Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SAR #11332

At some point the dawn may come, but first the darkest hour.

Psst, Let's Make A Deal: Mr. Bernanke's Fed not only lent the US financial industry $7.7 trillion at 0.01% interest, it also handed out $10 trillion to international institutions. But, hey, they're a privately owned bank and can do whatever they want.

Fair Warning: The crisis in the euro area is turning into a panic, the leadership is planning to plan one day soon, and there is considerable risk that the euro will begin to disintegrate within a few weeks. The eurozone economies are either in or on the edge of a recession and the concentrated effort of European governments to cut spending will only feed the downward spiral. There will be a number of rumors, plans & promises, none of which will be credible.

Seems Like Only Yesterday: A spontaneous mob in Tehran spontaneously stormed the British Embassy, smashed windows, and spontaneously took a few Brits hostage as they spontaneously protested sanctions imposed by Great Britain on the Iranian government.

Where two or more are gathered... Hundreds of cops in rot gear and hazmat suits simultaneously quashed unauthorized public expressions of opinion in LA and Philly overnight. Must be doing something right.

Democracy Now! The US continues to supply the Egyptian military dictatorship with tear gas to use on protesters in Tahrir Square - 21 tons of it are on the way. Don't worry, us storm troopers have sufficient pepper spray to keep pacifists off the grass.

Definition: Technocrat, an 'expert' appointed by Goldman Sachs to replace the elected leaders of various nations. See also: Puppetry, US Government.

Boring: The September Case-Shiller house price index was down 3.9% y/y. That's five months in a row, and house prices are now back to April 2003 levels.

Everybody Knows: Fraud, insider dealing, outright theft and of course lying have become the essential elements of financial business practice in the US. When senior government officials meet secretly with the heads of investment banks and hedge funds and give them advance notice of the governments intentions, how can anyone pretend that free markets and capitalism exist, much less that they work? Obviously the only reason any of the big banks and investment houses still exist is because the US taxpayer was fleeced to save them. They are, by right, bought and paid for and should be nationalized.

DIY: Go to your local craft store, get a fabric marker, come home and cut the words "Eat More (your favorite veggie)" out of a stencil, then color the message onto a plain T-shirt. Wear it to the mall until Chick-fil-A's lawyers tell you that you look too much like a cow.

As Long As The Grass Grows and Rivers Run... VP Joe Biden is in Iraq, trying to weasel out of the treaty agreement that calls for the US to have all its troops out of the country by December 31st. You can forgive the Iraqis for being dumbfounded; they haven't had the benefit the education the American Indians got from their treaty dealings with the White Father in Washington.

You've Been Poked: That nice young man at Facebook had his hand firmly slapped and he was made to promise that henceforth the social network giant would not be quite so blatant about breaking various privacy laws. Part of the agreement was that they would actually delete privacy and security information after they sold it when the user "deletes" it.

On Getting With The Program: The Australian government has told those parents who do not have their children fully immunized that they will lose their family tax benefits (up to $2,100 per child) if they do not comply with the immunization schedule.

Porn O'Graph: Majority rules, discreetly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SAR #113311

Trade is a two headed coin: there are no debtors without creditors.

Amazing Story #426: Now that the IMF didn't give Italy E600 billion, let's try this one: The EC “will propose a new scheme for pricing bank-debt guarantees that seeks to isolate the 'intrinsic' risk of a bank from the risk of its home-country government.” Details were sparse, but Italy complained they wouldn't get a big enough break, and those few eurozone countries that are still AAA rated are against providing joint guarantees on bank debts. Bankers are trying to get someone, anyone, to save their asses assets. Another one for the fiction file.

The Big Sleep: The OECD has cut its forecast for economic growth in the OECD countries from 2.3% to 1.9 for all of 2011, and from 2.8 to 1.6% for 2012. Its main concern was whether the European monetary union would still be around come 2013.

Under Oath: When it learned that the FBI had been lying to the court about the existence of records sought under a FOI request, the judge was not amused.

Fine Print:In the name of security, the Senate is considering a bill that would permit the president to order the Army to pick up and imprison without charge or trial US civilians anywhere in the world, including in their homes in the USA. The actual wording authorizes “the worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial.” Why now?

Read Slowly, Aloud: “Germany insists that Eurozone countries move aggressively to slow growth and raise unemployment.” No, it's not Krugman.

To Infinity and Beyond: Every time I hear the big investment houses claiming that the $707,568,901,000,000 in unregulated derivatives is all hedged and there's no risk of significant losses, I wonder what will happen when just one link in the circular chain of hedging fails. Like AIG. Or MFGlobal. How good is the bet when the bookie can't cover it? A ten percent fail rate would be the loss of more than the entire world's GDP.

W/O Comment: Two Chinese warships have begun a five-day “official visit” to Kuwait.

The Way-back Machine: The professor set the dial for 2003, the previous time the average new house went for $242,300. (The median selling price of all houses was $175,250, down 7.8% y/y.) Annualized new house sales were 307,000, up a tad from last months (downwardly revised) 303,000.

D-Minus, At Best:US District Judge Jed Rakoff reviewed the SEC/Citigroup scam and couldn't give it a passing grade. He concluded “that the proposed Consent Judgment is neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest." Trail date, July 16, 2012, when Citi will actually have to face a jury.

Hoja's Donkey: Hear the one about Hoja feeding his donkey a little less every day, and just when it had learned to live without eating, it died? Neither did Senator Kyl (R-AZ) who is opposed to extending the payroll tax cut, thus raising the average family's taxes by $1,000 next year while killing another half-million jobs. Kyl didn't mention that he is also against raising taxes on millionaires, but he is.

All Headline: The Probability Of Multiple Defaults By Euro Area Countries Is No Longer Negligible". The rest is details, none of which are new.

Tailored Fit: Companies are telling the Republican-led Congressional committees that there will be layoffs and plant closings if the EPA tries to curb air and water pollution. But when they're talking to Wall Street analysts they downplay regulatory costs, saying compliance will not affect profitability.

G'way Kid, Y'Bother'n Me: When economists talk about “the consumer” they are not talking about you and me. Or at least not me. They're talking about the top 20% of income earners, who account for about 45% of all spending. The rest of us buy groceries and gasoline.

Low-Fact Diet: The Plan, co-sponsored by the Eurozone leadership, the IMF, the GOP, and Great Britain, goes like this: 1) Cut government spending. 2) Then something, something... and then 3) Prosperity! Austerity for the poor and middle class is still their favorite for Step Two, even though it hasn't worked and – following simple math – won't. But Step One is a sure thing in their ideology. Sure to make matters much, much worse.

Monday, November 28, 2011

SAR #11330

At this point faster may not be better.

It's Only Make Believe: The IMF doesn't have €600 billion ($800 billion) to lend to Italy. €600 billion ($800 billion) wouldn't be enough. And then there's Portugal. And Spain. And France. Jeesh, get a grip.

It's A Free Country: Remember TARP's $700 billion? Okay then, do you remember $7.77 trillion in secret loans and guarantees to the banks? Oh, right. They were secret. Because, Bernanke says, the banks wouldn't take the money if they had to do it in public. And bread eaten in secret is sweet.

