Saturday, March 31, 2012

SAR #12091

I sometimes use facts to prove a point.

Up and Upper: Personal income in the US increased 0.2% last month, but spending increased four times that (0.8%) and the personal savings rate to 3.7% from 4.3% in January. We've been down this road before.

Unexpectedly: Japan's industrial production unexpectedly fell 1.2% in the last quarter, as the GDP shrank 2.3%, also unexpectedly, after falling 0.9% in 2010 and 5.5% in 2009.

Old News: Active investing is a mugg's game.

Routines: Every day my wife asks "What did the market do today?" and every day I say "Why do you care, we don't own any stock."

Friends In Low Places: Senate Republicans blocked Obama's effort to end Big Oil's tax breaks. Bread, buttered and all that.

Number One With A Bullet: DHS is buying 450 million rounds of .40 caliber HST bullets designed for “optimum penetration for terminal performance.” You've been warned.

Comfort: The majority of medical implants have never been tested by the FDA.

Fear and Loathing: Those who lose their jobs suffer lasting damage to their earnings potential, their health and the prospects of their children. And the longer it takes to find a new job, the deeper the damage appears to be. It is too soon to know, but it seems likely that our current unprecedented numbers of workers who have been unemployed for getting on two years are going to experience more severe impairments than those of earlier generations.

Spot Quiz: Are the austerity programs undertaken in the Eurozone self-defeating? Yes.

Farm League: US drone attacks are ramping up in the off-stage war in Yemen, along with cruise missiles, aircraft attacks and navel bombardments. Naval bombardments?

Water Is Still Wet: Scientists are finally figuring out how and why early exposure to germs is a good thing, why playing with pets and hanging around farm animals confers lifetime health benefits. Antibiotics and antibacterials do just the reverse.

Democracy In-Action: In the US a well-educated 25-year old white woman has a life expectancy that is 8.6 years longer than a poorly educated black woman of the same age.

Aesop's Fables: The moral of the current Republican hand-wringing and posturing over abortion, gay marriage, contraception, evolution, global warming and national health care is that there is a moral crisis and it is the Republicans' morals that are the problem. If they'd do what they claim and proselytize for less government involvement in personal decisions, this fluff would all blow away.

Porn O'Graph: Old, but interesting, news.

Friday, March 30, 2012

SAR #12090

Stock  markets are see-saws with greed at one end and fear at the other.

Thought Experiment: Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi says "There is no rational reason for high oil prices." It used to be when the Saudis wanted lower petroleum prices they produced more oil and dumped it on the market. Now they produce words. Wonder why.

Yo-yo Stats: The Labor Department revised last week's initial unemployment figure upward by 16,000 - a 4.5% 'correction' which adds even more doubt to this week's reported 359,000 which may or may not mean 375,000. 78,000 people fell of the far end and became non-countable formerly unemployed phantoms. Stay tuned.

Sermon Topic: Scientists report finding billions of habitable planets.

Clip & Save: JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon, a noted impartial observer of all things financial, says that housing has reached "the inflection point" (new home sales, housing starts and residential investment have already bottomed) and a marked recovery in the housing market is underway.

Style Points: Rick the Sanctimonious, at a bowling alley campaign stop, told a young man “Friends don’t let friends use pink balls... You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera,” he said.

Tweet This: Smartphones with price comparison apps are driving Best Buy out of their big boxes, which have become simply showrooms for on-line shoppers. The company is closing big stores and opening smaller “mobile” outlets. The new stores also will emphasize online purchase for pick up in stores. It is also going to make it harder to return items or make expenses. Too bad there is such a small list of retailers that have successfully cut costs to make a profit.

Harvest Time: The UK's 4Q2011 GDP data is in and shows that their austerity program has turned the economy around... so it shrank at 1.2% annual rate. They've gotta eat more spinach.

Party Line: In the bad old days when we-the-people regulated monopolies, one of the things we required of the phone company was that there be guaranteed landline telephone service at nearly every address in the country. ATT and Verizon now want to dump this requirement so they can concentrate on providing wildly profitable bundled services to their urban customer base and abandon those unprofitable wires strung all over the countryside. They also want a law that takes the state regulators out of the customer complaint business. What could go wrong?

Study Guide: Research shows there is an inverse correlation between homework and academic achievement - the more homework forced on children, the poorer their academic scores. Only high school juniors and seniors showed any real benefit from doing homework.

And crown thy good with brotherhood...Homeless mother Anna Brown wouldn't leave a St. Louis hospital because of the pain in her legs. She was arrested and taken to jail, where she was left on the cell floor to die from blood clots in her legs.

Inside Straights: One view of health insurance is that every year you have good health you have wagered against yourself and lost - and your money went to pay for someone else's care. A sort of consensual redistributive tax. (This is true of all sorts of insurance - car, house, etc) So why not go without, after all,while the taxpayers will not repair your car they will not let you die of most treatable illnesses. Why not just let the taxpayers pickup the tab? Which is exactly what a national health system does.

Progress: Real wages for production and non-supervisory workers (including non-wage compensation, in 1984 dollars) declined from $388.01 in 1972 to $326.23 in 1995 and now has climbed back to 365.77 - down only 6% in 40 years of progress. But at least you don't have to pay those pesky union dues.

Porn O'Graph: Who loves ya, baby.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

SAR #12089

Education is dangerous - Every educated person is a future enemy” Rick Santorum. Herman Göring

Oilly Days: The US and Great Britain are pressuring France to join them in releasing oil from their strategic reserves as already puny economic recoveries begin to flounder on the shoals of rising prices caused by shortages in supply (despite Saudi posturing) caused by the continuing increase in Chinese (whose production is declining) and Indian demand. The effort is doomed in the long run, because there is little chance that either domestic or world-wide production can expand sufficiently to overcome the ongoing increase in demand and decreases in output from existing fields.

Taking Your Medicine: Men who have survived a heart attack now have a choice of a baby aspirin a day or two drinks. Decisions, decisions.

No Exit And Other Plays: The FHFA's Inspector General says that it is "highly unlikely – if not mathematically impossible" – for Fannie and Freddie to ever make it out of hock to the taxpayer. They currently owe the Treasury $183 billion and have no hope of ever paying it back. In fact, they have to borrow money from the Treasury to pay the Treasury the interest on the money they've borrowed. Ah, government finance.

'Nuff Said: Experts say that radiation at one of the Fukushima reactors is “far worse” than previously disclosed.

Numb-ers: Corporations are sitting on $1.9 trillion in cash and adding about $200 billion a month to this pile. That is an awful lot of liquidity sloshing around looking for an investment - any investment. Say goodnight, Mr. Bernanke...

Little Help Here, Please: European leaders are planning to increase the Eurobloc bailout fund with an additional €940 billion in newly issued debt to fund the bailout of Euronations with too much debt. Could someon explain this to me in a way that passes the laugh test?

