Monday, April 30, 2012

SAR #12121

Economic theories are like zombies; they don't die easily.

It's The Demand, Stupid: Instead of recycling Clinton's "It's the economy, stupid", we would be better served if politicians on both sides focused more on the lack of aggregate demand. Companies do not hire workers or increase production just because taxes are low or lowered - they only make stuff when they can sell stuff and right now the American people haven't got jobs and thus haven't got the stuff it takes to buy stuff.

Slow Learners: Now that the general consensus is that austerity is self-defeating, how to explain the continuing drive by European leaders and American Republicans to keep pursuing draconian budgetary cuts?

One Dollar, One Vote: Rich old white men are buying this election. This can be considered news only because of the blatancy. They've always done so, and they'll do it again and again. The news is how few it now takes. It is quite possible that a small handful of preposterously rich, mildly paranoid old geezers will determine who gets to sit in the Oval Office and play with the controls.

If/Then: Bruce Judson, channeling Bill Black, concludes that for capitalism to survive, crime must not pay. Sorry, guys, that horse has left the barn.

Getting A Job: Over 2.3 million Americans are in prison - that's 25% of all the prisoners on earth. But rather than let these folks suffer in their cells, American corporations put about a million of them to work - paying between 93 cents and $4.73 per day for their use. It used to be called convict labor, now it's just called profit.

Size Matters: You know all that plastic crap that we throw away that ends up bobbling around in the oceans? Well there is 27 times more than you thought. Not 27% more, 2700% more. Recycling isn't working.

Enter Chorus: House prices have hit bottom for the fourth year in a row. House prices always turn up a smidgen in the spring, but that should not be confused with an actual bottoming of prices. Ah, spring and fancies...

Another Day At The Office: Secretary Clinton says the murder of Osama bin-Laden was not particularly remarkable, "we've probably done something similar to this - helicopter in, take the target, look for who you're after, and get out of there - we have probably done it now 1,000 times."

Kabuki Theater: Mr. Boehner and the GOP gang pushed the Cyber Intelligence Protection and Sharing Act (CISPA) through the House last week. The bill would let corporations legally share their customers' personal data and information with NSA. President Obama is expected to veto the bill, so the House action was all for show. What it showed was where the Republicans stand on the question of privacy.

No Need To Plan: One out of four middle-class Americans now plan to work for at least two years after they die - planning to retire at 80, while the average life expectancy is 78.

Upgrade: Ed Dirkson once said "...a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." These days it's trillions. According to the Bank for International Settlements, 90% of the market capitalization of European banks is... vapor, to the tune of several trillion euro.

Runs With Scisors: On ABC's This Week, Paul Krugman grew restive when fellow panelists discussing the economy went long opinion and short data. After former HP leader Carly Fiorina blathered on about high taxes killing US competitiveness, Krugman pointed out the "Nothing you just said about taxes is actually true. He then went to his blog and pointed out that all of his fellow panelists were "serious people" who are long on opinion and short on data.

Porn O'Graph: You don't get what you pay for...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

SAR #12119

Money and debt were invented to serve mankind; things have changed.

Tales From The Crypt:US GDP grew (?) at an annual 2.2% rate in 1Q2012 - not quite the 2.7% that had been expected. The $142.4 billion increase in GDP came as the public debt grew by $359.1 billion. In other words, it took $2.50 in government debt to raise the GDP one dollar.

Relapse: As of December 2011, 31% of underwater home loans were FHA-insured, which might lead to doubts about the wisdom of continuing to hand out low down payment loans. Of mortgages issued in the last 2 years, a million of them - 10% - are underwater, including 7.5% of home loans that are under four months old. Ah, the bottom, the bottom, buy now and get in at the bottom...

Spanish Fever: Spain's economy shrank 0.4% in 1Q2012, after a 0.3% fall to end 2011. Retail sales fell for the 21st consecutive month, down 3.7% y/y in March, as unemployment reached 24.4% - and over 50% in the 16 – 24 year old street-action crowd. The voters will not be amused to learn that austerity was just an experiment aimed at keeping bond holders happy.

It Is Different This Time: "In the first eight recessions after WW II, it took, on average, twenty months to get back the jobs that were lost. It's been 50 months this time... and counting.

Connoisseurs: Egyptian MPs are contemplating a law that would approve of a man having sex with his dead wife, which tells you what the Egyptian male is looking for in a bedmate.

Click Your Heels: The confidence fairy has died. The castor oil economies are tanking. Austerity, everyone now agrees, was a bad idea, but that doesn't mean a change in direction - there are too many deficit hawks hawking budget cuts who will continue to claim we must bleed the patient even more. "It’s anyone’s guess when this reign of error will end."

Catechism: A close study of economics leads to the conclusion that for enough money some economists will say anything.

Pot/Kettle: Larry Summers says Romney's fiscal plan is a fantasy, that political arithmetic is always suspect, and that one should carefully examine claims made by office seekers. Larry should know.

Stormy Weather: Scientists say that global warming is intensifying the evaporation/rainfall cycle over the oceans more than previously expected, suggesting an even higher potential for extreme weather in coming decades.

Asked and Answered: Why can't Republicans stop pissing off Hispanics, women and young people? Because they are middle-aged white men and think everyone else is, too. Next question.

Assigned Reading: History is replete with stories of those who submitted to strong, dictatorial leadership in the hope of being safe. It doesn't work. Is it really necessary to turn the US into a gigantic prison for us to be safe? From whom?

Friday, April 27, 2012

SAR #12118

Don't say it "can't happen here"; it already has.

Love Will Keep Us Together: Will growth save us from ourselves? You bet! Now that everyone agrees that everyone always knew that European austerity programs were exactly the wrong thing to do, maybe a few of these new converts will realize that it is not going to work here, either.

More War: The President, once again usurping the Congress' power to make war, has declared that the undeclared war in Yemen should be broadened and more drone strikes sent against suspected suspects.

Unexpectedly #763: Initial unemployment claims, at 388,000 missed expectations by increasing 2,000 instead of decreasing 11,000. Last week's number was adjusted – upwards, of course – to 389,000, which makes this week's number technically a decrease. Cue the laugh track.

Quality Points: A growing number of public universities are charging higher tuition for math, science and business programs, arguing that such courses prepare the student to actually get a job upon graduation.

Guarding The Guards, Part II: In a case of dereliction of duty far worse than getting laid in their off-duty time, TSA guardians have been charged with taking bribes to allow drug smugglers through airport screening. As TSA and Homeland Security continue to insert themselves in our everyday activities, expect more such stories.