History Lesson: Lots of talk this weekend about various ways Germany can take control of the rest of Europe through elaborate charades in Brussels aimed at gaining “closer financial integration... and joint control over the budgets of the member countries, including intervention rights if individual countries should violate the agreed rules.” The last time this sort of dominance was sought, the US had to bail out the whole continent. Probably will have to again.

Can You Hear Me Now? For over three years the 250 million-plus computers with iTunes installed have been open to intelligence and police hackers. Apple, which learned of the vulnerability in 2008, patched its software this month.

It's A Gas: Egyptian security forces are believed to be new crowd control gases against civilian protesters in Tahrir Square, agents that causes epileptic-like seizures and unconsciousness. CN and CR gases are both suspected, while some symptoms found in the afflicted may come from CS gas that is a decade or more beyond its 'best if used by' date.

Blow Some My Away: Denmark plans to get about half of its electricity needs from wind power by 2020.

The Years of Living Dangerously: Nearly half [45%] of Americans do not earn enough to set aside money after their basic expenses to provide savings for things like college or an illness. Most can't cover replacing the air conditioner or refrigerator without paying ruinous interest rates. They are not officially poor, but they are damned near destitute.

Let Them Freeze In The Dark: GOP wannabee Herman Cain is opposed to extending unemployment benefits and wants payroll taxes returned to their previous levels, calling both “distractions” - as though hunger and homelessness weren't pretty distracting. Never mind that the CBO finds the payroll tax cut to be one of the most effective ways to create jobs, right after continuing aid to the unemployed.

We Come In Peace: US-led NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two Pakistani army checkpoints, killing 24 soldiers. The last time the US launched such an attack the Pakistanis closed the Torkham border crossing into Afghanistan (through which most of the fuel for US forces is trucked) for ten days. Happy Motoring.

Report Card: Black Friday sales – no matter how strong – do not say anything about the US economy and certainly cannot be interpreted in terms of job creation. The big sales are in TVs, PCs, iPhony things, software and games, none of which is made in the US. All the sales suggest is how much further the customer went into debt.

Drill, Baby, Drill: Over a decade ago the vast petroleum resources in Kazakhstan were said to be the future of oil. Eleven years and $39 billion later, Exxon, Shell and their partners have yet to sell a drop of oil from “the biggest find in 40 years”. The goal is to produce a quarter million barrels a day. Eventually.

Nutshell: In Case You Were Wondering Why We Keep Bailing Out Wall Street... the finance industry has bought both sides of the aisle.

Follow the Money: Why has Homeland Security begun co-coordinating multi-city police raids on #Occupy protesters? What is the clear and present danger they present? Perhaps it is their call to get money and corporations out of politics. Or reform and meaningful regulation of the finance industry. Or perhaps it is their desire that Congress no longer be permitted to enrich themselves in ways that are illegal for ordinary citizens. And DHS does not decide to encourage mayors to order their police forces to make war on peaceful citizens without getting approval from the White House or Congress. Someone authorized this, intending to do away with the movement. Instead it fanned the flames.

Porn O'Graph: Don't upset the voters.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SAR #11328

I have little faith in the past; none in the future.

Conundrum: Any move towards greater fiscal integration in the eurozone will take years, but the eurozone does not have years to spare. Days, weeks, maybe even a few months; not years.

No, Virginia... European banks have run out of their supply of greater fools and are stuck with a pile of supposed assets that are losing value every day – which is why they can't sell them. This leaves the banks desperately needing to raise cash to survive. And no one wants to buy what they have or to lend to them.

Firstly: On close reading, nothing in the Constitution says that you can't be assaulted, clubbed, dragged, pepper-sprayed, shot with rubber bullets or – for all we know – disappeared, for wanting to reverse most of what happened in the last third of the 20th Century in the land where money is speech and corporations are people.

All Together Now: The generals managed to turn out a crowd of “thousands” to demonstrate in support of Egypt's ruling military junta, chanting “The military, the police and the people are one.” And in that order.

Over the Horizon: Our economic problems will not end with the 2012 elections, they are likely to be around a decade from now. At 90,000 new jobs a month – our recent average – most of the 14 million unemployed will be permanently unemployed, for it takes the 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with the month's new workers. That sets up a vicious cycle where lower spending leads to slow job formation. Expect the millions of discarded workers to demonstrate for a piece of the pie, while the haves put up walls to guard their privilege. Money will command the corridors of power while the people take to the streets. Eventually, new directions and new approaches will arise. Eventually.

Heads I win, Tails You Lose: Temporarily leading GOP wannabee Newt Gingrich wants the government to make good on your investment losses: " If someone with a personal account retires with benefits lower than those offered by the current system, the Treasury will send them a check to make up the difference." Remember - and this is true of the whole herd of midgets - if you want 'em, don't cry when you get 'em.

The Dickens You Say? In more than a third of US states, debt collectors can get arrest warrants for people who are behind on their bills.

Where the Bouys Are: Since the 'end of the recession'™ in 2Q09, nominal national income has increased 11.6%. But inflation has risen 4.7%, the population has grown 1.9%, and real wages have risen less than 1%, which means that the real per capita labor income has fallen by 1%. However, the FDIC reports that banks earnings in 3Q11 were up 48% y/y at $35.3 billion.

Location, Location... A senior executive at the Bank of England predicts that the UK housing market is “unlikely to recover”, that home ownership rates will fall and that house prices will never return to their former levels.

Kettle, Bubbling: Four were killed and nine wounded in clashes between Shiite commoners and Royal Saudi security forces in the oil-rich Eastern Province.

Report Card: The nation's food banks report that one in five children – and nearly 1 in 3 African-American or Latino households - are at risk of hunger. Hungry children have trouble focusing in school, get sick more often and struggle daily with stress at home. Many are eligible for free or reduced-price food at school, but often have no food available at home at night or over the weekend. Many schools provide backpacks of food for their hungry students' weekends. Remind me again how poor student performance is the teachers' fault.

Calm Down & Look at the Data: Denialists are enthused over a report that suggests global climate change will produce a slower rate of warming than previously suggested. The difference is between the IPCC's estimate of a rise of 3ºC with a doubling of CO2 levels, and 2.3ºC.

Friday, November 25, 2011

SAR #11327

In the long run, all of this is temporary.

M&A: The European Commissions wants the power to put member states in “administration” which would greatly expand their reach in overseeing national budgets and budget priorities – especially seeing that eurobonds always get repaid and that doing so takes priority over “any other spending in … national budgets.” Tell me again about the popular election of the commissioners.

Plot Development: While everyone has been focused on Europe, Japan's pot has been coming to a boil. The IMF notes that questions of Japan's ability to sustain its debts may set off a sudden upsurge in its bond yields, which would “quickly” render its debt unsustainable.

Dumpster Diving: Moody's tagged Hungary 'junk' and Fitch junked Portugal citing the damage done by the IMF/EU/ECB imposed austerity measures.