Live Free Then Die: Let's have a single-payer health system that individuals could opt out of (but could never return to) by agreeing that they would be responsible for their own health care and would forego all treatment paid for by tax monies and be placed on a permanent Do Not Treat list, preventing an intrusive government from interfering with their health care. Romney agrees.

Previews: US heat waves will intensify and last longer as global warming grows. Hurricanes will be stronger and their storm surges more deadly. Large coastal cities and small islands are going to see significant and costly rises in sea level. By 2070 the cost of weather-related damages will approach 10% of global GDP. Or so those lying scientists at the IPCC say.

Difference: The operators of the Indian Point (NY) nuclear power plant have "agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty... " Agreed to pay. Why just the other day I "agreed to pay" a $124 penalty for speeding.

No Means No: There will be Greek parliamentary elections in late April or May, and surveys show that the public has little enthusiasm for returning the current leadership to power. At least half the electorate intends to vote for groups – from Communists to Nazis – which oppose the austerity measures Germany has imposed on the country. Absent the emergence of a charismatic leader, the opposition may be so scattered that the IMF/EU appointed leadership will retain power.

Entering The Twilight Zone: The growth rate for all forms of consumer credit is higher than at any time during the credit bubble and is within 3% of its August 2008 peak. So much for the great deleveraging.

Alternate Reality: Just in case it turns out that global warming is not an enormous conspiracy by thousands of scientists, perhaps it would be worth taking a look at how close the warming is to being irreversible. Nah, it'd be depressing and doing something now to prevent it would harm corporate profits. Besides, the great ice sheets are already toast, as is the Amazonian rainforest. So it's either a hoax or it's already too late; what's on TV tonight?

Porn O'Graphic: Goal.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SAR #12088

“So long as a man rides his Hobby-Horse peaceably and quietly along the King's highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him -- pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?”   Laurence Sterene, Tristram Shandy.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before: The S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index fell again in the quarter ending in January, down 3.8% y/y, but the prices didn't fall much m/m, which is a Good Thing. Of course nominal prices are back to 3Q2002 levels and in real terms prices are back to 4Q1998, neither of which is particularly cheery.

No-Brainer: Which would you rather have, a picture of Newt walking away or $50?

Thought Experiments: Do you ever wonder about the secret lives of those who think they are better suited to decide what you can watch, what you can do and who you can do it with, and what you should think? Really, what sort of depraved things go on in these people's minds? I'm pretty sure porno does not cause brain damage, no matter what Sanctimonious Rick claims. Nor does it "contribute to misogyny and violence against women"; something else must explain his contempt for women.

Point Made: The current electoral reality in the United States is that billionaires and corporations finance candidates and assure we will continue to get government of, by and for billionaires and corporations.

Modern Times: Shiller's take on housing is that the current shift towards renting, living in the cities instead of the suburbs, and moving back with mom and dad instead of rushing into marriage suggests “that we will never in our lifetime see a rebound in [housing] prices in the suburbs." He sees a politicized housing market in a prolonged “Japan-like slump that will go on for years and years.”

Land of Broken Dreams: Americans now think the game is stacked against them, that no recovery is at hand and none is in sight, and that their children will have a lower standard of living than they do. The majority say that equal opportunity is a myth and that hard work is not rewarded. Hard to work up a lot of enthusiasm, isn't it.

Final Exam: There are far too many of us now and there will be a lot more of us later on. The issue is complex and solutions are few. Your task is to devise a morally acceptable solution. Usual prizes.

Now and Then: Today about 27% of the $1 trillion in outstanding student loans are more than 30 days past due. Why? Because the students who took out the loans are either underemployed or unemployed. If (and when) interest rates rise, the delinquency rates will also rise.

Bitter Medicine: During the quarter-century before the housing collapse, the average homeowner with a mortgage held about a 40% equity interest in the house. Today the figure is about 6%. The difference in equity held by mortgaged homeowners is $3.7 trillion. Home prices would have to rise over 60% to narrow that gap. Government programs cannot bail out the homeowners - it would take 24% of the nation's GDP. The only way out is for houses to fall another 20%, erasing a total of $5 trillion in mortgage debt. Or says Williams Emmons, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Definition: If you sign a contract and it turns out to be less than a good deal for you, you can attempt to re-negotiate the terms, or, if you are American Airlines and it is a union contract, you just ask a judge to toss it out.

Prescription: The US needs a fairer definition of income (to include capital gains and interest) a far more progressive tax system, an absolute cap on bonuses, and a willingness to invest in public infrastructure, welfare and education. But don't hold your breath.

Porn O'Graph: The constant gardener.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SAR #12087

In case you've forgotten, the government is us.

Better and Better: The National Association of People Who Sell Houses for a Living says that things are getting better and better, except those pesky new contract signings, which "eased" - that is went down - 0.5% in February instead of going up 1% like they were supposed to. Which means that an excuse will have to be made a couple of months from now when the houses they didn't contract for aren't sold.

Asked & Answered: Can the government force you to buy health insurance? Besides car insurance and Medicare, you mean?

Rush To Judgment: Thirty-five years ago the FDA determined that the routine use of antibiotics in livestock feed posed a danger to public health. Since then, according to a federal court, “the scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown.” The court told the FDA it was time to do something with this information, so the FDA said it would study the mater.

Tour de Farce: Mr. Bernanke's lecture wasn't aimed at students. He was trying to shore up the myths supporting the current regime, with "bad or unimportant data" leading to impossible and "quite self-serving conclusions." Eventually the logic of simple math and the lure of political expediency wll result in inflation and hyperinflation as US dollars continue to be backed by the full faith, credit, and ability of the the Treasury to print more of them. "In this we truly trust."

Growth Factor: By 2020 at least 75% of the US population will be obese, with or without pink slime.

Two Masters: The director of the FHFA, which oversees Fannie & Freddie, is charged, by law, with making sure Fannie and Freddie lose as little of the taxpayer's money as possible – the taxpayers being the one's on the hook for F&F's losses. At the same time, the director answers to Congress, which wants F&F to stop foreclosing on the voters and get them to write down delinquent mortgages to help other voters keep their houses. Submit your solutions to this dilemma – in 25 words or less – for the usual prizes.

Factoid: "we human beings don’t really consume resources, we create them" Tim Worstall, in Forbes.

Where Do These People Come From? Pat Robertson claims that homosexuality is the result of demonic possession, which can be driven out by... Wannabe Romney says that Obama hired 140,000 more civil servants who just sit around all day trying to find ways to interfere with businesses. The truth is that over 500,000 government jobs have been eliminated under Obama. And Rick Santorum says that it is “bullshit” for the NYTimes to report what he says.