Warm-up Question: Why hasn't the closing of 40 predominantly black public schools in Philadelphia made the national news? Beyond the obvious racial explanation, there's also a story here about bribery, politics and charter schools. The fix has been in for a long time, and not just in Philadelphia. (Go ahead, Google charter schools + Bush + Florida...)

Take Two Aspirin: WHO is "concerned" about a mysterious skin disease that has hit central Vietnam, where 19 of 170 who contracted the illness have died. The symptoms include stiffness in the limbs, ulcers on the hands and feet that resemble severe burns, and, in 10% of the cases, serious liver disorders. Vietnam has not yet not asked for help with an investigation into the outbreak. Stay tuned.

Fodder: American home ownership has fallen to 62%, an all time low, but 70% say this is a good time to buy a house and that prices will rise this year. Despite evidence to the contrary, 53% of home owners believe their house is worth more than they paid for it (down from 92% so deluded back in 2006), and one out of three think their own house will increase in value this year.

Six Or Six Hundred Easy Payments: There are two ways to think about the cost of energy. There’s the dollar amount that shows up on our utility bills or at the pump. And then there’s the “social cost”. We, the consumer/taxpayer/citizen, pay both costs, because the coal miners, oil companies, nuclear power plants, dump every cost they can onto and into the commons. We pay through premature deaths, through environmental degradation, through illness caused by stuff pouring out of smokestacks and exhaust systems and washing up on our shores.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

SAR #12117

Fear is generally a matter of quantity, not quality.

The Shouting: Bloomberg, among others, has once again announced that the six-year housing slump has ended.

Didn't Get The Memo: Israel's military chief, departing from the US-Israeli script, says that Iran's leaders are “very rational”, are not now pursuing nuclear weapons and are unlikely to decide to do so. Someone should tell Romney's putative VP candidate Marco Rubio who claims a unilateral US “military solution” may be needed to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Stumble: Durable goods orders fell 4.2% in March, which will be explained away in the rush to recovery and higher stock prices. Excluding defense related purchases, new orders fell 4.6%.

Endless Summer: Starting mid-May 90,000 Californians will stop receiving unemployment benefits as they fall victim to the new 79-week rule. That'll help the economy.

That, Watson, Is a Clue: Saudi Arabia has built up a 35.4 million barrel inventory of crude oil in the December- February quarter, not to keep the world price up but to prepare for the substantial increase in demand this summer that it cannot meet by “simply raising production levels”. Extra points if you can explain this without using the term 'peak oil.'

Lord of the Flies: If you doubt there is a ruling class in America that is above the law, how do you explain the Honorable Jon Corzine?

Teaching Point: Last month a quarter of a million college students poured into the streets to protest the government's plan to raise tuition by 75% over the next five years. It was probably the largest protest ever held in Canada – which explains why you've never heard about it. This was but the midpoint of the struggle by Canadian students, 180,000 of whom remain on the picket lines. So, why haven’t you heard about this before?

Ah, Justice: The first criminal charges resulting from the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf have been filed against former CEO Tony Hayward an engineer, charged with deleting emails.

A Giant Step For Stupidity: Jerome Corsi's new book, “The Great Oil Conspiracy: How the U.S. Government Hid the Nazi Discovery of Abiotic Oil from the American People”claims that all that oil was created abioticly - how, he asks, did those dinosaurs get buried tens of thousands of feet below the surface? Never mind that oil was formed from algae in the shallow seas of the Cretaceous and Jurassic, not from dinosaurs and that the process is well understood. That's science. We want bread and circuses.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies stored at the Fukushima complex sit in pools - many 100 feet above ground and now open to the atmosphere - that are vulnerable to future earthquakes, tusnami, loss of water, or simple bad luck. They hold about 85 times the long-lived radioactive material than was released at Chernobyl.

Reprint: “Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.” Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SAR #12116

Left to its own devices, the consumer society will consume itself.

Stampede: Suddenly everyone knew all along that Keynes was right and austerity was wrong, not only for Europe but for the US, and that austerity has "brought nothing but misery" to Europe - witness the falling GDP numbers. And - the herd now claims to have known for some time - the US stimulus was way too small and if the tax increase scheduled for January 2013 isn't killed, the US economy will be. A look back to the previous cycle - the one that led to the Great Depression - suggests that if we keep marching down the austerity path we well may end up goose-stepping along.

Continued:The S&P/Case-Shiller Price Index is down again, 3.6% on an annual basis - a slightly less steep decline than the previous two months. The good news is that the bad news isn't as bad.

Two Questions: Is there a real difference between Sarkozy and Hollande and does it matter whether Romney or Obama is elected this fall? Yes, to the first. Hollande's election will bring about the death of the euro and the breakup of the EU more quickly than his opponent's re-election would. Same end, of course. No, to the second. They are both owned and operated by the 1%/0.1% and it will not make a bit of difference in the decline of the American Empire which of them is the figurehead, although under Obama the peasantry might fare a bit better.

What's Wrong With This Picture: Apple now has $110 billion in cash on hand.

Assigned Reading: "The policy engine of Manifest Destiny has stopped working.  The USA is at the point when it cannot afford or maintain all that effort and soon the system will fall apart either quickly or slowly. … Some historians think it could be like the Byzantine Empire, others the Ottoman Empire.  But what if it is like either the Soviet Empire, where corruption rules or the British Empire, where chaos and stupidity rules?”

Door Number Two: The current economic dilemma could be solved by increased economic growth, which is not possible, or by inflating away the debts, which is not acceptable. The only sure thing is that the future holds pain for most of the populace of Europe (and the US).

Be Prepared: "The most important take-away points from the 2012 Trustees Report will be that Social Security has a large and growing surplus; that without any Congressional action, Social Security will continue to pay benefits to America’s eligible working families for decades; and that with modest legislated increases in revenue, it will continue to pay those benefits for the next century and beyond."

Sunrise/Sunset: The Hollande 'victory' may signal the end to German imposed austerity throughout the Eurozone, but getting rid of a religion that failed the faithful is not the same as solving the problem. There is no possible going back to the pre-crisis conditions - that would be as useless as insisting on more austerity. It might be time to think of this as a tragedy, not a comedy, with Shakesperean ending full of corpses.

Fox News Ethics: Fox co-conspirator Steve Doocy explains that making up things and claiming Obama said them was not 'misquoting' the President, merely 'paraphrasing' to clarify what the President meant.

Focus! Budget deficits, tax rates, abortion and Social Security bankruptcy take up the noise out of Washington. But solving the unemployment problem – even if it is limited to just the 13 million the government acknowledges - should be number one. Why isn't it? 'Cause nobody's got the foggiest.