Once & Future KingUnion: Fiscal union is, and always has been, the only lasting solution to the eurocrisis. It will not be easy, nor quick. It will take political courage - for what elected leader has the courage to surrender a nation's sovereignty? Maybe none, which would explain the appointed leadership now running Italy and Greece. But the real impetus must come from the streets, which awaits further austerity, depression and suffering. But it does await.

Sad, True: Wannabe Romney, forgetting he's in the Republican herd, not a Democrat, has promised his first trip as president will be to Israel...

Generally Sincere: Egypt's military now says it is sorry that the protesters forced it to beat them, torture them and shoot them. Especially the shooting part, which drew too much attention. But not too sorry, and, oh yeah, they'll be holding sham elections soon! In Yemen, Saleh's pretense of handing control to his long-time henchman and vice-president was a non-starter, too.

Ah, A Clue: Global credit market debt has grown 12% a year for the last nine years, from $80 trillion to $210 trillion, while global GDP has grown at 4%.

Remember, You Break It, You Bought It. Once again the US is getting out of the nation-building business and will make anyone a good deal on Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Not to mention Libya, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo...

Noblesse Oblige: UC Davis will cover the medical expenses of the students pepper sprayed by the campus robo-cops. It was, after all, part of their education.

Lest Ye Forget: In the WSJ, November 20,2003, Newt Gingrich declared: "Every conservative member of Congress should vote for this Medicare bill. It is the most important reorganization of our nation's healthcare system since the original Medicare Bill of 1965 and the largest and most positive change in direction for the health system in 60 years for people over 65. ... If you are a fiscal conservative who cares about balancing the federal budget, there may be no more important vote in your career than one in support of this bill." Clip and save.

Ketchup: Megyn Kelly, a Fox News 'host' thinks that pepper spray is “a food product”. And that's one reason those who watch FOX news are less informed about the world than those who do not watch any news programming at all.

Know Thy Enemy: Here's a robocop training film showing the field application of militarized police tactics on peaceful political protesters. Added extra, the action described as "kettling" is demonstrated.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SAR #11325

Problems are distorted by the lens used to examine them.

Dead On Arrival: Never mind the details of the IMF's new 'Precautionary Credit Line' proposal, the IMF does not have the money to fund it adequately (estimated at $3 to $4 trillion) and it will require the support of the GOP to get the 'contribution' it would require from the US.

Balance Beam: Attempting to position itself as a support of democracy and human rights in the Middle East without upsetting the dictatorships it has and continues to support, the US has called for “restraint on all sides” in the ongoing confrontation between armed police and unarmed demonstrators in Egypt. For example, the demonstrators shot by the police should ideally die quietly and off camera.

Papieren, Bitte: A German executive assigned to the Mercedes Benz factory in Vance, AL was arrested for not having his passport on his person at all times.

Collateral Damage: The failure of the “supercommittee” ensures that the GOP will prevent the extension of last year's payroll tax cuts or the renewal of extended unemployment benefits. They will also insist on the continuation of the Bush tax cuts for those rich enough to be burdened with neither unemployment nor payroll taxes.

Fair Question: In that Keynesian policies led to economic growth in the New Deal Era, why wouldn't they work today?

Our Game: More than a dozen agents spying for the CIA in Iran and Lebanon have been caught and are currently being interviewed by their governments. The US confirmed the loss of number of assets over the last six months, explaining that “Espionage is a risky business” that can “result in occasional setbacks.”

Imitation/Flattery: Egypt’s state security thuggery has been renamed “Homeland Security.”

Moral Choices: Eventually the confrontations between our heavy-handed, highly militarized police and the disgruntled citizenry will reach the point where federal troops will be called in to put down the insurrection. Think now about what you will do then.

When You're Right... US Airlines are finally getting around to realizing that the indignities, inconveniences and frustrations imposed by TSA might be contributing to the decline in air travel. Did they think it was just the fear of having a fat person spilling over the armrest? Certainly the barriers erected by TSA, Homeland Security and the State Department can easily account for the loss of half a million jobs and half a trillion dollars due to a serious decline in foreign visitors.

Easy As Pie: The US deficit/debt problem can be easily solved. It is a mater of reducing spending and increasing taxation to a point where they together equal to about 5% of GDP. All the rest is details.

China Syndrome: Nuclear experts say that it is merely a matter of time before at least one of the Fukushima reactor cores melts through the containment vessel (if it hasn't already) and into the earth below. If (when?) it encounters underground water there will be “a huge steam explosion”.

Inquiring Mind: How long will it be before some hyped up paramilitary police hero produces the Kent Sate moment for the #Occupy movement?

Drug Lords: The US Justice Department has fined Merck nearly a billion dollars to settle criminal charges relating to Merck's illegal marketing of Vioxx, even after it was told to stop doing so. Vioxx was bringing in $2.5 billion a year when it was finally pulled from the market, so Merck's investors did okay, even though a lot of patients died from heart attacks.

A Long, Long Time: The current 'pipeline' of houses in danger of foreclosure in Maryland would take 21 years to sell at the current sales rate. Make an offer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SAR #11324

Hyperinflation is a political choice.

Whistling Past the Cemetery: There's a growing chorus at the back of the stage, whispering that Bernanke will not let the ECB destroy the US banking system, and that the Fed will act as central banker to the entire world, printing whatever it takes to sop up the fear in the bond markets. The showdown with Congress will be stimulating.

Bellybutton: Linda Katehi, still chancellor of UC Davis, says she will not resign because the university needs her as a constant reminder of the authoritarian regime that has taken over our campuses, cities, the country.

Playbook: The Super committee accomplished nothing, exactly as planned by both sides. The GOP wanted it to fail (and the economy, too) so they can attack Obama and the Democrats as being 'responsible' for the horrible economy and the horrible national debt. The Democrats look forward to tarring the GOP as the party of the 1% and tax cuts for the rich. The automatic cuts do not materialize until 2013, so no matter who wins in 2012, there's lots of time to call 're-do' and avoid the automatic cuts to defense, while advancing tax cuts for the rich and support cuts for the rest. E pluribus unum.

Paging Harry Bridges: #Occupy Oakland's General Assembly is calling for a coordinated effort to shut down West Coast ports. Big task and a fine opportunity for the SWAT teams to refine their democracy-suppression tactics.

Uncle: The world's richest countries have agreed to give up trying to prevent anthropomorphically instigated global climate change from causing catastrophic and irreversible climate change. US climate negotiator Todd Stern says that “It's not self-evident” that negotiators need to talk about post-2020 steps to combat global warming. This comes just as the IPCC is publishing intensifed warnings about the rapidly increasing dangers of putting off action. Exxon Mobil, in conjunction with Saudi Arabia and the worlds major coal companies, was immensely pleased.

Howdy Doody: Egypt’s cabinet has resigned as clashes between the military/police and the citizenry continue in Tahrir Square. Reports claim the military has rejected the cabinet's resignation - confirming once again that the military intends to retain its role as puppet master.

Cliff Note: “Is It Really Possible To Decouple GDP Growth From Energy Growth?” No.

Guns & Roses: In Egypt, security forces killed at least 22 people during the weekend's massive protests against the continuing military rule. At UC Davis, protesters showed the power of silence as they forced Chancellor Katehi to walk through them to her car in a dead silence laden with their approbation. The sadistic pepper-spraying of peaceful, non-resisting protesters was not an aberration, but simply business as usual in our militarized police state.