The Way We Were: Wall Street has made about $33 million in political contributions during the current cycle, 92% of it going to the GOP.

Inflation: At $50,000 each, the Afghans killed in the recent shooting rampage represent a serious increase in 'condolence' payments. Previously condolence payments were mostly in the $1,500 to $2,000 range, although generals could authorize payments of up to $10,000 if the deaths were sufficiently egregious. Back in the 1960's Vietnamese went for about $100 – or less, while the owners of the Michelin rubber trees were paid $600 per tree.

Stop The Presses! Research has discovered that financial advisers do is in their own best interests instead of what would benefit their clients.

Whether Forecast: After 7,000 new highs were recorded in the US in March, the National Weather Service observed that the warm spell was "historic" and unlikely to be matched in a lifetime. Which assumes you are very old and not in good health.

Porn O'Graph: It's a butte.

Monday, March 26, 2012

SAR #12086

Save the dress.

Smoking Gun(s): Jon Corzine is not only an embezzler, thief, and perjurer, he is a friend of the president. That last is no more a crime than the former appear to be, but will make the coming hearings a much needed entertainment.

Seal Of Approval: Bill Black's enumeration of the shortcomings of the JOBS Act is mandatory reading.

Public Television: The Homeland Security/NSA Total Awareness Program is moving along nicely. Turns out that the iPad is a listening device, and that new Samsung TV units come with built in cameras and microphones, complete with facial and voice recognition software. The set gives no indication of when you are being monitored. Or by whom.

Unexpectedly: The European and Chinese PMI numbers unexpectedly fell, with Germany's manufacturing PMI leading the way down. The data suggests Europe is falling back into recession and China is beginning to do an Icarus. Two out of three?

Progress: The United States has more of its citizens in jail – both absolutely and as a percentage of the population – than Stalin ever threw into the Gulag. Seven to ten times more than other developed countries. The great majority of jailed US citizens are locked up – at a cost of about $45,000 a year – for possessing relatively minor amounts of illegal drugs. It's another war we keep fighting even though it is obvious we have already lost.

Now I Feel Better: The IEA's Maria van der Hoeven says not to worry about losing Iran's oil from the market, because Saudi Arabia will be able to pump enough oil to compensate for any loss of Iranian output. Now about that bridge..

Reports from the Front: In Idaho the GOP'ers want women seeking an abortion to “think about whether they were really raped.” In Alaska, the appropriately named Republican state representative Alan Dick does not believe that when a woman is pregnant, it’s really “her pregnancy,” and wants a law requiring abortion seekers to have written permission from the father – assuming he has been located and arrested by the police.

Lessons Learned, Iraq Version: 1. The US lost. 2. It is fairly easy for a bunch of neocons to start a war. 3. Ahmed Chalabi.

Victory Lap: Under Obama, the US finished losing the war in Iraq and called it victory, and is rushing to the same end in Afghanistan. The President has assumed the right to kill anyone, anywhere, at any time; the Bill of Rights has been gutted. Congress has been excused from any input in the decision to go to war, and any act of war approved by the President is automatically both just and legal war. Also, under Obama, military spending continues to soar, murder by drone has become commonplace and murder itself become an extension of the Justice system. We have more soldiers dying from suicide than from combat, while making corpses remains a priority, urinating on them is found unacceptable. It continues to be acceptable to overthrow governments to get their oil, but not acceptable to interfere with a dictator slaughtering his citizens as long as he continues to torture prisoners for us. Fraud, forgery, embezzlement and perjury have become legal for Wall Street and the banks. And we're told we should re-elect him because the other guys are worse?

Rhetorical Question: Is global warming responsible for the March heat wave?

A Little Off The Top: A federal judge said the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its mission when it tried to keep 2,278 acres of mountaintop from being dumped into nearby streams. The judge reminded the EPA officials that protecting the environment was their priority only if doing so did not interfere with coal miners profits.

Trading With The Enemy: Pakistan is considering importing petroleum and food from its deadly enemy, India. When you are hungry and cold, some things are more important than others.

With Comments: Dick Cheney had a heart implant Saturday. So far the heart has not rejected him. This'll set back the donor program by years. What did he use for a trade-in?

Porn O'Graph: Apple pie?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

SAR #12084

It ain't personal... it's just business capitalism.

A Fast One: Obama is going to "fast-track" that part of the Keystone XL pipeline that will run from Cushing, OK to the Gulf. That way the owners of WTI oil "stranded" at Cushing will be able to pump it down to Houston and sell it on the world market priced more like Brent.

Goodnight Moon: Citigroup has a new report out that claims that North America will become the largest provider of new energy during the next decade, due to "new technology".

Tactical Moves, Strategic Goals: The Republicans are beating up on women a) because they can and b) because they're Republicans, but also c) because getting the public used to having politicians make personal decisions for individuals is their ultimate goal. They don't say that, but look where this road leads. You (the woman, the public) do not know what is best for you, nor does the doctor (or scientists or other experts), only the GOP/government does. They dislike big government, want big brother.

Unexpectedly: February sales of new houses fell 1.6% m/m (instead of an expected 1.3% gain) and - unexpectedly - January sales were revised downward from a -0.9% miss to a 5.4% fall off a cliff.

Devil/Details: The Senate passed the misleadingly named JOBS bill, and the mainstream media toed the line, claiming it would help small businesses. Yep, it will help small businesses. It will help them evade even the lightest regulatory supervision by the government, letting them raise capital via the internet, avoid SEC fillings on stock offerings, etc, etc. It "might be the most pro-growth measure that this body will consider, perhaps this whole year." And that's a good thing if you want to see growth in fraud and ponzi schemes.

Asked & Answered: Are the good times ever coming back? If by 'good times' you mean the orgy of debt-fueled consumption that preceded the current recession, no.

Data Dump: The latest data shows that the US imported 8,224,000 bpd of crude oil and exported 38,000 bpd of crude oil, giving 8,187,000 bpd of net crude oil imports. Not exports. The US imports about 60% of the crude oil processed in US refineries - and then exports about 1 mbd (net) of finished oil products. This has been a public service announcement.

Shocker!: Minority communities have a higher percentage of underwater homeowners. Wonder how that happened.

Snidely, Whiplash & Co: BofA, realizing that a lot of folks stop paying the mortgage and keep living in the house for a year or two, plans on trying to get 'owners' who are at least 2 months behind on underwater houses to turn in their deeds in return for a one year rental agreement with an option for two one year renewals. Income vs no income for Bof A and the new renter doesn't have to pack up and move. But what sort of landlord will BofA make? Banks in general have not done a sterling job of keeping up their vacant REO properties.

Echo, What Echo? Two US oil majors want to build a pipeline across some of Afghanistan's most volatile regions, to bring Turkmenistani oil to Pakistan and India. Where have I heard something like that before?