Odd Jobs: Now that America's Mexican workforce is declining - for the first time since the Depression - some pundits are worrying over immigration policis and the Latino vote. A lot of ordinary rich folks are more concerned with who is going to mow the lawn, polish the car and take care of the kid. Or shingle the roof.

Porn O'Graph: It's different this time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SAR #12115

It is irrational to believe in rational markets.

Musical Chairs: The media (and the markets) are full of hand-wringing, afraid of what the probable election of Hollande will mean for France and for the euro. No one seems to consider that what happened to Papandreou and Berlusconi could happen to Hollande if he doesn't play ball.

Do As I Say: In a stunning display of mendacious artifice, Obama plans to impose sanctions against those nations which use technology to advance their human rights abuses - through phone intercepts, monitoring emails or social media, and other forms of high-tech surveillance.

Big Lie, Repeated: Medicare’s death has been predicted for 28 dates which have already passed, starting with the 1970 prediction that it would be broke in two years. In a day or two the 2012 prediction will be out – probably something before 2020. Be afraid, quietly.

Be Advised: One third of US states currently allow debtors to be imprisoned, no matter what you think you learned in high school.

PT Barnum Memorial Rant: “No wonder one third of Americans are obese. The crap we are shoveling into our bodies is on par with the misinformation, propaganda and lies that are being programmed into our minds by government bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, corporate media gurus, and central banker puppets. … No one could ever accuse the American people of being perceptive, realistic or critical thinking when it comes to economics, math, history or distinguishing between truth or lies.”

Emeritus: Half of all recent college graduates are either jobless or 'underemployed', which makes paying back their student loans... difficult.

More? You Want More? OPEC has told Europe to suck it up, that there will not be any increase in petroleum supplies and that they will have to cope with current prices and shortfalls in supply. [Translation: We can't replace Iranian shipments, no matter what we've promised before.]

Facilitation: The IMF's newly inflated cash cache will mainly go towards enabling Germany and friends to pursue even further adventures in austerity – which is a guaranteed way to make those funds essential - given that Europe remains bent on committing “economic suicide” -- in Paul Krugman's words.

Oldies But Goodies: The annual Social Security Trustees' report is out and now we have to sit through any number of Chicken Littles making dire, but inaccurate, predictions. Remember: The Social Security Trust Fund can continue to pay full benefits until 2033. That's another 20 years. After that it will continue to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits.

Where's Waldo? Romney went to a drywall factory that closed under Bush to show how Obama was ruining the economy. Housing bubble burst, remember?

Assembly Line: There are 243 million working age Americans, 142 of them are employed but only 101 million of them are working full time. According to the BLS, 88 million Americans have chosen not to work and only 12.7 million are unemployed. At 63.8%, participation in the workforce is at its lowest since 1980. Since 2009, the working age population has grown by 5.7 million but the number of employed only grew by 3.6 million. The unemployment rate today is 8.1%. Want to hear about the bridge I've got for sale?

Pots And Kettles: Senator Cornyn (R-TX) says the Democrats are trying to “score cheap political points” with women by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding to local communities to improve their response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The Republicans oppose the bill because it might benefit some abused undocumented immigrant.

Doctor's Orders: Hungary intends to stop financing treatment for those diabetics who do not stick to their diets. Makes sense to me.

Voting Requirements: Women who backhand 3 year-olds in Wal Mart should not be allowed to be parents. Voters who don't know which party wants to do away with the federal government, which party refuses to cut defense spending, which party wants to eliminate abortion should not be allowed to vote. The silent majority doesn't bother me. The ignorant majority scares the bejezzus out of me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

SAR #12114

“The thing Americans ought to miss most about facts is the lack of agreement that there are any facts.” Mary Poovey.

One Down (Almost): Budgetary talks between the Dutch pro-austerity minority government and Geert Wilders anti-EU party collapsed this weekend, weakening the government and bringing on elections that will serve as a referendum on the Netherlands' continuing relationship to the EU and the euro. See also: France.

Always... I'm shocked that WalMart has been caught bribing elected officials in Mexico. I'm not shocked they were bribing them, just that they got caught. Their defense is that everyone does it and that there's little difference between lobbying and campaign donations and direct payments to government officials. There is, but not much.

Guilty Plea: The USA reporter and editor investigating illegal Pentagon propaganda activities have fallen prey to illegal Pentagon propaganda activities.

Re-Runs: The IMF has received $430 billion in new, “firm commitments” from member states, including $100 billion from emerging markets. How does this funneling of resources from non-European nations into the EU differ from the old colonial model?

Icing on the (Rice) Cake: China and Iceland have signed agreements for coordinated research in areas that are thought to contain large amounts of petroleum. .

Why More Is Less: The US is producing more crude and using less gasoline, so why is it still $4.00 a gallon? And, no, it is not Obama's fault. Nor are the Republicans driving up prices to embarrass Obama. Prices are up because the world is using more and not producing more. For once, it's not just about us. Some industry analysts say prices have already peaked this year. Some don't.

In Transit: The European Parliament has caved in to US demands that European airlines proved US Homeland Security with the name, contact details, payment data, itinerary, email and phone numbers of all passengers flying to or through the US.

Call Webster: Senator Lieberman (Alien, CT) says that Obama is “accountable” for the Secret Service prostitution scandal. What does “accountable” mean in Connecticutease?

Think: IBM plans to grow its earnings by reducing US employee head-count by 78%over the next three years. This will leave only top management, sales and those employees working on government contracts that require workers to be US citizens. That's all, folks.

Belaboring The Obvious: In light of falling sales of existing homes, stagnant unemployment data, house sales at 37% below peak and house prices still falling, massive under-employment and the student loan burden, it would seem that the optimism reportedly growing over the housing market is... premature.

Don't Worry, It's the Government: NSA has long since been capable of intercepting all of our communications and those of potential enemies anywhere in the world. That's technology. But don't get too excited, government employees have to understand and act, which – based on the record – lessens the threat.

Detour: Why hasn't the phenomenal increase in productivity since WWII and especially since 1980 delivered us all into the land of milk and honey? In you answer, discuss the capture of democracy by the forces of evil corporations and the rich, and cite any specific time since this country was founded by the landed gentry when a different outcome might have occurred.

Porn O'Graph: Wish you were there.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

SAR #12112

There are many truths, but only one reality.

Inertia: A lot of attention being paid to income inequality in the US, as though that were the problem. It is not. Our income inequality is a symptom; the disease is the control of the government and the political process by the rich. it is unrealistic to think that politicians bought and owned by the rich, by Wall Street, and by the corporations would turn on them. It's not going to happen. There is no democratic way to reverse the conditions that now prevail. There probably is no peaceful way, either.