Hallelujah: GOP wannabe Herman Cain says that physicians with non-Christian sounding names make him nervous, especially if " his religious persuasion is different than mine."

Fingers Crossed: Rhode Island apparently had its fingers crossed when it agreed to give state workers pensions in their old age. Governor Chafee is planning to slash the pensions of retirees - which ought to be illegal under ordinary contract law and amounts to theft in practical terms.

Change You Can Bet On: In Spain, the Conservatives big win ensures that severe austerity measures will be imposed - with the exception of pensions - with cuts "everywhere". The Indignados expect large numbers of new converts to their protests.

Remembering Our Fallen Shoppers: Rising from the ashes of the World Trade Center is an interconnected complex of three shopping malls totaling 635,000 square feet, designed to honor the spirit of America. A prominent plaque will carry George W.'s famous admonition, "Go shopping!"

Smells Like A Rose... MFGlobal execs have acknowledged commingling customer and firm funds in the same account and Using the account “like a checking account” to meet the firm's obligations. At the end of the day there was at least $600 million of the customers' money missing from the account. Maybe $1.2 billion. Walks like a duck.

Monday, November 21, 2011

SAR #11323

“Silence is golden, but my eyes still see.”

About Cows and Cabbages: Let's review: Europe has too much sovereign debt (which dooms the nations), which is held by its banks (which dooms the banks) and there is a huge trade imbalance between core and peripheral countries in Europe (which dooms the euro). Austerity, alone, will not solve the problem as long as the trade deficits are ignored. The only short term solution is for the ECB to print euros. Yes it would be inflationary. Yes, the value of the euro would drop, a lot. The alternative is bank failures followed by depression. The eventual solution- the merging of national sovereignties into a European “super-state” with its own tax and budgetary powers – will not happen until other things are tried and found wanting. No matter what, Europe is in for a lot of pain.

Talisman: "More and more people are seeing that we don't need a new government, we need a whole new model." And not only in Spain.

Just Quoting: “You have a Republican ideology, which Mitt Romney obviously doesn’t believe in. He just oozes insincerity, that’s just so obvious. But all of the others are fools and clowns. And there is a question here, my hypothesis is that maybe this is an ideology that only fools and clowns can believe in. And that’s the Republican problem.” Paul Krugman, bless him. Not to be outdone, Peggy Noonan added, “The base of the Republican Party knows that the establishment of the Republican Party doesn’t like Newt. That’s a big plus.”

Refrain: The IPCC is back, once more offering climate change scenarios with sufficient conditional waffling to make the effort essentially useless.

Frying Pan/Fire: Spanish conservatives, having swept the socialists out in a landslide, are about to make the same mistake the GOP did last time around and behave as though the people supported their views. Wrong. The socialists were thrown out because the austerity measures and crashing economy were unpopular. Adding more austerity privations, as the conservatives promise, is absolutely not what the public wants. Or will tolerate.

The Clicking of Heels: The new, Goldman-approved fascistic leadership of Greece has ruled out the need for any new austerity measures, predicting that its budget deficit will fall sharply next year.

Neuter Gingrich: Temporarily leading GOP wannabee Newt Gingrich says that “child [labor] laws... are truly stupid.” His solution to unionized janitors driving education costs through the roof? “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors... and pay local students to take care of the school.”

Knock, Knock: The US Air Force has ordered 20 Massive Ordnance Penetrators from Boeing. The 15 ton GPS-guided bomb is designed “to pulverize underground targets,” mostly in Iran and North Korea. No Ron Jeremy jokes, please.

Egress: Billionaire Howard Marks realizes that "when people without money start to believe they can't make money, there's little to keep them from taking it from those who have it." He is positive that in the future the nation's social promises will have to be scaled back and the tax burden will have to grow, in the interests of the common good. There are, he says, no easy answers. Not even for billionaires.

What Price Glory? Anointing Mario Monti as the prime minister of Italy is a small step for mankind, a giant step for Goldman Sachs.

Resorts, Last: Everyone is selling their Italian bonds and buying CDS to bet against them. Fine. Who is holding the book on these bets? Who is buying all the debt? Can the bookie cover the action, or are we looking at an international version of AIG?

Party Games: Over the next 30 days or so, Congress has a choice: They can allow the payroll tax cuts to expire and end unemployment benefits for millions of voters, or they can extend the cuts and the benefits and add $160 billion to the national deficit. For full credit, pin the proper tail on the donkey. Give the other guys the role as the Grinch in the Christmas play.

Porn O'Graph: Poor-ing over the map.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

SAR #11321

Do not confuse leadership with lying just because they do.

Bring Me The Head of Diego Garcia: The IMF won't give Greece another drachma euro until " the unity government now shares its commitment to the implementation of the economic program is assured", but did not suggest what form the 'assurances' might take. Mass demonstrations against austerity would seem contra-indicated.

Downside Risk: BofA has dropped its forecast for 2012's GDP back a notch to 2.0% with a probability of a US recession up a notch to 40% They did not offer any insight into the probability of BofA going under.

Teaching Point: You cannot evict an idea, especially not with riot police.

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet: The peace-loving United States is proud to announce that it now has hypersonic flying bombs that can strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour at five times the speed of common sense. The Pentagon was quick to assure friendly dictators that this did not mean the US would be bringing many of its occupying forces home any time soon, Iraq excepted.

Life Plus Two: After the US/IMF bails out Europe, and it will, the average American will not be able to retire until age 80, which will be a problem in that the average American only lives to be 78.

Über Alles: There's a big to-do about the Germans leaking the confidential Irish budget proposals. There should be a big to-do about the Germans having the information in the first place, but I suppose it's hard to say no to the landlord if he wants to inspect the property.

Again with the Number Oneness: It is well known that if you want to succeed in life you should pick well educated, well connected upper class parents. If you cannot do that, it is far better to pick parents living outside the US, where the possibility of rising above your birth circumstances is better.

All In Favor: GE filed a 57,000 page tax return and showed it owed no taxes on $14 billion in profits. Maybe there is something to this tax reform idea.

On Not Clowning Around: The media has focused on the clowns and side show at the #Occupy sites and dismissed what the moment is all about – the deep discontent of the average American with the way the rich and powerful have captured the country and turned it to their own private benefit. #Occupy doesn't have one or even a short list of 'demands'. They want the country returned to the people. This is not a fringe movement by a bunch of entertaining clowns. Just ask the middle school student who took the mike in Foley Square to discuss cuts in school programs.

15 Minutes: Put the following wannabees in the order in which they were, however briefly, leading the pack: Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jabba the Hut, Ron Paul, Sara Palin and Rudy Giuliani

Extra Large: Don't know if they're getting ready for sudden inflation or a new housing bubble or both, but the US housing industry conned Congress into upping the maximum mortgage level for FHA loans to $729,750. I'm sorry, but if you've got the income to carry a three-quarter million dollar mortgage, buy your own mortgage insurance.