Another Millstone: Google not only listens to your phone calls, now it plans to listen to the background noise on your calls and use that to select what adverts it will he advertising Google inundates you with.

Take That, Big Boy: India has told the US that importing oil from Iran violates no international law, and they intend to continue to do so.

Cue The Theme From Jaws: "Everything from "peak oil" to "no quick fix" is a thinly disguised attempt at government takeover of the energy sector, something the left has plotted since at least the 1930s. The left's goal is to shift control of a vital sector of the economy, and one that plays a crucial part in the lives of all Americans, into the hands of government." Funny, I didn't know all those oil men were Democrats.

Porn O'Graph: New homes, get'cha new homes...

Friday, March 23, 2012

SAR #12083

What happens when the majority no longer see the government as 'we'?

Belaboring The Obvious: There's a lot of noise on the web about the “JOBS” bill. All you need to know is that it is another one of those deceptively named troglodytic undertakings like the Clean Air Act. The bill has nothing to do with jobs and everything to do with gutting what little regulatory oversight there is over the thieves on Wall Street.

Burn After Reading: A group of academics have researched the role of speculators in driving up the price of petroleum and concluded that “there is strong evidence that the co-movement between spot and futures prices reflects common economic fundamentals rather than the financialization of oil futures markets.”

Spider/Fly: The Turkish government is trying to persuade Turks to transfer their personal holdings of gold into the country's banking system, where it will be easier to confiscate.

Massage Therapy: After revising last week's number up by 2,000, this week's number is 5,000 less at 348,000 – which will be revised to 351,000 next week. The 4-week moving average is 355,000, so things improve, if slowly. Initial claims are lowest since February 2008, which is encouraging as long as you ignore the continuing claims, extended claims and those who've used up all possible support. Over a million claimants have fallen off the 99-week cliff, never to be seen again.

Friendly Persuasion: Some employers are not satisfied to simply Google applicants, they are demanding that applicants provide their Facebook passwords. Which seems appropriate in the society we're turning into.

Tattle Tale: The Census Bureau reported that housing starts fell by 1.1 percent in February.

Parameters: Here are the rules: Cut taxes. Raise defense spending. Reduce the budget deficit as much as possible, if not to zero. Don't touch current Social Security/Medicare (but talk about future cuts). Now draw up a budget. Too bad education, health, and all those other frills simply have to go.

The Way We Were: “At some point, voters will react against a system that amplifies differences and suppresses shared goals, and policy formation will revert to its more effective pragmatic mode.” The question is when, and how we get rid of the obstacles.

Happy Days: Someone asked 104 economists for their outlook on housing and summed up the results: 1) The bottom in home prices is just around the corner. Still. 2) Prices will decline this year. 3) By 2016 house prices will have recovered... to be only 27% below 2006 peaks. In line with their thinking, the FHFA made its 9th consecutive downward revision in US house prices, from +0.7% to merely +0.1% in the previous month.

Alternate Universe: “Let Democrats waste their energies trying to woo women on 'reproductive rights.' They will shore up their base and alienate the middle. Republicans can win more women voters and bridge the gender gap by focusing on what is most important to women in 2012: jobs and the economy.” Clip and save.

Porn O'Graph: Death spiral.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SAR #12082

There is little evidence that we learn from our mistakes.

Now Hear This: Bloomberg says $4.50 a gallon is a sure thing before the end of March, and Stepehen Leeb sees "a minimum of $6 per gallon" this summer - and that's without a military confrontation in Iran. Can you say Shock and Aw, crap, there goes the economy.

Down, Down, And Down: The National Association of People Who Starve If You Don't Buy A House reports that existing house sales fell 0.9% last month, that sales to first-time buyers fell slightly, and houses "at risk of foreclosure" made up 34% of all sales (also down slightly). About 33% of pending contracts were canceled. Investors (speculators) snapped up 23% of all sales. Prices rose an imperceptible 0.3% y/y.

Some Things Being Equal: Here's another study showing that charter schools are no better than public institutions. Maybe it's not the school part of the equation that needs changing.

Right Soon: The US is imposing financial sanctions on all the nations of the world which chose to keep on trading with Iran. Except, of course, for Japan. And 10 of the EU nations. China, the US's banker and retail goods supplier, and India, the worlds 2nd most populous country after China, have been warned. Don't you want to see how much China suffers when it is estopped from supporting the US Treasury?

Observed: Marx claimed that capitalism's supporting ideology keeps people from realizing the injustices it perpetrates. Most certainly the continued embrace of free market capitalism, given its performance, suggests that something other than reasoned consideration of empirical data is involved.

For Your Consideration: John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, says "the real problem we are facing right now is that global demand is growing and yet the major oil producers are not able to increase production." Earlier he noted that “"Demand globally is not down... and whether we (the US) use less or not, doesn't matter. Price is going up because supply can't keep up with the demand . . .  I think OPEC is about maxed out. When people talk about spare capacity in OPEC, I don't see it.”

Sound & Fury: Drill, Baby drill. Drill, drill, drill. But it won't do much good. There is no correlation between how much oil the US produces and the price of gasoline at the pump. If drilling worked as advertised, gasoline would be $2.25 down at the corner, and it isn't. Since February 2009, US production is up 15% and prices are up a about 100%. The Keystone pipeline isn't going to do the trick either. The nearly 1 mbd it will bring to Gulf refineries is about the same as the increase in US production last year – while prices kept rising. Here's the takeaway: If the US could increase its oil production by 50%, the price of gasoline might drop 10 cents. Might not, too.

Propaganda/Gullibility: CNN - the contrived numbers network - says that today's high gasoline prices don't hurt the "average American" because the average American household has an income over $62,000 a year. Just yesterday we pointed out that while the average was $62,000 the median was but $49,445. And for that half of all American families which make less than $49,000, $4.50 gasoline hurts. Remember, if numbers seem unlikely, check 'em.

Porn O'Graph: The trend's your friend.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SAR #12081

They Had Names

Open Houses: In February, construction was started on just over 31,500 new single family houses, down from 33,000 in January. Happily, multi-family rental unit construction picked up a bit.

Three Card Monte: Of late there has been a significant sell-off of US Treasuries, but the volume level of the stock markets does not suggest that the money went there, nor has there been a rush to gold or oil. Where's the money going? 1) Under several large mattresses? 2) Into select Chinese mattresses??

P-KN4: Russian troops, alleged to be an anti-terror squad of Russian Marines, have arrived in Syria, a move politely characterized as “certain to have serious repercussions.”

