; capital creates oil.” Go pour money down a hole in your backyard and see how it works out.

Thinking Cap: “A paradox has emerged as oil prices remain high amid declining demand forecasts.” Maybe supply has dropped more than demand? Or perhaps the market doesn't believe the forecasters.

Up, Up, and Away: The US is selling 18 F-16 fighter jets to Iraq to help in its fight against Iran Israel insurgents.

Bush League: In the spirit of Bush's "Clean Air Act", killing Social Security will be called “Tax Reform” and “Promoting Retirement Security”.

Check It Out: Wells Fargo is offering “free checking” to customers, if the customer has at least a $7500 deposit. Otherwise it'll cost 'em $15 a month. Before you get too upset, the break-even would be if you can get 2.4% on your money anywhere else.

Rugged Individualists: The Census Bureau reports that 48.6 million Americans are covered by Medicaid – which is health-care for the poor. There are 44.3 million covered by Medicare, they all vote, and they want the government to keep its hands off their health-care.

One Thing and Then Another: The deep waters of the Antarctic shelf are warming ever so slightly. Enough so that more than a million King crabs have moved 120 km across the shelf and colonized the area for the first time in millions of years. The residents were not prepared and sea lilies, brittle stars, asteroids and sea urchin, which generally are common and diverse in Antarctic waters, were wholly absent in the crab zone. This will have devastating ecological effects for Antarctica's unique web of life.

An Obvious Solution: Rick 'wannabe' Santorum says the problem with Social Security is that “people are living too long.” Something should be done about that, he said. Like repealing Obamacare.

Factoid: The cost of becoming over-qualified to be a barrista has increased 400% in the last 30 years, but the product – the college degree – remains pretty much unchanged.

Money Quote: “It is highly improbable that the remarkable extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011 could have all happened in such a short period of time without some powerful climate-altering force at work. The best science we have right now maintains that human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like CO2 are the most likely cause of such a climate-altering force.” Dr. Jeff Masters

Porn O'Graph: Undulation, illustrated.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SAR #11255

The goal is no longer productivity, it’s employment.

The Objective: Obama wants to pay for his $467 billion jobs program by increasing taxes. Putting people back to work is an admirable goal, but this suggests his re-election campaign and not the American worker was the true focus of the effort. The first goal of players in the game of national politics is to stay in the game. Everything else is secondary.

Been There, Done That: The man who presided over post-default Argentina's finances advises Greece to “default, and default big... Rescue programs backed by the IMF and ECB are recession creating” and will pile even more debt on the country. He also thinks that if Europe (by which he means Germany and France) want to have the Euro, they will have to pay for it.

Imagine All The People... One out of seven Americans is living in poverty. That's 46 million of our friends and neighbors.

Travel Tips: Fighter jets escorted two flights — one to New York City, another to Detroit — after some passengers used the bathrooms too many times. Skip the hydration and take some Imodium or TSA will make you wear an adult diaper. Oh, and try not to look like one of them.

Summer's End: The Egyptian generals, as generals always do, have begun shutting down the press and curtailing the freedoms sought by those who made the revolution. They have issued a series of emergency laws to cover “threats to public order” (by which they mean gathering to protest), “attacks on the freedom to work” (by which they mean attempts to unionize workers), and “sowing discord” (by which they mean broadcasting news the generals do not care for).

Rights, Mine and Yours: You have the right to be as fat as you wish. You do not have the right to restaurant chairs that will fit your fat ass. (There's an airplane seating corollary to this rule.)

Reefer Madness: Before the end of this century, coral reefs will become the first entire ecosystem to be destroyed by the Industrial Revolution – climate change and ocean acidification resulting from spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are children alive today who will live to see a world without coral. And without the fish that use the reefs as nurseries.

Noted: The cure for 2008's 'too big to fail' banks has been to merge them into 'too bigger to fail' behemoths, with executive bonuses all around. The people who ran the circus then have not gone to jail and are still running it today.

Disaster Area: Senate Republicans say that FEMA cannot have any money to help the country recover from the massive flooding because helping the communities devastated by natural disasters isn't nearly as important as keeping taxes on the rich at all time lows.