Proportions: When the talking heads say Italy is too big to fail, point out to them that Italy's bailout will cost about €1.2 trillion – which is far more than the European bailout fund would have if the European bailout fund had any money in the first place. Italy is too big to save. The five largest Italian banks need to raise over €6 billion in new capital, and that's just to keep up with the deterioration in the value of Italian bonds to date. As the government's finances contract, the banks' need for cash grows. In Spain banks are sitting on about €30 billion of real estate that is judged to be essentially unsalable for the next 40 years or so. When this loss is written down, most of the smaller banks in the country will have to close.

Bend Over and Cough: Newt Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation has taken in over $37 million over the last 8 years, selling “access to Newt” to health-care profiteers such as BCBS, AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk, with the promise of “direct Newt interaction”.

Porn O'Graph: Charting the reef.

Friday, November 18, 2011

SAR #11320

Economic disaster traditionally begets social unrest; just say'n.

A Losing Season:No, not Penn State football. How proud are Pennsylvania taxpayers going to be of Joe Paterno et all when it’s time to pay the lawsuits? How many tuition hikes will it take to pay the settlements? Go team.

Déjà Vu: Greeks suspect they have seen this movie before, where the fascistic right takes control -  and they do not want any part of it. So they're back in the streets.

Unmentionable: The Republican tax hawks are not saying a word about the $110 billion tax increase coming January 1st. That's because it impacts the workers, not the owners. Without congressional action, the 2% of FICA (Social Security) tax that was temporarily suppressed will come back, after pumping about $110 billion into the economy. Come January the average worker will be taking home about $70 a month less, just as the CEO's start cashing their bonus checks.

Amber Green Alert: MF Global customers' money is still missing. Foul play is suspected.

Only The Good Diet Young: A new study of US adolescent cardiovascular health suggests that today's teens are likely to die of heart disease at an earlier age than their parents. Young (24 -35) adults are already keeling over faster than previous generations, especially the women, and those in the 12 -19 age range are mostly obese, have high blood pressure, get no exercise and eat french fries and pizza all day.

Gospel: The good news is that only 388,000 Americans lost their jobs last week, in an economy that is creating about 100,000 new jobs a month....

There Ain't No Frackin' Jobs: Most news outlets simply take the PR handoouts from the industry and tout how many jobs fracking will bring to the area. For example, western NY will gain 60,000 new jobs when the frackers get to fracking, so the frackers say. Looking at similar operations in neighboring Pennsylvania suggests the number is more like 6,000. And that's before taking into account the jobs that will be lost due to environmental damage.

Clarification: The Confederate Flag does not represent Southern Heritage, it represents a defeated nation that was established to perpetrate the ownership of blacks by whites. They lost.

Recommended Rant: I grew up way back when America was a democracy, but that just tells you that I'm old. Today's America isn't run by citizens, nor even the citizens' representatives. It is a Corporatocracy. Why is it that the Europeans have figured out that they are getting screwed, and we keep pretending we're going to win the lottery? While they're in the streets, we're fighting for control of the remote. And so on...

Now They Tell Us: Either the Supercommitte makes deep cuts in the Federal Budget, or the 'automatic trigger' does. Either way, the cuts will slow the economy further, at a time when it's already pretty damned slow. It's a version of the austerity game that is playing so well in the provinces. Thank your local deficit hawk.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SAR #11319

Most men know as little about money as they do about sex.

Short Form: Italy has canceled bond auctions, explaining that it doesn't need the cash, even as it sets out to raise €440 billion. It has also declined to issue its preliminary 3Q GDP data because certain “revisions to previous data and procedure” were being made. See No Evil, Show no Evil. And, most certainly, Disclose no Evil.

Orienteering: Opening a new front on the war against China someone-or-other, 2,500 US Marines will be establishing a US toe-hold on Australia.

Foggy: Please explain what it means that the Federal Reserve is now the largest holder of US debt. At $1.665 trillion the Fed holds more than anyone, even China (at $1.1483 trillion). If the US pays the debt off, with interest, doesn't the Fed give the interest earnings back to the Treasury?

Blackened Swan: Amid all the assurances by 'reformed' banks, Winnebago County (Illinois) records show that “robo-signing” has not gone away. A small sampling of current foreclosure documents found hundreds of apparent forgeries by machines pretending to be Linda Green, Pat Kingston, and Brian Blaine.

Inflation Watch: The October CPI is down -0.1%, thanks to a decrease in energy costs, otherwise it was a 0.1% increase. Move along, nothing to see here.

Doing Well Without Doing Good: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are, by any measure, failed companies whose existence continues to depend on quarterly bailouts in the tens of billions of dollars, is getting set to pay the incompetents who run them nearly $100 million in bonuses again this year. And why, oh why, did Freddie pay Newt $1.6 million of borrowed taxpayer money?

Ketchup Redux: Republicans – of ketchup-as-vegetable fame – are trying to keep french fries and pizza (2 tablespoons of tomato sauce would be called a serving of vegetables) on the serving line at US school cafeterias, which would completely undo the nutritional standards proposed by the Agriculture department for school lunches. Remember, kids, a bunch of starch every day keeps the waistline away!

Ah, Wilderness: The BBC is doing a seven episode documentary mini-series called Frozen Planet. In the US it will only be a six-episode series, because the parts about climate change are intended for mature audiences.

It's A Gas: Retail sales reports came in encouragingly bullish with a 0.5% rise in October, m/m, and 6.7% y/y. But. But the Census Bureau notes that the statistical confidence range is ±0.5%. But October retail sales are regularly stronger than September's. And if you adjust for inflation and increased energy costs, the y/y drops to 1.75%. Adjusted for inflation, Octobers sales were 8.3% below the pre-crash high in January 2006. Note: Sears' 3Q sales fell 0.7%, Kmart's were down 0.9%, so we know were some of the sales at happier stores came from.

God Save The King: The King James Version of the Bible, my favorite publication in English, turned 400. Long may it live, if only for its delicious display of the power and beauty of the King's English.

Live Free Or Die: People trying to attend a Rick Perry even in New Hampshire were required to produce a picture ID to prove their citizenship. Strip searches were optional.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SAR #11318

We are but sophomores, mistaking platitudes for brilliance.

Who's Winning: After the nationwide coordinated police/SWAT team sweeps of #Occupy protests – done with complete media blackout social media – it becomes obvious that the status intends on remaining quo, here and abroad. Change is not an option.

Here We Go Again: Hurricanes, heat waves, downpours, drought, tornadoes, floods, blizzards and rising seas – more of 'em and more intense ones. That's what the IPCC scientists predict in their latest report on global climate change. Not all of them everywhere, of course, but enough so you will realize that global warming has been notched up a bit. Quite a bit. Get ready for the rush to deny, minimize, put off, down-play, in a drive to continue profits as usual.

Unite and Conquer! Prime Minister Mario Monti named himself as Italy's Finance Minister, too, and went on to name a banker as the minister of Infrastructure and Transport. Shows who is running the show.

Cake, Letting Them Eat: Republican Supercommittee members are willing to close $250 billion in tax loopholes in exchange for lowering the top income bracket to 28% instead of having it revert to the old 39.6% level. They are eager, however, to reduce Social Security benefits.