Redundancy: The question was “is it sensible to have nine lawyers decide what sort of health-care payment system the nation should have?” Well, no. But the current system was selected by a group of 500 or so lawyers in Congress. Does that make any more sense?

The End of Innocence: By the end of June, 700,000 former workers who have been unemployed for over a year will lose their extended unemployment benefits. As time passes, millions more will lose what little income they have been relying on, as extended unemployment benefits end. Good thing the recovery is going to start any day now.

Dystopia: 15% of the American population - 20% of all households - are now receiving food stamps. What does it mean when 46.5 million Americans cannot afford to buy food for themselves and their children?

Lose/Lose: In America, losing your job means losing your health insurance. That's why last year over 17% of working-age Americans were without coverage for a year or more.

Separation Anxiety: About 2.3 million children in the US have lost their homes due to foreclosure. Another 3 million are living in homes in some step of the foreclosure process. 3 million more live in rental houses that are on the foreclosure merry-go-round. How do you think these kids are doing in school? Bonus question: How many school age children are living in cars or culverts? Where's the NCLB program for this group?

Paperwork: The economy may be in the toilet, but corporations keep cutting costs, cutting payrolls, and increasing profits. In the last year, toilet paper sales were flat, yet profit margins grew 4%. Making the rolls narrower helped.

Friday, April 20, 2012

SAR #12111

Words matter; teach your children well.

Cloudy Weather: The IMF says European banks are expected to cut their balance sheets by $2.6tn (€2tn) over the next 18 months – and as much as US$3.8tr of assets in the worse case scenario. Such a massive delveraging will curb lending, slow growth and worsen an already disastrous employment situation spreading throughout the continent. Deutsche Bank reports that the worst of the crisis is yet to come.

Roll Call: The DOL says there were 386,000 initial unemployment claims, 6,000 more than last week's initial data – since revised to 388,000. Experts expected 370,000 this week, for whatever value that had, or didn't.

Snow White & The Seven Dwarves: What is the object lesson in the Justice Department going after Apple and six book publishers for price fixing while ignoring the monopoly and monopsony power exercised by Amazon?

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: The CIA wants permission to drone people even if we don't know who they are, just on the off chance they might be funny looking foreigners terrorists. Just in Yemen, for now. Oh, and to continue doing it in Pakistan.

One More Time: Why is it that speculation in futures contracts on oil is evil, while the same sort of speculation in natural gas is benign? Other than a price of oil in excess of $100/barrel and a price of natural gas at record lows below $2 per thousand cubic feet?

The Way We Are: Job creation slows, unemployment claims the worst initial report in 4 months , house prices down, existing home sales down, Philly FED business index down, Bank of America profits “better than expected”, Morgan Stanley “massively beats expectations,” and Europe is a train wreck and getting worse.

Pattern Matching: How do the extraordinary powers - including virtually unlimited powers of secret surveillance and secret data collection - of TEK, Hungary’s counter-terrorism police, compare to their counterparts in Homeland Security?

Another One For The Home Team: Vermont has joined Hawaii and New Mexico in calling for a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court's “corporations are people” and “money is speech” rulings.

Preferences: We are in a depression, not because we don’t know how to climb out, but because our financial leaders prefer not to address the problem for fear the purchasing power of their investments might suffer from policy measures to increase employment and raise customer demand. That's why Big Ben and Little Timmy continue to bail out the financial sector and remain ever vigilant to keep inflation at bay. Everything else is secondary.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

SAR #12110

Keep your pants zipped.

Get A Grip: What is all this hypocritical outrage over the idea that a bunch of healthy young men, off duty and on their own time, in a city where prostitution is legal, spend some time and money relaxing? Besides, the Gideon Bibles were in Spanish.

Nothing To Be Seen, Move Along: The Supremes unanimously agreed that a survivor cannot sue an organization - a political state or its appendages, nor a corporation - for torture or murder. Only the actual person(s) doing the dastardly deed can be sued, so take notes.

On Speculation: If you pay $600 a share for Apple, that's an investment. If you buy an option on oil hoping to make a profit, that's speculating. Neither the selling/buying of Apple stock nor the buying or selling options on oil produce anything in the real economy. Not more iPads, not more oil. Nor less.

Gimme Re-write: The headline said: "Cheer up: the world has plenty of oil." It should have read: "Cheer up, the world has lots of $200 a barrel oil left."

Gratuity: The Republicans – mainly so they can pass a tax cut the Dems will have to oppose – are promoting The Small Business Tax Cut Act, which would give a 1-year, 20% tax cut to every business with 500 or fewer employees (which is an interesting description of small) and it will only cost $46 billion.

Exhibit For The Prosecution: Why do we spend so much on pharmaceuticals? (1) research and development costs. (2) games played for profits. (3) games played to maintain enormous profits. (4) political contributions by Big Pharma. [Some are more right than others.]

Popular Science: A new poll shows that 60% of Americans now - after the unusually warm spring - think that climate change is making our weather worse. Ah, science by popular vote.

Littering: For reasons that are somewhat obscure, Scottish taxpayers in an independent Scotland, would have to pay the £30 billion it will take to decommissioning the oil platforms in the North Sea. Quite why the companies that made the profits don't have to clean up after themselves is as much a mystery there as in the US of A.

Papers, Please: When you get off the public bus in downtown Houston, be ready to tell the TSA agent where you are going, why you took the bus. And that's after your purse and packages were searched as you got on the bus. It is one more step in the increasing police-state intrusion by Homeland Security into our daily lives to “curb crime and terrorism.” This joins randomly stopping traffic on Tennessee highways, patting down train passengers after they have completed their journeys, and screening ferry passengers. And don't forget Big Sis has over 9,000 checkpoints and 37 VIPR teams (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) deployed at “transportation hubs”. As long as you are docile and don't look them in the eyes, you'll be all right. Maybe.

Conundrum: If competition is good (ie. capitalism), why aren't the results of that competition (monopoly) good?

Time, And Temperature, March On: To recap: Europe had a deadly heatwave in 2003. Russia's 2010 drought was so severe the country ceased wheat exports. Texas recent drought was so bad that the accounts of massive tree die-offs are not tall tales. And we've only had 0.8º C of warming so far. Scientists are now calmly discussing a 3º C increase by 2050 (just 38 years fromnow) and 6ºC by the end of the century. That last is a joke, of course. The end will come much sooner.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SAR #12109

Why think? It'll just make you unhappy.