Lessons Learned: The default rate on educational loans reached 8% last year, and 15% of students from for-profit diploma mills schools who began repayment in 2008 were 9 months behind after just two years.

In Recovery: In 2Q2011, 10.9 million homeowners (22.5% of all houses with mortgages) are underwater. The worst states have a combined rate of 38% underwater – better than a year ago (41%) only because of foreclosures. The top five: NV 60%, AZ 48%, FL 45%, MI 35%, GA 30%, and CA 30%.

Texas Toast: Texas has the nation's second highest rate of "food insecurity," the highest percentage of people without health insurance, spends less per resident than any other and just passed a budget that will spend even less. And Perry. It has Rick Perry as governor – has had for a decade.

Solve for C: If A=US wages have not increased, and B=Americans are spending a lot more on gasoline this year, then C=. Hint: Read the last chapter on The Consumer Economy.

Pot/Kettle: China is “drunk with economic power.” Worse “it seeks to match US military might.” Thus, the US can't cut defense spending, according to House Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, who really, really “wants peace”. Peace in our time, peace on our terms.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SAR #11254

Virtue has become its own punishment.

The Perils of Pauline: The US market is ignoring the disaster-in-progress in Greece and the disaster-in-the-making with the French Banks and the continuing slow-motion disaster that is the US economy. We've seen this movie so many times and know our hero will snatch the victims from the tracks just in time, so we don't even get goosebumps anymore. But for it to work, someone is going to have to put all their pennies into zero-interest rate notes. You first, Martha.

Vocabulary Exercise: Inexorable- “Look out! She's going to blow!” As in 'Greece's default on its debt is inexorable.'

Vive la Différence! Wannabe Romney says that unions should be prohibited from using funds from union dues as political campaign contributions. He said he has “no problem with unions,” as long as they rely on profits for buying politicians  political actions, like corporations do.

Either/Or: Professor Roubini, spelling Professor Krugman, says “In the short term, we need to do massive stimulus; otherwise, there's going to be another Great Depression...”

Empire/Clothed: “The fact is that the two years or so after 9/11 were a terrible time in America – a time of political exploitation and intimidation, culminating in the deliberate misleading of the nation into the invasion of Iraq.” See also: Years of Shame.

Leadership In Education: Darrel Issa (R-CA) says that “It’s time for us to say states have to step up to the plate. I don’t think we should maintain government workers with borrowed money.” The government workers he had in mind are your children's teachers.

Fungibility: Italy wants China to make "significant" purchases of its debt. Société Générale said it would cut costs and sell off assets to to raise 4 billion euros in fresh capital. Wall Street doesn't care who rescues them as long as someone shows up pretty soon.

Happy Shopping! It's best not to annotate your shopping list as you nervously walk around the Mall of the Americas (and probably all the malls of America) - at least if you are of a dusky complexion and don't have a few hours to sit around explaining to rent-a-cops that shopping is patriotic.

Half-Measures: BofA said it will cut 30,000 jobs and slash annual expenses by $5 billion. Investors said that would be a nice start, but wanted more cuts in people and in expenses. Austerity – one size fits all.

Pudding: Bin Laden said a key aim of Al Qaeda was "bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy." The $1.2 trillion wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan hasn't bankrupted us yet, but it didn't help things much.

Don't Need No Stinkin' Rules: JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon – a big backer of globalization and WTO rules, says that US banks should not follow international rules – we should, he says, tell them ‘If it’s not in the interests of the United States, we’re not doing it’.

Faded Glory: Americans may once have been exceptional, but that achievement is crumbling and our favorites narratives with it. For example, among the 20 major advanced countries America now has: the highest poverty rate; the greatest inequality of incomes; the lowest social mobility; the highest infant mortality rate, highest obesity rate, highest % of people with no health care coverage, and the most low-birth-weight children per capita. Proportionally, America spends the least international development and humanitarian assistance, but spends the most on the military and wars. The US has nearly the poorest student performance in math, science and reading. And we have the highest % of our population in prison and the highest homicide rate.

Unclear on the Concept: The President plans to pay for his jobs plan with tax hikes that the Republicans have already rejected. How's that going to work out? Well, no jobs, but Obama will gain talking points to use against them in the 2012 campaign.

Porn O'Graph: Melting away...