On Your Mark: Police no longer don 'riot gear'. Nor do they rely on SWAT teams in full gear. Now it is the “Damascus FX1 FlexForce Modular Hard Shell Full Body Crowd Control System” designed for the "ultimate high-threat level riot control, domestic disturbance, and cell extraction suit." Whatever 'cell extraction' is. Maybe we'll find out when NATO comes to Chicago, where protesters have been denied a parade permit, which only leaves street protests which will give Chicago cops a chance to test the 'full body control systems'.

Happy Motoring! The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the US has reached $4. Again.

Brotherly Love: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has banned feeding the pigeons in public spaces. And while you're at it, don't feed homeless persons, homeless veterans, disabled homeless veterans or homeless families either.

Experience Needed: The BLS says there are 3.5 million job openings in the US. This is not good, even if - for once - the BLS data is accurate, because with 12.8 million Americans officially looking for work (and over 26 million who actually need a job), the explanation seems to be that those folks have been out of work too long to be granted an interview for one of these jobs, much less hired.

Keen Idea: Keene, New Hampshire was granted $285,000 by DHS to buy an armored personnel carrier so its 5 police officers could take turns riding around tearing up the pavement in the town of 23,000. But the people of Keene said "No, Thank you, that's not who we are."

Cut Here: The Republicans claim that Medicare will bankrupt the country. So their current plan is to eliminate the Board whose job it is to impose limits on Medicare spending for care that has not shown to be effective. But those procedures are profitable to the medical community and thus, to the GOP, are sacrosanct. Especially if paying for them will bankrupt Medicare quicker, which is their goal.

Porn O'Graph: The constant gardener.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SAR 12080

You want slime with that?

Scratch That: The head of the World Health Organization warns that we have carried our obsession with cleanliness that even the most common infections are becoming untreatable.. Rather bluntly, she noted that every antibiotic ever developed was at risk of becoming useless, and that without effective antibiotics, modern medicine will come to an end. And there's no magic bullet under development.

First Do No Harm: A new law spawned by Republican controlled Pennsylvania prohibits doctors from finding out if fracking is responsible for their patients problems, prohibits doctors from telling their patients that fracking is responsible if it is, prohibits the doctor from telling any specialist treating the patient if fracking caused the problem, and further prohibits doctors from doing anything that would harm the profits from fracking.

Mean Averages: Thanks to the increasing inequality in the US, that while the average income in 2010 was $67,530, the median was only $49,445. That makes a difference when talking about housing or healthcare affordability. Mitt Romney, Bill Gates, and you are all standing in the same line.

Paradox: Conservatives favor smaller, less intrusive government, yet Rick Santorum claims to be a conservative. That he is, he is a conservative who wants the government to supervise your birth control practices (and stop you from having any), censor the internet and function as an extension of the church. His church. Most importantly he wants an America where you are free to believe exactly what he does.

Suicide Is Painless: Now you can get the Junior G-Man kit and data-mine your own computer – troll through your e-mails, photos, financial records, web browsing and search history and all the other documents – just like NSA does, and see if you are a threat to yourself.

Porn O'Graphic: Due process.

Monday, March 19, 2012

SAR #12079

Institutions do what they think they can get away with.

They Lie: Why are the media droning on and on over the deaths of 16 Afghan civilians by a single soldier(?) when the deaths of dozens by drone strikes are ignored as the US flails about pretending to win a lost war?

Word To The Wise: AARP, the insurance company which used to represent the interests of retired Americans, is sneaking off to secret meetings with anti-Social Security types, intent on making sure the company can profit from helping to dismantle the program.

Full Spectrum Monitoring: Okay, we know that Big Brother knows who we call, where we shop and what we buy, reads our email, knows what we've got on the Kindle and tracks us by photo cameras and GPS chips. But soon our lives will be filled with “connected” devices – not just the computer, the TV and the phone, but the refrigerator, electric meter, thermostat, doorbells and ovens. Better yet, David Petraeus is looking forward to the day when these can all be centrally monitored and controlled, 24/7.

Shaye On You: you either believe (1) that the imprisoned journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye is a terrorist or (2) that Barack Obama is a “murderous sociopath”, willing to disregard all of the evidence.

Single Prayer Healthcare: In the US, health insurance is (nearly always) obtained through an employer. But today only 53.5% of working-age families have employer-sponsored health insurance. The other half do not have employer-sponsored access to health insurance because 1) they are unemployed, 2) they work part time and do not qualify for benefits, or 3) they work for employers who do not offer health-care coverage. Tell me again why we link health care with working 30 or more hours a week for an employer who hasn't found a way to slip out of the process.

One More Reason: NYPD detectives now use facial recognition software to browse through Facebook looking for the usual suspects.

Gestalt: It only seems like the conservatives on the Republican right have gotten crazier. They have not, the crazies have been there all along, but now they have taken over and cowed the moderates into submission.

Exhibit 21 : Wannabe senator Republican Ted Cruz of Texas says that liberals, lead by George Soros, intend to let the UN to take over our cities and "eliminate golf courses, pastures, and paved roads." Paved roads?

Simple Math: Beginning October 1st, Nevada required that mortgage servicers filing a notice of default also file a copy of the actual deed of trust, a copy of the controlling mortgage note, and a copy of each assignment of the note proving the servicer's authority to file. Filings fell from 5,000 in September to 40 in October. In 25 words or less, please draw the obvious conclusion.

Played For Fools: Imagine a car that gets 40 mpg or more, runs on regular gas, costs a lot less than a hybrid and has the throaty sound of a V-6. Imagine all of that is true in a 3 cylinder car, except for the engine noise, which is played for your psycho-sexual pleasure through the car's stereo system. The soft female voice admiring your manliness will cost extra.

Walk This Way: For a couple of decades the FAA has insisted that "all electronic devices must be turned off during takeoff and landing." Ever wonder why? If turning on your MP3 or computer or such would bring down the plane, why didn't more planes crash? But there must be a reason, right? Yeah, to teach you docility; beyond that there's no apparent reason.

Porn O'Graphic: Policy debate.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

SAR #12077

Civilization is based on finite resources we treat as infinite.

Loose Lips: The times were not quite ready for Admiral John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness program back in 2002. Times have changed. The National Snooping Security Agency is building a new data center in Utah designed to capture literally all the electronic communications from all over the world, filter through them in real time to identify enemies of the state, and file them all away to use against you in the future, if needed. My wife says I shouldn't report stuff like this; I tell her it's too late.

An Apple A Day: A great exculpatory furor is being made over the "lies" contained in Mike Daisey's piece about working conditions at Foxconn, Apple's Chinese manufacturer. Keep in mind that at no point do they deny that the things he reported occurred, simply that he did not actually see all of them happen or interview the victims personally.

Prices vs Inflation: The BLS reports that the CPI grew by 0.4% in February, m/m and 2.9% y/y. But those who walk everywhere and don't eat say their “core” inflation grew by only 0.1%. Nearly all of the increase was due to the increase in energy prices, but without an increase in wages (really, sometimes – in the distant past – wages used to increase) price increases put deflationary pressure on other items. The customer has, you may have noticed, a limited supply of cash.