Playing To The Cheap Seats: Faced with a continuing pinch in global petroleum supplies and rising gasoline prices in the US due to world market pressures, Obama firmly took aim at "the speculators" and asked for more power, more regulation and more belief in that making a profit from a scarce resource like oil (but not Apple stock) are evil. It is  just another political gimmick, one that Republican control of the House immediately turns into an empty gesture.

Conclusion: The rise in autism in the United States may be linked to the prevalence of high-fructose corn syrup in the American diet.

Second Time's A Charm: Banks are handing out new credit cards to people with subprime credit scores at a rate 12% above last year, and subprime cardholders debt is up 55%. subprime auto loans are up 6%. So far the banks haven't started handing out subprime mortgages, but it's early days.

Pig/Poke: ““I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go.” Mitt Romney.

Priorities: Republicans in the House have passed a budget that will shield the Pentagon from billions in cuts by reducing food stamp benefits by 11% a month and cutting 3 million people from the program.

America’s Mirror: The US no longer even pretends to live up to its much ballyhooed ideals, “we go to war and kill lots of people for no good reason, [our] elites have eliminated any accountability for themselves for criminal wrongdoing, we’ve tortured and assassinated people, and the response to massive economic suffering and related criminal fraud has been to give lots of free money to the people who caused it all.”

Miss March: Housing starts fell to 654K in March, 50,000 below expectations and 40,000 below February's downwardly revised 694K. Single-unit housing starts were in the same range they have been stuck in since June 2009.

The Migration Myth: Is there any evidence that people pick up and move just to get lower taxes? No, not really. Studies consistently show that taxes have little if any impact on the decision by people or corporations to relocate.

Non Sequiturs: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council says that Secret Service agents were caught patronizing female prostitutes because we allow “ open homosexuality in our military.” Pat Robinson says that the absence of SUVs and oil refineries on Mars proves that global warming on Earth is a hoax. Fox News' contributor Sandy Rios says Barack Obama has a “disdain” for women. Don't tell Michelle.

Putting The Question: We can, and most likely will, increase the earth's human population to at least 9 billion. We can, and most likely will, extract and burn all the available coal, oil and natural gas. And we can, and obviously fully intend, to pile our public and private debts ever higher. But why?

Porn O'Graph: He's flatlined, Doctor Bernanke!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

SAR #12108

Mostly we are free to chose “a” or “b”.

All Austerity, All The Time: The ECB's injection of over a trillion euros into eurozone banks in the last six months has lasted about six months. But now interest-rate spreads for Italy and Spain are rising as the recession in the eurozone’s periphery - accelerated by unnecessary fiscal austerity - is deepening and will worsen throughout this year. This most likely will lead, absent a sudden enlightenment of the current leadership, to another round of austerity. Add in the French and Greek elections, both destined to produce leaders whose priorities will not please the bond markets, an expected rejection of the current fiscal compact by Irish voters and the rising demonstrations, strikes, and popular resentment against painful austerity measures in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and the immediate future looks less than sanguine.

Linkage: USGS scientists say that increases in the number of quakes in Arkansas and Oklahoma in the last few years are “almost certainly” related to oil and gas production - either because of the withdrawal of oil and gas or because of “changes in extraction methodologies.”

Table Talk: How your food is grown and processed has as much to do with how "green" it is as how far it travels to get to your table. And grass-fed, free-range, cage-free and pastured meat may be more humane than factory raised livestock - but it is no more able to supply the market in a sustainable way than industrial production.

Unexpectedly, Chapter 39: US retail sales for March were up an unexpectedly strong 0.8% against an expected 0.3% predicted by teams of soothsayers.

Sunny Side Up: A brief and wholly accidental pause in US greenhouse gas emissions has reversed as the US economy begins to revive, and emissions grew by 3.2% in 2010. In the Southwest Pacific, research confirms that the rapid rise in sea level in the 20th century is attributable to human-made climate change. But in the Himalayas, glaciers in the Karakoram range are not yet succumbing to global warming, but the Siachen glacier has shrunk by 10 kilometers (six miles) in the past 35 years.

Public Service: Republicans will be able to lie to the electorate about the causes of high gasoline prices only if the mainstream media let them. Even MSM that have columns that quietly expose the more egregious falsehoods would do democracy a better service if they pointed out the lies within the same paragraph of the news story that quotes the lying politician – without regard for party affiliation.

Business Vocabulary: Monopoly – Walmart's dealings with you. Monopsony – Walmart's dealings with its suppliers. Disintermediation – going around Walmart. Agency – when the manufacturer tries to get around Walmart. Digital rights management (DRM) when the seller wants to rent you what you think you're buying. The stakes: an economic morality play.

Buffet Line: Senate Republicans – to loud applause from the US Chamber of Commerce – blocked Obama's attempts to instigate class warfare with the job-killing Buffet Rule tax, noting that less than 100,000 millionaires paid taxes (if they paid any at all) at rates lower than most middle class families.

The Way Things Were: According to Robert Shiller, a house is not an investment, there is no guarantee that a house's price will increase, and in fact, even with ongoing maintenance, houses traditionally depreciate over time. Killjoy.

Points Of View: According to the GOP, Mrs. Romney's staying at home and raising their kids was a career choice, but when a poor woman on welfare stays home to raise her kids she's a welfare queen.

Monday, April 16, 2012

SAR #12107

Our economic problems result from our inability to imagine viable alternatives.

Why Did You Do The War, Daddy? In answer to a decade of US occupation, the Taliban has launched a massive coordinated attack in Kabul and across the country. Back to the drawing board.

Hide and Go Seek: As part of its efforts to conceal the destination of its oil sales, Iran is disabling the tracking systems aboard its tanker fleet. It is part of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink game it and its customers have to go through because of the obstacles the US continues to throw in the path of its oil sales.

Charting The Course: Most measures of the housing market indicate that it has probably not bottomed, certainly has not recovered, and probably will not for a long, long time. Too much debt, too much "shadow inventory" , and most importantly, too little income.

Multiple Choices: Mitt Romney's claim that women have suffered 92.3% of the nation's job losses during Obama's presidency is (a) ridiculous, (b) misleading, (c) statistics, or (d) ridiculously misleading statistics.

Stubborn, But Consistent: In order to suck up to the Miami Cuban community and the big sugar corporations, the US government continues its 50 year blockade of Cuba. Why? What, exactly, did Cuba do, other than kick out a bunch of mafia controlled gambling operations and demand a fair price for the country's sugar?

Exhaustion Sets In: For twenty years or more the global economic system was driven by the US being the world's consumer of last resort. With the collapse of the world's major import consumer markets the system becomes unsustainable. And the plans of all the nations to become export surplus nations are doomed to failure. Things that cannot continue, will not; the current system is headed for collapse, most likely into currency wars, competitive devaluations, and trade barriers.