Democracy Fails: The ECB/EU/IMF has voided the results of democratic elections in Greece and Italy by forcing popularly elected leaders to resign. This will permit them to install 'technocrats' to run these countries to the benefit of northern bankers, claiming that “they have forfeited their right to democracy.” The newly appointed Gauleiters are said to “have a mandate, albeit not a democratic one” to change the social and economic structures of these countries and to squeeze blood from them. The spilling of blood in the streets is probably guaranteed at this point.

Muttering in the Ranks: The San Francisco Fed put out a note suggesting that the odds of a recession in the US in 2012 are likely over 50/50, from a combination of domestic factors and the impact of an international (for which read European) downturn.

Jelly Beans: How many mercenaries is the State Department hiring to protect diplomats in peacified Iraq? 1) US Embassies use marines. 2) None, the Iraqis love us. 3) 5,000, to start.

Gemini: Two forms of 'peak oil' are possible. The ordinary form is simply that at some point (which has already been reached) the amount of recoverable oil in the ground begins to fall. The more likely form is that as oil becomes harder to find and produce, there will come a point where the cost of producing it exceeds the economic value of using it, and demand will fall dramatically. End result's the same.

Decoder Ring:All of the Republican wannabees are determined to abolish the government programs that best demonstrate that their ideology is wrong – Veterans' health, Medicare, Social Security. And it's not out of budgetary necessity, they see nothing wrong with deficits as long as they go to defense contractors via the Pentagon budget.

What the hell are we all? Why do we still unthinkingly assume that we need economic growth and it is a Good Thing, but do not look at the deferred and displaced costs, nor at the inevitable limits lurking ahead?Why do we feel we haven't grown enough? “you notice nobody wants/Less(not to men/tion least)”

Clueless in Leadership: Andrew Bacevich surveys the field, from Iraq to the Euromess to the ongoing recession and concludes that Uncle Sam is not going to ride to anyone's rescue, not even his own. Classic Bacevich; go read.

Porn O'Graph:Can you pick out the low-wage states?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SAR #11317

Life is a crossword puzzle with multiple solutions.

A More Perfect Union: Frau Merkel insists that Europe must move towards political union, with “closer political ties and tighter budget rules”. She did not mention the word 'democratic' in her speech, nor mention voting. Her speech is seen as “a warm-up for the big quantum leap” toward a two-track Europe – the haves and the have-nots.

Talking Points: The Bureau of Labor Statistics rports that in 3Q2010 only 0.4% of jobs lostg were lost due to government regulation. About 35% of layoffs were due to lack of demand (ie, customers had no money). Shhh. Don't tell the wannabees.

Symbol: As the last Americans slunk out the gates of Camp Victory as it was turned over to the Iraqis, they took Saddam's toilet with them. Victory, with a 27 mile perimeter, was the largest of the 505 bases the US military had contractors build for them. The toilet is made of stainless steel and cost the US about a trillion dollars all told. So now you know what we got out of the war.

Please Explicate: Why should I be excited that there is a new payment app that will turn spending shopping into a “seamless payment experience”.

Unanimity: Fitch Ratings joined S&P and Moody's in downgrading Hungary's sovereign debt to junk level. Hungary rejected all bids at an auction of 12-month Treasury bills worth 40 billion forint ($186 million) after getting bids for only 22.8 billion forint. The concern is not for Hungary, but for neighboring Austria whose banks have a $226 billion exposure to the debt of former Soviet bloc countries. If Austrian banks fail, then... So it begins.

Sit Down And Shut Up: Senior US Senator John McCain has rebuked the Republican wannabees who came out in favor of waterboarding, bluntly calling it “torture.”

Good Odds: In Chapel Hill, NC, a desperate group of terrorists protesters who wanted to put an abandoned used car lot into socially beneficial use such as a soup kitchen, free clinic or library were overwhelmed and subdued by 25 armed members of the local SWAT team. The offense cited was using “large banners to obscure the windows of the [defunct] business.”

Low Expectations: In an article praising the continuing German economic miracle comes this line “Germany's robust job market—unemployment is 7%—is creating a...” At which point you begin to question the miracle part of the German economy. 'Better than' is not the same as 'Good'.

Pyrrhic victory: : Markets briefly rallied when Italy sold €3 billion in 5-year bonds at 6.29% interest. Why? Is it likely that Italy can afford to pay more than 4 times as much to borrow as Germany does? In a shrinking economy? While paying reparations to France and Germany?

Technique: Homebuilder D.R.Horton says it expects to make higher profits on the same sales volume next year by building shoddier houses.

Brother Can You Spare a Dime? Italian bank UniCredit reported it has to raise $10.3 billion to meet EU capital requirements due to in write-downs on bad investments. It will also cut 5,000 jobs and sharply curtail its lending.

Belt and Suspenders: Smallpox was eradicated in the wild decades ago and now only exists in biowarfare labs in the US and Russia. The US has $1 billion worth of a proven vaccine that works when give within 4 days of exposure. That's enough for the US population and lots left over for friends, all at $3 a dose. So why is the US buying 1.7 million doses of an unproven vaccine at $255 a shot on a non-bid contract? Clue: The vaccine is made by Siga Tech, Democratic Daddy Warbucks R.O. Perelman, proprietor.

I Like To Watch: To avoid problems with Iraqi officials, the US has repositioned the drones used to help Turkey keep track of Kurdish rebels, moving them from what used to be American bases in Iraq to airfields in Turkey.

OPEC Math: Kuwait bragged that its output reached 3.067 mbd last week. Its OPEC quota is 2.2 mbd, and OPEC happily acknowledges that Kuwait produced 2.612 mbd in October. Quotas? We don't heed no stinking quotas.

Monday, November 14, 2011

SAR #11316

If many more economists become doomsters, I'm going to turn optimistic.

Point Of Order: Does it bother anyone that the PIIGS were but one third of the involved parties and are getting all the blame? The money was advanced by banks (loan sharks) so the PIIGS (addicts) could buy products (drugs) from the Cartel (Germany, mostly, with France and a few minor players).  Now everyone is blaming the addict. But the Cartel got all the money – which they wouldn't have if their banks hadn't first given it to the PIIGS. And the loan sharks have now juiced up interest to the point that none of the PIIGS can make the vig, much less pay off the nut. And the Cartel and the Banks (where they are not one and the same) have sent Rocky in to break some legs - ie the IMF/ECB replacing P & B with their own lackeys.

No Help Wanted: The Justice Department has told the Supreme Court not to bother to come to work any more, the government's lawyers already know what the right decisions are. The specific instance is an Arizona immigration law that the lower courts (and the administration) say is unconstitutional and they don't want the Supremes to trouble themselves with hearing the case.

Asked & Answered: Is It Better to Be Liked or Feared? Depends;  are you a Democrat or a Republican?

Onanism: Remember how EFSF's first round of bond selling went from €10 billion to € 3 billion due to lack of enthusiasm? Did you know that they had to buy several hundred million euro's worth of their own bonds in order to even make the €3 billion level. Looks like the bigger fool has been found.

Irony: Goldman Sachs says the Fed is about to screw up. 'About to'? And this from Goddamn Sacks? When did they become impartial observers of the Fed?