West Side Story: Rick Santorum told Puerto Ricans to stick to their own kind – the Democrats. Then he promised to “vigorously” go after Internet porn. I wasn't going to vote for him anyway.

Having & Getting: In 2010, on average we made $29,840, down nearly $5,000 from 2000 and just about the same as we made back in 1966. In 2010, the other guys' average income went up by $4.2 million – each - to $23,800,000, which was $18.7 million more than they took home in 1966. This disparity is the result of government policies, which will eventually change. Or be changed.

Porn O'Graph: School daze.

Friday, March 16, 2012

SAR #12076

Change that actually matters occurs only rarely.

Proof of Life: The Labor Department reports that initial unemployment claims fell to 351,000, an encouraging sign. However, there are still over 26 million Americans who want jobs – 12.8 million officially unemployed, 5.4 million involuntary part-timers, 1.0 million 'discouraged' workers ,and 6.4 million former workers no longer counted by the DOL – all of which leads to a true unemployment rate of 19.9%.

Up, Up, and Away: Everything is up. The market is up, oil is up, gold and silver are up, bonds are up and most importantly the odds of Bernanke committing QE3 are up. As much as $3.6 trillion more in essentially free funny money to add to the bonfire. The Fed's prime mandate, after all, has always been to get the incumbent re-elected.

Sad/True: For all the speeches, bills, announcements, commissions and studies, nothing gets done in Washington about actually cutting government spending because the participants all want to get re-elected.

Indulgences: Big Sister, reprising a role originated by popes during the Middle Ages, is accepting $100 bribes from those who wish to avoid TSA airport molestation.

Bad Penny: Republicans are once more trying to privatize Medicare (and if possible, Social Security), citing the benefits of the market system. You know the market system, the one that brings us iPads and Nike shoes made in a virtual slave economy that has ruined our economy and our standard of living while ruthlessly exploiting those who make our bread and circuses. Do we really want these people running our health care and retirement systems? Does Romney really need another house?

Silver Lining: In the US,  the richest 10% pocketed all of 2010's income gains.

Daily Dose: Research shows that in Republican controlled New Hampshire, both abortion and birth control pills cause breast cancer, while teenage pregnancy is the best way to prevent it because (quoting the law) “for each year that a woman’s first full-term pregnancy is delayed, her risk of breast cancer rises 3.5 percent.”

Echo: Governor Corbett , echoing Clayton Williams, supports forcing women to have an ultrasound before an abortion because “they can just close their eyes.”

Faking It: Modern economies depend on a collaborative agreement by most to suspend disbelief, as banks go about creating “value” (or the appearance thereof) from thin air. In a debt-based money system, debt must grow in order to create the money needed to pay back (with interest) the money already created by previous acts of magic. The interest paid, over time, consumes an ever greater part of our resources and production until eventually nothing of real value is left. Note that if the music stops, the system collapses. Now do you understand “extend and pretend”?

Half A Loaf: Republican wannabe Newt Gingrich is right when he says his ideas are incomprehensible, and that “our political system is so methodically and deliberately stupid.”

Porn O'Graph: Is the 'down' related to 'up'?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

SAR #12075

Tomorrow is going to be better, isn't it?

Rollercoaster: The IEA says that non-OPEC producers will export less oil this year, but oil fell in NY because US stockpiles are at their highest level in six months and from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait promise they will make up any shortfall even if half of Iran's crude oil is taken from the market. We certainly hope so, because Soc Gen says that a supply disruption would tip the the global economy back into recession.

Maybe, Maybe Not: Most Americans are against the US or Israel starting a war with Iran unless the administration can make up some convincing stories about Tehran building nuclear weapons. Maybe Dick Cheney can show Obama how to do it.

Shocker! Google is secretly just a billboard, an advertising company. Its business is delivering bound and gagged customers for its sponsors to bombard with 'Buy me!' messages. So is Facebook. And American Idol. And your local newspaper.

Read 'em and Weep: US corporations are holding at least $1.4 trillion in cash, about half of it overseas out of reach of the taxman. Why? Because they can't find anything profitable to do with the money.

The Beating Goes On: Wisconsin has now joined Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Rhode Island in banning private insurance coverage to pay for abortions. Do I need to point out that the Republicans control the legislature and statehouse in Wisconsin? No, I didn't think so.

Guiding Light: Apple is now worth more than the entire US retail establishment. What happens when it stumbles?

Ask Your Doctor: The next time your doctor prescribes something for you, ask the all knowing physician what the "number needed to treat" is. NNT is the number of the appropriate population for the drug who need to take the drug in order to have one person benefit from taking the drug. Most antibiotics have a NNT of about 1.1 - they nearly always work. That baby aspirin to prevent cardiovascular problems - that's an NNT of 50. And statins (think Lipitor), which has been force fed to nearly every man over 50, has an NNT of 100. Also you might want to know over what time frame the drug achieves its NNT. If you do ask, be prepared to find another doctor, one who takes more kindly to being questioned.

You're Fired: Arizona Republicans now want to give employers the right to deny insurance coverage for birth control pills and to fire employees who use birth control.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: The Justice Department has asked the courts to keep any partnership that may exist between Google and the National Security Agency secret. Which suggests it might be worse that we thought.

Porn O'Graph: Oil slick.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

SAR #12074

The nearest exit may be behind you.

Accuracy: The government continues to report decreasing unemployment and increasing employment. But temporary and low paying jobs make up almost 70% of reported job growth.  Without “seasonal adjustments” the economy has lost 1.8 million jobs in the first two months of the year. But that's just what really happened.

...Not As I Do: Germany has embraced austerity with far less enthusiasm than even the Greek Parliament. It did not accomplish even half of the savings promised in the 2011 budget, and is woefully behind in making 2012's planned cuts.

Varying Degrees: The seasonally adjusted temperature in New York on Tuesday was 84º.

Innumeracy: Illustrating why the shoemaker should stick to his last, the Annals of Family Medicine reports that the cost of health care in the US will surpass the average household's income by 2033, if current trends continue. If current trends continue, in 2033 my dad will be 127 years old.

Water/Wet: Is the NYPD also spying on Occupy Wall Street? Of course, why wouldn't they be?

Unclear On The Concept: Rick Santorum thinks that more carbon dioxide is a good thing... for plants. And it is. Deadly to humans, but you can't have everything. He also noted that "Those living on or near the Gulf Coast in particular know the impact these extreme environmental positions can have on the region's economy." Like BP's, I suppose.

I'm Loving It: A hamburger a day increases the risk of death by 13% over a diet of chicken, tofu and such. That's without the pink slime.