Annoying: The US ranks behind 18 OECD countries and another 13 non-OECD countries in unemployment benefits. And that's without the Ryan budget.

Oil Reserved: According to the US Energy Information Agency's latest figures, global production of petroleum (actual crude oil and associated condensate – the real deal) has not exceeded 74 mbd in the last 6 years. New production coming on line has not been sufficient to offset the 4% to 6% annual decline from existing fields. There is no reason to expect that this year, or any subsequent year, will take production higher.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: “Is it equitable that 99, or rather 999 should suffer for the Extravagance or Grandeur of one? Especially when it is consider’d, that Men frequently owe their Wealth to the Impoverishment of their Neighbours.” Letter to Editor, 1765, NYC.

Among The Missing: Former wannabe Michele Bachmann - who wants to outlaw abortion and to remove female contraceptive coverage from health insurance - insists that Republicans “want women to have their own choices,” as long as they chose to be barefoot and pregnant.

Water, Being Wet: The problem with the employment-production-sales cycle is that sales are lacking. Low sales means low production means no new jobs. Yet economists sit around wondering what the problem is. Is it “aggregate demand” they ask? Yes. Now let's hear some solutions.

Cue The Band: Having passed a law encouraging teachers to proselytize for creationism, the Tennessee Senate turned its considerable intelligence to improving the state's abstinence-only sex education by determining that hand-holding is a “gateway sexual activity” that inevitably leads to abortion. Wait 'til they hear about dancing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

SAR #12105

God bless our troops, especially the snipers.*

Bad Moon Rising: There is a strong but generally unappreciated link between austerity and civil unrest (anti‐government demonstrations, riots, assassinations, general strikes and attempted revolutions.) . Given that we are entering an Age of Austerity, this should be of more than passing interest. Austerity may or may not be good economics, but it is godawful political science.

Good Deeds: “Capitalism is not an abstract idea. It is an economic system with a distinct set of underlying principles that must exist in order for the system to work. One of these principles is equal justice... Justice must be blind so that both parties — whether weak or powerful — can assume that an agreement between them will be equally enforced by the courts.” It would be nice if outright fraud were prosecuted once in a while, too.

Factory Facts: The decline in US manufacturing is worse than you imagined, because only 56% of the folks working at the factory actually make stuff – that comes to 4.5% of all US jobs. The rest of the people at the mill are in management, finance, sales, office administration and so on.

Things to Worry About: Now that the Pink Slime scare has put you off hamburgers for lunch, check out Mechanically Separated Chicken and its role in chicken nuggets.

Record Records: Fifteen-year mortgages are at an all-time low of 3.11%, 30-years, at 3.98%, are nearly there.

Technique: The Republicans – the free market people – are mad at the Fed because it doesn't intervene in the markets the way they would prefer. The Fed has been trying to create a stable economic environment, but that's not what the Republicans want. Between now and the elections they want aggregate demand to shrink and unemployment to rise – to tank the economy so they can blame Obama. And no, this is not the best of all possible worlds.

Say/Do: Generally, those who talk the most about future generations are those who plan to sacrifice our children's future for short-term profits or passing political gain. Exhibits for the prosecution: The Ryan budget. Governor Christie of New Jersey. The Wars. Repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Harassment: Having puffed up their chests after proudly demanding that the unemployed be humiliated with drug tests to access their legally due unemployment benefits, and the poor forced to acknowledge their dependency on the rich by peeing in a cup to get their crumbs, Iowa Republicans have come up with this: A bill that would let former spouses force their ex-wives to take drug tests in order to get child support payments. It's called the Vindictive Spouse Enabling Act.

For-Profit Spying: Defense contractors in the electronic intercept and data mining business are pushing a cyber security bill that will give intelligence agencies broad powers to hire those same contractors to do things that the government can't legally do itself.

Time Flies: Spain, Portugal and Italy are spiraling into recession, their descent spurred on by well meant but disastrous austerity measures. The eurozone appears on the verge of unraveling. Soros says: “the crisis has entered what may be a less volatile, but potentially more lethal phase.” and El-Erian, says “the problems in Europe are getting bigger.” Will more free 'liquidity' manage to kick the can a bit further down the way?

Goodnight Moon: Dow Theory Letters' Richard Russell is bullish. But just on gold and guns, otherwise, not so much. But he's entertaining when he goes on about new monetary systems and new governmental systems and chaos and riots and stocking up on peanut butter.

*Seen on the back of a Confederate flag waving pick-up.

Friday, April 13, 2012

SAR #12104

Most practicing environmentalists don't practice quite enough.

You Were Warned: Initial unemployment claims “surged” to 380,000 this week, after last week's mendacious 357,000. After revision this will end up near the magic 400,000 level.

They Say... According to the Bank of International Settlements, assuming banks make no changes, come June 30th, Eurozone banks will have a shortfall of €1.76 trillion in liquid assets and will need a €2.78 trillion injection of funds “to meet stable funding rules.” Where these trillions were coming from was not specified.

Optimists International: The average prediction by 24 economists polled by Reuters is that house prices will rise in 2013 for the first time in seven years. That is, if there is not a big wave of foreclosures (which is nearly guaranteed).

Counter-intuitively: A study by respected British conservationists concluded that windfarms do not cause long-term damage to bird populations, that they are not “bird blenders” as often claimed. The scientists did find that some species were harmed during the construction phase and recommended care be taken in site selection.

Experience Counts: Only one out four non-Prius hybrid vehicle owners buy a second hybrid. It's not clear if the problem is with the hybrids or with the owners.

Quoted: According to PIMCO's El-Erain, "In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability." He went on to say that it was time for the central bankers to acknowledge they cannot keep this up. "It's about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances."

Simple: Sex education works. States with 'abstinence-only' sex ed programs have the highest rates of teen pregnancies. Any questions?

Heresy: Taxes in the US are low, both in comparison with historic levels and with other developed nations. And in the US, despite propaganda to the contrary, people in the lower income levels pay far more in Federal taxes (other than income taxes) than the rich, especially the payroll taxes.

Wrong Question: Professor Lawrence went a bit far in claiming that even if every single thing we bought was “made in America” manufacturing would not cure our employment dilemma. And a dilemma it is. Yes, we spend two thirds of our income on services, but that discussion leads away from the real point that needs consideration, as does the ongoing hand-wringing over structural unemployment. We simply do not need all the people we have to either make things or write songs or empty bedpans. Our economy is too productive, we don't need everyone to be in the production or services business, but we need them as consumers. The task is to find an acceptable way to get the means of consumption into the hands of those who we truly need to be idle.