Nuanced Nonsense: Under the guise of leadership, Republican plans to get the economy moving “involves no pain for anyone except overcompensated, under-performing government workers and the undeserving poor.” They are holding a bidding war to see who can promise to dismantle the most government departments, with no thought to the disastrous effect doing away with the Weather Service, federal aid to schools, and on and on... Republicans do not talk about shared sacrifice because they don't intend to share in the sacrificing. The Democrats only seem more mature because they are not contesting with one another for the nomination.

Hmmm: #Occupy Harvard's 3rd General Assembly featured two of the more prominent members of the Egyptian Tahrir Square protests, sharing the lessons they had learned in the course of the demonstrations. Wonder where the Spanish organizers are...

Gauntlet: If we don't change our fossil fuel use significantly by 2015 and completely by 2017, we will end up with atmospheric CO2 levels that exceed the maximum tolerable levels, and, because of CO2's persistence in the atmosphere for hundreds of years,we will have lost our opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change essentially forever. So says the International Energy Agency's Fatih Birol.

#Occupy Yemen:Assad's security forces shelled the citizenry of Taiz, killing 16 and wounding more than 50, while the Arab states stood by, loudly wringing their hands.

Women and Children First: If the ECB prints trillions of euros to buy up all the impaired sovereign debt, Germany will have to abandon the euro to save itself from the inevitable inflation. But the only other solution is for some entity with actual cash to give the EU 3trillion euros to buy up the debt. That entity would be Germany, and they would leave the euro before beggaring themselves for the sake of the PIIGS. Germans would really like to mind their own business and export capital goods and luxury cars to China rather than trading their wealth to create the Fourth Reich for political and financial dominance in Europe. Say goodnight, Gracie.

Ah, Capitalism: “Citigroup Thinks These 9 Stocks Will Benefit From The Rise Of Poverty.” Nice to know the poor are good for something.

Porn O'Graph: Please Watch Your Step.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

SAr #11314

Without losers, there are no winners.

Clarification: The eruozone crisis wasn't caused by unrestrained governmental borrowing so much as it was by unrestrained 'over-lending' by banks. The problem has been magnified by reactionary and damaging economic ideas and the original birth defects in the euro, all compounded by treating they symptoms and making the symptoms worse. What at first were lectures by the Markozy element telling the lazy and apparently unsophisticated Mediterranean states to cut wages, sell of national assets, reduce pensions, abandon healthcare and raise taxes have now become instructions from the IMF and ECB. This will not set well with the people being enslaved  – and unlike their American counterparts, they have not forgotten how to fight back. “Most likely rational solutions will emerge from the battlefields.”

Not News: Assad continues to slaughter his citizens, US continues to maintain Syria has no oil.

Oddsmakers: While yields on 10-year Italian bonds have fallen to the 6% level, simple math shows that even that rate is far too high for Italy to be able to actually redeem its € 1.9 trillion debt (GDP growth of less than 1%, Inflation – controlled by the ECB – at 2% leaves at least 3% more in taxes the government would have to suck out of the stagnant economy). This means that Italy will need to spend nearly 10% of its annual GDP on interest payments alone. European bankers agree and are busy dumping €300bn in Italian debt.

Water Is Wet: The natural gas industry has pumped over $750 million into lobbying at the federal level aimed at avoiding regulation of their 'fracking'. We are supposed to be shocked.

Trigger Happy: On planet Washington, where reducing the federal budget deficit continues to be more important than creating jobs, everyone is talking about “triggers” that automatically go into effect if certain other things don’t happen. Yet no one is talking about the most obvious trigger of all — no budget cuts until the official level of unemployment falls to 5 percent, its level before the Great Recession

Damn! Research shows that 85% of the #Occupy protesters have jobs. Only 56% of Tea Party members have jobs.

Technocrats, pah: The trouble with technocrats – even if there were such a thing and even if their solutions were appropriate – is that they are not leaders, not inspiring, not charismatic. And if massive suffering austerity programs are going to be imposed, it will take a leader to get the population to go along. Think 'blood, sweat, and tears' vs 'take this it's good for you.'

You Made Me Do It! Obama's decision to put off approving the Keystone XL pipeline in order to con his environmentalist supporters one more time may force Canada into China's waiting arms. Or so the Canadian Finance Minister would have you believe.

Reminder: “Every $1 per barrel rise in the price of oil decreases US GDP by $100 billion a year. Every 1 cent increase in gasoline price at the pump cuts US consumers' disposable income by about $600 million a year.”

The Future Is Now: According to the IEA (and oil industry production records) peak oil has come and gone – back in 2006. The reason that there has been but limited impact is called 'recession' – which it may well have been instrumental in triggering. Do not be misled by the “all liquids” data – actual crude oil, the stuff that gasoline, diesel and jet fuel is made from peaked 5 years ago. Yes, liquids have added about 1% to the supply – but with the global population growing by the tens of millions each year, that's little comfort. It's not how much there is, but how much there is for me that counts.

Being Human: Most Americans are pro-choice and pro-life and manage not to think too deeply about the dichotomy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

SAR #11313

Have your eyes glazed over yet?

Bugle, Blowing: The European Commission predicts 2012's 'growth' in the Eurozone will top out at 0.5%, unemployment will remain at 9.5% “for the foreseeable future” and the risk of a new recession is high. So naturally they insist on an “unwavering implementation” of severe austerity plans. Wait, are they sounding 'Charge!' or 'Retreat!' ?

Move Along, Nothing to See Here: All you need to know about the multi-state mortgage fraud settlement is that neither the bankers nor the politicians want you to know the details.

Fine Print: The rules say that if you have a commodity account with a Wall Street firm, they may treat your funds as a commodity and do whatever they wish with it. If they win, they keep the profits, if they lose... well, they don't lose. And the system is set up that way, under CFTC Rule 1.29, which allows brokers to use the margin and cash in customers 'segregated' accounts, with no obligation to tell the customers and no obligation to share the profits, if any, with them. The question of losses appears not to have been considered possible.

Editing Job: Forbes notes that “Some MFGlobal customers want Corzine 'led away in cuffs'. Only some?

Leadership: Obama is delaying a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in order to consider an alternate route that will go around the 2012 presidential elections.

This Side Up: The IEA, at the launch of its 2001 World Energy Outlook, said that we have less than 5 years to dump our inefficient and high carbon-emitting energy system or be locked into disastrous climate change. The agency also said that, based on past performance, there isn't a chance in hell that the nations of the world will get their shit together in time to do anything useful.

Ready, Fire, Aim: Wannabe Mitt Romney, baring his chest and thumping away, says that if he became president he would stop this diplomacy stuff and Cheney Iran as soon as possible. Oh good, now we can vote for Romney's War.

The Number: The number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week fell by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 390,000. Actually they are still unemployed, but they were busy down at the local #Occupy protest.

One More For The Road: The Tokyo stock exchange has told Olympus Corporation that it will be delisted from the exchange if it fails to report its earnings by December 14. The company has consistently lied about its earnings for the last 20 years and certainly deserves one more chance.