Law And Orders: The current excuse for not throwing the top executives from MFGlobal in jail is that federal prosecutors doubt that they “intentionally misused” (the technical term is 'stole') $1.6 billion of their customers' money – it was all just a big accident. As was getting caught.

Free Fire Zone: The reason we've turned on teachers, blaming them for our kids' indifference in the classroom is mostly because we're certainly not responsible for anything the little darlings do.

Undisclosed: Dick Cheney says it is "too dangerous" for him to go to Canada. Maybe he could go to Spain instead.

Herding Cats: Americans think government is too big and too expensive and too intrusive, but should enforce stronger food safety regulations, enforce environmental laws, really come down hard on the banksters, cut all spending except for Social Security, Medicare and the tax breaks they personally benefit from. Next question.

PT Barnum It Is: Given the short term memory and general ignorance of the public, the smart political bet is to accuse the other side of fiscal irresponsibility while being as irresponsible as possible yourself.

Reality Show – Survivors: The inflation-adjusted weekly income of private non-agricultural, non-supervisory production workers (that's about 60% of us, 80% of the non-government workforce) is 14% lower today than it was in 1972. Productivity (and thus profits and such for the 1%) have doubled during that time.

Porn O'Graph: Or Peek-a-boo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SAR #12073

SAR 12073

Did you immediately think of My Lai, too?

Fool Me Once... The IMF will contribute only 18 billion euros to the second Greek bailout fund. At 14%, this is a sharp reduction from the 27% it put towards the first bailout. It explained that it was “trying to manage a difficult balance between staying involved in the rescue package for Greece while limiting the risk to its own funds.”

Enigma: Bernanke & Company claim they keep giving cheap money to the banks so they could loan it to businesses to expand the recovery. Yet the Fed continues to pay 0.25% interest on the excess reserves the banks keep with the Fed - about $1.6 trillion. In short, the Fed is loaning money to the banks at close to zero interest and paying them 0.25% to not lend it out. This does two things: It acts as a government gift to the banks, and it keeps the money created by the Fed to keep the government running etc, from circulating in the economy and accelerating inflation.

Seeking Clarity: Surveys show that among women, Democrats lead Republics by 25 points. This speaks well of the ladies.

School Solution: Big money Texan Kyle Bass expects bad things to happen, so bad that while he was on the UT board he had the university take physical delivery of $1 billion in gold bullion. He's also buying up nickels because he expects the metal in them to soon be worth more than 5 cents apiece.

Anschluss: The first of the lawsuits seeking return of the money investors lost when Greece defaulted has been filed. There will be more. Things are looking up for the lawyers.

Except: The US net imports of crude oil fell 10% last year - a drop of 1 mbd - and now we import only 45% of our petroleum, down from 2008's 58%. The modest 120,000 barrel a day increase in domestic production y/y did not have much impact. The slowing economy was a far more important factor. It's just as well, the developing economies - think China and India - are outbidding the developed nations for oil, and have been since 2005. It is no longer all about us.

One Thing And Another: About half of Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi are convinced that President Obama is a Muslim, global warming is a hoax, evolution doesn't happen and so on.

No Need: Sanctimonious Santorum says that politicians should not use teleprompters, which probably works well for those with Bible-based, fact-free policies.

Whether Report: The bond swap that just docked private sector investors with 72% losses is not going to cure the problem of Greece's failing economy. Thanks to relentless austerity measures, Greece's GDP has shrunk about 20% since 2008, 25% of businesses in Athens and the Attica region have closed, the tourism industry (which was supposed to be the backbone of the recovery) is nose-diving. The standard of living is collapsing, to the point where half of the most common pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, are no longer available. There will be a further default, and Greece will leave the euro, at a date uncertain, but not far distant.

D Minus: February, usually the worst month for the Federal deficit because of tax refunds, set a record at $231.7 billion - the largest monthly shortfall on record – which may suggest something about the strength of the recovery.

Contagion: Canadian environmental groups say their government has created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion designed to silence dissent. Like you-know-who,next door.

Porn O'Graph: Running swiftly to stay in place.

Monday, March 12, 2012

SAR #12072

The loonies are a clear and present danger to the rest of us.

Treasure Hunt: The Swiss and the Germans are... 'concerned' that their countries' gold may not be safe where it (supposedly) is - in the loving care of the Fed. The Swiss want theirs repatriated to the Alps and the Germans want to have a complete inventory of what the Fed says they're holding in the basement.

And The Winner Is... Since 1985, consumer prices have doubled while college tuition and fees have gone up 559%. Have the lectures really improved that much?

Prophylactic Tactic: In order to prevent the spread of any new influenza strain, the Japanese prime minister can now declare a state of emergency, prohibiting public assemblies, confiscating land 'for medical use' and arresting those who do not stock sufficient supplies.

Taking Up The Slack: While US petroleum consumption has fallen of late, China's appetite keeps growing – it rose 5% in January, y/y, which goes some ways towards putting the demand back in the supply and demand and speculation formula.

Footnotes and Fine Print: That part of the First Amendment that used guarantee 'the right of the people to peaceably to assemble,' still does, but now reads “the right of the people to peaceably assemble as long as Homeland Security says it is okay.” A new bill makes protesting at a political event or a G-8 meeting or any other “special event of national significance” a crime.

Time & Place: A federal court has once again told the GOP that they cannot legally obstruct the voting process by challenging voters once they enter a polling place. It doesn't stop them from trying to prevent minority from voting, it just makes them do it before the liberal socialist commies make it through the door.

Junkyard Dogs: Leading up to Super Tuesday, over 90% of TV advertizing money went for attack ads, all of which are essentially misleading. Frighteningly, 78% of the public get their news and commentary from their local TV stations, which have a financial interest in not pointing out the lies and distortions.

I'm With Her: Ohio state senator Nina Turner wants the law to require that a man seeking erectile dysfunction drugs present his doctor with a sworn and signed affidavit from a spouse or other recognized sex partner certifying that a need exists. "It is crucial that we take the appropriate steps to shelter vulnerable men from the potential side effects of these drugs..."

Porn O'Graph: The poor, getting poorer.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

SAR #12070

Does India have the right to a nuclear capability? Does Israel? Does Iran?

Smoke And Mirrors: The BLS rendered another of its rosy reports today - 227,000 payroll jobs added in February, an unemployment rate of 8.3%, U6 declining to 14.9% and all the trimmings. So why does it not feel like this is the best of all possible worlds? Perhaps it has something to do with the 20 million who are “marginally attached”? Maybe because we've added 33 million people since 2000 but only 4 million of them are working – and none of them appear to have full time jobs (whose numbers haven't changed since 2000).

Putin Rocks: After playing at an anti-Putin concert, members of a female punk band have been arrested and face up to 7 years in prison for 'hooliganism'. The Dixie Chicks got off easy.