Monday, September 12, 2011

SAR #11253

Carthago delenda est.

Say/Do: The G7 finance ministers ended their emergency meeting saying they had agreed to act together, but announced no actions. They did, however observe that “There are now clear signs of a slowdown in global growth.” and promised they “would cooperate as appropriate." Elsewhere, George Papandreou pledged to avoid default.

More, Better: Goldman is now advising its pension fund clients – who have taken a serious beating following Goldman's previous advice – to try to make back their losses by increasing their exposure to riskier investments more adventurous investing. What could go wrong?

The Tailor of Panama: An AP review of sources named in the Wikileaks cables found that none were fearing reprisals, much less death. Many are already dead, others have publicly written or testified about their supposedly confidential information. A great many were surprised to find that the US embassy thought they were “sources” in the first place, in that the information they were credited with divulging was common knowledge at the time.

Deep Blue, See? Recent scientific studies have shown that nearly all of the world's deep-sea fisheries are being seriously overfished and are approaching collapse.

A Penny Stolen Is A Penny Saved: The threat to Medicare is very real and pressing as more and more political forces are lining up to raise the Medicare eligibility age, under the rubric of 'deficit reduction'. The American Hospital Association – fearing even more reductions in Medicare payments and thus reductions in their profits – wants Congress to raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67, which is tantamount to raising the retirement age to 67. The insurance industry also wants the age raised, so they can sell more health insurance to those who are thus deprived of Medicare. It is not about the deficit, it is about profits.

Coming Attractions: The coming breakdown of the error euro zone doesn't bother me nearly as much as the political breakdown that will accompany it. Remember, it took WWII to drag the world out of the Great Depression, some parts faster than others.

Plastic: In an economy where high unemployment and wage stagnation persist, the only way the economy can grow is through consumers increasing their debt loads. And that's what happening. But the increase is in installment credit, especially in sub-prime auto loans and in kids borrowing for college - both future disasters. Revolving (credit card) debt – generally for the purchase of everyday consumer goods - actually declined by $3.4 billion.

Basics of Research: A British university that has done extensive research on the attitudes of children towards smoking and cigarette packaging is being sued by Philip Morris, which wants to gain access to the data, to better target advertising to children.

Competition: Capitalism is bad for health care consumers. As the capitalist winners in the competition for health care profitability gobble up their competition, the consumer is faced with fewer choices and higher prices. The goal of capitalist competition is to kill off the competition. In the health care industry, killing off the customers is an unfortunate side effect.

Cleaning Bill: Most of the time, most doctors' and nurses' uniforms host potentially dangerous bacteria. It's not just hands that don't get washed often enough.

False Dawn: Switching from coal to natural gas will not appreciably decrease global climate change, for while natural gas emits less carbon dioxide, coal emits significant amounts of sulfates and other particles that block some of the sun's incoming rays. Natural gas also has a propensity for 'leaking' methane into the atmosphere. Over a 50 to 100 year period, switching to natural gas would make at best a difference of a few tenths of a degree.

Porn O'Graph: Get that education!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

SAR #11251

Which would be worse, if our leaders do not realize they are buffoons, or if they do?

Coffee Break: The big story this weekend will be Greece defaulting and leaving the euro. Or not. Either way some analysts will be proven wrong.

Tradition: There is a long and shameful history of hate and violence being done in the name of God. Both 9/11 and the hysterical US reaction to those events were, and are, firmly grounded in that tradition.

Sandbox: The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, CA has caved to pro-Israeli pressure and canceled an exhibit of art by Palestinian kids living under Israeli occupation.

Now It Can Be Told? Now they're discovering that that the double dip discussion is pointless because we've been in a recession all along. But as long as folks with torches and pitchforks aren't in the streets, we'll play pretend, okay?

Tiger Repellant: For 38 years, Maine law allowed voters to register on election day. Then the Republicans, fearing that more Dems than GOPers took advantage of this provision, pretended that massive voter fraud might occur – despite the fact it never had – and rescinded the law. Maine voters, not easily fooled by snake oil salesmen, have placed an initiative on the November ballot rescinding the recension.

The Past Is Should Have Been Prologue: Economists' biggest failure has been their eagerness to abandon the lessons of the past for the ideologies of the present.