The Good Earth: China admits that its headlong rush for profits has led to nearly 10% of its farmland and water supplies being poisoned by heavy metal contaminants from factory and farm wastes – a cost to be paid by future generations and not by the profitmakers.

Mark Your Calendar: Walmart will begin Black Friday on Thursday evening at 10 PM. This will give Walmarters two hours to shop for Chinese made stuff before rushing waddling off to Target for more Chinese made stuff, or to Macy's for clothing sewn in Bangladesh.

Budget Savings. The Senate Armed Services Committee has discovered at least 1800 instances in which the Pentagon has bought counterfeit electronics, mainly from China. There have been some equipment malfunctions due to the fake parts, but with many military systems being built by the lowest bidder it is sometimes hard to tell...

Taxation/Representation: Currently, same-sex couples have to pay for Social Security and Medicare the same as everyone else, but they cannot draw benefits for their spouses the same as everyone else. And that's why Senator Cronyn (R-TX) is against repealing DOMA - "it would actually result in an expansion of federal benefits and spending." To hell with fairness, we need the money!

Penney Arcade: Later has arrived sooner than expected, and all is explained.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SAR #11312

When in doubt, doubt.

...on the Way to the Forum: Remember the €1 trillion bail-out fund, the one that was going to save the world a few PIIGS? Eurozone finance ministers are “delaying” decisions on how to proceed after their initial efforts raised only €3bn, and that only with record interest rates.

Two Way Street: The IEA is warning that oil prices “could hit economically damaging record highs one-third above the record $147. It also said that the current $102 per barrel average for 2011 has put global economies at risk. OPEC disagrees and fears that eurozone problems will lead to significant price declines as world economies slow.

Once More: Italy is “too big to fail and too big to save.” Well, actually it isn't too big to fail... And Barclays says it has passed the point of no return.

La Loi: There are two fundamental values that are essential to any working capitalist economy: accountability and the rule of law. The proposed nation-wide mortgage fraud settlement is... a fraud. Banks have confessed to submitting up to 10,000 falsified affidavits a month, for years. The banks say “it was only a process” that got trampled – but then, trial by jury is a process, too.

Equality:Without winking, crossing your fingers, or outright lying, please explain why Internet sales should not be subject to state sales taxes.

Slight of Hand: Banks in Europe were required to boost their capital holdings. So they increased their own evaluation of their risky assets, making them both less risky and more valuable as capital. All in time for a late lunch.

Revival: In the face of a looming recession, France has unveiled the toughest austerity measures since WW II. They are promising “to protect the French against the grave problems facing other European countries,” by doing the worst possible thing in a effort to save the country's virginity AAA rating. It includes increased taxation, cuts in pensions and other health and welfare programs. It is the latest step in a relentless campaign to force the eurozone into a death spiral in order to make sure the bankers get paid.

Good Question: Why is big pharma allowed to kill its customers? Oh, my. If you need ask, you are beyond hope. Maybe there's a pill for that.

Smaller Giants: Walmart has discovered the 'pop-up' store – a 1000 square foot temporary outlet in a mall or strip center, run for a couple of months and then gone. This is attractive to a company that has over 12 million square feet of closed stores to sell or lease. Another niche market where the little guy is facing Goliath.

Less Than Meets the Eye: Most people who sell a house do so to buy another one. These days the buyer will need to pay off the house, pay a Realtor 6%, and put 10% down on the next house. Based on that, over 50% of mortgaged households in the US are effectively underwater.

A Sure Thing? Investor extraordinaire John Hussman confides that his firm's models predict the probability of oncoming recession at nearly 100%.

Engaging the Enemy: The hydraulic fracturing industry is being urged to treat those who oppose fracking as “insurgents” and to follow the military's counterinsurgency manual in confronting them, and to hire former military psy-ops personnel to manipulate the discussion and “overcome stakeholder concerns.” Doesn't the field manual also suggest bribing local warlords?

Assignment: Translate the following: “The bright side of this is the bond market is forcing change that can no longer be ignored. Italy is a big, wealthy country and it is in their power to liberate their economy and cut spending” Then explain what “liberating their economy” will consist of, and from whom it will be liberated.

Uggianaqtuq: Torrential downpours, floods, droughts, wildfires, surprise snowfalls and tornadoes dominated the news for much of 2011. Even now “one of the most severe storms on record” is bearing down on Northwest Alaska, where the native Inuit call the unusual weather “the stranger”. I'm with Brian Williams: “All I know is this didn’t happen when we were kids.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SAR #11311

The global financial system is essentially a perpetual motion machine.

Thought Experiment: Please compute: (1) Nevada passed a law effective October 1 that made it a felony – holding individuals criminally liable – to make a false representation concerning a real estate title. (2) Foreclosure filings in Nevada plunged dramatically in October.

Ah, The Italians! Prime Minister Berlusconi promised to resign via a posting on Facebook. The guy's got style. Obama, meanwhile, was peddling t-shirts and coffee mugs on his Facebook page.

Go Sit In The Corner: Ohio's voters told the Republicans they had overreached with their plan to limit public employees collective bargaining rights, defeating the law before it became effective, and voters in Mississippi rebuffed Republican attempts to criminalize abortion and most forms of birth control.

Created Equal: Over half of Republicans and nearly 85 % of Democrats believe in the inherent worth and dignity of their fellow citizens, be they guys, gals or somewhere in between. Surveys show overwhelming support for a national law banning employment discrimination to protect all of us - even the transgendered.

One More Verse: CoreLogic reports that house prices fell 4.1% y/y in September, while Fitch Ratings sees a further 10% drop in US house prices.

Get Me Rewrite: Homeowners continue to have a hard time paying their mortgages. But the blame has now migrated from the over-reaching homeowners to the damage to consumer confidence done by the debt crises in the US and Europe, and the tanking of the US stock market. Don't blame me, I got this drivel from a report by TransUnion's financial services vp Tim Martin, who also believes that neither house prices nor unemployment “has noticeably deteriorated.” He also discounted the effect of being underwater on delinquencies.  He’s a pro, do not try this at home.

Fire Drill: Over 16,000 Honk Kong-owned factories in China may close, as orders collapse by as much as 30% in response to a slowdown in global demand and a 20% increase in minimum wage on January 1. Going, going, gone.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Buddy and Pedro, a dedicated gay penguin couple residing in the Toronto zoo, are going to be separated and forced to mate with female penguins “for the good of the species.”

Asked & Answered: Is over-regulation driving US companies offshore? No.

The Road to Salvation: While waiting for extreme austerity programs to save the economy, more than 20% of Spanish families now live below the poverty line and unemployment is above 21% - the highest in Europe. Among the young (under 30) the rate is above 45%. Even for those who have jobs, a third are on temporary contracts, with low pay and no benefits.

Take A Memo: “A common currency has a much better chance of working if you actually have a nation.”

Day Late... Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer questioned what a democratic society would look like if people believed the government was tracking them for days at a time. Don't know, but just look around, Steve, and see what it looks like when the government does track the people 24/7.

Point of View: Wannabe Rick Perry thinks the ban on gays serving in the military should be reinstated because “it worked very well”. Does anybody on his staff do reality checks?