Punch Line: After all the angst and violations of contract law and drama, it turns out that the Greek bond swap will end up increasing Greece's debt by $33 billion. Also, now that the private bondholders have been scalped, the ECB/IMF/EU will hold 85% of Greece's debt by 2014. The next time Greece defaults, and it will, German taxpayers get to foot the bill.

Takeaway: Contracts can now be unilaterally changed, retroactively. 

Whitewashed: According to the GAO, little Timmy Geithner and friends are being disingenuous when they claim that TARP “made money”. Almost half of the 341 institutions that have paid back their loans did so with funds from other federal programs.

Asked & Answered:  Is Portugal doomed?  Yes. And to save you asking, so is Spain.

You can't make this stuff up: Three of MF Global's top executives are going to get “performance bonuses” for their performance as co-conspirators in the disappearance of $1.6 billion of their customers' money.

Fire In The Hole: Ohio oil and gas regulators say that a dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio “were almost certainly” caused by fracking. Almost certainly “almost certainly” will get in the way of regulating the industry.

You Know What I Meme? Of late there has been a full court press touting the 'housing has turned the corner' meme. But house prices continue to fall, over 11 million are underwater, over 3 million are in foreclosure and foreclosures are increasing, which means that prices will be going down even more. Housing has not recovered; it's not even in a 12 step program.

Taking Up The Slack: While US petroleum consumption has fallen of late, China's appetite keeps growing – it rose 5% in January, y/y, which puts demand back in the supply/demand/ speculators formula.

Evicting God: Since 2010, 270 churches have been foreclosed on and sold after defaulting on their loans. Even God sometimes ended up with more house than he could afford.

On The Battlefront: The Texas Republican controlled legislature has cut the state's family planning budget by 66%, which will eliminate services for about 284,000 women, lead to 20,500 additional births and cost Medicaid $230 million.

Bullying: The Republican-led Arizona House thinks kids should be able to hide guns in their backpacks – but only for protection.

Prophylactic Tactic: In order to prevent the spread of any new influenza strain, the Japanese prime minister can now declare a state of emergency prohibiting public assemblies, confiscating land 'for medical use' and arrest those who do not stock sufficient supplies.

Porn O'Graph: Employment landscape.

Friday, March 9, 2012

SAR #12069

All seven billion of us would like to eat on a regular basis.

Hot Air: Household debt rose nearly 7% during 4Q2011, the first increase in over 3 years. In that wages are stagnant, it looks like we're back to blowing bubbles. Non-financial corporations, on the other hand, are sitting on $2.2 trillion in cash because they don't see any reason to expand their businesses.

Memories... Allegations that the Afghan Air Force is in the drug running business brings back memories of Viet Nam.

Oh To Be A Lawyer: Trustees for MF Global are telling customers whose money Corzine and company made off with that they can have some of their money back if a) they promise not to ask for any more of it back and b) they give up the right to sue to get the rest of their money back and c) promise not to seek civil or criminal penalties. Does James Gandolfini practice law now?

Says Who? Gallup's real-time economic polling measures US employment at 9.1% in February, and U-6 unemployment to be at 19.1%. Both figures show a significant deterioration since the mid-January report. The BLS data is expected to be much rosier after appropriate seasoning has been applied.

Secret Recipe: One way to improve a restaurant’s profitability is to steal ‘unlawfully confiscate’  part of the waitstaff's tips. Worked for Batali.

Grade A For Appetizing: In the early 1990's the Bush I Agriculture Department ruled that 'pink slime' – a substance made mostly of heavily bleached ground up connective tissue and slaughterhouse floor sweepings that had previously been considered unfit for human consumption – was in fact a fine food. Today about 70% of all ground beef in the US contains pink slime. We've grown to like the taste.

Laugh Test: The Labor Department said that initial unemployment claims increased 11,000 to 362,000 this week – because of school vacations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island [sic].

Ignorance Is Bliss: The Republican controlled Arizona Senate passed a bill encouraging legally protecting doctors who chose not to tell parents about prenatal problems that might lead to a decision to abort a fetus. The doctor, and the legislators, know best.

Nothing Plus Nothing: The average negative-equity FHA mortgage is 15% underwater, while the average non-FHA insured ones are 26% underwater. The difference is hardly significant, you can drown in a bathtub.

Teaching Austerity: Many of America's austerity programs end up focused on the schools. Economically stressed families are sending increasing numbers of hungry, tired, poorly dressed children to schools with fewer teachers, larger class size, and fewer “non-essential” frills like art and music classes. Top this with the constant micro-managing from administrations focused on test scores and the result is a majority of teachers who are unsatisfied with their work. If they're so unhappy, why don't they quit? Well, the teacher I'm married to did.

Reinforcements: Now it's LPS that's reporting house prices fell 1.0% in December, 1.2% in January, m/m and 3.9% y/y. The LPS index is off 31% from the peak - and is at a new low. Another new low.

Collateral Damage: Monsanto’s Roundup has removed 90% of the milkweed from corn and soy fields, but in doing so it has decimated the monarch butterfly population which relies on milkweed for both food and habitat. It's the interconnected web of life we keep tripping over.

Porn O'Graph: An education on return on investment.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

SAR #12068

A miracle is a fraud that purports to benefit mankind.

Greek Roulette: Either the PSI bond swap happens or it doesn't. The Internet will be full of speculation until the 2000 GMT witching hour. After that the Internet will be full of speculation about what happens next. Stay tuned.

Contagion: German factory orders fell 2.7% in January, mostly due to an 8.6% decline in orders from China and the US as the recovery gathers speed.

Short Form: Attorney General Eric Holder's explanation as to why the government can murder you comes down to this: They're bigger than you are. He claimed that Congress said it was okay, as though they had the power to do so. He did acknowledge that “the Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential...” but “due process” simply meant the President followed some secret rules in deciding you deserved killing. This administration's attempts to legalize doing what it is damned well wants to do is no more convincing than Bush/Cheney. We wouldn't have accepted this horsepucky from Ashcroft and there's no reason to accept it now. Except they're bigger.

Europe on $5 A Day: The human costs of austerity measures imposed by Northern Europe's banks on Greece, Portugal and Spain are creating a world of Depression-era suffering that will go unreported and unrecognized until those with nothing left to lose rebel. Sooner than might seem possible the protests will mutate into chaos. There is a madness stalking Europe.

Homework: Parse the following: “Can Republicans Win Over Women In November?”

Tea Leaves: The ECB, via the LTROs, has now given European banks €1.019tn, enough so that the banks do not have to go on the market to raise money for 3 years. What happens when the three years are up, the banks are addicted to 1% money and the market wants 3% or more? What's the plan? How do they wean the banks off free money?

Porn O'Graph: Study haul.