Impeach Earl Warren: The craziness on the Republican Right did not suddenly appear – they've been there for at least the last 60 years. But like a crazy aunt they were kept away from polite company. No longer. Now they've become the Republican mainstream and have the power to inflict themselves on the public and – to its detriment – the GOP.

Porn O'Graph: Been down so long we think it's up.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

SAR #12103

What value does the health insurance industry add to health or health-care?

One World: The WTO has ruled that the US can't ban the import of cigarettes targeted at children because it hurts the profits of those who would benefit from harming our kids. It's all about profits. How did we ever give control of our country and our lives to the merchants?

Freedom to Chose: Gasoline prices bring out the punditry. Some cite “the behavior of the market” and say prices have peaked. Others say that if we don't attack Iran prices will decline. Some point to deliveries to wholesalers – which are at an 11 year low – and say that prices have peaked. That’s below last month’s projection of 8.67 million. The US Energy Department says that gasoline will climb about 24 cents more before the summer is over. It cost me $15 to drive to the mall today; gonna stop doing that.

It's Only Natural: From a peak at $15.78 in Q4 2005, natural gas has fallen to under $2.00. At this rate a lot of those planning how to spend their fracking royalty checks best dial it down a notch.

Padded Bras & Botox: Steakhouses first jab thousands of tiny needles into your steak (or pound it with MSG), then drown it with melted butter – sure it's tender, but how much of it is the cow and how much the kitchen?

Lies, Damned Lies & Mitt: Romney's claim that Obama has been waging a war on women is (1) based on the President's insisting that women should get decent health care, (2) lying with statistics, or (3) lying.

Run, don't walk:Stock market outflows indicate that the retail investor is “no longer the dumb money” and is pulling his money out of the market and putting it into Treasuries. In that the retail investor is nearly always wrong, this is the best news for the market all week.

Bedtime Reading: Super-bear Gary Shilling is predicting the S&P will fall 40% or more this year. But he says “the US is the best of the bad lot". He's long treasuries, short stocks, short commodities and long the dollar. He's also a bit long in ego.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SAR #12102

If there were consensus on what to do, it would have been done.

What Happened? The stock market, we've been led to believe, will never go down because the Bernanke and his ilk would not let that happen. The current (or just ended) rally took over $3 trillion in global liquidity injections - but lasted only 100 days or so. Before that the first $1 trillion lasted (with a little QE2 and Operation Twist help) nearly 3 years. We can confidently expect that the next (yes, Virginia, there will be a 'next') will be maybe $5 trillion and last about 60 days. Have faith.

Nomenclature: According to Paul Ryan, the US is composed of the poor,  the middle class and job creators. 'Rich' is, as we've suspected all along, a dirty word.

The Center Does Not Hold: Economic troubles are everywhere - China, Japan, the USA and the EU. The only apparent safe haven is Switzerland, where both six-month and two-year treasury notes are yielding negative returns.

Ground Rules: One more proof that the US is no longer the free nation where a young Fidel Castro wanted to play professional baseball, the Florida Marlins have suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for 5 games for making positive comment about Castro. Good thing Guillen lives in the USA, where we still have freedom of thought. Unvoiced thought.

A Rose By Any Other Name: Bush: ‘I wish they weren’t called the Bush tax cuts’. Does he understand why they are called that?

Discuss: “The only difference between Israel and the Third Reich is Auschwitz,” (German historian Ernst Nolte, 2004), in light of the outcry over Günter Grass’s poem, "What Must Be Said", about Israel - an outcry that confirms what Grass was saying: That it’s impossible to criticize Israel without being called anti-Semitic and worse. But imagine for a moment that Israel was founded by descendants of gays, atheists and gypsies murdered by the Germans and then judge Israel's behavior. Grass merely dared to question Israel’s first strike policy against Iran and to mention “the West’s hypocrisy” that permits Israel to have an arsenal of uninspected nuclear weapons and then permits Israel to threaten to annihilate the Iranian people if Iran tries to get one of its own. Should we not ask ourselves "Why do I stay silent?", or join with Bishop Tutu in asking "Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?"

Campaignus Interuptus: Rick Santorum announced he was pulling out of the presidential race.

Speculators! Much to the annoyance of Republicans who want to blame Obama for $4 gasoline, China's daily imports of petroleum remains at all time highs. China will take whatever petroleum it can get and will enter open competition for "our" oil once the US manages to shut off Iran's output. But not to worry, Saudi Arabia says it can make up the difference. Well, the "make up" part is probably true.

Upping the Ante: Republican-controlled Oklahoma is working on a law that would, from the moment of conception, make embryos equal to people. This would make any abortion a murder, effectively eliminating the procedure, and make the morning-after pill homicide. Do women get to vote in Oklahoma?

Water Is Still Wet: We are shocked to learn that banks let houses in poor neighborhoods deteriorate, while REO properties in wealthy, predominantly white, neighborhoods get their lawns mowed and the buildings tended to. That this discrimination is a violation of the Fair Housing Act, in this day of non-enforcement and the inalienable right of bankers, does not matter.

Lab Experiment: Some California college students think they've got a way to avoid going ruinously into debt to get a degree. They want to option 5% of their post-graduate income for 20 years to their schools. If the education is worth what they're charging, then the 5% will be far more than the current tuition costs. And it cuts out the loan sharks.

That Bad? The US economy is so bad that Mexican illegal immigrants are going home in large numbers and replacements are not showing up.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SAR #12101

The question, as always, is "At what price?"

Demonstration Project: We've been repeatedly told that “free markets” will solve our problems and lead us to the land of milk and honey, or they would if the government would just get out of the way. Okay, then let's see the free market solve the problems of income inequality and increasing homelessness.

Three-pointer: Ben Bernanke is like a bartender at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting; he keeps cutting the price but nobody's buying.

Ditto: One of the reasons that government surveys do not show a rise in poverty during the last few years is that they are government surveys. You know, like the unemployment statistics.

Truth vs. Fiction: A sign that the economy is improving is the increasing number of people finding jobs that let them make minimum payments on their credit card balances.

Counterattack: In an attempt to overcome the liberal bias that is embedded in reality and science, the Conservapedia provides a conservative, Christian, creationist view of world.

Arctic Sea Ice: A thousand words.

Desperation: In the last 3 years, 1.84 million jobs have been added to the economy, while there has been an increase of 2.96 million workers aged 55 and over. No wonder the young folks can't find a job; the old folks can't afford to quit working.

Bear With Us: The mysterious disease that decimated Arctic ice seal populations last year appears to have spread to polar bears - which serves the bears right for chowing down on the seals.