30,000 or 40,000 – wouldn't it be interesting if BofA had to fire as many employees as they have evicted homeowners?

Know Thy Enemy: Once you put aside the propaganda, most wars are essentially explicable as contests over resources. In the near future, the primary resource whose demand will supply us with global war is oil. Today the US is the world's primary energy consumer, tomorrow it will be China, and the day after that it will be India.

Eye of the Beholder: Sea radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been measured to be triple estimate made by Tepco. Strange how corporations never over estimate the damage they've done to the environment. Or people.

Essay: In a few well chosen words, write a positive, pro-Republican anti-voter spin on this: An employee of Wisconsin's Department of Safety and Professional Services was fired after he revealed that a Department of Transportation official had instructed workers to not notify citizens that IDs necessary for voting could be obtained for free.

Why? The bulk of the 9/11 Commission's report remains secret.

Talking Turkey Turkish: Israel is upset that they will be facing Turkish warships the next time they want to shoot up an aid convoy headed towards Gaza. The Turks, still upset at the murder of 9 of their citizens when Israeli naval forces shot up the Freedom Flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, said that they would “no longer allow these boats to be the targets of attacks by Israel.”

Define “Free”: If we as a nation decide – as we once did – that alcohol is evil and wish to rid ourselves of the scourge, we no longer can. The Scots or the Italians or any number of others would sue us for restraint of trade under the rules of the World Trade Organization. Even a more modest desire, such as reducing teenage tobacco addiction, is forbidden. An exception? Nope, the WTO rules against health, the environment and other piddling national concerns 90% of the time. If this doesn't seem right, it's because it isn't.

Friday, September 9, 2011

SAR #11250

The meter is running...

Play As You Go: Obama's $447 billion plan to kill Social Security (Yes, it was offset. But this further co-mingles SS funding with the general budget.) has two additional objectives: 1) to prop up the economy long enough to get himself re-elected, 2) to make Republicans explain why they are against tax cuts for the working class. If some people get put back to work, that'll be a bonus. Also a surprise.

Ready, Set, Euro: Betting has it that Greece will leave the euro, perhaps abruptly (“Greece is expected to run out of money within days.”). Beyond that, is there a queue of dominoes, waiting? The austerity the banks felt was lacking in Greece will soon be felt in a lot of places that are not expecting it.

This Week In Unemployment: New unemployment claims, at 414,000, made it 21 out of the last 22 weeks with over 400,000 newly unemployed. Another 78,000 workers exhausted their extended unemployment benefit qualification, bringing the number of former workers kicked to the curb in the last year to over 2 million.

Weak End: Remember, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are campaigning for the nomination, not for the presidency – don't confuse primary campaigning for what they'll say later on. And neither set of promises means anything once the voting's over.

Girl Trouble: La Niña, which "contributed" to last winter's record snowfall, the midwest's spring flooding and the drought smothering the southwest is returning for another season. More severe weather around the globe, heavy downpours and continuing drought are likely according to NOAA.

Such stuff as dreams are made of... All that will remain of the euro, and the unified Europe it promised, will be a distant, fading memory of a thing that never quite was. Other dreams may come - if so they will be smaller, meaner.

Friends Don't Let Friends...Washington, at Israel's instruction, is doing everything it can to prevent the formation of a Palestinian state – which includes a threat promise of a UN veto to thwart international recognition that would make Israel's daily assaults on Palestinians acts of war.

Endangered Species: California's Governor Brown says that “not every human problem deserves a law.” Stuff like that could cost him his standing as a professional politician.

The Merry-Go-Round: Karl Marx saw capitalism as radically unstable with a inherent tendency to ever larger booms and busts, eventually destroying itself. He may not have been right, but recent events have done little to prove him wrong.

Land of the Free, Home of the... The 5% of Americans with the highest incomes account for 37% of consumer spending.

Silliness: Charles Krauthammer - in explaining why invading Afghanistan and Iraq, and attacking Yemen, Pakistan, and the US Constitution were reasoned, logical reactions to the destruction of the World Trade Towers - complains that once we invaded Iraq, “Al-Qaeda, uninvited, came out to fight us in Iraq.”