Ah, That Explains Things: A new study indicates that obese women have a much increased chance of having an autistic child. No wonder autism is increasing.

The Big Lie: In Rush Limbaugh's fact-free universe, “The real war on women is being conducted by the regime, by the Obama administration.” Maybe so, the Republican attacks are about as unreal as possible.

Protesting Too Much: Studies suggest that many (most?) homophobes are repressing their own homosexual tendencies. Y'think?

Conservative Conservation: The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like fish, which sounds like a good idea. But ICCAT governments set fishing quotas far above the recommendations of scientists, who say that there is no such thing as sustainable fishing of any wild fish. The way to save the fisheries is to not eat the fish. Guess how that's going to work out.

Don't Tell Grumpy:  According to Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, the economy has grown the most when Democrats have been in power

God Help Him – Or Us: Now Tim Tebow is being singled out as a possible national politician. Or the lead pitch-man for a giganormous church. Whichever pays more.

Porn O'Graph: On not going home.

Monday, April 9, 2012

SAR #12100

If it doesn't work, it is not a solution, no matter how elegant.

FIFO: JPMorgan is "no longer accepting student loan applications as of March 29". They are getting out while the getting out is good, just as they did with the subprime market. If history repeats, what comes next is going to be... educational.

Payback: All those look-Ma-no-winter good job numbers in December, January, February and March will be paid back over the next few months, driving down job creation just when it traditionally surges due to spring's arrival. Add to that the excessive debt still carried by the American consumer, the higher oil prices, and business' lack of enthusiasm for expanding payrolls in the absence of stronger sales and the next few monthly job creation reports look to be anemic at best.

Marginalia: One of the unaddressed aspects of the shift towards part-time and temporary work is that these jobs do not, as a rule, come with any employer-sponsored health insurance. Another argument for universal single-payer healthcare.

Temperature Inversion: In some parts of the country the all-in cost of renting a house is more than the cost of buying the same house. This is a rather unique condition, and the investor-class is salivating over potential profits from becoming 21st century slum-lords to a group of former middle-class Americans who cannot scrape together enough money for a down-payment or enough credit for a mortgage.

Accentuating the Positive: On top of the world-wide supply 'tightness'TM US gasoline prices traditionally spike about 27% as refineries cut output to switch to their summer blends. At a national $3.93 average, this years rise is only about half done.

Headline Acts: Are the Republicans "callous and insensitive" towards women? In Wisconsin Republicans say workplace gender discrimination is a myth while Gov. Walker signs dozens of bills that "turn back the clock on women’s health, safety, wellness and economic security." Republicans try to defend their record with women but as Rachel Maddow points out, women notice when you try to take their hard-earned rights away.

You're Excused: Tennessee has passed a bill that exempts science teachers from teaching science.

We've Only Just Begun: "It's time to consign Peak Oil theory to the dust bin of history. The flaw of the theory is that it assumes the amount of a resource is a static number determined solely by geological factors. But the size of an exploitable resource also depends upon price and technology. These factors are difficult to predict. The petroleum age is just beginning..." Sure, but at what price? Another fracking idiot...

Pipe Job: Senators McCain & Kyl (R-AZ) are trying to con the Navajo and Hopi into giving Peabody Coal their water rights "irreversibly, for time immemorial," in return for three cases of Aquafina potable water piped to a dribbling spigot in three remote villages.

Pathfinders: Bankers, maintaining they've been greatly misunderstood and poorly treated, have formed a SuperPAC (Friends of Traditional Banking), which they describe as "a big stick" to get Washington's attention "Congress isn't afraid of bankers, they don't think we'll kick them out of office... We want to change that perception." And don't mention the bailouts, that's so yesterday.

Goalposts: Latin American leaders note that the 'War on drugs’ has failed. Well, maybe. But doesn't that depend on what the goal has been?

What Price Salvation? Gasoline prices are getting lots of attention. Maybe we can drill our way to lower prices, if we could only find a cheaper way to explore, drill, produce, refine and ship. Or we could lower our gas taxes - which are already among the lowest in the world. Bombing Iran to get more oil at lower prices seems like a slightly flawed idea (echos of Iraq, too). And electing Newt for $2.50 a gallon price controls is an even worse idea. Sigh.

Public Enemies: The foods most likely to be adulterated are olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee, and apple juice. Best cut back on the saffron.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

SAR #12098

I need new glasses, 'cause I sure don't see any economic recovery.

Bear With Us: Only 120,000 of the 215,000 non-farm jobs expected were created in March (it takes 150,000 to 180,000 or more just to stay even) yet the unemployment rate magically dropped to 8.2%. The civilian labor force participation rate, at 63.8%, is well below the 67% rate that has prevailed for the last 20 years. The number of people not in the labor force is back to all time highs: 87,897,000, and the government acknowledges there are 12.7 million unemployed they haven't yet been able to make disappear.

Foreign Policy:Reports say a second US drone has crashed in the Seychelles. For the usual prize, locate the Seychelles on a map and identify who America is killing there and why.

Meanwhile, Black In America: At a routine traffic stop in Chicago, 60-year old Howard Morgan was shot 28 times – 21 in the back. Morgan has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for attempted murder. The prosecutor was satisfied: “Every bullet he got, he earned."

Oil Upon the Waters: In Colorado's premier auction to allocate water, companies providing water to fracking well sites outbid farmers who need the water to grow crops.

Adventure Travel: Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar are hosting a new, treatment-resistant strain of malaria that is spreading rapidly. Pack your mosquito netting.

Three Mea-Culpas of Tea: Greg Mortenson, author of the best-selling account of his largely fictional activities in Afghanistan, has now agreed to repay $1 million that he “diverted” from the charity he founded to further enrich himself.

Multiiple Choice? Our wealth will be destroyed by (1) Inflation. (2) War. (3) Another credit market collapse. Or (4) Social unrest.

Exploratory Costs: Along a 90-mile stretch of Peruvian beaches 615 dead dolphins have washed ashore. The culprit is thought to be acoustic testing offshore by oil companies. If 615 washed ashore, how many thousands have died unseen? Oil is expensive in so many ways.

Summary Judgment: Here's a handy guide to the ongoing erosion of civil liberties in the National Security State.

Play Dates: The iPad-using orangutans at the Milwaukee zoo will soon be hooking up with novice users from other zoos as Facebook expands across species lines.

Shake Rattle & Roll: The USGS says that the recent series of earthquakes near oli and gass extraction operations from Alabama to the Northern Rockies were “almost certainly man-made.” Call your lawyer now.

Porn O'Graph: It's not working!